Because I have the Church

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, February 9, 2020

By: Addison Hagan, Graduating Senior, Class of 2020

I feel very lucky to have been able to grow up within the church. I have attended St. Mary’s throughout all my time in middle and high school, and it is a place where I really feel I belong. This feeling grew from regular attendance of the youth group meetings and events, and I loved becoming close friends with the others that participated. Attending a Shrine Mont weekend is one such event that strengthened my bond to my peers at St. Mary’s. With lessons in faith and charity as well as personal growth, I feel I left that special place as a better person of faith than when I arrived. One of the best parts of the trip was when Matt Rawls, the youth pastor at the time, set aside time for us to walk the Shrine Mont labyrinth. While it is just a circle of stones with a single path into and out of the center, it evoked a reflective and somber mindset, and became a moment when I was aware I was close to God. Shrine Mont is a place I hope every member of the youth group has the opportunity to go.

I am extremely grateful for the experiences I have had so far through St. Mary’s. The time that I have spent with the youth group has helped to shape me into the person I am today. Because I have the church, I have a comforting place to turn to when I’m stressed, and a network of people eager to offer help and guidance. Without the church, I would be without some of my closest friendships as well as a second home, and I am extremely glad that is not the case.

A Time to Serve

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, February 2, 2020

By: Kim O’Shea, Vestry Class of 2020

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

When called to serve on the Vestry in 2017 I felt I had little to contribute. I considered my prior leadership roles to be humble and too many years in the past. But the words of Bob Hetherington rang in my ears – “show up…lean in.” It was time for me to show up. And I’m so glad I did.

We all know that 2017 to 2019 was full of transition and some surprises. We’d established our vision for St. Mary’s through discernment, but our path took some unexpected twists and turns. But I feel certain we are in a good place, heading in the right direction. Never be satisfied and trust the process.

I’ve learned from my time on the Vestry that we can all contribute, and so many do, in ways that are not always apparent when we arrive on Sunday morning. Far too many to name in this space, it’s the people of St. Mary’s who’ve made our transition a success, with new programs, expanded hospitality and fellowship, a resurgent youth program, a financial plan, and so much more. They people of St. Mary’s did not give up; rather by leaning in and recommitting, we’ve begun to reap a humble harvest.

As for my time on the Vestry, I was challenged and rewarded by serving on the Search Committee that called David. The committee spent countless hours patiently listening. I remain inspired by the team’s ability to listen and find common ground. From there my principle responsibility, besides showing up, was to organize the talents of our congregation to ensure that the church’s landscape and yard maintained its beauty and tranquility. And we supported the staff in reestablishing our plans and the requisite paperwork and documentation for the churchyard.

I can’t fully express my appreciation and admiration for our Vestry leaders during my 3 years. Their time and commitment knew no bounds. And their skills, simply amazing; each adapting their strengths and focus to the needs of the church at their appointed time. Al Rider—the brilliant strategist and diplomat. Tracey Ragsdale—so passionate for our mission and inclusive in her leadership. Karen Huennekens is as thorough and organized as they come, with no task too small, all with a sweet smile. I was blessed to work with them and watch them lead. I’d follow them anywhere.

So, my Vestry time helped me to understand how the church works, the perspectives of my fellow parishioners, what we need to continue our mission, and where I can help. It’s all about tilling the soil, planting the seeds and picking the weeds, so that St. Mary’s reaps the full potential of the harvest. I pray for each of you to have the same experience.

A Quiet Atmosphere

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, January 26, 2020

By: Eleanor Wellford, Priest Associate

Have you ever been on a retreat? My guess is that the answer is “Yes” and maybe more than once. So, here’s another question: Have you ever been on a… hold on…wait for it…SILENT retreat? The idea of that strikes terror into the hearts of some people (probably extroverts) and joy into the hearts of others (probably introverts). I fall into the latter category of people – those who are introverts and find joy in silent retreats.

I have recently returned from one. There is an Episcopal monastery in Cambridge, Massachusetts called Society of St. John the Evangelist, or SSJE for short. The brothers who live at the monastery follow a Rule of Life which includes prayer and service, and which expresses a common commitment to faithful discipleship. One of their ministries is hospitality, which means they open their monastery to guests who are seeking a quiet atmosphere for prayer, reflection and retreat in the setting of a monastic community.

Guests are invited to join in the rhythm of monastic prayer in the chapel and in the refectory for simple, yet delicious meals – probably something I look forward to the most. Actually, maybe not. Maybe it’s the smell of the chapel with its incensed-soaked wood or the way the brothers break into harmony when singing or chanting. Maybe it’s the taste of the communion bread or the bells signaling that a service is about to begin. And then there’s the view of the Charles River from my room where I can watch the dedicated practice of crew teams from the surrounding Ivy League schools.

I cherish this time of rest and refreshment and am amazed at how quickly the time flies when I am there. Perhaps the hardest part of a silent retreat is re entry which first hits me when I arrive at Logan Airport. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the benefits of the retreat to dissipate. I’m hoping that some of the times of reflection and worship will, like the incense absorbed by my clothes, linger for longer.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence…” Psalm 62:1