Important Announcement to the Parish

A Letter to the Parish from the Rev. David H. May

Friday, April 16, 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

Blessedly, these next months look to be a time when we will be renewing our life in Christ as we regather after this long season of absence. It is a time that, to me, feels ripe with promise and hope with new life out ahead of us. And, it is a time of continuing change.

About a month ago, Emily Bruch, our Director of Youth Ministries, announced that she had just become engaged. And shortly after, Emily let me know that she would be moving to Charlotte, North Carolina in the early summer to join her fiancé, Scott. Emily had a clear sense of God’s call for her to come to St. Mary’s at the end of 2018. She has an equally clear sense now that she is following a new call from God to a new life in North Carolina with Scott. We rejoice with her in this!

Of course, I am terribly sad to see her leave us and the rich ministry she has shared particularly with our young people and their families. Her ministry has been deeply faithful and her loyalty to her call here has been complete. She has brought a kind of ‘soul-fullness’ to her devotion to our young people during a very, very challenging time, which I have treasured. I have a deep sense that ‘God will provide’ in our shared life in Christ. God certainly provided for us in calling Emily to come here and be here during a time that none of us could have anticipated. I am deeply grateful to God for that grace and to Emily for sharing this season in our lives.

At Emily’s suggestion, we have commenced a search process where, with God’s grace, we envision that our new Director of Youth Ministries will have a brief time to overlap with Emily. Emily’s last day in her ministry here at St. Mary’s will be June 10. I hope that as we go forward over these next weeks that we can each take an opportunity to thank Emily for her faithfulness to her call to come to St. Mary’s, for the wonderful ministry we have shared with her, and to wish her God’s blessings and peace as she and we go forward into this new season of promise and hope.

Your brother in Christ,

The Reverend David H. May

Rector


A Letter to St. Mary’s Youth and their Families from Emily Bruch

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Dear St. Mary’s Youth Families,

These past few years have been an amazing, grace-filled experience for me. Richmond has always been my hometown, but it has truly become home—largely due to my love for this parish and for each of you. While we have faced ups and downs over the years, our youth ministry has remained faithful, sharing so much joy and laughter. So, it is with a sad but grateful heart that I share with you that my last day as the Director of Youth Ministries at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church will be June 10, 2021.

Last month, I became engaged to my fiancé, Scott. With this exciting new time in my life comes change. After much prayer and conversation, I have decided to follow my call to move to Charlotte, North Carolina to join Scott.
When I was called to St. Mary’s in December 2018, I had no idea of the wonderful ways in which my life would be impacted. The congregation’s passion for their youth to grow in a loving, all-welcoming Christian environment is incredible. And the youth of St. Mary’s are filled with spirit, curiosity, and compassion. I know that without a doubt each and every one of these young minds will make a difference in this world! I am exceedingly grateful to have had the honor and privilege to serve the youth and church family at St. Mary’s. You all have become a tremendously important part of my life.

During this time of transition, I understand that there may be questions about what the future may hold for this ministry. I know that under the strong leadership and devotion of the staff and youth leaders that St. Mary’s youth ministry will be in good hands. God truly is working through each of you here at St. Mary’s. It is through God’s work that I know the programs here will continue to flourish. The St. Mary’s family will always be in my prayers with much love and gratitude.

Blessings,

Emily Bruch

I invite you therefore in the name of Church to a Holy Lent.

Weekly Reflection, Friday, February 12

By: David May, Rector

I invite you therefore in the name of Church to a Holy Lent.

In September 2020, members of the vestry met by Zoom call with many of the ministry groups of our parish. All together, we think the vestry met with probably 80 to 100 parishioners over a two-week span. In addition to time just to catch up with one another, each ministry group had been asked to think about two questions: ‘what are you/we learning in these strange times?’, and ‘what do you want to do about that?’ What people shared with each other was so rich and often very personal. We saw again that so often what we think of as most personal is often something that we all share in common.

After all those conversations, four themes seemed to emerge: the gift of our own humanity, a clearer realization that we live in ‘a fallen world’, the gift of community, and the hope for a new creation. You could hear these themes as people talked about what they were discovering matters most. You could hear it as we talked about the brokenness in our world and in ourselves that this pandemic has laid bare. You could hear it as people wondered about how we could be different going forward.

By the mercy of God, we will come back together over the course of this current year, 2021. And as we come back together, we have the opportunity to return changed by what this long, long season of absence has taught us.

The people of St. Mary’s have helped create a beautiful Lenten Daily Devotional Booklet for this season. This booklet is an invitation for this season of Lent to look back and consider what we are learning about ourselves and our world. And it is an invitation to look forward with fresh vision about what kind of a church God is calling us to be at this time and in this place.

May the living God draw near to you in this holy season and guide and strengthen you as we journey to the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus.


St. Mary’s created a Lenten Daily Devotional Booklet

The people of St. Mary’s have created a beautiful Lenten Daily Devotional Booklet. In this six-week Lenten offering, you will find reflections written by 30 parishioners – children, young people, and adults – on the themes that emerged from the vestry zoom call meetings. We invite you to pick one of these up to consider, think, journal, reflect, and pray about what kind of church God is calling us to be.

Download the electronic version. Or pick one up at the Church Office.

A Reflection: Created to Receive and Reflect God’s Love

St. Mary’s is inviting different voices to share reflections at the 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Outdoor Worship Services.

Reflection shared by: Charmaine Trice at 5 p.m. Outdoor Worship Service on Sunday, October 18, 2020

“In making faithful choices, great and small, Guide us gracious Lord.” Amen

2020 has certainly been a unique year. In fact, it’s been a crazy year! And as time goes on, I’m amused by the irony of many situations, the cleverness of words written or spoken, and coincidences now and from the past. In fact, some of these coincidences have been comforting, along with many signs of goodness, newness, beauty, joy, and love. I think God is speaking to us.

When I reflect on these coincidences, I’m reminded that in spite of this year and loss of cherished traditions like Date with the Daffodils. There’s still a chance to finish the year strong and prepare ourselves and this Church community for 2021.

If you recall, earlier this year in February, Amy Julia Becker, author of White Picket Fences, flew to Richmond for a three day visit with St. Mary’s. And it was wonderful and enlightening having her with us!

The irony of the timing was that it was two weeks before the COVID shut down, three months before the onset of civil unrest and riots, and eight months before the 2020 elections. Now, flash forward to October 2020, eight months later, and why did Amy Julia’s book and her visit to St. Mary’s, come to mind?

Looking back, her words were almost prophetic for how we might respond to what was about to unfold in 2020. She spoke to specific ways like, “we can walk further from fear and closer to love, in all its fragile and mysterious possibilities.”

This became evident to me during the webinar I attended when our Clergy & Vestry members summarized themes they heard from you.

You reflected on how we might respond to: What are we learning in this time? And, what are we doing about it?

Many parallels can be drawn to Amy Julia’s teachings of ways to receive and reflect God’s love. Among many things, Amy Julia is an incredible author and storyteller, a wife and mother. When introducing ways to receive God’s love, she writes, “…as God’s ‘image bearers’, human beings are created to receive and reflect God’s love.” I’ve come to believe that the timing of Amy Julia’s visit was not at all “by chance.” I believe it was a remarkable coincidence. I think God is speaking to us.

It is incredibly interesting how many times the themes from your responses from the webinar matched up with a number of suggestions Amy Julia highlighted. There were many common denominators.

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A Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

By: David H. May, Rector

 

Today is the first day of our Season of Stewardship. This is a time we set aside each year as a parish family to each say our prayers, to remember God’s goodness and blessings for us in our very own lives, and to discover that I have a desire to say ‘thank you, God’, and to express that – in this case – by offering a pledge to our parish church. I think it’s really important to pray about this. My own prayer often includes my fears and worries and cares along with my hopes and the desires of my heart. In my prayer, I seem to need to unwind myself from myself enough to find myself in a place where I can be still, finally, and side by side with God discover that God’s finger prints are all over our lives even if we don’t exactly remember God putting them there. A few weeks ago, sitting outside the church here, after unwinding enough with God I began to remember so many gifts given. And then something more. It was the sudden realization that God was there in the gift, and I thought: ‘Oh! It was you, Lord, you were there, and I didn’t know it. Not an idea of you, or a thought about you, but you.’ Two things in particular were remembered for me that day.

First, you know that way back at the end of March, 35 women came to stay with us through the Caritas program. One day, months later, after being away from the church working from our homes, I found a hand-written note from one of those women stuck up onto a bulletin board in the church. It had been there, all those months. I’d never seen it. What she wrote was her prayer of thanksgiving and a prayer for the hands which were preparing meals for her and the other women. But when I saw it, it was God – reminding me that God is with us even if we don’t always know it.

And a second thing remembered. It’s from a few days after we said good-bye to our dear brother Gersain. I found a balloon left from that celebration outside. It had lost its helium lift and had drifted away. I found it stuck up in a bush. It wasn’t a red balloon like fire, but the effect was the same – like when Moses saw a bush burning and heard God calling to him. God was in that place, beside us even if we didn’t quite know it.

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“Lord, may the work we do be Your work”

Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, October 18, 2020

By: Wayne Dementi, Stewardship Chair & Vestry Member

Very early in my time as Chair of Stewardship for this year, I shared with David the observation that the Stewardship Campaign for 2021 would be like no other due to the pandemic. Clearly, these extraordinary times call for an extraordinary response.

David offered an insight to me that gave life and direction to how we might approach our work together. He suggested that we consider this year’s effort as a ministry, versus a campaign. I thought a lot about this. I found this definition of ministry – a willful, gift-oriented, and calling-based use of one’s ability to serve others.

“One’s ability” seems to address the works of both the individual and the body of the church. In September, we held ZOOM gatherings for 15 of our ministries. We launched this series of meetings under the theme, “Lord, May the Words We Hear be Your Words.” We learned that indeed we heard the Lord’s words. Now, as we move into our season of Stewardship, the theme, “Lord, May the Work We Do Be Your Work” guides us.

God seems to be calling us to engage our gifts to do those things which will bring us through this period to a new and exciting era of worship, fellowship, education, and outreach to the world. This time, like no other, offers us a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to bring the Holy Spirit even further into our lives. It also brings to our attention a call to help others in our church family and in our neighborhood. In the past, a pledge has been a relatively routine affirmation of the work and growth of the church. This year, a pledge affirms the optimism we share for decisions that will bring us ever closer to a parish life that God wishes for us.

During our parish-wide webinars, Seth Schaeffer, our Senior Warden, offered the observation that, “we are what we do,” in recognition of the work being done by our 17 ministries. Our ZOOM meetings revealed that so much wonderful work that has taken place over the past six months has gone relatively unnoticed due to the impact of COVID’s isolation. Our ministries have done so much good work and their visions hold great promise for the future. Our vestry is encouraging each ministry to listen for God’s call as they change and grow. We want to assure them that we have funding to support their vision and ministry.

It is a good time to see your pledge go to work. As we celebrate God’s work at St. Mary’s, we hope you will join us by making a pledge by Sunday, November 15.