Christmas letter 2010

Merry Christmas
It has been quite a year for Dianne and James: a blessed, full and challenging time of love and ministry – and 2011 looks to be just as complicated and wonderful. We hope that this letter finds you all well, rested and in reasonable health as we move from the waiting of Advent to the celebrations of Christmas. Our family will all be together on Christmas Day – Jesse and her husband, Michael, as well as Michal and her husband, Jay – for a time of feasting and reconnecting. And then later in January, we will be with Dianne’s sisters and extended family for a DeMott Christmas, too. In-between, we will head off to NYC to see an art exhibit by Makoto Fujimura, listen to some jazz at the Village Vanguard and wander the city with Jesse and Mike in Brooklyn.

Thinking back through this year brings a host of wonderful memories. James spent time again in NYC at the annual IAM Convocation (International Arts Movement) and camped out with the kids in Brooklyn. (This year Di gets to make the trek, too!) Dianne created some incredible worship/sanctuary tapestries for Easter 2010 that evoked beauty and the joy of Christ’s resurrection. It was a particularly special Easter as we invited all the clergy in the congregation – plus our in-care seminary student – to be a part of the festivities. Interestingly, my predecessor, Rick Floyd, is the father of our seminarian – so when she served him Holy Communion… let’s just say the Body of Christ felt a profound sense of joy.

Other highlights included:
• A study of Greg Mortenson’s THREE CUPS OF TEA – that resulted in a special fundraiser in June to support schools for girls in Afghanistan – a clear and creative alternative to the war.

• A Pentecost worship planned by the Congregation that included tongues of fire, LOTS of children and a version of “Message in a Bottle” that rocked the house in honor of God’s loving spirit. (check it out @

• In March, we were back in Tucson for a sweet wedding with the Schloss family – and that was a joy. They even got to visit us in early September, too. James got to visit Phil and Julie in San Francisco this spring – and we both hope to get there in February 2011.

• In August, our new friends Peter and Joyce from Thunder Bay, Ontario, spent a few wild and wonderful days with us – including listening to jazz at the Castle Street Grill and grooving to Yoyo Ma and his Silk Road Ensemble at Tanglewood with David and Sue. It was a treat and blessing to have them with us and we hope to see them in the late summer.

• Then we headed out for a road trip to Nova Scotia that was a little bit of heaven and lots of good rest and loving. The International Busker Festival was happening during our journey – street performers from all over the world – and that meant Di and I were experiencing a little bit of heaven on earth. We can’t wait to go back!

• Dianne decided to leave full-time retail work at JoAnn’s in the fall because… life is just too short! She still is there 30+ hours each week but has a little more time for other more creative projects – including some sweet music arranging.

And now we are both playing part-time in Andy Kelly’s jazz band: the Sister City Music Ambassadors. We have dreamed of bringing a people-to=people peacemaking through music trip to a Muslim country – and Andy is helping make it happen. The tickets are purchased for June 13, 2011 – and we are starting to practice and play with the band all over the region.

Church continues to be a blessing as we are three years into our renewal work. We are turning the corner on decline – averaging 80-90 people each week – and have made serious inroads on getting the church finances in order, too. Our little band, Between the Banks, has gone through some changes, too, with Eva leaving for Las Vegas and Sue joining the ranks. But we have found a new groove and are having lots of fun. James now serves on both the Arts Council and Tourism Boards in Pittsfield. Three years after leaving Tucson, it was clearly the right decision to come to the Berkshires, and we give thanks for our new faith community and the costs and joys of being a part of the rebirth of this small city.

To be sure, there are times when we miss the desert sun – and we rejoice every time we go back – but this is now fully home and it feels like it in so many ways. We are even learning to cross-country ski (James for the first time) and rediscover the beauty of winter! We are close to our families – and see our daughters often – which is an unspeakable blessing.

So please know we have a guest room that is almost always available if you would like to head to this very gentle and creative place in the Berkshires. Here are a few pictures to give you another feel for the fullness of 201o.

With all our love,
James and Dianne


Philomena Ewing said…
Merry Christmas RJ and thank you for your friendship and support this year. Your posts have been a continuous source of delight and inspiration and your faith and good works are amazing.
Wow- you have packed so much in to your year.
May this Christmas be happy and peaceful and play that funky music !!

Godbless you and all your family -I look forward to more music and more wisdom !!
RJ said…
Thank you so much, Philomena: it has been a treasure to connect with you, too. I look forward to the coming year getting to know you and your music better.

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