My Journey to Ordination

Weekly Reflection, Friday, June 17

By: Kilpy Singer

After over a decade of discernment and preparation, I will be ordained on Saturday, June 25. I’m sure some day that will feel like no time at all, but right now it feels akin to a 40-year wilderness experience. Now that the day is finally here, I’ve found myself reflecting on these past 12 years and all that they’ve held. The road to this point has been anything but simple or easy, yet God has proved faithful each and every step of the way.

I first felt a call to ministry when I attended a two-week vocational discernment at Union Presbyterian Seminary at the age of 17. As a high schooler, the prospect of serving God and God’s people through a life of ordained ministry was a little terrifying and exciting, but I promised to put one foot in front of the other and see where it took me. My home church at the time, First Presbyterian on Cary Street, raised me up and supported me as a young person. It was there that I first preached, served as a Youth Ministry intern, and explored this call. That community still has a huge piece of my heart.

I eventually made my way to the Anglican Communion and, in particular, to the Episcopal Church. However, while my denomination home changed, my pull towards ordained ministry had not. I had no idea how things would all shake out, much less where I would even end up, but I knew that God was with me. After lots of conversations, praying, and even some avoidance, I began seminary at Duke Divinity School in 2016 alongside my husband Blake.

It is only by the grace of God that we made it through those three years, but we kept putting one foot in front of the other. At times, the only thing that sustained us was peanut butter sandwiches, Morning Prayer, and the memory of how God had called us. After graduating, we moved to Richmond and began the ordination process through the Diocese of Virginia. Since then, we’ve completed countless interviews, applications, ordination exams, and even psychological evaluation (don’t worry, I passed). Now, God willing, we will both be ordained as transitional deacons on Saturday, June 25 and as priests in early 2023.

12 years ago, when I heard from God, I had no idea know how challenging of a road this would be. I also could not even begin to understand how much beauty and joy it would bring. Now, I can’t imagine it any other way. And as I become an ordained person and step into my new role here, I am so grateful to God for this journey and for bringing me here to St. Mary’s.

Thankful to have had St. Mary’s

Weekly Reflection, Friday, June 10

By: John Wootton, Graduating High School Class of 2022

As I look back on my high school years, while preparing for the next stage of my life, I am thankful to have had St. Mary’s as a place of joy and solace. One of my first experiences at St. Mary’s was as the sole 9th grader going through confirmation. At first I was nervous and uncomfortable, as I did not know any members of the class. However, thanks to the mentorship of St. Mary’s leaders, especially David May and Emily Bruch, I ended up feeling secure, and ultimately reaffirming my relationship with God, which has been one of my most meaningful experiences at St. Mary’s.

One of my sweetest memories of St. Mary’s is my grandmother Bam’s memorial service. The outpouring of love and support during this difficult time was incredibly helpful for my entire family, and the service was a beautiful way to honor her. I especially appreciated reading a passage, along with my brother and sister, during the service, and seeing the genuine support from all those who attended. This service will always hold a special place in my heart.

Towards the end of my high school days, I had the opportunity to assist with the Christmas pageant this past winter. Serving partly as “security” for the more restless, youngest participants, I loved helping the children as they helped the whole St. Mary’s community celebrate the birth of Christ. This pageant spoke to the strong sense of friendship and community that is present at St. Mary’s. I look forward to being a witness for these young St. Mary’s children as they grow and serve as acolytes, readers, and are confirmed themselves. I have also loved coming to St. Mary’s each Sunday and personally knowing the leaders of every service. This connection has allowed me to get more out of each lesson and strengthen my connection with both the church and with God.

While moving forward to the next part of my life will be difficult and scary at times, I know I will always be able to come back to the Church for support. I am thankful for the lessons I have been taught while at St. Mary’s, and I feel I have left it as a better person with a stronger spiritual connection.

Electing a new Bishop

Weekly Reflection, Friday, June 3

By: David May, Rector

As I write this, we are anticipating electing a new Bishop of Virginia this coming Saturday. The Church (you, me, and all the members of the Body of Christ in this diocese) will gather and pray together for the Holy Spirit to guide us in a Special Electing Convention represented by local parish delegates – both lay and ordained. Then we’ll vote. The votes are tallied in two columns – the Lay Order and the Clerical Order. To be elected, one of the four nominees will need to gain a majority of votes in both orders on the same ballot.

In the Episcopal Church, we take responsibility together for electing and naming a new Bishop rather than one being appointed through an authoritative Bishop. This process highlights a long-standing hallmark of Anglicanism which is our belief that authority is expressed most fully and faithfully when it is exercised through the gathered community of Christ’s Church. We seek and find the mind of Christ as we gather as his Body.

This is an important election for many reasons. First and foremost, I would say, is that there has been no Diocesan Bishop serving since Bishop Shannon Johnston retired on November 3, 2017. Bishop Susan Goff, Bishop Suffragan, was authorized by the Standing Committee of the Diocese to serve as the Ecclesiastical Authority – the person or persons in whom the authority of the Bishop resides. But we have not elected a Diocesan Bishop since Bishop Shannon was elected on January 26, 2007. Since Bishop Shannon retired, we have been in a necessary extended interim time.

During that time serving as Ecclesiastical Authority, I want to express what enormous personal respect and affection I have for Bishop Susan. The work and ministry she was given to do came during a season of unprecedented challenge beginning with a worldwide pandemic. I understand that she was led to make choices that frustrated, even angered people. But her leadership – some of which was conducted while being treated for cancer – during these past years has been compassionate, clear, faithful, and steady. In the best of times, the ministry of a Bishop is challenging, but her time was more than that. I thank God for her and rejoice in her gift of retirement beginning on January 1, 2023.

Our new Bishop will begin his ministry in a difficult but promising time. Bonds of affection and trust need to be rebuilt among us. Over the next few years, parishes will be challenged to increase giving to the Diocese from levels that rank at or near the lowest in the Episcopal Church. But our new Bishop will also lead us in a time of great promise. My own view is that the Church is called to bear its witness in a time when the world is especially hungry for the Good News of Jesus. Our world and people are hurting. And angry. And fearful of one another. We bear God’s good word and raise up a new Bishop for such a time as this.

I hope you will pray with me for the Holy Spirit’s good work in raising up a new Bishop for the mission and ministry of the Church, and prayers for the Holy Spirit to guide him in our new beginning together.

Do not Leave us Comfortless

Weekly Reflection, Friday, May 27

By: David May, Rector

In the Church’s annual cycle of sacred time with Jesus, we are just a few days past Ascension Day. That day is the Church’s memory of the last time we saw Jesus before he was taken up into the life of God. Jesus said before he ascended to the Father that we are to stay put and wait together for the Spirit to come; stay together and wait for God to act. This Sunday, as we wait, we will pray together: “Do not leave us comfortless, but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us….”

I feel this prayer profoundly today. We are just a few days past the shooting in Uvalde, Texas where 19 children and two of their teachers were gunned down and killed by a young man. And today is less than two weeks after another young man – an avowed white supremacist – shot and killed ten dear souls at their local grocery story because they were black.

Do not leave us comfortless, Lord, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us.

In the world we are in right now, what do you hope the Spirit will strengthen in us when it comes? What do you want the Spirit to strengthen in you so you will not be left comfortless? Asking ourselves questions like these is important in this time of waiting for God to act. What do we need for God’s Holy Spirit to strengthen in us?

In the words of the Nicene Creed, the people of God proclaim that the Spirit is the source and giver of all life. The Spirit is the power of the prophets’ words to be God’s Word to speak truth that casts down and raises up. And the Spirit creates a holy communion of people to bear witness that the power of forgiveness is greater than the brokenness we know so well. And that the resurrection of the dead is what God does with our death.

Strengthen life. Strengthen truth. Strengthen the faith of the Church in its witness to the world.

When the Spirit comes, we will not be left comfortless. Until then, I hope – to put it simply – that you will come to church this Sunday where we can all be together in one place, to wait together, and to pray. Come Holy Spirit, come. Strengthen us.

A Good Goodbye

Weekly Reflection, Friday, May 20

By: David May, Rector

The Gospel readings in these recent Sundays of the season of Easter all come from what is sometimes called ‘The Farewell Discourse’ of the gospel according to John. Jesus, after sharing a last meal with his disciples, is saying goodbye. But what his friends can’t quite know is that it is a goodbye that will bring a new beginning for his life with them and with us.

Goodbyes are hard. But Jesus stays put with his disciples and doesn’t turn away from their questions of what will be next without him. He doesn’t turn away from the loss that goodbyes bring.

Goodbyes are hard. But they are so important. Staying put with each other as we say goodbye lays hands of blessing on all that has gone before. Staying put with each other as we say goodbye confirms that what has gone before was true and good and can’t be taken away. If we just slide out a side door without saying goodbye, it inevitably casts doubt on what went before.

Jesus shows us what a good goodbye is. The kind of goodbye that makes way for a new beginning. So that is what we are trying to do this Sunday in saying a good goodbye to Eleanor as she retires from the active ministry of our parish. It’s what we owe a good friend and pastor: to let her know that she and our life together have mattered, and that can’t be taken away. It’s how she will be equipped to go forth from here in peace.

And a good goodbye matters just as much for all of the rest of us too. This good goodbye is how we walk the path that Jesus walked as his time with his friends was ending. It’s how we stay healthy by honoring what has been and make way for the next new beginning. Good goodbyes are what make new beginnings possible.

So, please plan to come to church this Sunday for Eleanor. But also for the life of our parish and for the new beginning that will come. Come share a good goodbye.