Jane Ballantyne Teter – A Celebration of her Life and Ministry

Sermon by Archdeacon Richard I Cluett
January 28, 2017
Nativity Cathedral, Bethlehem

Jane Teter
This has been very hard – trying to capture the faith and the life – the essence of a beloved friend and sister I have known for 40 years. But here is where I have come to this morning.

Because of her firm and uncluttered faith in the God who created her and loved her, Jane Ballantyne Teter was one audacious and tenacious woman. Just ask her kids. Just ask me.

I first met Jane in the late 1970’s when she was beginning to discern that she was be called by God to the priesthood. That was an audacious act, in and of itself – to think that she could and would be called by God to be a priest, this young-ish widow of a priest and the mother of three kids. What an audacious idea back in those days when the ordination of women was recently authorized and certainly not the norm and not accepted by many,

But once that call was affirmed in her heart and soul, she was tenacious in pursuit of it. Willing to endure institutional hurdles, the skepticism of others, managing family life, work life, and seminary studies, to be the person God created her to be, working as hard as she had ever worked. It took a lot, it cost a lot and by God she got there. Thanks be to God.

Teter2
You all might not think of Jane as audacious and tenacious, but in her own quiet way she was indeed. How else could she have lived with the untimely death of her husband Edgar, raised and educated three wonderful and diverse kids, worked full-time, and made her way in the world and the church with such Grace and commitment. Audacity and Tenacity.

She built a life with her family at the center, certainly her kids, Deb, Ned, and Laurie, and then their families, and always caring for her beloved twin brother Robert and his family across the country, and her grandparents and aunts and others I do not know about.

She was the keeper and sometimes the Sheriff of family traditions. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter and the annual summer weeks spent at the camp on the lake in the Adirondacks. These were pretty much nonnegotiable for Jane and so for her family, and she would sacrifice and go to some lengths to see that they happened and were opportunities for celebration in her family.

We all knew about her mystery novels, 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles, and her love for her dogs – even though she carped about them from time to time – and her knitting, always knitting. Sweaters for family, blankets for babies, and wool caps, scarves, and mitten for seafarers, and more. That one she spread throughout the diocese.

Indeed as her health began to fail, it was her Deb and Laurie and Ned who became the keeper of the traditions, who saw that these family events and times always happened. I know, perhaps better than they do, how much she loved them and how proud she was of them.

When I was rector of St. Margaret’s Church in Emmaus, it was my pleasure and privilege (and a bit my conniving, too, as chair of the Commission on Ministry) to have Jane come to St. Margaret’s as a seminarian intern, then stay on as assisting deacon and priest. She was ordained priest in the church named for Queen Margaret of Scotland, the patron of the Church in Scotland. How fitting was that for a woman in the family and clan of Ballantyne?

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As a priest in a time when the ordination of women was still a new idea for some, viewed with skepticism by others, and denied altogether by some others, Jane’s audacious faith and tenacity took her into many, many parishes of this diocese to give people the chance to experience and come to know a woman in holy orders. By celebrating and preaching as a visitor on Sundays, by being willing to be interviewed by search committees whether or not she was interested in a move to a parish, serving as a consultant to parish leadership, she demonstrated the fullness of the ordained ministry to those who had never experienced it or even knew it was possible.

She exercised a special ministry as mentor, model, and wise woman for many women, especially, as they came into the ordained ministry of the church

Her ministry as priest, pastor, spiritual guide, mentor and friend was a gift to so many and she is loved to this day for it. Just look at the comments on the diocesan Facebook page testifying to her gifts, life, and ministry.

Serving in parishes as assisting priest, interim rector, vicar and eventually, as Edgar her husband had before her, serving as a canon to the bishop, she touched and enhanced the lives of so many of us.

Small parishes were a special love and concern for Jane and she advocated for their care and wellbeing in the councils of the diocese and beyond in the councils and General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

Even as her health declined, she took on a ministry of care for the retired clergy and widowed spouses of our diocese with prayer, greeting cards, phone calls, birthday remembrances and advocacy, never forgetting anybody.

Jane was “Never Quit Jane”. If it was important to do, then it was important to do it. Right up to the end. Dying, still a member of the bishop’s staff, carrying out this unique and important ministry at the age of 79.

You may have noticed that the scriptures today are not meant for Jane. They are meant for us, for those who have loved her and will always miss her –and may need the reminder, the reassurance that she has entered into the bright light of God’s love, into eternity, into the blessed company of the saints. She knew all these things deep I her heart and soul, and when it came time to contemplate passing from this life into eternity, she just set her face to it and went about it.

That is a gift to her family, and that is her gift to the rest of us. There is no need to live - or die - in fear. We are in the love and care of God all the day long, even and especially “when the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done” – even as we are passing from this life to the next.

I want to leave the last word to Hillary Raining, another priest ordained from Trinity Church, Bethlehem. Hillary posted this on our Facebook page: “Jane was a mentor and a friend to me. One of the greatest honors of my life was interviewing several first generation women priests in DioBeth, including Jane, to capture their pioneering stories. Jane taught me so much in that interview and this has prompted me to take the transcripts off the shelf today to read them. In her own words, Jane told me to always, “claim the good that you are doing so that others will feel empowered to do the things they might not know they can do. That will be how God works through you.”

Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed. And this is how God worked through Jane. And now, dear friend, may you rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.


Sermon: Archdeacon Cluett

The Temptation of Jesus
First Sunday of Lent, Feb. 14, 2016
Nativity Cathedral, Bethlehem

[Listen to the sermon: Here]

So, if you were going to boil down this Gospel lesson about the Temptation of Jesus to a simple form, what were these temptations about? How about this way?

In the first temptation the devil seeks to reduce everything to basic human hungers. Spiritual things are not denied, but they serve as the basis for meeting physical needs. Jesus says that God is what is needed for life.

The second temptation is the devil’s show and tell about Power. Jesus is shown all the word’s kingdoms, and it is all offered to him if he would but worship the devil. Jesus says that God alone is worthy of worship.

The last temptation takes place in Jerusalem on the temple. The temptation is to use God for personal safety and salvation. Jesus says that we are not to bring God to the test.

  • Temptation #1, to satiate one’s hungers, at any price. Go for it!
  • Temptation #2, to make a god of something other than God for the sake of gaining power.
  • Temptation #3, the subtlest of all, to throw away personal re­sponsibility and demand that God perform daily miracles of personal care and security.

They have been summed up this way: Bread, power, and safety, or youth, beauty, and wealth, or confidence, fame, and security.

On one level, we experience specific temptations very concretely, but on another they are all the same, as they seek to shift our allegiance, trust, and confidence away from God and toward some substitute that promises a more attractive identity.

It is clear to me that today while no less dangerous, evil is much more subtle, and rather than being confronted with blatant tempta­tions to ignore God, to worship some other gods, or to manipulate God, people in our day and time are tempted and seduced away from God and away from the true selves that God created us to be

Most of us spend considerable time trying to make our lives as safe and secure and comfortable as possible. We want to be able to sit back and count our blessings – our jobs, our homes, our successful children. Jesus turns the notion of a blessed life upside downit’s dangerous!

Living in the Kingdom is finding strength in offering oneself, being vulnera­ble to God and to others, for others. Living in the Kingdom of God brought by Jesus leads to a life that is full and blessed, and can be, itself, a blessing to others. It is also a life that is risky because there are so many temptations.

In John Marquand's novel Point of No Return, for instance, after years of apple-polishing and bucking for promotion and dedicating all his energies to a single goal, Charlie Gray finally gets to be vice-president of the fancy little New York bank where he works; and then the terrible moment comes when he realizes that it is really not what he wanted after all, when the prize that he has spent his life trying to win suddenly turns to ashes in his hands.

His promotion had assured him and his family of all the security and standing that he has always sought, but it turned to dust. Charlie Gray comes to the truth when he realizes too late that he was not made to live on status and salary alone but that something crucially important was missing from his life even though he was not sure what it was.

Akin to this is the temptation to sacrifice one’s family on the altar of power, influence, and success. Some of you will remember the Groucho Marx TV show, “You Bet Your Life.” Well, we all do that everyday. The choices we make are about how we spend the life God has given us to live. It is the one life we have to live as we travel through this world of temptation.

Now there is nothing moralistic or sentimental about that. It simply means that we must be careful with our lives, because it also seems that this is the only life we are going to have in this puzzling and perilous world, and so what we do with it matters enormously.

Everybody knows that. We need no one to tell it to us. Yet in another way perhaps we do always need to be reminded, because there is always the temptation to believe that we have all the time in the world, whereas the truth of it is that we do not. We have only this finite life, and the choice of how we are going to live it must be our own choice, not one that we let the world, the flesh, or the devil make for us.

The complaint is sometimes made about Christians that we don’t live in the “real” world. Often there is the attempt to protect people from the “real” world – the world of evil and temptation – the world that plays out 24-7 on TV News and on the front pages of newspapers. Jesus knows this “real” world.

My pal, Bill Lewellis reminded me this week of the speech given by author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel when he received the Nobel Peace Prize, 30 years ago. In part he said,

There is so much injustice and suffering crying out for our attention: victims of hunger, of racism, and political persecution, writers and poets, prisoners in so many lands governed by the Left and by the Right. Human rights are being violated on every continent. More people are oppressed than free… Yes, I have faith. Faith in God and even in His creation. Without it no action would be possible. And action is the only remedy to indifference: the most insidious danger of all.

"Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil … The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.

In our own day and time, I do believe it is the most insidious temptation offered by Satan; the temptation to indifference about the plight of others, the temptation to the priority of our own comfort and security, the temptation to deny our full identity as God’s own child, our full identity as Jesus own disciple, our denial to minister in his name.

It has been said that the devil’s goal was to tempt Jesus away from himself, from his identity as God’s own, God’s Beloved: to tempt Jesus away from being the One he was born to be. The devil failed with Jesus, thanks be to God.

How will Satan fare with you and me in this season, this world, this life, of temptation?

I will leave the last word to St. Peter Chrysologus, 5th century bishop of Ravenna, who described a holy Lent this way. "When you fast, see the fasting of others. If you want God to know that you are hungry, know that another is hungry. If you hope for mercy, show mercy. If you look for kindness, show kindness. If you want to receive, give … let prayer, mercy, and fasting be one single plea to God."


Eric Snyder [From 2008]

A Sermon Preached by The Ven. Richard I. Cluett at
The Celebration on the Fiftieth Anniversary of
The Ordination to the Priesthood of The Rev. Eric Snyder
June 21, 2008 at Church of the Holy Apostles, St. Clair, PA.

Bishop Paul, dear friends in Christ and colleagues, we have come together in the presence of God to give thanks for the ministry of the Rev. Eric Snyder, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. 50 years! As it is written in Psalm 104 and in Hebrews chapters 5 & 7, he is, as was Jesus so designated,  “a priest forever after the order of Methuselah.”

Oh, I am sorry, the correct quotation is “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek”, Melchizedek, not Methuselah. Sorry, Eric. I don’t know why the name of Methuselah would intrude here.

I first met Eric in the food bank in the undercroft of St. Paul’s, Montrose where he was working for Treehab, a Susquehanna County community action agency. He was in between a national church staff gig in New York City and finding a priestly post in the diocese of Bethlehem. This urbane, urbanite was living with his beloved Jean on their goat farm in Hopbottom, Pa, so I knew he was going to be an interesting person.

I have since come to know him as an amazing person who incarnates the church’s life of spirituality and mission and he is a priest whom it is a privilege to know and to call dear friend, valued colleague, and wise mentor.

You would think that he is or should be a living dichotomy, a person of separates and contradictions. With a beginning in the laid-back, flaky state of California and being born into an up right (I did not say up-tight) Presbyterian family, you would not expect much else.

Someone who marched and protested and demonstrated against war and injustice in the roaring 1960’s & 70’s, in the person of a devout, and spiritual Benedictine associate, for whom “ the smells and bells” of the Eucharist are the right and preferred modes of worship.

An ordered priest, whose ministry was to, at times, break order to lead the church in ministering to the needs of God’s people, especially the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless, the hungry, the imprisoned, the lost and the disempowered when the church would rather have been complacently comfortable.

A gentle man who would vigorously, but humanely, contend in the corridors and offices of power.

Such contention, such belief in action, inevitably call for an institutional response, and a new presiding bishop felt that the church needed to be more, not less, comfortable. Eric was let go.

A man of constant contradictions or a man of divinely inspired integrity called to a unique and wonderful life of ministering? It is only when you watch him closely, listen to him carefully, work with him daily that you come to learn the riches of God’s graces incarnate in this man and how they work together to accomplish God’s good purposes.

Psychologist Erik Erikson would have designated our Eric as having attained to the Eighth Stage of human Development, the stage of full integrity – and so would I.

Eric has spent most of his time in the small parishes and towns of this diocese. He has been priest and pastor to many, many people in his time here. He has taught, baptized, married, anointed, buried, preached, ministered the sacrament, and counseled with many people in many places. He was sent to be that shepherd to God’s people in those villages and towns (like the ones Jesus spoke about in last weeks Gospel lesson). Working with local lay leaders, he made sure that the church’s presence and ministry was sure and constant in all seasons.

And he has been a quiet, but very persistent force for change in this time. Two changes, out of many possible, come most easily to my mind.

There is in the town of Tamaqua in Calvary Church an elder day care program, the only one of its kind in Carbon County, because Father Eric and the very few remaining members of that tiny church saw the need for such a program, and the need for the church, even a run-down church, even a tiny church to be of use in caring for God’s people. And they cobbled together an ecumenical coalition of churches and community leaders. They built their case. They sought grants from public and private sources, including significant funds from the Diocese of Bethlehem. And they brought that program into being in that town, in that tiny church. And God must have been amazed, and must continue to be very pleased.

The second begins, in my memory in a conversation Eric and I began maybe 20 years ago. That conversation bore fruit the day that Jim Smith was ordained to the priesthood in a localized ministry to the churches of Schuylkill County, and it will be borne again when Dolores Evans is ordained as priest next month. The conversation was about how the church can provide a priestly, sacramental and pastoral presence in the most rural and rugged country that has few people and fewer resources.

The very idea that people in a place can see God’s hand at work in a particular person and then they call that person to a new role in their midst as priest, and the bishop and diocese confirm that choice and prepare that person. The very idea, indeed! Who would have thunk it? Who would have trusted it? Who would have taught and prayed and pleaded and trained for it? All those years?

Why that would be the Rev. Eric Snyder, who even without the title, served as rural dean of all Schuylkill County.

The feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist calls to mind the Good News that was coming into the world and also the role of the Messenger in bringing the message.

“…And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace."

 No camel’s hair clothes or mouthfuls of wild locusts for Eric, but he has indeed the visage of the prophet of old, and in his person he has brought this message of salvation and God’s tender mercies. Rough places have been made smooth, mountains have been made into mere hills, God’s message has been proclaimed, and the church and God’s people are better, richer, more faithful, and more secure because of the ministry of Eric Snyder.

I want to name one more dimension of this priesthood we celebrate today. Namely, that it has been aided and abetted, it has been enabled and guided, it has been encouraged and nourished and challenged to be more and better, it has been totally and truly, in the most intimate and loving way, shared with one Jean Snyder, wife, life-partner, mother of their children, nudge, conscience, goad, co-conspirator, author of joy and twinkle in her eye –  partner in ministerial mayhem for the gospel’s sake.

Indeed, together, they bet their life on this gospel, built their life together, and that of their family, on this gospel, helped shape the church with this gospel, changed people’s lives with this gospel and left the rest of us an incomparable, wonderful legacy of a life’s commitment and a life’s work for the gospel’s sake.

In her letter to the Church dated June 4th, the Presiding Bishop wrote, As we move toward a great gathering of bishops from across the Anglican Communion, I call this whole Church to a Day of Prayer on 22 June (for the Lambeth Conference).” And we all will do that, I hope, knowing that among them will be our own bishop.

She continues in her letter, “I would bid your prayers for openness of spirit, vulnerability of heart, and eagerness of mind, that we might all learn to see the Spirit at work in the other. I bid your prayers for a peaceful spirit, a lessening of tension, and a real willingness to work together for the good of God’s whole creation.”

As well as being a worthy prayer, it is also a worthy description of one fine priest’s service to his God, Christ’s Church, and to all the people.

A learning here is that it is, indeed, possible to meld the roles of priest, prophet and pastor. As the psalmist sings it,

Mercy and truth have met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.                                       

This integrated life of mission and spirituality shows that any of us, each us, can also come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.”

Each of us is called to claim and to live out, as Eric has, this blessing that is ours.

Amen.

 


Sermon by Archdeacon Rick Cluett

The Ordination of Michelle Marie Moyer
To the Sacred Order of Priest
January 24, 2015
Cathedral Church of the Nativity

Friends, we are here this morning to affirm God’s call of Michelle Marie Moyer and to witness her ordination into the priesthood of Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

We do this on a day that the church has set aside to remember the Conversion of St. Paul. After listening to the reading from Acts, I think we can all take a breath and relax. If Paul is acceptable to God after what he did as Saul – harassing, persecuting, prosecuting, even stoning, bearing false witness, and physically attacking the followers of Jesus – if he could do those things, and then be used by God in carrying on the ministry of Jesus, then you and I and Michelle don’t have much to worry about, do we? There is no way that the failings and inadequacies which seem so great in ourselves and in our gifts and in our lives could separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, is there? No, there isn’t! Nor could they keep us from seeking and receiving a share in the ministry of Jesus either.

God’s love is that great. God’s mercy is that wide. God’s Love great enough for Saul, great enough for each of us. God’s mercy wide enough for Saul, wide enough to surround and enfold each of us, too. How’s that for the Good News of this day?

Paul received this Good News in a rather startling and dramatic way. He was riding along on his horse and there was a blinding light that knocked him off his horse and on to the ground, and then he heard Jesus speaking to him. It’s hard to believe that Jesus wanted Saul in his ministry, but he did, and Jesus went to some extraordinary lengths to get that message across to him.

I know something of Michelle’s spiritual journey and there is a powerful experience of God’s mercy and God’s love in her own life. A moment when she knew no matter what, no matter anything else in her life, she knew God’s love and mercy was flowing over and in and through it.

I also know that she, like many of us, has also experienced that love and mercy growing in quiet, but nonetheless miraculous ways, in her life and in the lives of her family. For most of us, I think, that is how God’s presence is experienced; as a growing awareness that we are surrounded and infused and empowered by God’s love and acceptance and forgiveness.

Do you remember the wonderful telling of that experience by Albert Schweitzer, one of the giants of faith, who came to know Christ in this way. He wrote:

He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side, He came to those … who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.

This is precisely what Jesus is telling us in the Gospel reading. If we will seek Jesus, if we will take him into our hearts and lives, if we will follow him, if we will take on his work as our own, if we will remain faithful, each of us will come to know fully the love and mercy of God revealed in Jesus Christ, and we will be saved. We will be saved.

My most favorite psalm is the 139th Psalm.
Lord, you have searched me out and known me;
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You trace my journeys and my resting places
 and are acquainted with all my ways.

God knows you Michelle, God knows you and all your ways, and God has called you forever to this very day to be made a priest. Today you stand before God and the Church. Child of God. Disciple of Jesus. Servant of any and all in need. Ready. Ready to take on this new ministry, this new servant role.

It seems that your considerable gifts can be useful in the work of God; that you can take on this new work in the ministry of Jesus. God has called you anew. God has called you deeper into the mystery of God’s love. And you have discerned God’s call anew. The Church has also discerned and tested that call with you and affirms that you are being called by God into the priesthood of Christ.

Frederick Buechner writes in The Alphabet of Grace, (pp. 109-110) “I hear you are entering the (priesthood),” the woman said down the long table meaning no real harm. “Was it your own idea or were you poorly advised?” And the answer that she could not have heard even if I had given it was that it was not an idea at all, neither my own nor anyone else’s. It was a lump in the throat. It was an itching in the feet. It was a stirring of the blood at the sound of rain. It was a sickening of the heart at the sight of misery. It was a clamoring of ghosts. It was a name which, when I wrote it out in a dream, I knew was a name worth dying for even if I was not brave enough to do the dying myself and if I could not even name the name for sure. Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you a high and driving peace.

In other words, it is both a mystery and a grace that one is called to be priest.

God calls you to become priest. It is both terrifying and it is terrific! We follow the Christ who leads us through death to life. Death to selfishness, death to ego, and life to the truest self within. … our call is to continue dying to self and, as a result, to continue becoming truly alive, to continue growing in boldness and righteousness, in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and, yes, even holiness.

Your bishop believes in his heart that this is God’s call to you. Your own sponsoring priest and parish believe this is God’s call. One-time strangers in a discernment group believe this is God’s call. The Commission on Ministry and the Standing Committee of this diocese believe this is God’s call. This cathedral parish and all who are in it and have come to love you and have received your ministry as pastor believe this is God’s call to you. And it is our will that you, Michelle Marie Moyer, be ordained a priest.

Some level of what Jesus describes in the Gospel will come to you in this ministry. As they say, no promise of rose gardens. Real people, real life, real dangers. Some sadness, some hurt, some disappointment. Into this real life God comes in Jesus Christ, and in this real life you will minister to God’s people and build God’s kingdom brought near in Jesus.

Michelle, will you stand. Michelle, your ministry as priest will be to heal and to reconcile, to baptize and to anoint with holy unction, to teach and nurture the young, and to preach God’s holy word, to soothe the wounded and to comfort the lonely, to guide the confused and lost, to visit in home, hospital and prison, to lead God’s people in caring for Gods world, and to administer the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ that strengthens and empowers all who partake of it.

To stay strong and faithful keep close to God’s holy Word. Keep close to God in regular prayer and contemplation. Keep close to your colleagues who know and understand your ministry as priest like no others can. They can guide and comfort you, and laugh and cry with you. Do not deny yourself their fellowship. Remember when God calls us it is always into community.

The mystery of God’s love will be revealed to you as you go about this ministry, and you will know Grace upon Grace upon Grace from God.

And we promise to be with you and support you in all of it, because we know that that your ministry as priest is of God.

May God bless you, guide you, and strengthen you for it in all the days ahead. Amen.