I invite you therefore in the name of Church to a Holy Lent.

Weekly Reflection, Friday, February 12

By: David May, Rector

I invite you therefore in the name of Church to a Holy Lent.

In September 2020, members of the vestry met by Zoom call with many of the ministry groups of our parish. All together, we think the vestry met with probably 80 to 100 parishioners over a two-week span. In addition to time just to catch up with one another, each ministry group had been asked to think about two questions: ‘what are you/we learning in these strange times?’, and ‘what do you want to do about that?’ What people shared with each other was so rich and often very personal. We saw again that so often what we think of as most personal is often something that we all share in common.

After all those conversations, four themes seemed to emerge: the gift of our own humanity, a clearer realization that we live in ‘a fallen world’, the gift of community, and the hope for a new creation. You could hear these themes as people talked about what they were discovering matters most. You could hear it as we talked about the brokenness in our world and in ourselves that this pandemic has laid bare. You could hear it as people wondered about how we could be different going forward.

By the mercy of God, we will come back together over the course of this current year, 2021. And as we come back together, we have the opportunity to return changed by what this long, long season of absence has taught us.

The people of St. Mary’s have helped create a beautiful Lenten Daily Devotional Booklet for this season. This booklet is an invitation for this season of Lent to look back and consider what we are learning about ourselves and our world. And it is an invitation to look forward with fresh vision about what kind of a church God is calling us to be at this time and in this place.

May the living God draw near to you in this holy season and guide and strengthen you as we journey to the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus.

St. Mary’s created a Lenten Daily Devotional Booklet

The people of St. Mary’s have created a beautiful Lenten Daily Devotional Booklet. In this six-week Lenten offering, you will find reflections written by 30 parishioners – children, young people, and adults – on the themes that emerged from the vestry zoom call meetings. We invite you to pick one of these up to consider, think, journal, reflect, and pray about what kind of church God is calling us to be.

Download the electronic version. Or pick one up at the Church Office.

A Reflection: Created to Receive and Reflect God’s Love

St. Mary’s is inviting different voices to share reflections at the 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Outdoor Worship Services.

Reflection shared by: Charmaine Trice at 5 p.m. Outdoor Worship Service on Sunday, October 18, 2020

“In making faithful choices, great and small, Guide us gracious Lord.” Amen

2020 has certainly been a unique year. In fact, it’s been a crazy year! And as time goes on, I’m amused by the irony of many situations, the cleverness of words written or spoken, and coincidences now and from the past. In fact, some of these coincidences have been comforting, along with many signs of goodness, newness, beauty, joy, and love. I think God is speaking to us.

When I reflect on these coincidences, I’m reminded that in spite of this year and loss of cherished traditions like Date with the Daffodils. There’s still a chance to finish the year strong and prepare ourselves and this Church community for 2021.

If you recall, earlier this year in February, Amy Julia Becker, author of White Picket Fences, flew to Richmond for a three day visit with St. Mary’s. And it was wonderful and enlightening having her with us!

The irony of the timing was that it was two weeks before the COVID shut down, three months before the onset of civil unrest and riots, and eight months before the 2020 elections. Now, flash forward to October 2020, eight months later, and why did Amy Julia’s book and her visit to St. Mary’s, come to mind?

Looking back, her words were almost prophetic for how we might respond to what was about to unfold in 2020. She spoke to specific ways like, “we can walk further from fear and closer to love, in all its fragile and mysterious possibilities.”

This became evident to me during the webinar I attended when our Clergy & Vestry members summarized themes they heard from you.

You reflected on how we might respond to: What are we learning in this time? And, what are we doing about it?

Many parallels can be drawn to Amy Julia’s teachings of ways to receive and reflect God’s love. Among many things, Amy Julia is an incredible author and storyteller, a wife and mother. When introducing ways to receive God’s love, she writes, “…as God’s ‘image bearers’, human beings are created to receive and reflect God’s love.” I’ve come to believe that the timing of Amy Julia’s visit was not at all “by chance.” I believe it was a remarkable coincidence. I think God is speaking to us.

It is incredibly interesting how many times the themes from your responses from the webinar matched up with a number of suggestions Amy Julia highlighted. There were many common denominators.

Read more

“Lord, may the work we do be Your work”

Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, October 18, 2020

By: Wayne Dementi, Stewardship Chair & Vestry Member

Very early in my time as Chair of Stewardship for this year, I shared with David the observation that the Stewardship Campaign for 2021 would be like no other due to the pandemic. Clearly, these extraordinary times call for an extraordinary response.

David offered an insight to me that gave life and direction to how we might approach our work together. He suggested that we consider this year’s effort as a ministry, versus a campaign. I thought a lot about this. I found this definition of ministry – a willful, gift-oriented, and calling-based use of one’s ability to serve others.

“One’s ability” seems to address the works of both the individual and the body of the church. In September, we held ZOOM gatherings for 15 of our ministries. We launched this series of meetings under the theme, “Lord, May the Words We Hear be Your Words.” We learned that indeed we heard the Lord’s words. Now, as we move into our season of Stewardship, the theme, “Lord, May the Work We Do Be Your Work” guides us.

God seems to be calling us to engage our gifts to do those things which will bring us through this period to a new and exciting era of worship, fellowship, education, and outreach to the world. This time, like no other, offers us a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to bring the Holy Spirit even further into our lives. It also brings to our attention a call to help others in our church family and in our neighborhood. In the past, a pledge has been a relatively routine affirmation of the work and growth of the church. This year, a pledge affirms the optimism we share for decisions that will bring us ever closer to a parish life that God wishes for us.

During our parish-wide webinars, Seth Schaeffer, our Senior Warden, offered the observation that, “we are what we do,” in recognition of the work being done by our 17 ministries. Our ZOOM meetings revealed that so much wonderful work that has taken place over the past six months has gone relatively unnoticed due to the impact of COVID’s isolation. Our ministries have done so much good work and their visions hold great promise for the future. Our vestry is encouraging each ministry to listen for God’s call as they change and grow. We want to assure them that we have funding to support their vision and ministry.

It is a good time to see your pledge go to work. As we celebrate God’s work at St. Mary’s, we hope you will join us by making a pledge by Sunday, November 15.

Stewardship of God’s Earth

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, October 11, 2020

By: Ann Ramsey

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork.” – Psalm 19:1

Before the pandemic, my husband and I were on a trip to a third world country, where we stayed at a spotless, well appointed resort overlooking the sea. I couldn’t wait to get to the beach and enjoy a swim. As I approached the water, I saw masses of plastic rubbish washed on shore everywhere I looked. Appalled, I spoke to the hotel manager, who told me that they cleaned the beach every day but couldn’t control the amount of plastic trash that would wash up. This was my wake-up call.

Upon returning, I made a conscious effort to control my use of plastics. I found it nearly impossible to shop at a grocery store and purchase glass or reusable containers. It takes a concentrated, real effort to avoid plastic, and the pandemic seems to have worsened the problem, with the convenience of single-use, take out containers.

I am deeply concerned about our stewardship of God’s earth, which affects the welfare of every human being. We are borrowing this world from future generations. Chief Seattle shared this wisdom when he met with government officials who were buying land from Native people. He said, “We love this land as a newborn loves his mother’s heartbeat. If we sell you this land, care for it as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land and the air and the rivers for your children’s children and love it as we have loved it.”

My father used to tell his children, “do the Christian thing.” I believe the Christian thing is to actively do all we can to protect our precious earth. Stewardship, using and managing all resources for the glory of God and for the betterment of his creation, is a responsibility we all carry.

For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the sky.
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.
Christ, our Lord, to you we raise,
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

Pandemic Weddings

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, October 4, 2020

By: Eleanor Wellford

The young woman sitting on the sofa next to her fiancé had tears in her eyes. She had been confronted with yet another “that’s not allowed” when it came to planning her wedding, and she was reluctantly letting go of Plan C in order to consider Plan D and maybe Plan E. Plans A and B were long gone.

Contingency plans have become the norm for any couple planning a wedding this year. So has the necessity to “scale down”. Guests who were on the first list had to be politely uninvited as subsequent guest lists included only family members. Some couples held out hopes for a large celebration of the marriage sometime next year, but that’s been a small consolation.

My youngest child, Beth, was married two years ago and I’ve heard myself say more than once how glad I was that we weren’t planning a wedding this year! While that may be true on some level, it’s also true that the weddings I’ve experienced recently have been more about the sanctity of the service itself and less about the hype that has made the wedding planning business so lucrative and the wedding couple so exhausted by the time they finally get to the altar. The 15 to 20 or so close family members have felt more like participants in the intimate setting than like guests. That’s been a silver lining.

There have been other silver linings, too, such as pets having front row seats at outdoor weddings, or starting times being simply whenever the family has gathered and seated instead of right on the hour or half-hour. And the flowers defining and gracing the outdoor spaces have been more spectacular than ever.

During this time of our lives, it’s been hard to plan anything – much less a wedding. But I’ve loved being with couples and watching them work together to adjust to constantly changing parameters. One of the questions that I like to ask them in their last pre-marital counseling session is what they’ve learned about themselves in preparing for their wedding. Until this year, the grooms have usually answered that they’ve enjoyed being part of the planning more than they thought they would and the brides have answered that they’ve learned to realize when their stress levels are too high. Now their answers are full of empathy for what each has had to endure, acceptance of whatever version of a wedding they will have, and of gratitude for learning not only what’s important in a wedding, but in life itself. Those answers may not be wrapped up in shiny paper and ribbons, but they are gifts, nonetheless – gifts of the Holy Spirit. And they keep on giving.