God’s joining-back-together-place

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, August 11, 2019

By: David May

Sometimes, I’m too interested in what’s coming next.  So, when Ashley Cameron mentioned that I might write a reflection to mark my arrival at St. Mary’s a year ago, I said ‘sure, ok,’ but inwardly found myself balking. Inside I thought: “I don’t want to write a ‘my first year at St. Mary’s’ reflection.”  (Let me be clear, that’s not what Ashley suggested!  But I guess that’s what I heard.)

What I am interested in is what’s around the next corner for St. Mary’s. I believe the theme of “connecting” is the working of the Spirit among us that has been coming into view in these past months. It seems to be a word that we’re using a lot these days and seems to have found a home here.

Two interesting ideas lie behind this word ‘connecting’ that do have a little poetry in them. First, the Latin for ‘connecting’ means ‘binding or joining together’. The Latin is also related to ‘ligare’ which also means binding or joining. ‘Ligare’ is where we get the word ‘ligament’ (the stuff that joins bones together), and – surprisingly – ‘religion’. ‘Religion’ (re-ligare) is the human pursuit to be joined back together with God. Maybe this word ‘connecting’ that seems to be peppering our words and thoughts these days is really about cooperating with God to make St. Mary’s God’s joining-back-together-place.

I think that’s probably right. That seems to be the kind of thing that God is always up to.  God is always working to join us back together – to connect us – with that deepest sense of who we are: his beloved children whose hearts are the place where Jesus said the Father and the Son will come and make their home.  As we come, by grace, to be connected to that deepest, truest sense of who we are – to be found in Christ – we will find ourselves connecting more to people near and far, to those who are easy to love and to those who are not, to people like ourselves and people different than us.

I couldn’t be more grateful to God to be here at St. Mary’s – how can it be a year?!  I’m so glad and hopeful for what in God’s hands is around the next corner in this joining-back-together-place.

The Gift of Camp

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, August 4, 2019

By: Amelia McDaniel

I did not grow up going to summer camp. As an only child who lived in a small town where I was free to roam, play in creeks, go to the library, and explore part of Teddy Roosevelt’s taxidermy collection at the local college, what more was needed?

So, I did not know what to expect as I headed up to Shrine Mont to be a chaplain for St. Elizabeth’s Camp, a camp for people aged 14 – 26 years who have mild to moderate disabilities. Shrine Mont was buzzing with hundreds of kids and counselors enjoying this beautiful hidden gem. Some campers were there for music and drama, others to hike and adventure through the mountains, and some for a more traditional camp experience.

During the week at St. Elizabeth’s, we celebrated Christmas in July. Each day during Chaplain’s Time, we talked about gifts, not the kind we buy and wrap, but the kind we share from the heart. We read the old O’Henry story, The Gift of the Magi, and the campers and counselors identified their own gifts, the gifts of others, and the gifts they would like to work on sharing with others.

On our last day, we imagined what it would have been like to be the Magi and given baby Jesus a gift. One camper said, “I would give him the gift of camp.” Another camper asked, “You mean Jesus would be able to go to the pool with us?” As we talked about what it would look like for a young Jesus to be at camp, I could see the many ways He was already truly there. I watched campers and counselors at all the camps get so filled up. There was so much laughter and love shared. So many hugs and help given. Differences in abilities, in schooling, in home life—none of that was evident. There were just a bunch of great, sweaty, and happy kids enjoying each other’s presence; kids encouraging one another, believing in each other, and just having fun together. The Gift of Camp.

I hope when next summer rolls around, many of our families will consider spending time at Shrine Mont. It is a gift we have right here in our Diocese that can’t be wrapped up and put under a tree, but most certainly can be given and shared.

Respect. Dignity. Community.

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, July 28, 2019

By: Emily Bruch

Respect. Dignity. Community. These three words quickly became a theme for our middle school mission trip to the Shenandoah Valley just a few weeks ago. On our first day of service, 7 of our youth had the opportunity to paint a mural on the new Waynesboro Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Before they began to paint the Executive Director, Lance Barton, came to speak about serving our communities. After sharing a personal story of struggle, Lance reminded us all that the importance of the work we do is so much more than our physical actions. We do not serve just to paint a mural, provide safe housing, or stock a food pantry. We serve to remind others that they are part of a greater community of love. It is our responsibility as Christians to treat everyone (and I mean everyone) with respect. When we create equal opportunities for all, stop to listen to our neighbors, and care for one another unconditionally we provide them with a sense of dignity. It is through our actions that reinforces the importance of respect and dignity for others.

As the week went on our youth had the privilege to serve a variety of communities; from volunteering at a nursing and rehabilitation home to serving alongside a group of youth from all over the diocese to providing trail maintenance for those who will hike after us. During daily journaling we would further reflect on Lance’s words as we began to learn more about ourselves as individuals and as a part of several communities. Through outreach, worship, reflection, and lot of laughter, a community of our own was built. We created a community where we felt safe to be our goofiest selves, have deep discussions, and could support one another through daily tasks. We too were given dignity and respect.

St. Mary’s youth not only made a significant, positive impact on the communities within the Shenandoah Valley, but on me. They created friendships and memories that will continue to shape their faith journey, and I feel privileged to watch them grow as the years go on.