Christmas Came Early

Weekly Advent Reflection, Sunday, December 2, 2018

By: Susan Rhodes

Reverend Bob Hetherington often talks about leaning in, listening and being present, or as I think of it, being mindful. I can get lost in the busyness of Christmas preparation during the season of Advent; the perfect Christmas card with three children, that’s a battle. The gifts, the stuff, parties, all of it; it’s just too much. The season of Advent is hard, but our family’s Christmas gift came early this year.

My father Randy McElroy had heart failure in February. He was doing what he loved, hunting, and, as the story goes, he shot two quail with two shots before collapsing in front of my mother and her family in Thomasville, Georgia. A miracle worker, Thomas, performed CPR but Dad grew bluer and my mother watched and prayed. Thomas then performed the Heimlich maneuver and Dad’s heart was shocked into beating. I received the awful phone call about what happened. The days and weeks to follow were difficult, to say the least.

Ten days later, my father had open heart surgery at MCV. Reverend Hetherington showed up at 6 a.m. and prayed with my parents before he went under. Mom and I waited in his room for him to recover but his heart stopped again. We were put in a private room where we prayed with a wonderful nurse and asked God for it not to be the day for Him to take Dad. Christmas came early for the McElroy family.

This year I’m more mindful than ever of God’s blessings and so grateful for St. Mary’s church. My parents are 83 years old and I’ve been given a gift. Bob Hetherington says, ‘lean in’, and this Advent we will live in the moment and appreciate this season, the joyous things, as well as the exhausting ones. Every season with those you love is precious, do all you can to slow down, be present, and say ‘thank you.’

We Count our Blessings

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, November 18, 2018

By: Bob Hetherington

Today marks the end of the church year. Next Sunday, Advent begins and we march toward Christmas. What sort of ending is it? In the Gospel reading, we have the conversation between Jesus and Pontius Pilate about the nature of kingship. This last Sunday after Pentecost is also known as Christ the King Sunday. The reign of Christ is affirmed. I am reassured that at the end of time and history God’s reign will prevail. The forces of darkness will be swallowed up in God’s love. The idea is so hopeful.

As we begin a new year, we have the opportunity to take stock of our lives. In the church context, it is time for New Year’s resolutions. How is your life different from what it was last year at this time? What are you saying goodbye to? What are you saying hello to? The spiritual journey moves forward. We cannot hold on to the past. We should not jump too far ahead in the future. We need to stay present in this moment. What is God saying to each of us in this moment of transition?

We count our blessings. St. Mary’s has a fine new rector who is getting his feet grounded in the life and history of the parish. The parish has been blessed with outstanding lay leadership which is engaged in everything from pastoral care to international mission work. We have wonderful parish buildings which remind us of the peace and quiet of the country. God has blessed us.

Now we move forward into a new church year. Who knows what adventures lie ahead. We journey in the hope that the kingship of Jesus will prevail. May God’s loving reign become a larger reality in our broken and confused world. In the new year may each of us become an instrument for God’s healing presence in the world.

Expressing Gratitude

A Weekly Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, November 18, 2018

By: Tracey Ragsdale, Senior Warden & Russell Wyatt, Junior Warden

Although we have come to the end of another season of stewardship, we realize that stewardship is neither a program nor a campaign, but a part of our discipleship. The way we live our lives and the choices that we make flow from a depth of understanding of and gratitude for who we are and to whom we belong. From our first breath til our last, we are both receivers and givers. How we evolve from an infant, the ultimate taker, to an adult, where we strive to share everything, is one measure of how we live “a godly, righteous, and sober life.” On our journey to generosity, we learn from our own actions and experiences, from parents and family, from friends and colleagues, and most importantly from our church.

Over the past few years, we have been exposed to the uncivil nature of our society on so many issues.  Now more than ever is the time to fall back on the core beliefs that we learned from our personal relationships with family, with friends, and with God to help overcome the tremendous differences that divide the people of our great nation.

As we wind down St. Mary’s 2019 Annual Giving Campaign and head into Advent, it is an appropriate time to express our deepest gratitude to a number of different people. First, to those of you who have gone through or are going through a discernment process, pledged or are contemplating pledging, we are extremely grateful. The Clergy and Staff continue to provide support in so many ways, allowing us to live into our ministries and spiritual growth. Lastly, a special thank you to the hard work of the entire Stewardship Committee, with particular thanks to Karen and Mike Huennekens for spearheading such a wonderful effort. Without their strong leadership and tireless determination, we would not be where we are today.

As a token of appreciation, the Stewardship Committee and the Vestry invite you to join us for a celebration honoring St. Mary’s 2019 Annual Giving Campaign after both services this morning in the New Parish Hall. Again, thank you so much for leaning in. We look forward to seeing everyone Sunday.