The Armor of Light

Advent Reflection, Sunday, December 1, 2019

By: David May

“Put on the whole armor of light!’

The brand-new Church Year begins today in just about the darkest time of the year. These days, many of us get up in the dark and come home from work or school in the dark. Light seems especially precious this time of the year, and I’ll take whatever I can get – the little light on the coffee-maker in the dark early morning, the warm light coming from a neighbor’s window when I get home, the candle we light to make dinner a little cheerier. When so much of the day is dark, I think of how the very first gift of creation came when God said, ‘let there be light!’ And there was. Thank you, God.

The Collect for the First Sunday of Advent urges God to give us grace to ‘put on the armor of light’. The word ‘armor’ suggests that we will be using light as a kind of protection from the harm that the darkness threatens. I like this image a lot. Light may not be enough to ward off physical threats, but it is sufficient to push back the dark enough to find your way and even be enough to help others find their way too.

This past week I attended a diocesan gathering of clergy new to the diocese and new to their parishes. We spent time talking about Christian Formation and how what that really means is that our churches are places where we hope people can become disciples of Jesus. Disciples of Jesus are people who learn from Jesus to live like him and act like him and sound like him. Which led me to think about people I know (that includes both the living and the dead) in whom I have seen Jesus. They are people whose lives have shown what it looks like to pray like Jesus, how to give like him, how to proclaim Good News like him, how to forgive like him, and how to show compassion like him. And how their lives bring light into the world. God knows how much we need that.

As this new Church Year begins, it might be worth thinking about the people in your life who have shown you something of the light of Jesus in the way they live and act and sound; and how you saw the love and light, the compassion and forgiveness and healing, and the justice and mercy of Jesus. And to give thanks that their light has shown you the way to bring light into the darkness too, like Jesus. Give us grace, O Lord, to put on the armor of light, to be the light of Jesus in this world.

What is it about music?

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, November 24, 2019

By: Carol Evans

What is it about music? How is it that we can make these amazing sounds that our ears and brains work in tandem both to create and to decipher, that can evoke joy, sadness, exuberance or anxiety, and sometimes impel us to move and dance? It’s a wonder to me.

Music has always had the power to move me. That could be literal and physical, as when frenetic Hungarian gypsy music propelled me at age 3 into energetic dancing, helpless to stop until I fell, exhausted and exhilarated! Even now, there are times when standing still is simply not an option. But above all, music, especially sacred choral music, has the power to move me emotionally and spiritually.

Music was heard regularly in our house growing up—both live and recorded, most of it classical. I remember my dad taking guitar lessons with Laura Weber on public television and driving an hour each way to Nashville for flute lessons. While we (and the neighbors on open-window spring and summer mornings!) tolerated endless scales, we loved the results when he and my piano teacher got together at our house for piano-flute duets.

Both parents enjoyed classical music, but my dad especially loved it and would often enthuse over some particularly inspiring or moving passage. He would point out identifying characteristics of a composer’s music and it became a regular dinnertime game with my three sisters to see who could guess the composer being played that night.

My dad was a faithful lifelong volunteer choir member in the Episcopal church where I grew up, and in high school and college I often joined him. That special connection with him undoubtedly accounts for the fact that sacred choral music has the power to move me perhaps more than any other form.

As the newest volunteer choir member I feel very fortunate to get to sing at St. Mary’s with musicians of such caliber under such talented, inspired, fun and caring direction. I have learned a great deal and feel that I get far more from singing with our choir than I could ever possibly contribute.

A prayer sung is for me the highest form of worship. Singing familiar text often makes me see it afresh, and the same verse can take on new meaning with each new musical setting, depending on my circumstances at the moment.

According to Episcopal Church guidelines, choir music is meant not for the entertainment of the congregation but as an offering to God. It certainly often feels that way to me. An now and then, especially when I am paying attention, I feel that I am given back a gazillion-fold. What I hope is that the choir’s musical offering enhances each hearer’s experience of worship and in some small way serves to deepen her or his personal connection to God.

Thank You for Responding Faithfully

Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, November 17, 2019

By: Karen Huennekens and Scott Stephens, Senior and Junior Wardens

To the members of St. Mary’s, we would like to thank you for responding faithfully to the 2020 Stewardship Campaign during our eight week pledge period. Many of you increased your annual pledge, which is wonderful for the spirit and life of the parish. A lot of you have pledged for the first time, which is both comforting and important to know that we will continue to grow as a parish family. Your support highlights that we will be able to move forward in the daily life, the annual works, and the future plans of the church. After this pledge period, we have received 266 pledges for 61.5% participation of households. We are very close to our budget goal of $1,150,000 with results of $927.477.

As we prepare for the budget year ahead we are reminded of the various St. Mary’s ministries that rely on your support. From our outreach committee and youth and adult missions, to our fellowship and adult education programs, and all that are in between, there is a great need. We want to be able fully fund each one of these programs and needs as they answer to the passions of our congregation. Your stewardship helps meet these challenges.

In moving St. Mary’s forward, we must anticipate the financial needs of maintenance, and restoration and preservation projects. Presently, this stewardship campaign is the only source of income to meet these needs and the operating needs of a fully funded staff. As with other organizations, our costs continue to increase. Your stewardship helps meet these challenges.

We hope that you will continue to keep St. Mary’s in your prayers. Stewardship cannot be defined or contained in an eight week campaign. It should become a culture that reaches beyond satisfying our financial needs, and live in the hearts of all of us as we give thanks for the blessings that have been given to us. Each week we’ve had the written gift of a wonderful reflection that has been shared with us during this Campaign. Each week we’ve had a new story to look forward to that clearly steers us in recognizing our blessings, and clearly shows us how spiritually inclusive our membership is toward the well being of the parish. Your stewardship helps share this faith.

It has been exciting to see a re-energized and re-engaged congregation as a result of David’s leadership here at St. Mary’s. We know that our Vestry is dedicated to keep the momentum going! We thank you for your part in this year’s Stewardship Campaign as we join together and provide for all the possibilities that lie ahead of us.