The Whole City Was Gathered

Arthur Ernst Becher

This Sunday, the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany (2/4/18), we will be treated to one of many healing stories in the Gospel of Mark. What in the world are we to make of it?

We might be tempted to just dismiss these miracle stories outright. After all, it is 2018. We have science, technology, and evidence-based medicine. We live in the urbane environs of Philadelphia and its surrounds, with some of the best medical and mental health care on offer in the world (that is, *if* we have access). Jesus the miracle worker can sometimes seem as fanciful and far-fetched as Harry Potter with his wand (…yes, I’m finally making my way through the series!).

But let’s not be so quick to summarily dismiss the scriptural account. For to do so, we risk both 1) presuming that we know the limits of God’s power (which, spoiler alert, is limitless) and 2) missing one the greater take-away messages in this story.

Jesus in this story, as with other miraculous healing stories in the Gospels, is not merely attempting to display his fully-divine clout. He is well acquainted with a stories in antiquity of wonder workers who make no claims to divine inspiration, all the way back to Pharaoh’s magicians and beyond.

The point is not merely a display of unusual power, though that doesn’t hurt his overall message. The point is to instantiate God’s love and acceptance to a people in need. In Jesus’s time as today, there was a stigma attached to physical and mental ailments. The afflicted were excluded from community, cut off from day-to-day goings-on. They suffered not only from their infirmity but also and especially from their estrangement. In bringing the healing touch of God, Jesus is offering not only relief from their mental and physical conditions but also the restoration of relationship––the possibility of belonging. And, in turn, Jesus is offering a tangible glimpse of God’s grace: a lavish love that makes possible our belonging as children of God, despite the sins that might otherwise separate us from community with the divine.

No wonder “the whole city was gathered.” That––Jesus’s wonder-working inclusion of those who might otherwise be excluded and forgotten––is a true miracle. And Jesus’s astounding healing is, therefore, extraordinarily good news indeed. ~ Joseph

For more, see Graham H. Twelftree’s Jesus the Miracle Worker: A Historical and Theological Study (IVP Academic, 1999). While a hefty 470 pages (!!), it’s well worth the read.

Five Fridays III: Flute and Piano

Friday February 2nd at 7:30pm

Annie Wu (flute) and Feng Niu (piano)

Purchase tickets for this concert. General Admission: $25, Students: $5

Sonatina – Eldin Burton
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun – Claude Debussy
Sonatine – Henri Dutilleux
Settings of Goethe’s 1st Mignon Poem – Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Schumann, Hugo Wolf
Settings of Goethe’s 2nd Mignon Poem – Franz Schubert, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Charles Tarver
Grand Fantasy on Themes from ‘Mignon’ of Ambroise Thomas – Paul Taffanel

Annie Wu  Of young flutist Annie Wu, the Mercury News said, “This artist, it seems, can do anything.” Born in 1996, Wu first received national recognition at the age of 15 as the First Prize winner of the National Flute Association’s 2011 High School Soloist Competition. The Pleasanton, California native is a winner of Astral’s 2015 National Auditions, as well as First Prize winner of the James Pappoutsakis Flute Competition, Yamaha Young Performing Artist Competition, and YoungArts National Competition, and a 2014 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts.

Wu has performed concerti with the Vienna International Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, California Symphony, Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Livermore Amador Symphony, Diablo Symphony Orchestra, and the San Jose Chamber Orchestra. Her repertoire choices have ranged from Mozart to contemporary German-American composer Lukas Foss. As an orchestral flutist, Wu was a Fellow at the Music Academy of the West in 2015, and is also an active substitute with the New World Symphony. Her performances with the National Youth Orchestra of the USA have taken her to venues across the globe. After winning the special prize at the 2011 National Flute Association’s High School Soloist Competition for the Best Performance of a Commissioned Work – Greg Pattillo’s Three Beats for Beatbox Flute – Wu’s YouTube performance of the work has received over two million hits. Its online success has led to performances for the Boston Celebrity Series, a JIVE Company Conference in Las Vegas, and a TED TALK Conference in Vancouver.

Wu is currently a senior at Harvard University as a part of their selective five-year Dual Degree Program with the New England Conservatory of Music. Following her Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature from Harvard, she will attend an additional year at NEC for her Masters of Music with Paula Robison.

Annie Wu is represented by Astral Artists.

Feng Niu   A native of Shenyang, China, Feng Niu began studying piano at the age of seven, and made her first public performance at the Shenyang Concert Hall just four years later. The winner of numerous competition honors, Niu was awarded First Prize from the Yamaha National Piano Competition, Second Prize from the Lagny-sur-Marne International Piano Competition, and Third Prize from the Hong Kong Young Pianist Competition. As the First Prize winner of the Yamaha Asia Piano Scholarship, she performed the Schumann Piano Concerto with the Suzhou Philharmonic Orchestra. She has also been featured on concert series for the Shanghai International Spring Music Festival and Shanghai Conservatory.

Niu graduated from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 2008 and received her Master of music degree in Piano Performance, with honors, from the New England Conservatory of Music in 2014, where she studied with Gabriel Chodos. She currently pursues Doctoral studies at the New England conservatory with Pei-shan Lee. At New England Conservatory, she is in frequent demand as a collaborative artist working with the studio members of Paula Robison, Paul Katz, and Laurence Lesser.

Five Fridays concerts are held by candlelight in the beautiful sanctuary of Saint Paul’s, typically in the intimate setting of the labyrinth at the west end of the church. Each concert is followed by a reception to greet the artists. Contributions from our generous sponsors help to defray costs, and together with ticket revenue, allow us to pass on all net proceeds to Saint Paul’s outreach partners, Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network and Face to Face Germantown. This is a unique opportunity to hear world-class music while supporting good work in our local community.

Go to for a list of sponsors, and more about the Five Fridays season.
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Rise Against Hunger


This Sunday, January 14th on Martin Luther King’s Day of Service
10:00 AM – 1:30 PM
Saint Paul’s Church Chestnut Hill

Please Mark Your Calendar!!

This Sunday, January 14, Saint Paul’s celebrates the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Rise Against Hunger (formerly known as Stop Hunger Now) strives to make a global impact on hunger by building resilience, self-sufficiency and empowerment among the communities they work in and with.

We will gather in the parish hall around noon for soup and bread, and then participate in a fast-paced, fun event to pack enough meals to feed 10,000 people.

We need…

  • 6 volunteers for the heavier box lifting and
  • older children and adults for some light set-up.

40 parishioners showed up to pack the meals last year.
Can we do better this year?
All are invited.


Getting the Most Out of Your Church Building

Our church buildings and grounds are remarkable assets. Their sacred beauty helps to define who we are and they create the space that hosts our fellowship and much of our ministry. Yet, they also require maintenance, renovation and upkeep and too often go underutilized.

This workshop at St. Asaph’s Church, 27 Conshohocken State Road in Bala Cynwyd on Saturday, February 3 from 9 a.m. to noon will provide you with guidance and resources to help your congregation get the most out of these precious assets.

Canon Ivey, Canon Berlenbach, and our Diocesan Property Manager, Mr. McCauley will go over how to assess your building’s potential, how to make it more attractive and user-friendly on a budget, the basics of leases, kitchen use and rental, how to provide Wi-Fi, and more. Send your property committee, vestry, sexton and clergy. Everyone is welcome. Breakfast will be provided. The $5 registration fee covers cost of food.

Getting Ready for Lent Next Month

Tuesday Evening House Church
Small Group Gatherings – One Book Saint Paul’s!  

During Lent, parishioners graciously open their homes for worship and study. This Lent we will meet on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. on February 20 and 27, and March 6, 13, and 20. Would you like to host a small group of about 8? It’s easy and fun. Contact Joseph at

Our One Book Saint Paul’s will be “Lent with Evelyn Underhill”. We’ll have some copies of the book available in the office. We can all read this book during Lent. Discussions will be held at homes where Tuesday night House Churches will be held.

One of the remarkable features of the early church was the devotion to house churches for prayer, study, and fellowship and, above all, the breaking of the bread. The Lenten House Meetings are about welcoming and celebrating the life of this community in homes. Come and join in!