My Journey to Ordination

Weekly Reflection, Friday, June 17

By: Kilpy Singer

After over a decade of discernment and preparation, I will be ordained on Saturday, June 25. I’m sure some day that will feel like no time at all, but right now it feels akin to a 40-year wilderness experience. Now that the day is finally here, I’ve found myself reflecting on these past 12 years and all that they’ve held. The road to this point has been anything but simple or easy, yet God has proved faithful each and every step of the way.

I first felt a call to ministry when I attended a two-week vocational discernment at Union Presbyterian Seminary at the age of 17. As a high schooler, the prospect of serving God and God’s people through a life of ordained ministry was a little terrifying and exciting, but I promised to put one foot in front of the other and see where it took me. My home church at the time, First Presbyterian on Cary Street, raised me up and supported me as a young person. It was there that I first preached, served as a Youth Ministry intern, and explored this call. That community still has a huge piece of my heart.

I eventually made my way to the Anglican Communion and, in particular, to the Episcopal Church. However, while my denomination home changed, my pull towards ordained ministry had not. I had no idea how things would all shake out, much less where I would even end up, but I knew that God was with me. After lots of conversations, praying, and even some avoidance, I began seminary at Duke Divinity School in 2016 alongside my husband Blake.

It is only by the grace of God that we made it through those three years, but we kept putting one foot in front of the other. At times, the only thing that sustained us was peanut butter sandwiches, Morning Prayer, and the memory of how God had called us. After graduating, we moved to Richmond and began the ordination process through the Diocese of Virginia. Since then, we’ve completed countless interviews, applications, ordination exams, and even psychological evaluation (don’t worry, I passed). Now, God willing, we will both be ordained as transitional deacons on Saturday, June 25 and as priests in early 2023.

12 years ago, when I heard from God, I had no idea know how challenging of a road this would be. I also could not even begin to understand how much beauty and joy it would bring. Now, I can’t imagine it any other way. And as I become an ordained person and step into my new role here, I am so grateful to God for this journey and for bringing me here to St. Mary’s.

A Sermon for the First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday

Sunday, June 12, 2022

By: Perrin Gilman, Graduating High School Senior, Class of 2022

Four years ago, I thought that I would follow the traditional school pathway in my area from Tuckahoe Elementary, to Tuckahoe Middle, and lastly, to Douglas Southall Freeman High School. As a shy eighth grader, I had to make the difficult decision between going to Trinity Episcopal School or going to Freeman. I was torn between the two because if I went to Freeman, I would be comfortable as I would be going to school with people I grew up with throughout my entire life. On the other hand, at Trinity, I would have been immersed in a smaller academic setting that would also allow me to branch out. It’s funny how it all played out because the last time I gave a sermon here at St. Mary’s, I noted that I officially made my decision to go to Trinity. And now I’m here, a Trinity alum, delivering yet another sermon about my future.

Now, why am I telling you this, you may ask? My decision between Freeman and Trinity was a difficult one. Going out of my comfort zone to go to Trinity was a big step for me. As I wrote in my sermon from 4 years ago, I stated, “God knows where we will end up, but we need to take the right path to get there.” Going to Trinity meant that I had to leave all of the people that I’ve gone to school with for the past 9 years. These people supported me, held me up, and shaped me as a young person. I couldn’t imagine leaving all of that behind, but I did. I knew that when I walked through the doors at Trinity on the first day of school, I was going to feel alone. Was I really alone, though? No I was not. God was right by my side, guiding me down this new and unexplored path that would ultimately impact my future. So, I am telling you this because I now know that God is with you as you make difficult decisions and will also be there for you as they unfold.

If I were to tell you that my high school experience was full of sunshine and rainbows, I would be lying. This big step out of my comfort zone was full of many new academic and social challenges, but I persevered. I discovered my passion for leadership, public speaking, and even enrolled and excelled in the International Baccalaureate Program. I realized that God led me to Trinity for a reason, and little did I know that this very reason would guide me to my next chapter in my life story.

In John chapter 16; verse 13, Jesus said to his disciples, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” Based on my unexpected yet exciting new path, I discovered my own truth while at Trinity: I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. Throughout my high school decision and journey, I learned that life is not just one straight path. It is made up of many twists, turns, and bumps along the way; but in the end, the truth is revealed that makes it all worth it. My “things that are to come” are starting a new chapter in Fort Worth, Texas in the Fall. I will be attending Texas Christian University while majoring in Strategic Communications. It’s safe to say that my passions that I discovered at Trinity led me to this point.

Now I have come to really believe that I was meant to go to TCU from the get-go. Everyone said that there is this “feeling” that you get when you find the right college, and what do you know: right when I stepped foot on TCU’s campus during my tour last May, I immediately knew that TCU was the place for me. I had never been so certain about something in my life, which was a new feeling for me since I previously struggled when choosing between two high schools. Fast forward to application deadlines… I applied early decision to TCU, and this past December, I officially became a Horned Frog!

I didn’t fully understand the significance of choosing Trinity as my high school until recently. Signs directing me to my path to TCU began appearing. I soon found out that the TRINITY River runs right through Fort Worth. If this wasn’t fate, I didn’t know what was. As the Trinity River flows through Fort Worth, I will always be reminded that Trinity Episocpal School led me to TCU. As the song “Texas” by George Strait says: “Fort Worth would never cross my mind” if it wasn’t for Trinity.

Once again, like my high school decision, I am taking a big step out of my comfort zone. I am going halfway across the country for college, but this time, I know how to handle being outside of my comfort zone. I know that breaking the “norm” and living outside of the box can only make me stronger and allow me to pursue my passions. I also realize that I will have many more opportunities to live outside of my comfort zone in college and well beyond. I am hoping that my story of breaking the norm inspires you to go out of your own comfort zone. No matter where you are in your life, I challenge you to spread your wings and go outside of the norm and make your impact on the world because God is with you, every step of the way.

Amen.

Thankful to have had St. Mary’s

Weekly Reflection, Friday, June 10

By: John Wootton, Graduating High School Class of 2022

As I look back on my high school years, while preparing for the next stage of my life, I am thankful to have had St. Mary’s as a place of joy and solace. One of my first experiences at St. Mary’s was as the sole 9th grader going through confirmation. At first I was nervous and uncomfortable, as I did not know any members of the class. However, thanks to the mentorship of St. Mary’s leaders, especially David May and Emily Bruch, I ended up feeling secure, and ultimately reaffirming my relationship with God, which has been one of my most meaningful experiences at St. Mary’s.

One of my sweetest memories of St. Mary’s is my grandmother Bam’s memorial service. The outpouring of love and support during this difficult time was incredibly helpful for my entire family, and the service was a beautiful way to honor her. I especially appreciated reading a passage, along with my brother and sister, during the service, and seeing the genuine support from all those who attended. This service will always hold a special place in my heart.

Towards the end of my high school days, I had the opportunity to assist with the Christmas pageant this past winter. Serving partly as “security” for the more restless, youngest participants, I loved helping the children as they helped the whole St. Mary’s community celebrate the birth of Christ. This pageant spoke to the strong sense of friendship and community that is present at St. Mary’s. I look forward to being a witness for these young St. Mary’s children as they grow and serve as acolytes, readers, and are confirmed themselves. I have also loved coming to St. Mary’s each Sunday and personally knowing the leaders of every service. This connection has allowed me to get more out of each lesson and strengthen my connection with both the church and with God.

While moving forward to the next part of my life will be difficult and scary at times, I know I will always be able to come back to the Church for support. I am thankful for the lessons I have been taught while at St. Mary’s, and I feel I have left it as a better person with a stronger spiritual connection.

Electing a new Bishop

Weekly Reflection, Friday, June 3

By: David May, Rector

As I write this, we are anticipating electing a new Bishop of Virginia this coming Saturday. The Church (you, me, and all the members of the Body of Christ in this diocese) will gather and pray together for the Holy Spirit to guide us in a Special Electing Convention represented by local parish delegates – both lay and ordained. Then we’ll vote. The votes are tallied in two columns – the Lay Order and the Clerical Order. To be elected, one of the four nominees will need to gain a majority of votes in both orders on the same ballot.

In the Episcopal Church, we take responsibility together for electing and naming a new Bishop rather than one being appointed through an authoritative Bishop. This process highlights a long-standing hallmark of Anglicanism which is our belief that authority is expressed most fully and faithfully when it is exercised through the gathered community of Christ’s Church. We seek and find the mind of Christ as we gather as his Body.

This is an important election for many reasons. First and foremost, I would say, is that there has been no Diocesan Bishop serving since Bishop Shannon Johnston retired on November 3, 2017. Bishop Susan Goff, Bishop Suffragan, was authorized by the Standing Committee of the Diocese to serve as the Ecclesiastical Authority – the person or persons in whom the authority of the Bishop resides. But we have not elected a Diocesan Bishop since Bishop Shannon was elected on January 26, 2007. Since Bishop Shannon retired, we have been in a necessary extended interim time.

During that time serving as Ecclesiastical Authority, I want to express what enormous personal respect and affection I have for Bishop Susan. The work and ministry she was given to do came during a season of unprecedented challenge beginning with a worldwide pandemic. I understand that she was led to make choices that frustrated, even angered people. But her leadership – some of which was conducted while being treated for cancer – during these past years has been compassionate, clear, faithful, and steady. In the best of times, the ministry of a Bishop is challenging, but her time was more than that. I thank God for her and rejoice in her gift of retirement beginning on January 1, 2023.

Our new Bishop will begin his ministry in a difficult but promising time. Bonds of affection and trust need to be rebuilt among us. Over the next few years, parishes will be challenged to increase giving to the Diocese from levels that rank at or near the lowest in the Episcopal Church. But our new Bishop will also lead us in a time of great promise. My own view is that the Church is called to bear its witness in a time when the world is especially hungry for the Good News of Jesus. Our world and people are hurting. And angry. And fearful of one another. We bear God’s good word and raise up a new Bishop for such a time as this.

I hope you will pray with me for the Holy Spirit’s good work in raising up a new Bishop for the mission and ministry of the Church, and prayers for the Holy Spirit to guide him in our new beginning together.