Willing to do God’s Work

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, February 23, 2020

By: Henly Deutsch

I have to be honest. Shame, guilt, and perhaps a little defensiveness, were my knee-jerk reactions when I first started reading Amy Julia Becker’s book White Picket Fences. It’s not the first time that my southern country club, private school educated self has felt this way and I’m sure that it won’t be the last. Yes, like most of us I venture to say, I have lived in a bubble. I don’t think I even fully realized that until I was in my mid-twenties just out of school and starting my career in the “real world.” As I continued to read the book, I began to understand Amy Julia’s intent was not to shame us, but to encourage us to acknowledge our blessings and then put all of that privilege aside.

Compassion is not an emotion held only by those who have experienced hardship. We shouldn’t feel apologetic for our upbringing or the upbringing we have provided for our children, and we should acknowledge that we are all a product of our environment. When we emerge from our protective but restrictive white picket fences and come out of the confines of our bubbles, we can imagine living life in someone else’s shoes. Looking at another person’s experiences through a different lens, their lens, we gain a new perspective. Whether it’s the elderly woman who’s struggling with loneliness, the homeless man on the corner you pass every day, or the little girl with Down Syndrome, Amy Julia asks us to see the similarities, not the differences. She says “…understanding the value of every human being, independent of work or achievement, is a truth we all need to hear.” Finding love and serving wholeheartedly is not easy; she acknowledges that. This is where God comes in. “It is an act of faith that God is love, that I am needy, and that by turning toward love, I will someday, somehow be given a way to participate in the restoration of the good world God made.” Amy Julia warns that it will take thousands of us who are willing to do God’s work.

I hope you will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity presented to our congregation this weekend. Amy Julia Becker will share with us and inspire us. She knows that together we can make a huge impact in our world. I know that I want to be one of those thousands. How about you?

The Inspiration Lives On

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, February 16, 2020

By: Wayne Dementi

Picture this activity by the St. Mary’s Mission Team while in Ecuador –

Greg and Allison Dunaway educating children and parishioners on the practice of recycling. Linda Rose providing health check-ups, complete with a stethoscope, to over 60 children. Ashley Cameron delivering a beautiful sermon during the regular Sunday service at Emaús Episcopal Church before a standing room only congregation. Wayne Dementi and Chris Ritrievi tilling the soil through a sifter to produce the sand that would become concrete for a church room addition at Romerillo Church. We were blessed with meaningful and very rewarding work.

On another level, we shared another remarkable experience. It seemed that for the entire week I could describe our time as a perpetual “God Moment.” Everywhere we turned it seemed that God’s hand was guiding us, personally and collectively. I wish I had the words to describe this feeling better.

I was the rookie on this trip. The other five had been there before. They knew many of the people, had experienced the parish life of Emaús, and had an appreciation of how totally present the Holy Spirit is throughout the week. All of this was new to me, and I could have been knocked over with a feather with the true joy of this time.

When people ask about this mission trip, I share the three things I experienced. First, the simple adventure of being in another country (on another continent) highlighted by the opportunity to straddle the northern and southern hemispheres while standing on the Equator. Second, the experience of participating in a church mission trip by doing God’s work in two communities. And third, a very real growth in my personal faith. My ratings – 10’s across the board!

It might come as no wonder that I am still living our week in Quito. Every day my mind’s eye visits the people we met and the things we did. Every day I remember time specifically spent with Pastor Blanca of Romerillo, Reverend Nancy of Emaús, Mission leader Cameron, and my fellow mission mates. The inspiration lives on.

Last thought to offer in this reflection – Ashley Cameron has led this mission to Emaús for four visits in three years. We learned that St. Mary’s Episcopal Church is in the regular prayers of Emaús and we have added them to our Outreach Cycle of Prayer. We have a very real, and lasting, relationship with this church family now, and Emaús has certainly become a sister parish for us. Let us continue to nurture this relationship by going again next year, and by continuing to recognize Emaús as part of our outreach program.

Because I have the Church

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, February 9, 2020

By: Addison Hagan, Graduating Senior, Class of 2020

I feel very lucky to have been able to grow up within the church. I have attended St. Mary’s throughout all my time in middle and high school, and it is a place where I really feel I belong. This feeling grew from regular attendance of the youth group meetings and events, and I loved becoming close friends with the others that participated. Attending a Shrine Mont weekend is one such event that strengthened my bond to my peers at St. Mary’s. With lessons in faith and charity as well as personal growth, I feel I left that special place as a better person of faith than when I arrived. One of the best parts of the trip was when Matt Rawls, the youth pastor at the time, set aside time for us to walk the Shrine Mont labyrinth. While it is just a circle of stones with a single path into and out of the center, it evoked a reflective and somber mindset, and became a moment when I was aware I was close to God. Shrine Mont is a place I hope every member of the youth group has the opportunity to go.

I am extremely grateful for the experiences I have had so far through St. Mary’s. The time that I have spent with the youth group has helped to shape me into the person I am today. Because I have the church, I have a comforting place to turn to when I’m stressed, and a network of people eager to offer help and guidance. Without the church, I would be without some of my closest friendships as well as a second home, and I am extremely glad that is not the case.

A Time to Serve

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, February 2, 2020

By: Kim O’Shea, Vestry Class of 2020

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

When called to serve on the Vestry in 2017 I felt I had little to contribute. I considered my prior leadership roles to be humble and too many years in the past. But the words of Bob Hetherington rang in my ears – “show up…lean in.” It was time for me to show up. And I’m so glad I did.

We all know that 2017 to 2019 was full of transition and some surprises. We’d established our vision for St. Mary’s through discernment, but our path took some unexpected twists and turns. But I feel certain we are in a good place, heading in the right direction. Never be satisfied and trust the process.

I’ve learned from my time on the Vestry that we can all contribute, and so many do, in ways that are not always apparent when we arrive on Sunday morning. Far too many to name in this space, it’s the people of St. Mary’s who’ve made our transition a success, with new programs, expanded hospitality and fellowship, a resurgent youth program, a financial plan, and so much more. They people of St. Mary’s did not give up; rather by leaning in and recommitting, we’ve begun to reap a humble harvest.

As for my time on the Vestry, I was challenged and rewarded by serving on the Search Committee that called David. The committee spent countless hours patiently listening. I remain inspired by the team’s ability to listen and find common ground. From there my principle responsibility, besides showing up, was to organize the talents of our congregation to ensure that the church’s landscape and yard maintained its beauty and tranquility. And we supported the staff in reestablishing our plans and the requisite paperwork and documentation for the churchyard.

I can’t fully express my appreciation and admiration for our Vestry leaders during my 3 years. Their time and commitment knew no bounds. And their skills, simply amazing; each adapting their strengths and focus to the needs of the church at their appointed time. Al Rider—the brilliant strategist and diplomat. Tracey Ragsdale—so passionate for our mission and inclusive in her leadership. Karen Huennekens is as thorough and organized as they come, with no task too small, all with a sweet smile. I was blessed to work with them and watch them lead. I’d follow them anywhere.

So, my Vestry time helped me to understand how the church works, the perspectives of my fellow parishioners, what we need to continue our mission, and where I can help. It’s all about tilling the soil, planting the seeds and picking the weeds, so that St. Mary’s reaps the full potential of the harvest. I pray for each of you to have the same experience.

A Quiet Atmosphere

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, January 26, 2020

By: Eleanor Wellford, Priest Associate

Have you ever been on a retreat? My guess is that the answer is “Yes” and maybe more than once. So, here’s another question: Have you ever been on a… hold on…wait for it…SILENT retreat? The idea of that strikes terror into the hearts of some people (probably extroverts) and joy into the hearts of others (probably introverts). I fall into the latter category of people – those who are introverts and find joy in silent retreats.

I have recently returned from one. There is an Episcopal monastery in Cambridge, Massachusetts called Society of St. John the Evangelist, or SSJE for short. The brothers who live at the monastery follow a Rule of Life which includes prayer and service, and which expresses a common commitment to faithful discipleship. One of their ministries is hospitality, which means they open their monastery to guests who are seeking a quiet atmosphere for prayer, reflection and retreat in the setting of a monastic community.

Guests are invited to join in the rhythm of monastic prayer in the chapel and in the refectory for simple, yet delicious meals – probably something I look forward to the most. Actually, maybe not. Maybe it’s the smell of the chapel with its incensed-soaked wood or the way the brothers break into harmony when singing or chanting. Maybe it’s the taste of the communion bread or the bells signaling that a service is about to begin. And then there’s the view of the Charles River from my room where I can watch the dedicated practice of crew teams from the surrounding Ivy League schools.

I cherish this time of rest and refreshment and am amazed at how quickly the time flies when I am there. Perhaps the hardest part of a silent retreat is re entry which first hits me when I arrive at Logan Airport. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the benefits of the retreat to dissipate. I’m hoping that some of the times of reflection and worship will, like the incense absorbed by my clothes, linger for longer.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence…” Psalm 62:1