Taking the Time to Practice

Lenten Reflection, Friday, April 1

By: Ashley Cameron

I recently described my viewpoint on my personal relationship with God like a relationship with a dear friend. There are seasons when we know every minute detail of each other’s daily lives. And then there are seasons where we go months with only sporadic check-ins. The relationship ebbs and flows but there is never any love lost in either season of life. Lately, my relationship with God has been one where there are only sporadic check-ins. But there has been no love lost.

This Lent, I decided to enter a season where God and I were back in the “knowing every minute detail” phase or at least have more than an occasional, “Hey, how’s it going?” So, I took on practicing Centering Prayer with David May and the small group on Thursday mornings. Fr. Thomas Keating, a central figure in the Centering Prayer movement, writes, “[centering prayer] is a discipline to foster the relationship [with God].”

The practice is for you to settle in a comfortable position, close your eyes, focus on a sacred word, and then sit in silence for about 20-30 minutes. As David reminds us, when you have thoughts float in, simply brush them away and focus back on the sacred word. It seems simple enough, but for myself who is constantly thinking of the next five things on my to-do list, it is difficult to let go of what is going on around and within me for 20 minutes of silence. I even told someone that I wasn’t sure if Centering Prayer was an efficient use of my time.

I continuously had these thoughts creeping in and thought that this is not what Centering Prayer is “supposed to be.” But then I realized that these thoughts weren’t ones of daily tasks and chores, but deeper wanderings of my imagination. I remembered ideas and longings of doing new projects or hobbies that would bring me great joy and allow me to be in conversation with God that have recently been lost within the busy day-to-day.

This someone’s response to me was, “I want to affirm that this is absolutely an efficient use of your time because, in being a spiritually whole person, there is no better use of your time than making time for your relationship with God. And I would invite you to consider that maybe what it is ‘supposed to be’ is what it ends up being.”

It was a reminder that in cultivating my relationship with God, it isn’t “supposed to be” one way or another. Rather, that as long as I’m taking the time to practice simply being, then it will deepen. And if this practice ebbs and flows in my routine, there is no love lost between myself and God. God will always be present.

2022 Lenten Speaker Series: Do this in Remembrance of Me… Forgive

This year’s Lenten Supper and Speaker series focuses of on the redeeming work of Jesus and our work of his Kingdom. It is titled “Do this in Remembrance of Me… Heal, Proclaim, Show Compassion, Forgive.” On Wednesday, March 30, the series concluded by focusing of the redeeming work of forgiving with guest speaker the Rev. Deacon Peggy Newman, a LCSW and Vocational Deacon in the Episcopal Church. Listen to Peggy’s talk in its entirety below:

Learning to Forgive

Lenten Reflection, Friday, March 25

By: Stephanie Williams

This week’s Gospel lesson is about forgiveness. As I sit here and think about that word, it occurs to me how foundational it is in our lives, starting even as young children. When our son knows he has made a mistake, the first question that he wants answered is, “Do you forgive me?” Yes, this is his question, even before the question, “Mom, can I have more Robux now?”

Confirming that I am “okay” with someone is what brings me comfort and allows me to move forward. Not only does it feel good to be forgiven, but it also feels just as good to forgive. There are times when I wrestle with whether or not I can or if I even want to, but ultimately, the burden is too heavy. The weight has to be lifted. Forgiveness is healing for both the Forgiver and the Forgivee. I hope that in our actions we are showing our son the real and positive impact of forgiveness so that he may grow up to be brave and forgive, even when it is really hard.

I am blessed to say that I have never been really “wronged” in my life. I have never experienced a tragedy incurred by another forcing me to forgive at a depth where the pressure is the strongest, but I know of people who have and have heard or read their stories that seem like modern Biblical tales. My husband told me the story of his Episcopal priest. His daughter was killed one night while at college in a random act of violence. The next Sunday was Father’s Day. This priest, the father who had just lost his daughter so tragically, stood in the pulpit, delivered the Father’s Day sermon, and forgave his daughter’s killer and asked the parish to pray for him. Like Jesus, these Forgivers are examples of some of the strongest, bravest people I know or have ever heard of. I want to be like them when I grow up.

2022 Lenten Speaker Series: Do this in Remembrance of Me… Show Compassion

This year’s Lenten Supper and Speaker series focuses of on the redeeming work of Jesus and our work of his Kingdom. It is titled “Do this in Remembrance of Me… Heal, Proclaim, Show Compassion, Forgive.” On Wednesday, March 23, the series continued by focusing of the redeeming work of showing compassion with guest speaker the Rev. Ben Campbell, a retired Episcopal priest. Listen to Ben’s talk in its entirety below:

We’re All Aging

Lenten Reflection, Friday, March 18

By: Eleanor Wellford

Life is getting somewhat back to the way we remember it being at St. Mary’s! We’re now offering Sunday worship in both Little and New St. Mary’s; we’re having Sunday School again, either inside or outside; we had a parish supper with Carrie Schaeffer as our amazing Lenten speaker; and we had our first parish breakfast – complete with Ralph’s and Bill’s world-famous cinnamon rolls. Both meals were where they were supposed to be: seated and in the Parish Hall. And starting this Sunday, the Forum will be back and led by David.

Something else happened last Sunday that wasn’t widely known throughout the parish. Eldergarden met for the first time since early 2019; and the work that was started and then stopped so suddenly because of COVID will soon begin again.

What is Eldergarden? It is a ministry of aging at St. Mary’s church and was started by Sydna Street, Jane Covington, and Peggy Talman Brockenbrough, when all three of these “Founding Mothers” were facing issues common to an aging population – health, death of loved ones, changing living situations, and grief associated with loss. Although they leaned on each other for support, they realized that what they were learning from their experiences could benefit others in our parish who will at some point face similar issues. Thus, the Eldergarden ministry was born.

“Aging is not for sissies” is certainly true and so is this bit of wisdom: “Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine!” Aging is all about change and no generation escapes it. It’s how we honor change, especially as it relates to aging, that is important and included in the ministry of Eldergarden.

As our current leader, Suzanne Munson Jernigan, said in our meeting last Sunday: “We all have expiration dates! We just don’t know when they are!” And that’s why preparation is so important. Beginning in the fall of 2022 and throughout the year, Eldergarden will be presenting speakers and workshops which should benefit those who are growing older or who are adult children of parents who are making important decisions about their future. The first series in the Fall will address “Choices for Living: Decisions for Retirement Years”.

We’re all aging. It’s part of this wonderful gift of life that God gave us. And thank God we have choices in how we live it. Let’s find out, together, what they are!