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.

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.

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!

My First Communion

Lenten Reflection, Friday, March 11

By: Amelia McDaniel

I was a child when the new Book of Common Prayer was put together. One of the major changes made was that children were invited to the Eucharist. No longer was Confirmation the “admittance” to the altar rail. All baptized children were included in the feast.

I attended a small church near Kentucky Lake in the summers. Father Ray Lord, or Father Lord, was our priest and he and my mother decided that at the age of five I was ready to participate in this new option. For several weeks, Father Lord and I dutifully worked our way through a booklet where he asked me questions and I drew pictures and “wrote” my responses with my “emerging reading skills.”

The day of my first communion came. It was the Feast of St. Peter and the service was to be held outdoors at a family friend’s lake house followed by a big fish fry. Just before the service a storm rolled in and the skies opened up. So it was that I took my first communion while kneeling on sculpted green shag carpet in front of a dining room table. The power was out and it was dim. There is a blurry photo I have of the day. You can see me, towheaded with a Dorothy Hamill haircut with my grandmother and godmother standing beside me smiling.

It is a prized photo for me. Not because it really shows much of anything because it is so blurry, but because I remember that moment as clear as day. I can smell the musty storm air and the feel of the carpet on my knees. I can smell the bitter sweetness of the wine and recall how new that was to me. Mostly, I remember feeling that I was being included in something bigger than myself. I remember that my family was proud of me. (That was until I went sliding down the big grassy hill in the rain in the white dress my mother had made for me.)

Being able to participate in the Eucharist is one of the practices that forms us without too much fanfare or explanation. The mystery and power of this gift to us from Jesus will never be fully understood or explained, no matter what your age. This is the feast for all of God’s people and that includes the little ones.

So, we want to introduce St. Mary’s little ones to this feast through an interactional learning workshop. David and I will lead an instructed Eucharist on Saturday, March 19 for children (ages 4 – 5th grade ideally) to learn about this sacrament. We will begin by baking bread together in the kitchen followed by an instructed Eucharist in New St. Mary’s. If you have wondered about how to introduce your children to communion, this is a great opportunity to learn together. Please reach out to me if you are interested in participating.

Do this in Remembrance of Me… Heal

Lenten Reflection, Friday, March 4

By: Susie Salsitz

When Ashley asked me if I would be interested in writing a Lenten reflection, my first reaction was, “WHAT?! What on earth would I reflect on?” Then, Ashley told me that the Lenten Speakers on Wednesday evenings are reflecting on Jesus’s request, “Do this in remembrance of me…heal, forgive, proclaim, show compassion.” Immediately I thought of my father-in-law, Murray, and my memorial to him.

In the summer of 1978, when Murray was 62 years old, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Honestly, we really weren’t surprised. He smoked Camel cigarettes for years! What did surprise us was how quickly he got really, seriously sick.

It was over 40 years ago. I don’t remember the details, but Murray needed blood. The family was encouraged to donate blood to replace the blood he was given. I had never donated blood! I had never even thought about donating. The very thought creeped me out! Volunteering to have a needle stuck in my arm?! ICK! Too scary!

But Murray was getting a lot of and needed more blood. The hospital was “encouraging” us to donate over and over. I felt guilty. I was supposed to be an adult! I should step up and do this for my father-in-law. So, I made the appointment and went to the Red Cross and stuck out my arm.

Guess what? It wasn’t bad at all! A pinch at the beginning was the only painful part. Why had I been such a baby? I ended up donating blood three times for Murray. I would have donated more but he passed away in October, just a few months after his diagnosis.

After that experience I thought about how important blood donation is – how important it is for the healing of others. There is no artificial blood. Blood is needed day in and day out, 24/7, 365 days a year. The only way to get blood is for generous people to come forward and volunteer. The reason I donated blood in the first place was to help heal my father-in-law. Then it came to me that I could continue donating in remembrance of him.

Since I started in 1978, I have donated well over 250 gallons of blood. Over the years I learned that my blood is special. I’m part of the 20% of the population who is CMV negative. My blood is necessary for the healing of cancer patients and premature babies! Now that I am retired and have more time, I donate platelets instead of whole blood. It’s more time consuming, but I have the time! There is a terrible blood/platelet shortage right now. Please, consider helping to heal people by donating blood!

Lent is a time for us to take on certain spiritual practices. You could say that donating blood is a spiritual practice of mine. Will you consider donating as a practice?