The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

2018-06-03 By Kim Byford - CROP
Photo by Kim Byford

homily preached at the EPIC Visioning Day
by the Rev. Josh Hosler, Campus Chaplain
Saturday, May 19, 2018


A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew.

Jesus, said, ‘Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

‘Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions.

Today’s Gospel reading is appointed for the Feast of St. Dunstan, a fascinating character you can read about sometime, not now. In the short time I have with you today, I’d like to focus on the reading instead.

You never knew when or how your life will change. I mean, some things you can plan for, but I’ve heard it said that if you want to hear God laugh, tell God your plans. This doesn’t mean that God thinks your plans are stupid—only that we so often claim more control over our lives than we can ever truly have. It is good to plan, but it is better to learn how to adjust.

Jesus is not saying, “Be prepared for every eventuality,” or, “Control the situation.” Quite the opposite, really. He’s making clear what qualities you’ll need to cultivate in order to be spiritually ready for all the things you can’t control.

Be faithful: that is, trust that God’s presence and guidance are certain even when you can’t perceive them.

Be wise: that is, look beyond yourself and your loved ones and their immediate needs.

Be responsible: that is, communicate clearly and do what you said you would do.

Care for others: that is, go out of your way to be present to people, to listen to them, to befriend them, to pray for them, to make sacrifices for their sake.

Work diligently: that is, be willing to invest your money, your time, your lifeblood in things that matter.

When you do all this, you’ll find that you are given greater responsibility.

Now, you might joke that you don’t want greater responsibility. But I know you: you’re not lazy people. You’re conscientious people. You’re responsible people who are frequently under a lot of stress. So I get it: the last thing you want is for more work to be laid on your backs.

But remember, too, what Jesus says in another place: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Yes, Jesus places a yoke on our shoulders. Jesus gives us work to do. The paradox is that he promises us rest—our souls will be able to be at rest in the midst of that work. The Christian life isn’t something we tack onto our regular lives. It is a different kind of life, a method for prioritizing the needs of the world above our own ambitions. It may mean that you will have more work or less work, easy work or exhausting work, but it will guarantee that the work you do will be transformed work—holy work, work that will reveal God’s love to the world.

The contemporary paraphrase of the Bible called The Message puts the passage this way:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

And what is “grace”? It’s a word that means a number of things in English, but which also carries a particularly Christian meaning. Grace is how God works. Grace means that whatever happens and no matter how bad things get, there is a way forward. Grace means that even when we are not in control and our anxiety is spiraling us downward, God is there, whispering, “Shhh. It’s not over yet.” Grace is unforced, and it is God’s path to peace and reconciliation.

So relax into the music. Ride the waves of the Holy Spirit through the rapids of life. Fuel up on bread and wine, Body and Blood, and then get back out there, where the Holy Spirit is showing you the work that is to be done. Have you been baptized? You have been given a mission. Not sure what that mission is? Go about your life following your passions, following what gives you life. Along the way, notice what the world does not have but needs desperately. Find the place where those two things meet, and dig in deeply, with reckless abandon. The Spirit will not abandon you. Jesus will give you rest. Your Creator is helping you create.

As I prepare to leave EPIC in my past, I want you all to know, first and foremost, how much I love you — each and every one of you. It has been a distinct honor to be able to walk alongside you for this brief but crucial time in your life. As I go, I will need to make intentional space, an absence from you, so that others can fill the role I have tried to fill. But after a time and a season, if you want to reach out to me again, please do so. After a time, we can reconnect.

As for today, enjoy the work, and enjoy each other. Pay attention not just to your own feelings in this process, but also to what the others around you are going through. Love one another.

Those aren’t just my words to you. They’re the words of someone else who was preparing to leave his friends for a time. First he washed their feet. (I’ll spare you that today.) Then he said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” I try to do just that, and I hope that you who have also joined in that work will continue it together. Amen.

2018-06-03 EPIC on Josh's last day


EPIC Visioning Day Recap

2018-05-19 10.34.40A group of students, alumni, and St. Paul’s parishioners gathered on Saturday to envision the future of EPIC (Episcopal Campus Fellowship) in Bellingham.

2018-05-20 07.47.06We began with a brief time of prayer, during which Josh addressed the students with a few parting words.




2018-05-20 07.47.10Next, we shared our own experience of EPIC. As we spoke, others listened and pulled out the key words and phrases they heard that they believe get at the essence of what EPIC is.

At this point, Josh excused our three graduating seniors—Meredith Bee, Emilie Han, and Anna Ortung—to the kitchen to finish preparing our lunch.


2018-05-20 07.47.17Josh invited the continuing students each to mark three qualities that they feel best exemplify what EPIC is and must continue to be. (The phrase “God is weird” refers specifically to the ability to say such things with freedom, confidence, curiosity, and excitement!)

Next, Josh shared with the continuing students a model he has learned for looking at Christian community. This model comes from the College for Congregational Development. He asked the students where we should place each of our key words on the cycle presented in this model (in red).

2018-05-20 07.47.28When we were finished, we noted that we cover the three parts of the cycle quite well.


After lunch, the seniors left us. To the remainder of the group, Josh asked, “As I prepare to leave EPIC and St. Paul’s, what are you most afraid of? What do you hope for?”

2018-05-20 07.47.22

“WWJD” here refers to “What Would Josh Do?” Contrary to the jokes that we enjoyed together, Josh wasn’t really comparing himself to Jesus! But he has observed that when a leader departs, it’s all too easy to compare a new leader to the previous one.

Finally, we listed the main things that have to happen in order to make EPIC thrive. We grouped these things into categories as follows:

Interior Communication

  • Scheduling and organization of the content of our meetings
  • Facilitating our meetings
  • Maintaining the member list
  • Communicating with our own group
    • Email
    • Social media
    • “Pinging” each other to invite and to remind

Financial Management

  • Students do not have spending power but can learn the ins and outs of budgeting and money planning. Josh will meet with several students who want to learn more about how this works.

Exterior Communication

  • Promotional tools: Facebook ads (provided we can afford these) … giveaway swag … flyers … etc.
  • Connections and projects with other campus clubs
  • Public tabling on campus
  • Recruiting
    • Visits to places where Episcopal high schoolers can be found, such as Camp Huston and HYC
    • Phone calls to all the congregations in the diocese: Who’s graduating? Where are they going next? How can we help connect them to a church and/or campus ministry? (This work could be shared with UW folks.)

Ride Coordination

  • We’d like this to be handled by a student/parishioner team of at least three, with clarity about who will be the main communicator.
  • Ideal job description
    • Recruit parishioners to provide rides on a regular basis
    • Make sure that one or more cars go to campus every Sunday morning to pick up whoever is waiting
    • Keep a sign in the window making clear that the car is headed to St. Paul’s; think of it as the St. Paul’s bus line

Other ideas

  • We wondered about where EPIC’s stuff can be stored during a time between chaplains.
  • We pondered the idea of an EPIC pilgrimage at some point in the coming years.

We closed with prayer.

We came away from the day with specific people assigned to care for specific tasks. Josh will help solidify these connections in the coming weeks.


EPIC’s Group Norms

At the beginning of this school year, the members of EPIC agreed on certain norms to follow when meeting together. We recognize the value of this process for any group that meets regularly to grow in friendship and faith together. Here are the norms for our group.

EPIC Group Norms
Last edited October 12, 2017

  1. Be kind.
  2. Use the “me too” sign rather than rephrasing what someone just said.
  3. Be respectful of the space we are borrowing and of each other’s personal space. Seek consent (physical and otherwise).
  4. Keep side conversations to a minimum. Don’t talk over others.
  5. Be respectful of others’ ideas. Don’t try to convert people. Ask before you argue: “Do you have the energy to argue now, or should we do this some other time?”
  6. “Step up/step back”: Be mindful of how much of the conversation you are taking. Claim your air time, but let others in, too.
  7. Keep personal stories confidential. If you’re unsure, ask.
  8. When focus is called for, focus on the task. It might not be the right time to be goofy.
  9. Don’t just welcome people to EPIC; invite them.
  10. Remember: to everything there is a season.

A Script for Non-Violent Communication

As friendships develop, sometimes our feelings get hurt. We should expect this in the natural course of getting to know someone more deeply. Conflict is an invitation to intimacy! The following script is designed for you to use when you feel stepped on or slighted.

“When you ____ (past tense verb, an objective observation of something that has just happened)

… I felt _____ (name your specific feelings, not an assessment of the other person’s intent).

The story I’m making up in my head is _____ (your interpretation of the incident).

I would like ____ (you’re asking here for the other person to respond or change in some way).

In return, I will ______ (you’re committing to make a change yourself, for the sake of the relationship).”

Using this script may feel awkward, especially at first. By adopting it as a group, we’re allowing for that awkwardness while acknowledging that we have found it to be helpful in the past. And we agree that it’s better to use an awkward script than to fail to address the “pinch” in a relationship that matters to you.


EPIC’s Winter Quarter Plans

2017-11-11 EPIC at fall retreat

EPIC meets on Sundays, but we’re not always on campus. Here’s our schedule for winter quarter, so that you can be sure of where to find us and when. Newcomers are always welcome! To get the inside scoop ahead of time, request to be added to the EPIC mailing list.

Download this calendar.

Sunday, January 14
– 10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (2117 Walnut St.)
– 6:30 p.m. Meet in Nash Lounge for a Veggie Tales viewing party!

Sunday, January 21
– 10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (2117 Walnut St.)
– 6:30 p.m. Meet in VU 462. Topic: Unpacking the Parables of Jesus, Part 1: Kingdom.

Wednesday, January 24
– St. Paul’s Annual Meeting and Dinner, 6:00-8:00 p.m., a fundraiser for us. EPIC works with the high school youth group to cook and serve dinner. Our fellow parishioners are asked to support us financially.

Sunday, January 28
– 10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist at St. Paul’s
– 5:00 p.m. Taize Prayer at St. Paul’s
– 6:00 p.m. Dinner at the home of the Pridachuks

Sunday, February 4
– 10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist at St. Paul’s
– 6:30 p.m. Meet in VU 462. Topic: Unpacking the Parables of Jesus, Part 2: Grace.

Sunday, February 11
– 10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist at St. Paul’s
– 6:30 p.m. Meet in VU 462. Topic: Unpacking the Parables of Jesus, Part 3: Judgment.

Sunday, February 18
– 10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist at St. Paul’s
– Evening Field Trip to St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle for its weekly Compline service

Sunday, February 25
– 10:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist at St. Paul’s
– 5:00 p.m. Taize Prayer at St. Paul’s, 2117 Walnut St.
– 6:00 p.m. Dinner (host TBD)

Friday-Sunday, March 2-4
– EPIC Winter Retreat at St. Paul’s (details TBD)

An Update from Episcopal Service Corps

Eli Gemora in Episcopal Service Corps 2017-09Emmanuel “Eli” Gemora (front row, second from left) graduated from WWU in 2016 and is spending this year with Episcopal Service Corps.

Hello, everyone! I can be pretty bad about keeping in touch, so I figured I would update everyone in one go on how my time in North Carolina is going. But first, here is a summary of what exactly it is I’m doing out here.

Along with nine other people, I am doing a year of living in an intentional community in North Carolina’s Johnson Service Corps. We will be working for local nonprofits, exploring our spiritual lives, nurturing our emotional well-being, and learning how to be effective servant leaders. We are split between two cities (Chapel Hill and Durham) that are about 30 minutes apart from each other, and we are housed to live in or near the communities we will be serving. We are also encouraged to develop a spiritual practice. I entered the program with the intention to try journaling and meditating each day.

I am living in Carrboro (a small town right next to Chapel Hill) with four other people in a fully furnished duplex. I will be working at Compass Center. My work will entail connecting people to domestic violence- and crisis-related resources.

As for what I’ve been up to so far, well, the first two weeks were packed enough as it is, so this email will just cover that (tune in next time for an update on JSC in general).
On Friday, August 18th, I arrived in North Carolina. We housemates met, picked bedrooms, and began unpacking. We also met some administrators and mentors of JSC, as well as our program director, at a potluck lunch. Afterwards, we headed out for opening retreat. At the retreat both houses stayed in one cabin, meditated frequently, talked about the upcoming year, had excellent meals made from locally sourced food, and learned about listening from the heart.

On Sunday, August 20th, we returned to our houses and began settling into our lives together. Over the past month we’ve settled into a routine of planning meals, cooking and eating together each night, working out on the weekdays, playing games, and watching The Office. With the help of the two members this year who have lived in Chapel Hill before, we have also begun to explore Carrboro/Chapel Hill and Durham, attending festivals and going to local restaurants.

We have also learned more about the area by going on formal, historical tours. We toured Durham by way of the Pauli Murray Project. There we learned about the Murray family, the rise of Durham as an important town and black community, and the impact race relations have had on Durham. We toured Chapel Hill by way of the historic, black neighborhood, Northside. There we learned about the tight-knit community that lives there, the ways gentrification has changed the neighborhood, and what the civil rights movement looked like in Chapel Hill. We also toured Stagville Plantation, where we learned about the impacts of slavery and plantations on the development of the surrounding area. We also learned about how the descendants of slaves are working to reclaim their families’ stories.

Over a three-day period, we also toured all of the programs where JSC members had been placed. This was not only to show us where we would be interning, but also to help us understand what our fellow JSC members would be doing at their jobs. Understanding the other programs also has the added benefit of helping different nonprofit organizations connect to each other through JSC interns. (We were also given the option to volunteer at most of the other placements in our free time if we were interested.)

Lastly, we spent two Fridays working on our community covenants and training for the challenges of the upcoming year. We learned about non-violent communication, conflict resolution, and how to recognize and voice our needs.

A Community Covenant is a document written by the members of a house in which we lay out our intentions and rules. They include things like how we will handle conflict, when we will have weekly business meeting, etc. It can help us preemptively to handle the smaller details and stressors of living with a bunch of strangers away from home.

Deciding to do a year of service in an unfamiliar place immediately after graduating was a pretty wild choice, but I’ve been incredibly pleased with that choice and already feel that I’ve become a stronger, more informed person.

Feel free to call, text, or email me if you want to know more or have any questions!

Much love,


EPIC’s Fall Discussion Topics

I love fall quarter. I love the smell of crispy leaves (wherever they can be found in the Pacific Northwest) and the smell of new books. And I especially love meeting new people.

We’ve met a few new folks this quarter already, and they have helped us plot out EPIC’s fall discussion topics, as follows:

October 15. The Nature of God: How can we know what God is really like?

October 29. Church and State: What are the origins of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.? How should church and state be in relation to each other? Discussion hosted by students Emilie Han and Josh Shepherd.

November 5. Sexual Ethics: We have some. What are they? We talked about this a couple years ago, and you can read about that discussion here.

November 19. “Hate the sin, love the sinner”: Why is this a problematic phrase?

December 3. Topic TBD.

December 10. A very silly Christmas pageant, plus end-of-quarter wrap-up and party.

You can download a current calendar of all our upcoming events here.