Preserving the Magic

Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, November 3, 2019

By: Andy and Katie Howlett

We drive 20 minutes and pass four Episcopal churches to come to St. Mary’s on Sundays. When it comes up in conversation, neighbors often give us quizzical looks and comment that it seems like an awful lot of trouble. And with young kids, some Sundays it is. But there’s something about St. Mary’s, an almost magnetic pull that draws us each week. And over the years the list of reasons we keep coming back has grown. But if we’re being honest, it’s her good looks that attracted us at first.

We’d spent years “trying out” churches. The people were nice enough, the sermons were good, the cookies and lemonade standard, but the spaces were often uninspiring. So, when Anne and Jessie McCoy invited us to check out their church, we were expecting much of the same. We both remember the first time we crossed Tuckahoe Creek and felt ourselves let out a collective breath. Any craziness of the week, or the morning, seemed to dissipate. And then, when we pulled into the parking lot for the first time, there was a strong visceral reaction to the campus. The grounds, the architecture, the little parking sign that says, “Thou Shall Not Park Here”, the quintessential Colonial blue trim, the antique rugs, the needlepoint and stunning floral arrangements from the Altar Guild. It’s really what drew us back each week. We wanted to spend time in these spaces, to come to this beautiful place for a few hours each week and we believe these elements led to a deeper, spiritual experience.

Then we came to know the people and the staff and found that the outward beauty of the church was matched only by its inner beauty. We found ourselves wanting to volunteer our time and limited talents to be a part of the magic of this place. And for a long time that was enough. But as we all know, a church like St. Mary’s doesn’t run on time and talent alone. So, we started talking about prioritizing our giving and how St. Mary’s needed to be at the top of that list. That’s not an easy task for a young-ish family. Our purse strings seem to be pulled in so many directions: school fees, family trips, travel sports and activities, camps, birthdays and other non-profit organizations of importance. But as part of the next generation of this church, we feel it’s crucial to preserve the magic.

For us, this year’s Stewardship Campaign theme is so fitting: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. And what a treasure we have in St. Mary’s: the grounds, the buildings, the people, the programs. So, our challenge to you is to consider what you can do, from a financial standpoint, to help keep this place so special. Then we encourage you to try and do a little more. Whether you have 5 minutes or 20 on the way to church on Sundays, take that time to reflect on this treasure and what you can contribute in the coming year.

Thankful to Belong to this Community

Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, October 27, 2019

By: Brantley Holmes

I’m not sure when Byron and I started putting a check in the collection plate every Sunday. We talk about what we pledge, but have never formally discussed how we pay it; weekly, monthly, quarterly. But no matter, that weekly practice has become a ritual that if not done I feel like I’ve forgotten something. And it’s not just me who is used to that ritual, our children. Every Sunday one will ask, “Can I put the check in today?”

I remember my parents pledging and putting their contribution in the collection plate on Sundays. I remember them encouraging me to give, talking with me about the importance of giving back, and taking responsibility for my part.

I’m not sure how God and faith all works. I know that my perspective on life is better and I can handle the stress I experience better because I invest in my relationship with God. I didn’t always know that. I didn’t always go to church or value the blessing of it. I didn’t attend youth group or like Sunday school. Despite taking many wrong turns, I am exactly where I wanted to be since I was a little girl, and I believe there are many reasons why. I have wonderful parents who ensured that I grew up in a church community where I was loved, cared for, and prayed for many times by many people.

When I went back to school to get a Postmaster’s Certificate in Nursing, I had to do a research project. I chose to research what helps prevent risk taking behavior in teenagers. I read fifteen studies and the common theme was communication and community. Children who had a place to belong, where they felt safe and loved, were less likely to engage in risk taking behaviors.

I am so thankful – for my husband and children, my parents, my family, my friends, my work, and my church. I am thankful to belong to a place where I feel renewed each week, to share in that with Byron and our children, and have a place where our children can build friendships and their faith. I am thankful for my relationship with God. My dad will say “People do what is important to them.” I agree. St. Mary’s is important to me. I want to say thank you; to show my gratitude. My pledge helps me do that.

I realize from experience that our children may not truly appreciate the value of all this right now, but they see that Byron and I do, and for that I am thankful as well.