A Homily for the Service in Thanksgiving for the Life and Ministry of Allen Mead Ferguson

Friday, July 1, 2022

By: David May, Rector

I’m not sure of the exact date but sometime in the spring of 2018 I received a letter from our dear brother in Christ, Allen. Allen. Oh my gosh, such a beautiful, complex, full-of-life, simultaneously a sinner and redeemed (as Martin Luther would say), larger-than-life, perplexing, sometimes challenging with his dogged persistence, with as big a heart as it is possible to have kind of man. Allen. God bless him. I’m going to miss him very much.

Anyway, I was still living on the Northern Neck but we were beginning to make plans to move up here to join in the ministry of this parish. Allen’s letter came maybe three days after it was announced that I’d be coming to St. Mary’s; maybe two days, actually. I remember taking his letter out of the mailbox and being impressed by its…heft. The envelope was bursting at the seams. When I opened it, I discovered that his letter was written on fifteen pages of good, proper sturdy stationary. Fifteen pages! Hand-written, of course. I can’t tell you all of what he wrote because there were places where (forgive me, Allen) his handwriting was utterly illegible. (As a side note, I told Allen thank you for the kindness of his letter when I finally met him in the flesh, but I did say that there were a few places in the letter where I couldn’t make out the sense of what he’d written. He let me know that there was nothing wrong with his handwriting. Maybe my inability to read what he had written was more a deficiency on my part. I told him that my sins were many and ever before me but an inability to read was not one of them. And we went back and forth like that for a while. Which I just loved. And so did he. And there was lots of laughter from us both. If you can believe it, that first conversation with Allen was one of those signs I received from our gracious God when I first got here that let me know that maybe I was in the right place after all.)

What I could read and what I can remember of his letter was full of enthusiasm and encouragement and hope for St. Mary’s going forward. In some ways, his letter read like an official proclamation – very formal in its language and expression. But mostly it was a hearty, sincere welcome with the pledge to do everything he could to be of support. And in that he was unfailingly true to his word.

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A Sermon for the Third Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, June 26, 2022

By: Kilpy Singer, Associate Rector

 

James and John, two disciples of Jesus, are on the road with him, headed towards the place where he will eventually be crucified, resurrected, and ascended. They are making this long trek from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they need places to stay along the way. So Jesus asks James and John to go ahead to a Samaritan village, but the village doesn’t receive Jesus. They want nothing to do with this man or his friends. The disciples, what do they do but ask if they can burn the place down. “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” Well, that’s one option…I kind of imagine this devilish grin on their faces, reminiscent of their days of boyhood pyromania.

James and John, and that deeply human part of them, want to see judgement cast upon this Samaritan village. Jesus, the Son of God, is on a journey, and with each step forward he is another step closer towards his brutal death. He’s done nothing but teach good news and heal the people. And these people have the audacity to close their gates in his face. Well then, they’re gonna get what’s coming to them. Call down the heavenly fire!

If I’m being honest, it’s a little satisfying to give people what’s coming to them. If my two older brothers trip me, then I push them. Judgment, payback, feels good and even right. It keeps people in line, it shows us that our actions have consequences. It’s been a part of the way the world has worked as long as we can remember. Like the ancient concept of karma. What happens to you is a direct result of what you do to others. Or the biblical law from Exodus, an eye for an eye.

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A Sermon for the Second Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, June 19, 2022

By: David May, Rector

 

I think it’s true – because of the way God has made us – that we will do or try to do those things that follow our heart’s desire – and sometimes in the most extraordinary ways, come what may. Which is, frankly, why I preach the way I do. Not that I’m trying to set up too much of a straw man but I’m not interested in listening to someone stand up here and say ‘here’s what’s wrong with you and here’s what you need to do’. There’s not much of our heart’s desire in that as far as I can tell.

And it’s not just me who embraces this homiletical principle. Augustine of Hippo said that after years of reading and contemplating the Holy Scriptures, and searching his own heart and the mysterious intentions of his own will, and countless hours on his knees in prayer, that he had discovered what the problem was. After all that he came to this conclusion: ‘it’s me. I’m the problem”. And at some fundamental level from which his own humanity sprang he knew that no amount of good advice or wise observations or haranguing by preachers was going to change that. On his own, his best efforts weren’t going to move the needle – not really. Only the thing he could fall in love with, only the thing he discovered was his heart’s desire, would change him. He would obey only what he saw his heart already loved.

To put it simply, in Jesus God has given us his heart’s desire and ours: Jesus, who in this gospel reading today heals our blindness so we may see as he sees, who calls his children to come away from the land of the dead to the living, to come in from the cold, who breaks the chains of our captivity, and welcomes home those who are lost.

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A Sermon for the First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday

Sunday, June 12, 2022

By: Perrin Gilman, Graduating High School Senior, Class of 2022

Four years ago, I thought that I would follow the traditional school pathway in my area from Tuckahoe Elementary, to Tuckahoe Middle, and lastly, to Douglas Southall Freeman High School. As a shy eighth grader, I had to make the difficult decision between going to Trinity Episcopal School or going to Freeman. I was torn between the two because if I went to Freeman, I would be comfortable as I would be going to school with people I grew up with throughout my entire life. On the other hand, at Trinity, I would have been immersed in a smaller academic setting that would also allow me to branch out. It’s funny how it all played out because the last time I gave a sermon here at St. Mary’s, I noted that I officially made my decision to go to Trinity. And now I’m here, a Trinity alum, delivering yet another sermon about my future.

Now, why am I telling you this, you may ask? My decision between Freeman and Trinity was a difficult one. Going out of my comfort zone to go to Trinity was a big step for me. As I wrote in my sermon from 4 years ago, I stated, “God knows where we will end up, but we need to take the right path to get there.” Going to Trinity meant that I had to leave all of the people that I’ve gone to school with for the past 9 years. These people supported me, held me up, and shaped me as a young person. I couldn’t imagine leaving all of that behind, but I did. I knew that when I walked through the doors at Trinity on the first day of school, I was going to feel alone. Was I really alone, though? No I was not. God was right by my side, guiding me down this new and unexplored path that would ultimately impact my future. So, I am telling you this because I now know that God is with you as you make difficult decisions and will also be there for you as they unfold.

If I were to tell you that my high school experience was full of sunshine and rainbows, I would be lying. This big step out of my comfort zone was full of many new academic and social challenges, but I persevered. I discovered my passion for leadership, public speaking, and even enrolled and excelled in the International Baccalaureate Program. I realized that God led me to Trinity for a reason, and little did I know that this very reason would guide me to my next chapter in my life story.

In John chapter 16; verse 13, Jesus said to his disciples, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” Based on my unexpected yet exciting new path, I discovered my own truth while at Trinity: I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. Throughout my high school decision and journey, I learned that life is not just one straight path. It is made up of many twists, turns, and bumps along the way; but in the end, the truth is revealed that makes it all worth it. My “things that are to come” are starting a new chapter in Fort Worth, Texas in the Fall. I will be attending Texas Christian University while majoring in Strategic Communications. It’s safe to say that my passions that I discovered at Trinity led me to this point.

Now I have come to really believe that I was meant to go to TCU from the get-go. Everyone said that there is this “feeling” that you get when you find the right college, and what do you know: right when I stepped foot on TCU’s campus during my tour last May, I immediately knew that TCU was the place for me. I had never been so certain about something in my life, which was a new feeling for me since I previously struggled when choosing between two high schools. Fast forward to application deadlines… I applied early decision to TCU, and this past December, I officially became a Horned Frog!

I didn’t fully understand the significance of choosing Trinity as my high school until recently. Signs directing me to my path to TCU began appearing. I soon found out that the TRINITY River runs right through Fort Worth. If this wasn’t fate, I didn’t know what was. As the Trinity River flows through Fort Worth, I will always be reminded that Trinity Episocpal School led me to TCU. As the song “Texas” by George Strait says: “Fort Worth would never cross my mind” if it wasn’t for Trinity.

Once again, like my high school decision, I am taking a big step out of my comfort zone. I am going halfway across the country for college, but this time, I know how to handle being outside of my comfort zone. I know that breaking the “norm” and living outside of the box can only make me stronger and allow me to pursue my passions. I also realize that I will have many more opportunities to live outside of my comfort zone in college and well beyond. I am hoping that my story of breaking the norm inspires you to go out of your own comfort zone. No matter where you are in your life, I challenge you to spread your wings and go outside of the norm and make your impact on the world because God is with you, every step of the way.

Amen.