Known. Loved. Belong

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, September 16, 2018

By: Amelia McDaniel

I grew up in a small parish. My Sunday School classes were usually three to four kids in a basement room. Sometimes we had curriculum to use. Sometimes our teachers were winging it. In middle school, my teacher was a local radio host. He would come and teach class as “Father Guido Sarducci” from Saturday Night Live. That was definitely memorable!

I sadly cannot tell you much of the specifics I learned in those classes. I know I did learn Bible stories and the stories of the saints somehow because my art history professors were impressed by my ability to correctly identify Biblical characters and symbols. But what I carry with me each day from showing up in Sunday School is how those experiences made me feel. My Sunday School teachers and the adults in the parishes I grew up in made sure I knew that I belonged right there with them. That gift will follow me forever.

Today we are commissioning our Sunday School Teachers and Youth Leaders. These kind souls have stepped forward to remind our children and youth how beloved they are in this community. They tell the Biblical stories of our faith. But more importantly, through their example they show them what lives lived in that faith look like. Hopefully, our kids will go on to impress their art history professors one day but honestly that’s just a bonus. I know each Sunday they are greeted, loved on, and made to feel like they belong in our classrooms – in our community of faith. It is a gift of sacred time.

If you get a chance, thank these wonderful people today or in the coming weeks. Please say ‘thank you’ to these teachers who will greet your kids (who in the 30 minutes prior to arrival at church put your faith to the test). They’ve got a fresh bit of patience and love for your people and some finger cookies or donuts, too.

God is Praying for You

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, September 9, 2018

By: David May

I met a friend recently at a cool coffee shop on the Northside. Having just moved here from the Northern Neck, frankly, every coffee shop is cool to me. The world I find myself in now is so different than the world I lived in for the past twelve years. Don’t get me wrong; I’m eternally grateful for the gift of those twelve years, and I’m so glad to be here now. For one thing, living here, I can just jump in my car and see a dear friend who I’ve known for thirty years. And get to be in a cool coffee shop to boot!

Anyway, as you can with a dear friend, we talked about everything: our lives, work, worries, hopes, the city of Richmond, the nation, the world. Everything, with plenty of horsing around too.

I don’t remember the exact details of what I was saying, but it had to do with trying to understand this new season in life, this new time, this new place. I said, ‘I don’t really know the why of why I’m here. I’m fine with that. But I wonder.’ And my friend (the way he does sometimes) closed his eyes hard and breathed deeply and said, ‘God is praying for you. Right now.’ And then he leaned forward and said, ‘because that’s what God does. God is praying for you.’

I suppose we’re not in the habit of thinking something like that. But it’s true. In a spectacular, radiant moment, the Apostle Paul wrote, ‘for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words’. Whatever it is, whatever is going on in our lives; whatever is raising itself up for us to consider or run from or rest in, God is right there, right now praying for you.

As we are making a new beginning together, and as we are occupied with all the things there are to do, it is worth remembering, that it is not all up to or on us. You don’t have to do everything to make sure that everything happens well. Please remember, God has God’s own work to do too. God is praying for you, right now, for your life and for the flourishing of all of our lives. Rest in that, God’s grace-filled place for every new beginning.

The Patterned Ways of Fall

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, September 2, 2018

By: Bob Hetherington

It is time to lean into the patterned ways of fall. Summer is over and it is time to get back to business. This includes paying attention to God’s spirit in our lives. The words of fall are discipline, investment, and spiritual growth.

Discipline – we need to create space for God’s spirit to work in our lives. What are the spiritual practices which will help you draw closer to God? On Sunday morning, we ask people to commit two hours for their spiritual development: one hour for worship and a second hour for education and spiritual reflection – attend the 9 a.m. or 11 a.m. worship services and come to the 10 a.m. Christian education/ forum time. Your Christian faith becomes stronger when you give time and energy to developing it. The leadership of St. Mary’s can serve you best when Sunday morning participation is part of your personal discipline. We wanted to strengthen the inner journey for people who come so that each person can do good work out in the larger community.

Investment – we are talking about going deeper. The challenges of our day require that we develop inner resources of compassion and love. In our world today there is so much which divides and separates people from each other. There is another way. Jesus is the ambassador for compassion and love. We need to invest our time and energy so that our hearts are open to new people and new experiences.

Spiritual Growth – we need spiritual resources so we can lean into life in creative ways. Jesus said, “he who would save his life will lose it and he who loses his life for my sake will save it.” At the higher spiritual levels “saving” comes out of “losing.” Jesus invites us to a life of generosity and sacrifice. Our gathering together on Sunday morning strengthens us to bring more peace and justice to this world. The mission of the Episcopal Church is to, “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” It is a high calling and we need to keep working at it.

The process begins by “showing up.” So join us as we move into the patterned ways of fall. Discover the new things God wants you to know and where God wants you to go.