The Spirit is Alive and Well at St. Mary’s

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, June 16, 2019

By: Eleanor Wellford

One of the questions that I’ve been asked a lot recently has been: “How do you like being back at St. Mary’s?” My first answer is always about how much I love being back; but then I hear myself following up with: “In many ways, it feels as if I never left.”

How could that be since I was gone for almost four years, which is a long enough time for all sorts of things to have happened – and they did. Leadership changed; most of all the staff whom I knew so well have left; new people in new positions are here; and while there are plenty of faces which I still recognize in the congregation, there are lots of new faces, too.

So, why do those four years seem as if they never happened? I believe the answer is that the St. Mary’s that I left is the St. Mary’s that I returned to, only better. There’s excitement all around me – which I think is what I really mean by “only better.” I can hear it and see it in all the new forms of communication. Staff members are passionate about their work and along with the clergy are raising up new volunteers to work side-by-side with experienced ones. And what’s most exciting is the general “buzz” in the community that goes something like: “Have you heard what’s happening now at St. Mary’s?”

What’s going on now didn’t just happen overnight. I appreciate the four years of discernment and hard work that went into transforming St. Mary’s into the community to which I returned.

The fact that I feel as if I never left is a testament to the same Spirit that has always resided at St. Mary’s. It’s alive and well and finding new places to energize our life together. Thanks be to God!

The Place where Hospitality Happens

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, June 9, 2019

By: David May

This past April, Patsy Simril, Barbara Tavenner, and I met in the narthex of New St. Mary’s. It’s one of my favorite places to be here at St. Mary’s. Does that seem odd? What about one of our gorgeous courtyards (where in one the pomegranate is now blooming!); or Little St. Mary’s, saturated with over a century of prayer and song; or the grand bell tower entrance of New St. Mary’s; or our radiant churchyard? I don’t know why, but the narthex of New St. Mary’s tugs at me like no other spot.

We were meeting to pray and talk about making a new beginning with an ancient ministry. The Bible calls it hospitality. We’ll call it our Welcome Ministry. In the Bible, hospitality is a sacred obligation, especially in welcoming strangers; because, you never know who you might be welcoming. It could be someone who is just the right person to ensure the future prosperity of your family; someone who says the one thing you’ve been waiting your whole life to hear; someone who shows you the path to freedom and forgiveness. Or, it could be God. Truthfully, it probably is God drawing near, at least as the Bible often tells the story.

That’s where Patsy, Barbara, and I began our conversation and prayers: by remembering that welcoming people to St. Mary’s is a sacred obligation. It might sound like one of us saying to someone new something simple like ‘good morning’ or ‘welcome to St. Mary’s, I’m glad you’re here’. It could be one of us offering to walk someone to the new parish hall for coffee or giving someone our bulletin. It could be reassuring a young family that you remember trying to corral your own kids when they were little – so don’t worry! God draws near in those moments, I am sure.

Now that I think of it, the narthex is often the place where hospitality happens. It’s the place where we greet one another – new folks, old friends – and see that God is with us. I think the narthex is one of those ‘thin places’ where heaven and earth draw especially near to one another, especially as we welcome and show hospitality for one another. Because, you never know who it might be and what means of God’s grace for you and for all of us they bring with them.

In the Power of God’s Spirit

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, June 2, 2019

By: Bob Hetherington

What do you do in the meantime while you are waiting for something else to happen? What is important when we are in between things? So often it is hard to wait and be patient.

In the Church year on this Sunday, we stand in between the Feast of the Ascension, Jesus being raised to the right hand of God, and Pentecost, the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit. Jesus is gone. What will happen next?

In the Gospel reading for today, John 17:20-26, we see Jesus praying for his disciples as he plans to take leave of them. He is preparing them for what will come next. He wants the Spirit which binds him and his Father together to be present in his disciples. Jesus is looking for a sense of unity of spirit. The mission for the followers of Jesus is to build relationships with others in the world so the same spirit of unity which exists between the Father and the Son may exist in all people. If it can happen the world will be a harmonious place.

The challenge is that the world is full of deep divisions. There are so many ways that people are separated from each other. It is beyond us to build bridges of understanding and appreciation on our own. This is why we need God’s Holy Spirit which is poured out in abundance at Pentecost. We depend on the work of God’s Holy Spirit to accomplish the mission of the Church.

In the Book of Common Prayer, we are reminded that the mission of the Church is to “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” This requires a ministry of bridge building and reaching out. Where does God want you to extend yourself? Where can you bring hope and encouragement in the face of brokenness and separation?

Pentecost is almost here. God has something amazing in store for each of us. In the power of God’s spirit all things are possible. Lean in.