From the Retiring Vestry Class

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, January 27, 2019

By: Fay Lohr, Tracey Ragsdale, Al Rider & Tom Slater, Vestry Class of 2019

“Faith is not being sure where you’re going but going anyway.” This quote of Frederick Buechner feels appropriate to describe the retiring Vestry class’s inspiration over the last three years; a period of significant change at St. Mary’s. By the numbers, we have experienced two Rector calls, two Associate Rector calls, and nine permanent staff changes representing a total overhaul of clerical and lay staff. Typically, any organization with comparative circumstances would see its stability seriously challenged.

The response of our parish has been remarkable and inspiring. Where there could have been conflict, we saw cooperation. Where there could have been hesitation, we saw generosity. Where there could have been despair, we saw enthusiasm. Where there could have been bitterness, we saw grace.

St. Mary’s has a unique culture, or we could call it spirit, which draws us together. It is our tradition of simplicity, humility, and a strong sense of community that reinforces our faith and has led us through potentially turbulent times. Rather than stall, our response has been an increased commitment to a positive vision. We have grown in so many ways and it feels good.

C. S. Lewis wrote, “What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it.” This thought is fully applicable to St. Mary’s parishioners. We feel and live the St. Mary’s spirit together.

We are so thankful for this parish’s love, counsel, and support these past three years.

Episcopal Church Basics

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, January 20, 2019

By: Bob Hetherington, Priest Associate

Episcopal Church basics: scripture, tradition, and reason are the basis for authority in the church; the three-legged stool. Christianity is a “revealed” religion and our source of revelation is the Bible.

Let’s look at the four essentials in The Episcopal Church tradition. First, the unfailing appeal to Holy Scripture. That is where we find the story of Jesus. The Church tells the story of Jesus through the seasons of the church year from Advent through Pentecost. If you come to church for 52 Sundays, you experience the whole story from the birth of Jesus to his death and resurrection and the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit.

Second, the Nicene and Apostle Creeds are essentials. These are historic affirmations of faith. They present Jesus as fully man and fully God. The triune God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Third the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Eucharist. Baptism is our initiation into the life of the church. Holy Eucharist is the ongoing nurturer we receive through the body and blood of Christ. Fourth, the orders of ministry: Bishop, priest, and deacon. These historic categories of ministry connect us to the global mission of the Church to serve the needs of the world. Our governing body is the Diocese of Virginia. David May presides over the life of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church because the Bishop cannot be here regularly.

Other denominations celebrate these values as well but the way they are combined in The Episcopal Church make us who we are. These are the values which sustain and nurture us. They form us spiritually. God is writing a story in each of our lives. By staying connected to these core values we gain focus and strength to be God’s people at work in the world. The spiritual journey is not over until life is over.

Join me for an exploration of these spiritual values at the 10 a.m. forum this morning in the Parish Hall.

Renewing Our Promises

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, January 13, 2019

By: Emily Bruch, Director of Youth Ministries

For the past few weeks I have been continually bombarded with the question “What is your New Year’s resolution?” I’m immediately exasperated; I do not have an answer. Many of us set forth goals each year, yet it sometimes takes months before we put them into practice. Often, these resolutions are to better ourselves, either outwards or inwards.

One of my favorite moments of January is the celebration of the Baptism of our Lord; the celebration of new life as a way to kick-off the new year. This Sunday we welcome two new members into our extended Christian family. During the Baptismal Service we are asked to renew our own Baptismal Covenant—a promise we have made with God before, and a way to live out our lives every day.

Similar to our New Year’s resolutions, we may find ourselves losing our way. The beauty of this covenant with God is that we can always renew our promises. We do not have to wait for a new year for a fresh start. Through this sacramental promise we are reminded by the waters of baptism that we belong to God and nothing can separate us from His love.

The last five questions of the Baptismal Covenant stand out to me, as these are vows we make about how we will live out our lives. We are asked to boldly respond to each question with “I will, with God’s help.” Here we are reminded that we are not alone. These promises can be carried out with unconditional love from God.

As you move forward into your year, I ask you: How are your resolutions reinforcing these promises you have already made to God? How do you live into this covenant every day?

Together we can, with God’s help.

To Live More and More from Love

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, January 6, 2019

By: David May, Rector

My wife Emmy and I have been watching ‘Call the Midwife’ on Netflix. It’s a new discovery even though it aired eight years ago. It’s a wonderful story of an order of Anglican nuns who serve as midwives and care-givers living in one of the toughest neighborhoods of London’s East End in the late 1950’s. In a recent episode, a local constable asks Sister Julienne what had motivated a young woman who had recently abandoned her newborn. Sister Julienne replies that there are only two things that motivate any of us: love or fear.

Of course, we human beings are mysterious creatures and so, who knows why any of us does what we do sometimes! But the clarity of Sister Julienne’s observation is a pretty good place to start.

It’s natural this time of the year to look ahead. And I ask myself, am I looking ahead to what this year will bring with love or fear. Or maybe, even, with a little bit of both. As a part of a self-evaluation for our wardens, I’ve been asked to look ahead and articulate what I see as the important priorities for the people of St. Mary’s in our holy calling to be disciples of Jesus in our world. I can quickly rattle off about a dozen or so things! But more and more, before rattling off that list of things, it’s important to wonder what is motivating us. Do we look ahead with love or with fear? Or a little of both!

The Prophet Jeremiah spoke a most beautiful word from God for those who look to the future. This word came to the children of Israel in exile in Babylon, far from home, who had every reason to live from fear and not love. Jeremiah proclaimed: “Thus says the Lord…For surely I know the plans I have for you…plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me….” (Jeremiah 29:11-13a)

The year before us already feels like a gift from God. And what will we do with this gift that God is giving us? Well, God knows. And so shall we as we learn to live, more and more, from love, and for love.

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, December 30, 2018

By: Ryan Tibbetts, Director of Music

There is a meme that starts circulating around Facebook among friends in my field this time of year that simply reads “Hooray!  It’s December!  Oh, wait – I’m a musician.”  In some respects, it’s a fairly accurate summation of my feelings about this season, as there’s a lot to get done and not a whole lot of time in which to do it. This year, in the span of just three weeks, we’ve had our Advent Lessons and Carols service here, I’ve conducted two performances of the Bach Magnificat and other pieces with one of my community choruses, on top of our regular Sunday services, a wedding, and several funerals – and I’m writing this on December 21, so from my perspective, our three Christmas Eve services haven’t even happened yet!

There’s definitely a lot to do, and I definitely have to brace myself at the start of the month, but at the same time, I really enjoy the seasons of Advent and Christmas, and have since I started singing in choir in high school and got my first real taste of what being a musician in December meant. There’s so much wonderful music written for this time of year – choral pieces, hymns, organ works – and every year is a chance to revisit old favorites and discover new ones.  The liturgies at this time of year are also particularly beautiful – our Advent Lessons and Carols service certainly took some work to put together, but being a part of that offering of music and readings was immensely rewarding.

The season also offers reminders of the difference music can make in people’s lives. For musicians, all the concerts and services can certainly be sources of stress, but for congregations and audience members, it’s often an island of repose in the midst of an otherwise stressful month. I was always touched to read survey responses after a Christmas concert presented each year by a community chorus I worked with in Philadelphia where people would write about the importance of that performance as a holiday tradition. Being a professional musician this time of year can certainly feel like a slog, but knowing that the work can offer “tidings of comfort and joy” to others helps to make it worthwhile. So, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year – now if you’ll excuse me, it’s still December 21 and the organ isn’t going to practice itself!