Sunday, December 25, 2022



December 25, 2022


+ As you all know, in addition to being a priest, I am also a poet.


I don’t often talk about being poet.


It’s a very important part of my life.


It’s something I’ve been much longer than I’ve been a priest.


But it’s something I just don’t bring up very often at church.


But it is something, as I said, that is important to me.


And my life entire life is seen through the lens of poetry.


I see things poetically.


I know that sounds strange.


But I see things that maybe most people don’t.


Or more importantly, more specifically, I see things sing that maybe others don’t.


Which is why I love poetry, and why I have a special love for particular poets.


One of the particular poets I love is the great British poet Christina Rosetti.


We all know Rossetti in some capacity.


Many of the hymns we sing are hymns that were actually her poems set to music.


And one of the most famous is “In the Bleak Midwinter.”


I love that hymn so much.


I love the words of it.


I love the poetry of it.


And it’s a poem and hymn that reaches right down inside me and just grabs me.


Rossetti herself was actually a very devout Anglican.


She was, in fact, a very devout Anglo-Catholic.


She never married, never seemed to have shown a romantic interest in another person in her life, and lived a very secluded life in her family’s home.


She was sort of like a British, Anglo-Catholic version of Emily Dickinson.


She was also my mother’s favorite poet, which is also why I think I love her so dearly.


My mother loved the poetry of Christina Rossetti.


And when my mother died 5 years ago next month, I found myself unable to write for the first time in almost 30 years.


Many of you know about this struggle in my life.


It was awful.


My 13th book of poetry was published 2 day before my mother died.


At the time, I jokingly said, “ this is my lucky 13th book.”


It was most definitely not.


And I have not been able to write in quite the same way as I did before my mother died.


There have been no books in 5 years, very little published, though I have finally been able to produce some work.


But when my mother died, when I couldn’t write poetry, I found myself reading Rossetti, and listening to music set to her poems.


In fact, in the weeks after my mother’s death, I listen to Tame Impala’s version of “In the Bleak Midwinter” over and over again.


And at this time of the year, as I struggle with Christmas and the holidays, I find myself clinging to another Rossetti poem,


Love Came Down at Christmas.


We know this best as a beloved Christmas hymn:



Love came down at Christmas,

Love all lovely, Love Divine,

Love was born at Christmas,

Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,

Love Incarnate, Love Divine,

Worship we our Jesus,

But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,

Love be yours and love be mine,

Love to God and all men,

Love for plea and gift and sign.



Rossetti published this poem in 1885.


And it was an instant success.


In so many ways, it captures the beauty of Christ, as well as embodying a very simple, very Anglo-Catholic theology of the Incarnation.


For me, this poem captures perfectly this strange feeling I have experiencing this morning.


Yes, as much of a scrooge I am about Christmas, as much as I’m depressed at Christmas, I still somehow LOVE  Christmas Day mass


This morning— Christmas is here.


This morning, we celebrate the Love Rossetti sings about.


And we celebrate this Love that has come to us from our God.


We celebrate this Love that has come to us in our collective and personal darkness.


We celebrate the Love that has come to us in our despair and our fear and our nagging, exhausted grief, in our sadness and in our frustration.


And we celebrate this Love that been shown to us.  


When we think long and hard about this day, when we ponder it and let it take hold in our lives, what we realized happened on that day when Jesus was born was not just some mythical story.  


It was not just the birth of a child under dire circumstances, in some distant, exotic land.  


What happened on that day was a joining together—a joining of us and God.


God met us half-way.


God came to us in our darkness, in our blindness, in our fear—and cast a light that destroyed that darkness, that blindness, that fear.


God didn’t have to do what God did.  


God didn’t have to reach out to us and send down this love upon us.


But God did.


But by doing so, God showed us a remarkable intimacy.


After, God is a God of love.


We are loved by God, even when it doesn’t feel like it.


We are accepted by God, even when don’t feel accepted by anyone.


We are—each of us—important to God.


We are, each of us, broken and imperfect as we may be some times, very important to God.


Each of us.


And because we are, we must love others.


We must embody and give birth to this Divine Love from God so others can know this amazing love as well.


Knowing this amazing love of God changes everything.


When we realize that God knows us as individuals.


That God loves us and accepts each of us for who we are, we are joyful.


We are hopeful of our future with that God.


And we want to share this love and this God with others.


That is what we are celebrating this morning.


Our hope and joy is in a God who comes and accepts us and loves us for who we are and what we are—a God who understands what it means to live this sometimes frightening uncertain life we live.


This is the real reason why we are joyful and hopeful on this beautiful morning.


This is why we are feeling within us a strange sense of longing.


Let the hope we feel today as God our Savior draws close to us stay with us now and always.


Let the joy we feel today as God our Friend comes to us in love be the motivating force in how we live our lives throughout this coming year.


God is here.


God is in our midst today.


God is so near, our very bodies and souls are rejoicing.


And God loves us.


 Love came down at Christmas,

love, all lovely, love divine;

love was born at Christmas:

star and angels gave the sign.


That is what we are experiencing this day.


Love came down.


Love became flesh and blood.


Love became human in Jesus.


And in the face of that realization, we are rejoicing today.


We are rejoicing in that love personified.


We are rejoicing in each other.  


We are rejoicing in the glorious beauty of this one holy moment in time.



Saturday, December 24, 2022

Christmas Eve


December 24, 2022

 + Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am a bit of…well…a curmudgeon regarding Christmas.

 I am kind of a Scrooge about it all.

 I am not a big fan of the commercial aspects of Christmas.

 I certainly understand the tendency we all have of getting caught up in society’s celebration of Christmas.

 It’s easy to find ourselves getting a bit hypnotized by the glitz and glamour we see about us.

 I admit I even kind of enjoy some of those sparkly Christmas displays.

 I understand how easy it is to fall to the temptations of what the world tells us is Christmas.

 But what I think happens to most of us who enjoy those light and airy aspects of Christmas is that we often get so caught up in them, we start finding ourselves led astray into a kind of frivolousness about Christmas.

 We find ourselves led off into a place where Christmas becomes fluffy and saccharine and cartoonish.

 That, I think, is what we experience in the secular understanding of Christmas time.

 The glitz and the glamour of the consumer-driven Christmas can be visually stunning.

 It can capture our imagination with its blinking lights and its bright wrapping,

 But ultimately it promises something that it can’t deliver.

 It promises a joy and a happiness it really doesn’t have.

 It has gloss.

 It has glitter.

 It has a soft, fuzzy glow.

 But it doesn’t have real joy.

 But, as much of a curmudgeon as I am about it, I do find myself joyful during this season.

 I am, after all, a church geek.

 I love church and doing churchy things.

 That’s why I’m a priest, I guess.

 And for me, the Christmas we celebrate here tonight, in this warm church, up here in northeast Fargo, is a Christmas of real joy.

 I feel real joy being with all of you tonight.

 I feel real joy celebrating the mystery of this event, this moment in which God gives us this special event in which we realize that God has reached out to us and shown us true love.

 But it is a joy of great seriousness as well.

 It is a joy that humbles us and quiets us.

 It is a joy filled with a Light that makes all the glittery, splashy images around us pale in comparison.

 The Christmas we celebrate here is not a frivolous one.

 It is not a light, airy Christmas.

 Yes, it has a baby.

 Yes, it has angels and a bright shining star.

 But these are not bubblegum images.

 A birth of a baby in that time and in that place was a scary and uncertain event.

 Angels were not chubby little cherubs rolling about in mad abandon in some cloud-filled other-place.

 They were terrifying creatures—messengers of a God of Might and Wonder.

 And stars were often seen as omens—as something that could either bring great hope or great terror to the world.

 The event we celebrate tonight is THE event in which God breaks through to us.

 And whenever God beaks through, it is not some gentle nudge.

 It is an event that jars us, provokes us and changes us.

 For people sitting in deep darkness, that glaring Light that breaks through into their lives is not the most pleasant thing in the world.

 It is blinding and painful.

 And what it exposes is sobering.

 That is what God does to us.

 That is what we are commemorating tonight.

 We are commemorating a “break through” from God—an experience with God that leaves us different people than we were before that encounter.

 What we experience is a Christmas that promises us something tangible.

 It promises us, and delivers, a real joy.

 The joy we feel today, the joy we feel at this Child’s birth, as the appearance of these angels, of that bright star, of that Light that breaks through into the darkness of our lives, is a joy that promises us something.

 What Jesus came to show us that what happens in him can happen in us too.

 Jesus, the beloved Son of God, shows us that we too are all beloved children of loving God.

 And that, in God’s eyes, each and every of our own birth stories is special to God.

 God also worked in those events.

 God also has a plan from our very beginning.

 Christmas, we need to realize, is a teaser of what awaits us.

 It is a glimpse into the life we will have one day.

 It is a perfect joy that promises a perfect life.

 But just because it is a joyful event, does not mean that it isn’t a serious event.

 What we celebrate is serious.

 It is an event that causes us to rise up in a joyful happiness, while, at the same time, driving us to our knees in adoration.

 It is an event that should cause us not just to return home to our brightly wrapped presents, but it should also send us out into the world to make it, in some small way, a reflection of this life-changing joy that has come into our lives.

 Tonight, is one of those moments in which true joy and gladness have come upon us.

 That’s what makes this a holy time.

 So, let us cling to this holy moment.

 Let us savor it.

 Let us hold it close.

Let us pray that it will not end.

And let this joy you feel tonight be the strength that holds you up when you need to be held.

Tonight, God has reached out to us.

God has touched us.

God has grasped our hands.

Our hands have been laid on God’s heart.

This is what Christmas is all about.

God is here, among us.

This feeling we are feeling right now is the true joy that descends upon us when we realize God has come to us in our collective darkness.

And this joy that we are feeling is because the Light that has come to us will never, ever darken.



Thursday, December 22, 2022



Christmas, 2022

My Friends at St. Stephen’s,


A sign of how hectic this time of the year can be is that your Rector forgot to get his Christmas cards done. I had every good intention of getting them done and mailed early. Sadly, it did not happen. So, an electronic letter without a card will have to suffice for this Christmas season.


As we near our yearly commemoration of the birth of Jesus, God’s special gift to us  and prepare to celebrate all that that birth means to us,  we also find ourselves looking forward toward a new year of 2023. 


The future is certainly looking bright for us at St. Stephen’s.  We continue to grow and to experience a great swell of new faces, new names and new opportunities. And in 2023, we look forward to some changes to our church building, namely the renovation of our sacristy which is scheduled to begin in early February. Of course, we continue to be a place in which we welcome and include everyone, no matter who they are. We continue to be a place that radically accepts and loves everyone who comes to us and we ourselves seek out. As the organized Church continues to drive people away, as the Church continues to be divided and chose to serve at the golden altar of false prophets, golden idols and teachings of exclusion and hate, St. Stephen’s continues to be a place of refuge and love for those who feel they have no other place to go. To a large extent, this joy and excitement we feel is what Advent is all about. Those of us who waited in holy expectation and worked hard for the kind of growth we are now experiencing are truly rejoicing.


Serving as St. Stephen’s continues to be one of the most fulfilling experiences of my priestly life. Our life together of worship, ministry, music and outreach has been a source of great personal joy for me and has helped me to see how gracious God is in showering blessings upon faithful, committed people who truly do seek after God and to live out Jesus’ commandment to love God and love others.


As we move forward together into this future full of hope and potential growth, I ask for your continued prayers for St. Stephen’s and your continued presence on Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights and whenever else we gather together to worship and to do ministry.


Please know that I pray, as always, for each of you individually by name over the course of each week in my daily observance of the Daily Office (Morning and Evening Prayer). Also know that I  remember all of you at the altar during our celebration of the Mass. Above all, know that I give God thanks every day for the opportunity to serve such a wonderful, caring, radical and loving congregation of people who are committed to growth and radical hospitality.


My sincerest blessings to you and to all those you love during this season of joy, hope and love.


      PEACE always,

Fr. Jamie+ 



Christmas, 2022

at St. Stephen’s


Saturday December 24  - Christmas Eve

7:00 pm – Holy Eucharist

Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher

Deacon John Anderson, assisting

James Mackay, music


Sunday December 25    Nativity of Our Lord

11:00 am Holy Eucharist

Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher

Deacon John Anderson, assisting

James Mackay, music


Monday December 26St. Stephen

6:00 pm – Holy Eucharist

Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher

Deacon John Anderson, assisting

James Mackay, music


Monday December 28Feast of the Holy Innocents

6:00 pm – Mass of the Dawn of a New Year

Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher

Deacon John Anderson, assisting

James Mackay, music


Sunday January 1Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus

11:00 am – Holy Eucharist

Fr. Jamie Parsley, celebrant/preacher

James Mackay, music


Monday, December 19, 2022


St. Stephen’s, the parish I serve as Rector, is, as most of you have already discovered, a unique and amazing place. There aren’t a whole lot of congregations quite like it. We are eclectic. We are brave. We strive to be what the Church should be. We are not just a place a where people gather politely and sing hymns and pray (thought we do those things). We are not just a place that does liturgy just a bit differently than most other places (we do that too). We also stand up loudly for the underdog. We speak out boldly for those who cannot speak for themselves. We confront the powers that be and shake our fists at them at times. And we welcome and fully include those are just don’t quite fit in in any other church. Without question. Without judgement. We even bury those who have no other place to rest. For us, this is what it means to follow Jesus. For us, this is the radical message of the Gospel.  


As we head into the last days of the year, we are wrapping up our annual Pledge Drive. If you are considering a year-end offering someplace, please consider giving a one-time pledge to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. A one-time pledge can be as little as $10 or $25 or $50 or as much as you can give. All of it helps us be the unique place that we are.


If you would like to give, just take send a one time pledge (marked : One Time Pledge) through our Paypal account at or send a check (also marked “pledge”) to 120 20 Avenue North Fargo, or send an email to our recording secretary Laura Nylander at and tell her that you would like to make a one time pledge.  All pledges are strictly confidential. Only Laura knows who gives what. But a year-end offering to St. Stephen’s will help us continue to be the eclectic, unique place we are.



Tuesday, December 6, 2022

A Letter from Fr. Jamie


December 6, 2022

The Feast of St. Nicholas


Dear St. Stephen’s family,


It doesn’t make sense. Logically, it shouldn’t be this way. St. Stephen’s is a small church building in the out-of-the-way, far-reaches of northeast Fargo. If you drove by and weren’t looking for us, you could pass us by without even noticing we’re there. But, still, this little church set back from the street is a spiritual powerhouse. It draws people from all over Fargo-Moorhead, and from far-flung places beyond the F-M area. Every week, without fail, we have new people visiting us. If you haven’t attended Sunday Mass in a while and then come back you will see people you’ve never met sitting next to you, or singing as cantor, or reading lessons, or greeting you at the door.

So, what is it about St. Stephen’s that draws people? It is the simple fact that there is no place around quite like St. Stephen’s. We are not a cathedral or a massive auditorium. We don’t have a choir of paid musicians, nor do we have fancy architecture. We don’t have screens, we don’t have a live band, we don’t have soaring ceilings or a wing of empty classrooms.

What we do have is our beautiful High Church liturgy. We do have bells and music and, at our Wednesday evening Mass, incense. We do have passion and commitment. We are rebellious and defiant and passionately trying to live out the message of the Gospel, and the revolutionary  commandment of God to love God and love others as fully and completely as we can. We have Christ in our Eucharist, in the hearing and proclaiming of the Word and in our presence with one another.

And we not only radically welcome people, we include them fully and completely. No one is ostracized here. No one here is turned away. No one here is snubbed or shunned or looked at strangely.

We are gay and straight, trans and cis, asexual or non-sexual, straight-edged or “out there.” We are normal and weird, staid and radical, old and young. And everything in-between. We are imperfect but striving to be better than we are and in doing so to make the world a better place as well—the make the Reign of God real and present in this world.

Everyone knows we are welcoming. It is not secret that we are fully-accepting. But we are definitely not push-overs. We are also very strong and committed. And when we stand up for something, we STAND UP. And we speak out loudly!

We were inclusive before inclusivity was expected of the Church. We welcomed and included people other churches discarded or turned away. And we continue to do that. And we do so unapologetically.

That is what St. Stephen’s is.  

As I write this, we have just had our annual Pledge in-Gathering. This is the one time of the year in which we ask for your help to help being the unique, eclectic parish we are. We cannot do it without your pledges. We cannot do it without your time and your talent.

If you have already pledged, thank you!! Thank you for contributing to the unique ministry we do here.

For those of you who have not pledged or have simply forgotten, please do so.   Please consider filling out a pledge card and returning it so we can continue to do what we do. Or simply fill out our name and the amount you can pledge and send it by email to Laura Nylander at

Your pledge is not about paying my salary. Your pledge is not only about paying the bills of St. Stephen’s. Your pledge is about contributing to a parish that makes a difference in this community, in the world and in our individual lives. It helps us be the place we are. It helps us as we continue to grow, continue to welcome new people each week in our doors, continue to be a place where God’s Spirit is alive and is shared with ALL people, no matter who they are.  But more importantly, we actually do what we say we do: when dire situations happen within the lives of our parishioners, we are there to help, to lend support, to be a supporting presence. That is what your pledge supports here.

More than anything, however, please know how grateful and humbled I am to be serving as your Rector and priest. I am truly blessed by God to be serving a parish that is excited about what it is doing, that is renewed by its energy and committed to its very radical following of Jesus. Thank you for all you have given to me.



Fr. Jamie+

7 Easter/The Sunday after the Ascension

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