What is the Burning Bush in Your Life? What's God Asking You To Do?
This Sunday's Sermon:

What's Your Burning Bush?
--What is God Asking You To Do?

Transcript of Last Sunday's Sermon below:
Love is Not Enough
Zoom Video Call in at 5pm EST
Greetings as we end June.

T his Sunday
I'll be asking, what thing in your life should you be doing but haven't and trying to figure out why.

We will be looking at Moses and the burning bush and asking what bush is burning in your life?

I'm off from preaching in July and August, but feel free to reach out if you have pastoral needs.

In the absence of Sunday sermons, there are important member activities.

Faith-based Activism Discussion Group:
Just Mercy

Sunday, July 26, 2020 at 5 PM – 6:30 PM
Public · Hosted by  Annabel Park  and  Maria De Los Angeles

Join be connecting through Facebook here:

Summer Reading Group
Dr. Peck is setting up a Swedenborg reading group call in. Please contact him directly as they choose a time. ( aandmpeck@comcast.net )

Elfa Halloway Going Away Party June 19, 2020 5pm EST

Our church administrator, Elfa Halloway is leaving her position this July to return to Germany. Elfa has been in service to the church for over four decades. The church is now faced with the daunting challenge of trying to replace, which is is impossible.

On Sunday July 19th, we will hold an outdoor socially distanced reception at Dr. Peck's home in the garden. I will also set up a Zoom call for 5pm EST on that date. Please mark your calendars. If you can attend with me in person, please email me and I'll send the address.

Swedenborgian Convention Begins Today

The Swedenborgian Convention is virtual this year, so you can join online beginning Friday night June 26th.

You can see the schedule here:

I'm teaching a class at 5pm Saturday.


We'll use Zoom again on Sunday.
Here's the info for our upcoming service:

Here's the Zoom link for our service this upcoming Sunday:

(646) 876-9923

Meeting ID:
881 1098 9060

Thanks again to Kateryna Pyatybratova for her help each week and through the pandemic!!

I will be online starting at 4:30 PM if want to work out any challenges getting on. If you aren't sure, get on early and meditate.

Social Hour is Discussion Hour
Discussion Hour continues to be a high point in the week for me with such thoughtful discussions.

Service Order
Please save this newsletter and use the service order on the right-hand side. Let me know if you can read.

Please take a minute and send in an offering by using our new link to GoFundMe

See you Sunday!!

Physical Distancing

Social Outreach

Spiritual Connection

Your Pastor
Rev. Richard L. Tafel



What's the Future of Church?

Happy Father’s Day and happy new church day.
My mentor and one of America’s greatest preachers was the Rev. Peter J. Gomes. He always asked his preaching class students after he listened to their sermons one question:
“Where’s the good news?”
 The word gospel means “good news” and he encouraged preachers to be sure to share it.
Gomes’ question is one many Christians are asking in 2020.
I recently saw a funny meme:
“2020 written by Stephen King, directed by Quentin Tarantino.” It does feel like we are living in times written by our best horror film writer and directed by our most violent movie director. It is hard to see good news.
In a gospel passage today, often called the Great Commission, Jesus sends his disciples to preach the good news to make disciples of all nations.
What exactly does that great commission of sharing good news require of us today?
Before I share how Swedenborgians see this, let me share how many of the Christians I grew up with this view.
In my childhood youth group, the great commission meant going out and evangelizing the world with the belief in Jesus Christ. If they accepted Jesus, they would go to heaven and, if not, they would go to hell. The very fate of all nonbelievers rested in the hands of saved Christians who shared the good news Jesus and help their friends, family, and the world to avoid hell. That’s quite a commission.
But there’s more, as if hell wasn’t punishment enough, I was taught we were living in the end-times predicted in Revelations. The future of the world would be fulfilled in global wars and disasters. Every decade that I’ve been alive, current events have been connected to these end-times prophecies. When I grew up, for example, the bear in Revelation represented the Soviet Union and the whore of Babylon mentioned in revelation represented the Vatican. Each generation made connections between current events and the end of the world. 2020 has been ripe for new apocalyptic interpretations.
We were taught that those saved would be raptured, literally lifted, to heaven while the rest of those still on earth would engage in bloody battles with the anti-Christ.
The good news, in this world, the view is that you and anyone you could convince to believe in Jesus would not be left behind to suffer the disaster here on earth. Even more important, by getting people to believe in Jesus you were saving them from living eternity in hell. The great commission was a life and death business and gave meaning and purpose to everything you did. I might add many of those who taught this were kind, loving people.
To play our role we were trained in techniques to save people from hell. In a church youth group that I was part of I was trained in an evangelical sales program called Evangelism Explosion. It taught you, line by line, what questions to ask and what answers to expect and what responses you would give to help save souls.
Here’s how the great commission of sharing the good news might work in this system.
You ask, “Do you think you’d go to heaven if you died today?” 
Be prepared for this answer, “Well, yes, I think I’m a good person.”
Your answer, “Did you know that’s actually not what the Bible says?”
Their answer, “Well, I don’t know the Bible all that well.”
Your answer, “Would it be alright if I shared what the Bible does say?”
Their answer, “Okay, I guess.”
Your answer, “Jesus said he was the way the truth and the life that no one come to him unless they profess a faith in Jesus Christ. Would that be something you’d be interested in learning more about?”
Their answer, “I guess.”
Now get them to say they accept Jesus.
This was a very sophisticated but also a somewhat manipulative system with one goal--get the person to ask for Jesus Christ to be their savior. Then, get them baptized and enroll them in your church. Next, share with your team who you “won” to Christ. This was the great commission and it saved people from hell and the coming apocalyptic future the world was entering into.

Let me add that people who engaged me on this were kind and good. 
That’s one interpretation.
The Swedenborgian tradition essentially flips this entire great commission narrative.
We believe the Jesus is God. To believe in Jesus is to live a life of love as Jesus taught. It is not an intellectual exercise or saying certain words, it is a daily life commitment to loving actions. This transformation can happen throughout all nations and all religions whether those living a life of love themselves are Christian or not. The commission is to go into the world, living a life of love that others see and seek and to be there for people in need. The great commission is to commit to growing ourselves spiritually and helping those placed in our life.
A Swedenborgian pastor, the Rev. Lee Wolfenden, who put this well in an article he wrote, let me quote him.
“There are many people out there who are in pain and are struggling through life. There are many people who are walking on a path that leads toward personal and spiritual destruction. There are many people who desperately long for answers to questions that perplex their minds and tear at their hearts.”
He’s right, there are people who have been placed in your life right now who need to hear the good news. It is less likely that they are craving your deep insights into your theology, though some might. It is likely they need love and guidance and your prayers, maybe even some cash or advice.
In this understanding, the Great Commission is our calling to share the good news we’ve learned from Jesus about living a life of love, justice, and service.
So, what about the coming the destruction I was taught that Revelations predicted?
Swedenborg also flipped the narrative of the impending doom of the world prophecy on its head. The second coming of Jesus foretold in Revelations and Matthew predicts a spiritual transformation, not Jesus physical coming into the world. The world is not destroyed but, instead, evolves.
Swedenborg suggests a second great commission that took place with Jesus in heaven 250 years ago where the eleven disciples gathered in heaven to share a deeper understanding of Scripture and faith for our world here. June 19 th, 1770 began a period of spiritual liberation in the world often referred to as New Church Day. It is interesting that Juneteenth, that same date years later, also marks the beginning of freedom for African Americans in America.
Instead of a physical manifestation, Jesus is available to all through their own transformation.
In Luke, Jesus responds to this. 20  Once the Pharisees asked Jesus when God’s kingdom would come. He replied, “The coming of God’s kingdom is not something you can see.  21  People will not say, ‘Here it is.’ Or, ‘There it is.’ That’s because God’s kingdom is among you.”
22  Then Jesus spoke to his disciples. “The time is coming,” he said, “when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man. But you won’t see it.  23  People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ Or, ‘Here he is!’ Don’t go running off after them.  24  When the Son of Man comes, he will be like the lightning. It flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.
Swedenborg didn’t start a religion, he argued that the global transformation away from a false church teachings toward a deeper understanding of God would happen on its own time. The church, monarchies and oppressive economic systems would experience an incredible period of chaos and transformation.
In the same way we humans evolve from innocent babies to toddlers, to children, to teens to young adults to mid-life to older age and to our physical death and transition to another level of angels; so too does our earthly world evolve into higher levels of spiritual understanding.
This is a radically different way to see our future to the catastrophic future I grew up learning. Instead of our world ending up in a horrific fiery end, the world is evolving toward a more beautiful place beyond our current imagination.
This spiritual evolutionary view fulfills that what the prophet in Isaiah said, “the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.” It foretells of what John in Revelations describes as a river of life running through the Holy City “And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
Today we are all feeling the winding down of old church, old business, and old politics which are no longer working. The great the chaos of our time reveals underlying falsities that must be addressed as we evolve forward.
The good news is that those of us blessed to be living in this period of chaos and transformation, have a map to see the future. And that future is beautiful.
What will it look like?
No one has an exact blueprint, but here’s my sense best of it.
Earth will no longer be seen as an evil place we survive until heavenly rest, but a place to cherish and be actively doing good in.
Church will no longer be bound in buildings under the direction of powerful hierarchal leaders who teach us to recite the right words. Instead, it will be the community people go for deep, personal, and communal transformation that leads to more just action in the world. In this future, ministers will be those who help others spiritually evolve.
In the area of politics, we’ll evolve to a higher form of collaborative democracy with servant leaders. Politicians will start with love, then brilliantly weave in the perspectives of all who they serve.
In the area of business, we’ll move to a radical view of stakeholder economics that measures value in how every person, living, and our environment succeed. Business leaders will start with love, then brilliantly led organizations that serve their customers.
Today, we look at the closing of churches, the hyper-partisanship in our politics and the sheer greed in our consumer culture as a disaster. But looking through the prism of spiritual evolution, we can also see this as the natural end of one period and the blossoming of a new, more beautiful words bringing heaven to earth.
In this transition, fear will increase as old systems we know and love to falter and fail. But we must be agile and keep our eyes on the New Jerusalem, that heavenly city descending into our lives calling us to bring more of God’s love and justice into our world.
Today, a new deeper, great commission has been given to each of us to spread the good news of Jesus' love in our own lives and others. We must be vigilant in playing our role in making this happen.
This future looks incredible.
And, that my friends, is good news worth sharing!

The national Swedenborgian Convention is online this year and Rev. Tafel is teaching one of the courses based our our church's role in fostering civil dialogue.

Order of Worship

Light your own candle.

Set up your Bible or holy book at home.

Opening the Word
Open your Bible at home.

Welcome from Rev. Tafel

Rev. Tafel will greet everyone and ask for readers of the texts.

Read at home.

All: Eternal God, in whom we live and move and have our being,
whose face is hidden from us by our sins,

and whose mercy we forget in the blindness of our hearts:
cleanse us from all our offenses,

and deliver us from proud thoughts and vain desires,

that with reverent and humble hearts we may draw near to you,

confessing our faults, confiding in your grace, and finding in you our refuge and strength;


May almighty God have mercy on us,  forgive us our sins,  and bring us to everlasting life,  through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Exodus 3 
Moses at the Burning Bush
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush  was  not consumed.  Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”
So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”
And he said, “Here I am.”
Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand  is  holy ground.”  Moreover He said, “I  am  the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.
And the Lord said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who  are  in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their [ a ]sorrows.  So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites.  Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.  10  Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
11  But Moses said to God, “Who  am  I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
12  So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this  shall be  a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
13  Then Moses said to God, “Indeed,  when  I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What  is  His name?’ what shall I say to them?”
14  And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

Warnings and Encouragements
Luke 12  Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be[ a ] on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.  There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.  What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Swedenborg Insights

Therefore the Lord appeared in a bramble bush. When the Lord appears to people He does so in a way suited to the kind of people they are, for a person cannot receive the Divine in any way other than that which is a way suited to the kind of person he is.
Heavenly Secrets 6832


We will save the discussion for after the service in our discussion hour.

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Mail to checks to: 1611 16th St NW WDC 20009

Community Prayers
Here you can simply say your intention with a word or phrase. There's no need to explain details. The Lord knows what's on your heart. All of us will respond together after a prayer is made by saying,
"Lord Hear Our Prayer."

Pastor Prayer

Lord's Prayer (in unison)
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11  Give us this day our daily bread.
12  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.


Discussion Time
Please stay as long as you like to update each other on how you are doing. Rev. Tafel will stay until the last person has shared. You can ask the minister anything!
Louis Tafel Joins
Church of the Holy City

Last Sunday it was announced that Louis Tafel of Churchville, Pennsylvania requested membership in the church.

Rev. Tafel had the good fortune of announcing his father's interest on Father's Day. The church board ratified his membership in their meeting last week.

About Louis Tafel
Louis was born and raised in Philadelphia the son, grandson, and great-grandson of Swedenborgian ministers. In his senior year of high school, he was drafted to serve in World War II. At a military base in Texas, he heard the good news of the surrender of the Japanese and the end of the war. He continued his military service patrolling the Panama Canal. When he returned from service he attended Temple University and Susquehanna University.

Louis married his wife Mary Robb and they eventually settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Together they raised six children. His family has been the great joy of his life. Today, he is also father-in-law to four, grandfather to fourteen and has eight great-grandchildren. His wife Mary transitioned to the spiritual world in December 2018. Louis loves spending quality time with his family..

Louis found his business acumen matched the sales industry and spent his career in numerous positions traveling the country and the world. He became an executive in the healthcare field with his greatest expertise was in the design and sale of nursing home and hospital beds, furniture and equipment

A devoted student of Swedenborg, he mentored Rev. Rich Tafel on Sundays after church often driving him to his various soccer games. These conversations led to longer, deeper conversations that inspired Rich into the path of ministry.

One of the great silver linings of the pandemic is that through technology Louis is able to fully participate in the life of Church of the Holy City and is happy to join the church.

The photo of below is Louis with two of his latest great-grandchildren Evie Stana and Desi Tafel.
Statues barricaded throughout DC
-photo Elfa Halloway
We are planning our going away party for Elfa Halloway on Sunday June 19th at 5pm at Dr. Peck's garden.
We've added our two most recent pastors to our portrait room. Rev. Jonathan Mitchell and Rev. Andy Stinson.

Church Officer's Meeting Report for June 2020

Every month the officers of the church get a report from the pastor on progress. Here are some of the details of the church business. If you are interested in serving on the board, please contact Rev. Tafel.

Officers include Helen Sioris (President), Annabel Park (Vice President), Tony Raffa (Treasurer), Elfa Halloway (Asst. Treasurer) and Malcolm Peck (Secretary).

Summary of Items Addressed:

Louis Tafel was voted into membership marking seven new members in 2020.

This Sunday's service marks the end for this summer. They resume in September.

Annabel Park and Dr. Peck agreed to host events this summer to foster community.

Christ Reformed Church who rents the church is slowly rolling out services based on DC government recommendations. We agreed to consider investing in production materials to do our services online into the future.

Peer Space is our online rental service.
Shalonda Ingram's company and James Cox are beginning to open the church to rentals again in a deliberate manner.
Tony Raffa has taken over as treasurer and is moving to Quickbooks online.

Malcolm Peck is editing Rev. Tafel bylaws draft at this time.

Elfa hired a cameraman to do a video of the church and created a script for Convention, so we’ll be included in the video roll of churches. Thanks to Elfa for getting this done.
Elfa departs end of July, so we need move quickly to have things lined up. We are working with Shalonda, James and Scott Brickman to find people to fill the various roles Elfa has played. An event is planned in her honor.

Donations through Go Fund Me seems to be working. We should have a donor report and budget at each monthly meeting.
The Building Work continues. We need to paint or cover the new HVAC ducts .
New electric has been wired into our building and now needs to be connected for air conditioning the sanctuary.

We are engaging contractors to pain the basement and fix the back stair case
Rev. Tafel is looking now at launching a 501 c-3 to help fund the work I do that the church cannot pay for.

We still need new signage for our weekly services. We are also now considering new signage to demonstrate our support for ending racism. We are working with Rev. Smith. Niki and Annabel have been offering advice to Rev. Tafel. Others are welcome to weigh on this. A formal vote will follow this research.

The church did receive PPP loans from the government, we need to file with the government to show we used PPP for salaries, and we should be forgiven. We’ll need to stay on top of what needs to be done.

A special note of thanks was made to Kateryna Pyatybratova for volunteering to host Zoom worship through the pandemic. Without her work, we could not have done it.

As you can see, there’s never a dull moment at Church of the Holy City.
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