God is Good to Us

Stewardship Reflection, Friday, November 5

By: Harry Baldwin and Missy Roberts, Wardens of St. Mary’s Vestry

God is Good! – what a clear, simple, and profound statement. In general terms, the word “good” appears in the King James Version of the Bible 809 times while the word “great” is seen 669.

God is certainly good to us, both individually and collectively. God has graced us with faith and love for Him, while giving us well-being, friends to cherish, and family to love. Our Heavenly Father has abundantly graced us at St. Mary’s with a vibrant parish family, which offers us comfort, safety, and supportive relationships. In parts of the world, worship means risking one’s life and being susceptible to persecution or death – thankfully, this is not the case for us in the United States or at our parish in Goochland.
Since God is so good to us, how can we thank Him and express our gratitude.

  • As Senior and Junior Wardens, we offer you this meaningful and powerful process
  • Take an inventory of the ways which God has blessed you.
  • Call them by name.
  • Reflect on the ways in which these blessings have graced you.
  • Think how your life would be different without them.
  • Pray to God and thank Him for His goodness and mercy to you.

This inventory acknowledges our gratitude to God and expresses our profound thanks. When we were younger, our parents would often say, “Count your blessings.” We should not take God’s love and His gifts for granted.

Another way to express our gratitude to God is to extend kindness to others. St. Mary’s cares for each member of our parish family. During the pandemic, our parish found many ways to continue to care and support others; virtual worship services, “hand carried” meals, phone calls, and cards, our parish nourished each other. The Outreach efforts of St. Mary’s are not mere programs but a part of our parish DNA. They are tangible ways in which we can live out our call to be servants by serving others beyond the campus of St. Mary’s

St. Mary’s is a light to the world, whose light to the world will continue to shine and become even brighter when we express our gratitude to God. An additional method of expressing gratitude to God is to give financially to the work and spread of His kingdom. The strength of our financial position allows us to do God’s work. We urge you to pray, to reflect, and to ask for guidance in your pledge to St. Mary’s. Let your financial support and giving be a sincere and thoughtful expression of your gratitude to God for all of the good He has given.

“All things come of Thee, O Lord, and of Thine own have we given Thee. Amen”

Heavenly Sunshine

Stewardship Reflection, Friday, October 29

By: Charlie Bryan

Some fifteen years ago, Cammy and I were looking for a new church home. We were becoming dissatisfied with the church where we were longtime members. It had begun to make changes that rubbed us the wrong way such as the abandonment of the traditional hymnbook in favor of one of so-called “contemporary Christian music.” I simply could not adapt to that switch in style. The passage from Psalm 100 of “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” was increasingly joyless for us.

With an exterior that was 1970’s style in design and look, little natural light made its way through small stained-glass windows into the sanctuary which was symbolic overall of a certain melancholy that seemed to hang over the congregation. In our fifteen years as members, we had four ministers, two of whom were specifically asked to leave the church. When the annual financial appeal was made, we grappled with deciding how much to pledge. With all those distractions we rarely felt the presence of God. Finally, we agreed to look elsewhere.

Leaving one church and going to another, however, is not easy. Over the years, we had made many friends, most of whom we served together as elders and with committees. That’s where St. Mary’s comes into the story.
Much to my surprise, Cammy suggested that we give St. Mary’s a try. She was a lifelong Presbyterian who persuaded me, a Baptist, to join her faith soon after we married in 1969. But she said there was something about St. Mary’s that had always appealed to her. We had driven by it numerous times, and both the church itself and the tranquil wooded grounds with a churchyard had drawn us.

We showed up one Sunday morning, where we were greeted warmly as we entered. I was struck by how bright it was as sunlight poured into the sanctuary. I couldn’t help but think about an old Baptist hymn, “Heavenly Sunshine.”
Heavenly Sunshine! Heavenly Sunshine!
Flooding My Soul With Glory Divine
Hallelujah, I am Rejoicing
Singing his Praises. Jesus is Mine!

The beautiful sounds coming from choir loft and accompanying organ were divine and a stimulating sermon by Christopher Brookfield topped it all off. On our way home later, Cammy and I agreed that we had found the right church for us even after only one try.

A few months later after numerous return visits, we were confirmed as members of St. Mary’s. Not once have we regretted that decision. We can thank God that we have found a church home that has so much going for it—a caring clergy, great preaching, splendid music, outreach to those in need, and a friendly group of worshipers.

Sometimes I wonder how much we realize what a special place St. Mary’s is. That alone should guide our giving generously for the year ahead so that we can continue in heavenly sunshine.

The Many Tables We Gather Around

Stewardship Reflection, Friday, October 22

By: Charmaine Trice

A recent Sunday scripture reading ended with, “…mercy triumphs over judgement. What good is it my brothers and sisters if you say you have faith but do not have works?” Simple acts of mercy and kindness change lives.

I find something nearly every Sunday in the reading, lesson, or sermon that speaks to the mission of outreach. I suppose that makes complete sense because we are learning about the life of Jesus – a man who walked with, sat with, and shared a table with the broken, the lonely, the sick, and the poor.

Some time ago, I stumbled across a quote that stuck with me: “I’m not interested whether you have stood with the great; I’m interested whether you have sat with the broken.” Recently, I was reminded of this during an Outreach Committee meeting – a group gathered to help us carry out the mission of Outreach: “…to seek and serve Christ in all persons, caring for and loving the most vulnerable …” At St. Mary’s and beyond these walls, there are many tables that we gather around with a shared purpose, and everybody has a seat.

In the past, we shared our St. Mary’s home with friends of CARITAS. I miss those times taking care of the needs of others in our home. The hustle and bustle in the kitchen with folks preparing and serving meals; many hands setting up a safe sleeping space for our guests; sitting together during meals, playing games, and having conversation. Pinned to the outreach bulletin board, you will find a note from a CARITAS guest and many other moments captured over the past 18 months of your generosity, graciousness, and works in action. We made room for everybody, and bit-by-bit our table grew into the community.

Most recently, we welcomed Cameron and Celeste of Education=Hope to St. Mary’s. Celeste’s descriptions of conditions in Ecuador, Haiti, Rwanda, and Kenya gave insightful meaning to the vulnerable – people living in desperate and difficult situations. Yet, living with hope and gratitude. Thanks to the devotion of St. Mary’s mission team who annually travel to serve in Quito, Ecuador, our table has grown to the world beyond.

Our tables are good reminders. Rather than getting bogged down in what often feels like a world full of adversity, animosity, and grievances, WE can do our part – the work of God – with hope, gratitude, and JOY, bit-by-bit.

Or one-by-one. Celeste recited a parable about a young boy who was walking along a beach covered with starfish. “Eagerly throwing them back into the ocean, one by one. The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled, and said, ‘It made a difference to that one!’” Simple acts of mercy and kindness change lives.

I am grateful for this home – St. Mary’s. To see so many come here to receive God’s love, so that we may give it back to our home, community, and beyond. That’s what our world needs right now. With God, all things are possible.

Words that the Walls of St. Mary’s have Heard

Stewardship Reflection, Friday, October 15

By: Harrison Higgins, Deacon Associate

There are two passages about rocks in the book of Joshua that I think are wonderful. In the first, chapter 4, twelve stones are taken out of the Jordan River where the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stood as the waters were backed up and the Israelites crossed over into the promised land. They were made into an altar and Joshua said, “when your children ask you in time to come, ’What do these stones mean?’ then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” (4:5,6)

The second passage is in chapter 24 when Joshua establishes a covenant between the Israelites and God and sets up a stone saying, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us for it has heard all of the words of the Lord which he has spoken to us.”

I love these images of stones hearing words spoken and rocks having meaning: meaning that persists through generations, words that hold us to promises made and keep us in times of trouble. Think of the words that the walls of St. Mary’s have heard, the ones we have spoken and the ones that have been spoken to us:

Most merciful God, we confess… Almighty God have mercy on you and forgive you all your sins…
Do you believe in God the Father? I believe in God the Father almighty…
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons… I will with God’s help.
Will you have this man/woman to be your wife/husband… I will.
Into your hands, O Merciful Savior, we commend your servant.. a lamb of your flock, a sinner of your redeeming…

These are just a few of the words that have guided and strengthened and held me. And they are attached to place – to walls and altars and windows and pews and altar rails – where God has met and fed and saved me. These buildings are vessels that hold something important; they are our anchors during the storms of this life, the beacons when we are in the dark, and a home with a family when we are alone.

Church is not always an easy place to love (neither am I) but I would be lost without it. Let’s take care of it and each other. Thank you for welcoming me into your lives.

Say “Yes!”

Stewardship Reflection, Friday, October 8

By: Patsy Simril, Member of the Stewardship Committee

Who doesn’t like to hear the word “YES”? It’s such a positive word.

Do you love me? Yes. 

Did Santa Claus come? Yes.

Did you get into UNC? Yes.

Did you get that job you wanted? Yes. 

Did you get a hole-in-one? Yes.

Do you love God with all your heart, mind, and soul? Yes.

I bet God likes to hear you say, “YES” to him, too!

Step 1: Say “Yes” to God. 

When I was teaching at St. Bridget’s School, the theme of Advent was “Say ‘Yes’ to God,” just like Mary did. It was so simple and easy for children to understand. And is so fundamental to our faith.

First and foremost, we begin by saying, “Yes” to believing. Some of us gradually come to know God like peeling the layers of an onion. Others have “Aha!” moments or even miraculous revelations. But some flirt with God, not ready to commit until they know Him better. If you fall into this last group, step two can help.

Step 2: Say “Yes” to church.

Let’s face it. Church makes getting to know God pretty easy. For one hour on one day a week, you get scripture with interpretation or reflection, prayers to help you learn how to speak to God, and beautiful rituals and music to get you in the mood. The best part is that at St. Mary’s you get all this while surrounded by a faith-filled community who is learning about God and growing their faith as you grow yours. It may be the most efficient hour you spend all week! I was in this phase for most of my life. It sustained me until my life settled down. Then I had the time, energy, and desire to move to step three.

Step 3: Say “Yes” to stewardship.

Some of us learn best when we act. Our church is filled with opportunities through ministries to serve God through time, talent, and treasure, so you don’t have to come up with your own. Each opportunity to serve is probably the best prayer or thank you that you can offer to God. Please don’t be discouraged if you don’t know which ministry to join. I feel certain that the clergy, staff, and St. Mary’s friends can help you discern which is a good fit for you. We also have the Holy Spirit on our side to nudge us in the right direction.

As you immerse yourself in God-centered experiences, you will grow; your children will grow; your relationships will grow. And St. Mary’s does a masterful job providing opportunities for your family’s growth. Just say “Yes!”