Thank You for Responding Faithfully

Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, November 17, 2019

By: Karen Huennekens and Scott Stephens, Senior and Junior Wardens

To the members of St. Mary’s, we would like to thank you for responding faithfully to the 2020 Stewardship Campaign during our eight week pledge period. Many of you increased your annual pledge, which is wonderful for the spirit and life of the parish. A lot of you have pledged for the first time, which is both comforting and important to know that we will continue to grow as a parish family. Your support highlights that we will be able to move forward in the daily life, the annual works, and the future plans of the church. After this pledge period, we have received 266 pledges for 61.5% participation of households. We are very close to our budget goal of $1,150,000 with results of $927.477.

As we prepare for the budget year ahead we are reminded of the various St. Mary’s ministries that rely on your support. From our outreach committee and youth and adult missions, to our fellowship and adult education programs, and all that are in between, there is a great need. We want to be able fully fund each one of these programs and needs as they answer to the passions of our congregation. Your stewardship helps meet these challenges.

In moving St. Mary’s forward, we must anticipate the financial needs of maintenance, and restoration and preservation projects. Presently, this stewardship campaign is the only source of income to meet these needs and the operating needs of a fully funded staff. As with other organizations, our costs continue to increase. Your stewardship helps meet these challenges.

We hope that you will continue to keep St. Mary’s in your prayers. Stewardship cannot be defined or contained in an eight week campaign. It should become a culture that reaches beyond satisfying our financial needs, and live in the hearts of all of us as we give thanks for the blessings that have been given to us. Each week we’ve had the written gift of a wonderful reflection that has been shared with us during this Campaign. Each week we’ve had a new story to look forward to that clearly steers us in recognizing our blessings, and clearly shows us how spiritually inclusive our membership is toward the well being of the parish. Your stewardship helps share this faith.

It has been exciting to see a re-energized and re-engaged congregation as a result of David’s leadership here at St. Mary’s. We know that our Vestry is dedicated to keep the momentum going! We thank you for your part in this year’s Stewardship Campaign as we join together and provide for all the possibilities that lie ahead of us.

Heaven’s Door

Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, November 10, 2019

By: Geoff Simril

Recently in Church, we sang the hymn, “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God.” I love that hymn. The first verse follows the title line with, “and all these things shall be added unto you.”

I realize more and more how all the things that have been “added unto me” have come from God. My parents, my education, my wife, my children, my friends, my health, and my opportunities for work–I have not deserved any of these. They are truly gifts.
Stewardship is just giving back a small portion of what God has given us, through our money and our time. The money is easy for us; it’s the only check that Patsy and I write that gives us joy. The time is easy for me, too, because when I volunteer at St. Mary’s, I receive more than I give.

From our first visit four years ago, St. Mary’s has been warm and welcoming. Our congregation really feels like a fellowship. If you have any interest in volunteering, the committees and staff will welcome you with a full embrace. There is so much we can do: teaching Sunday School, helping with the beautiful grounds, serving at breakfast or dinner, etc. Try ushering with your children; it feels wonderful to serve together, and it gives them something meaningful to do. When I first did this 11 years ago, my 8-year old son started paying attention to the service!

Lately, the two most rewarding activities for me have been helping to cook breakfast and serving as a Lay Eucharistic Minister. One gives me the joy of fellowship and the other, the joy of the liturgy. I can’t adequately describe how much fun it is to be in the kitchen early on Sunday morning working with others to put on a breakfast feast that you know will be appreciated—creating and giving and dining together. And, if your mind ever wanders in church as mine sometimes does, try serving as a LEM. From the altar, the service comes alive in vivid color, and you’ll appreciate every word that’s spoken. As 13-year-old acolyte Lucy Hagan said recently, “I feel more connected.”

Please pledge all that you can, and volunteer as much as you can. St. Mary’s needs us to do both. I’m happy to give and to serve because I need St. Mary’s.

The second verse of “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God” includes these words: “knock and it shall be opened unto you.” I don’t know what the Kingdom of God actually looks like. But I’m positive its front door is at St. Mary’s and it’s open unto you.

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.

We Found Our Church Home

Stewardship Reflection, Sunday, October 20, 2019

By: Harry Baldwin

Home is a comforting and peaceful place after returning from a trip. There is a deep sense of serenity and solace gained by being among familiar belongings. Home is a place where we can be ourselves, and be loved, respected, and cared for by those who mean the most to us.

My wife, Jeannie, and I returned home to Richmond after being in Alexandria for twelve years. We sought and found a new home to house our cherished items, to get a great night’s sleep, and to share good times with family and friends. We also sought a new church, a new parish home. It was logical to check out St. Mary’s and we soon knew we had found our church home.

St. Mary’s meets precisely our needs – to be ourselves among fellow parishioners, to be loved, respected and cared for by clergy and lay members. We come to be fed weekly at God’s table with divine nourishment, to be forgiven as only God can do, and to be with family. We are very comfortable and at peace in our St. Mary’s home.

The campus and church buildings are beautiful and meet the needs of young and old alike. What really makes St. Mary’s the wonderful, peaceful, and comforting home is the living presence of the Holy Spirit. God is exceptionally good to me, to Jeannie, to each of us. Everything I have, possess, and need is provided by God. I owe all to him.

Stewardship time is an opportunity to reflect and respond to God’s generosity and kindness. This opportunity affords us the specific time to evaluate what time, talents, and treasures can be returned to God. Like every other home, there are expenses of brick and mortar as well as personal needs. Clergy and staff must be compensated for their compassionate work. Most importantly, we want – not need – to show God our sincere gratitude for everything he has given to us. I personally receive far more from God in my parish home than I could ever give.

The biblical guidance for our stewardship effort this year is “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I ask you to consider how much our St. Mary’s church home means to you and to share your time, talents, and financial gifts for God’s work in this place. I urge you to increase your pledge or to give for the first time. To continue to invest in St. Mary’s will enhance the place where we are loved, respected, and cared for by God, fellow parishioners and staff. May the Holy Spirit continue to grace and bless our St. Mary’s home.