How are you called to reconnect?

Stewardship Reflection, Friday, October 1

By: Clara Laing, Member of the Stewardship Committee

Six years ago, Kevin and I had just moved back to Richmond and were visiting St. Mary’s. Church was over, and I had taken my three-year-old son to the playground to burn off some cookies-and-juice-fueled energy when I heard the friendliest southern voice ask our names, if we were new to the church, and if she could email us about opportunities to get involved. My guess is that most people who are new to St. Mary’s have a similar story about being welcomed by one or more of the amazing clergy, staff, or parishioners at our church, but my connection to St. Mary’s started with Amelia McDaniel. She saw new faces and pulled us in.

In the years to come, I began to work with Amelia on the Children’s Ministry Committee and discovered that the goal for each child in our Sunday School program is to feel known, loved, and a sense of belonging in our St. Mary’s community. No matter our age or background, isn’t connection – big or small, in an unfamiliar situation or even in day-to-day life – something we all are searching for? I think that is what God wants us to feel about our relationship with Him: that we belong in God’s kingdom and that we are known and loved as a child of God. We seek out the places that feel like home, where we feel a safe, secure sense of belonging and connection, and over the years one of these places for me has become St. Mary’s.

As the Children’s Ministry Committee was trying to figure out what outdoor Sunday School would look like this fall, I was worried that some of the younger children might not remember their friends after being separated during the pandemic. Amelia assured me that children reconnect by playing together, which is why playground time is an important part of the Sunday School curriculum. This is amazing to watch and so true…if you have never stopped by the playground on your way to the church service, I invite you to witness our youngest members of St. Mary’s playing together again. It is reconnection at its best, and something I will never take for granted!

I have thought a lot about how we adults will reconnect at St. Mary’s after time apart. David May has invited us to get involved in new ways and be a part of this community that is welcoming us back home. Whether it is cooking a meal, volunteering with the Outreach Committee, going to Sunday School, or welcoming a new face on the playground – how are you called to reconnect with our St. Mary’s community? As we begin to come together again, please join me in pledging to financially support St. Mary’s in whatever way you are able. My stewardship pledge is my “thank you” to God for the blessings and abundance in my life and for St. Mary’s where we are connected in God’s love.

“Still Called to be the Light”

Stewardship Reflection, Friday, September 24

By: Wayne Dementi

“Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16

These are such familiar words to us often heard during the passing of the offertory plates. It is always a bright reminder, especially these days. I have been hearing these words all of my life. My experience with Men’s Spiritual Practice prompted me to more fully study this verse. For most of my life I have thought that “your light” referred to my light – my good works, my faith, my goodness. Theologians will explain “your light” refers to Jesus’s light, that Christ is the only spiritual light of the world. “That they may see your good works” refers to those in darkness who are prompted to see God’s good works as carried out by his disciples. That’s where we come in – to display the light of Jesus by doing the good works which God intends. That is why it matters so much that we do the good works God gives us to do.

At St. Mary’s we are so fortunate to experience, firsthand, how God works in shaping what we do in his glory. God called us in so many ways to wage war on the pandemic. His love, and our response has been heartwarming. What goes on around here is why! We rallied as a parish family to the call. I believe we were able to do so because of our wonderful clergy and staff, and through life within our vibrant parish ministries. We successfully reached out to care for our neighbors, within and outside of our parish, in so many creative and caring ways.

As you think and pray about your 2022 pledge commitment, please allow your thoughts to reveal to you a sense of gratitude for God’s generosity. We are still called to be the light. May you find the work of your pledge dollars to be fulfilling. As we celebrate God’s work at St. Mary’s and look forward to 2022, we hope you will join us by making a pledge by Sunday, October 31.

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.