Congratulations, Graduates!!!!!

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Congratulations to all our 2018 St. Michael's graduates and their families!! Below are the names of those whom we know are graduating this year. Please keep them in your prayers as they begin the next part of their journey.

 

St. Michael & All Angel’s 2018 Graduates

 

Colleges and Universities

Matthew Lemley, Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering (Georgia Fogarty)

Ben Smith, The University of Mississippi (Charlean Smith)

Andrew Vassil, Mississippi State University (Georgia Fogarty)

 

High School

Jacob Brown (Jean Brown)

Olivia Heintschel (Jean Brown)

Sophie Horan, Savannah Arts Academy (Rob and Robin Horan)

Jack Kelly, Savannah Arts Academy (Kevin and Christine Kelly)

John Simshauser, Islands High School (John and Kim Simshauser)

Julia Elizabeth Vassil, Blessed Trinity High School (Georgia Fogarty)

 

Middle School

Luke Farmer (Terry and Julia Timmons)

Zachary Farmer (Terry and Julia Timmons)

 

A Blessing for our Graduates

All wise, all loving God, we thank you for all your gifts to us; for making us, for saving us in Christ, for calling us to be your people. Look with love on our graduates and bless them as they complete their years of school.May your Spirit give them many skills and talents, and help them to use these gifts for your glory and for the good of all people. In your kindness, guide them along paths that are level and smooth. We ask these blessings through Christ our Lord. Amen

The Feast of the Ascension

 The Ascension window at St. Michael's.

The Ascension window at St. Michael's.

This past Thursday was the fortieth day of the Easter Season, the day we celebrate Christ's ascent into heaven. The timing of the Feast of the Ascension, as it is known, has long created confusion about Easter Season. The season itself, known as the Queen of Feasts, is fifty days long, lasting from Easter Day until the Day of Pentecost. Ascension is always on a Thursday and comes ten days prior to Pentecost, but it is not the end of the Easter Season.

The old rubrics of the church, those instructions that tell us how to structure our worship and thus much of our doctrine, instructed that the Paschal Candle was to burn for all services from Easter Day until Ascension Day. During the reading from Acts on that day, when it mentions Jesus ascending into heaven and being taken from the sight of the disciples, the Paschal Candle was extinguished. While that is certainly a striking visual, it does give the sense that Jesus isn't just gone from our sight but is gone from us entirely. That's not what Jesus said, though, when he promised to be with us always, "even to the end of the ages." The Church decided to separate the putting away of the Paschal Candle from the Ascension, and to have it present and lit throughout the entire season of Easter.

This may seem a small thing and not worthy of much mention, but I would disagree. Jesus is always present with us, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we need to remember that. We have not been abandoned, and God has not moved on from us. That is not in keeping with anything we know about who God is or how God works. We do not always keep our promises, but thankfully, God does.

Third Sundays

 One of the best parts of belonging to St. Michael's...

One of the best parts of belonging to St. Michael's...

Last week I wrote about a new parish initiative, a ministry to our local police officers. I'm delighted to say that's underway. We think we have identified a space; now it's a matter of figuring out how to arrange and set it up. We also have a potential donor for the keypad entry lock for our doors. Stay tuned as details unfold about that.

This week I want to tell you about something else new at St. Michael's - Third Sundays. Okay, third Sundays, in and of themselves, are not new; we have one every month. What we do with them will be, though. On first Sundays we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries for the coming month (that will happen for May this Sunday, by the way); on second Sundays we gather and bless the food for the I AM Food Pantry (that particular ministry features prominently in this Sunday's sermon). Third Sundays, however, have sort of gone on without anything really special about them. We're going to change that.

Starting this month, Third Sundays will be our day to celebrate or mark something special going on in the life of congregation. It might be a ministry or a program - our children's formation program or the handbell choir; it might be a particular birthday or anniversary - someone's 50th wedding anniversary, perhaps; or it could be a special event in the general life of our congregation. It might also be a time to share a concern one or more of us is facing, though, one that needs us all to hold the people concerned in prayer for a time. It might be that someone is grieving a loss or will be taking leave of us because they're moving away. These are all things that happen in every home, in every family, in every congregation, but not every congregation seems to take to heart the joys and sorrows of its members the way St. Michael's does. We are a community of faith deeply connected to one another; Sunday mornings aren't just a time for us to pray or worship individually in the same room. There is a real sense that when something is happening to one of us, all of us are concerned with walking together through that event, no matter if it is cause for rejoicing or for mourning.

The caption of the photo above, "one of the best parts of belonging to St. Michael's," points to our common life together. If you are here, you belong to us because we all belong to Christ, and in him we are knitted together as one body, to live with, love, and serve one another. I hope that you'll help with this new approach to Third Sundays - not just taking part (I already know you'll do that without being asked) but by helping to identify those moments and happenings in our lives that need or deserve our attention. Please help us identify those parts of belonging to St. Michael's that need a space on a Third Sunday.

St. Michael and Law Enforcement Officers

 St. Michael's medallion from Rugged Rosaries

St. Michael's medallion from Rugged Rosaries

Did you know that St. Michael is the patron saint of police officers (among several other groups and individuals)? I only recently found that out. Because we live next door to the church, our family is quite aware of how often we hear police sirens zooming down either Washington or Waters Avenue. Putting those two pieces of information together has led to an idea forming in my head, one I have shared with our Vestry.

I'd like to create a space at St. Michael's for our local police officers to come when they are on duty and need a break. That might be simply a quiet place to sit and write a report, a place to have a moment's solitude and a hot cup of coffee, or a place to come in and pray if they need to. Following a tradition of our I AM Food Pantry, i also envision a place for them to leave prayer requests for us, so that we can hold them in our own prayers.

I wonder what it would mean to our local police force to know that there was a place at a church just for them whenever they needed it? To know that this parish was holding them, their work, and their families in our prayers, even if we've never actually met them? What might that mean for them as they go about their duties of keeping us and the rest of our community safe and protected?

I've found the St. Michael's medal pictured above for a pretty reasonable price. I'd like to offer it to the officers if they'd want one, as a tangible sign of our prayers for them and a reminder that St. Michael is watching over them as they work. In addition to that, there are a few other things we'd need to start this ministry. The first is a place inside our building that we could set aside for them; we'd need a Keurig and some supplies to go with it, so they could make a fresh cup of coffee; we'd need to replace the keyed lock on our Waters Ave door with a numeric entry lock, so that we could give them a code to enter the building at night. There are probably some other items we would want, but those should get us started.

If you're interested in helping start this ministry or in donating some of the items we need, please let Fr. Kevin know. We'll keep you posted as it unfolds and let you know when we launch it.

Ad Orientum

 Celebrating the Eucharist facing East or  ad orientum .

Celebrating the Eucharist facing East or ad orientum.

A couple of you have asked why the altar at St. Michael's is now "against the wall." It's a good question, and while I may not answer it satisfactorily, let me at least offer some thoughts. In liturgical language, this posture is referred to as ad orientum or "towards the East." A celebration of the Eucharist where the priest stands behind the altar, facing the congregation is known as versus populum, or "having turned towards the people."

Celebrating ad orientum is an ancient Christian practice, as St. Augustine references, "When we rise to pray, we turn East, where heaven begins. And we do this not because God is there, as if He had moved away from the other directions on earth..., but rather to help us remember to turn our mind towards a higher order, that is, to God." Since the sun rises in the East, that direction has long been associated with the resurrection; in CS Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, it is the direction in which Aslan's Country lies. When celebrants of the Eucharist face the the altar, they are also facing the same direction as the congregation, and doing so does enhance the notion that they are praying with the congregation as opposed to praying at them.

Versus populum also has its benefits. When the church is oriented that way, we are given a lovely image of the People of God gathered around the Table of God, but it is worth noting that this way of thinking implies a shift in theology about the nature of the altar itself. That's a lengthy subject best left to another article of its own. There is something moving about priest and congregation being able to see one another's faces during the celebration, but at the same time, doing so can lead us to believe that the priest is saying those words to the congregation rather than to God, on the people's behalf. I often see clergy deliberating making eye contact with the congregation during the Words of Institution, and I'm always reminded that at that moment they're supposed to be speaking for me, not to me. By the way, it seems versus populum came into being sometime during the sixteenth century, so while certainly not new, it was not part of the early Church's practice.

So why are we doing it as St. Michael's right now? We generally orient our liturgy this way during Holy Week, as one way of setting that time apart from the rest of the year. This year I've found the experience of celebrating ad orientum so profoundly moving that I haven't yet been able to bring myself to change back. There is a moment during the Words of Institution when I lift the chalice up over my head. At that moment, if i look at the chalice, in the curved surface of the cup, I can see the entire congregation, choir, acolytes, and Eucharistic Ministers reflected in its surface; that has come to be one of the most powerful moments of Sunday morning for me, as it gives me a glimpse of all of us, in St. Augustine's language, remembering to turn our minds toward God.

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts and experiences of our Eucharistic celebration facing East. Please share them with me.

Easter Alleluias

 The light spreads during the Easter Vigil, just before the first shout of "Alleluia" announces the end of Lent and the start of Easter.

The light spreads during the Easter Vigil, just before the first shout of "Alleluia" announces the end of Lent and the start of Easter.

As Episcopalians (and many other Christians, too!), Easter isn't simply a day; it's a season. Called The Queen of Feasts, it lasts fifty days until the Day of Pentecost. Longer than any other season outside of Ordinary Time, Easter is the most joyous time of the year. The church is decked in white; the readings are all about resurrection and renewal, life and hope.

Easter is also full of Alleluias, the great shout of praise. Alleluia, or hallelujah in Hebrew, translates as "Praise ye the Lord!" There is always an implied exclamation point at the end, for we do not mumble Alleluia; we shout it. It returns to the fraction anthem in the Eucharist where it had been omitted during Lent, as well as taking its place in the opening acclamation - "Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!"

In Easter - and only in Easter - Alleluia is added to the dismissal. Some parishes have adopted the custom (in direct violation of Prayer Book rubrics) of adding those Alleluias to the dismissal year round. I know some of our parishioners favor this practice as well. We don't do it, though, for the same reason we don't celebrate our birthday every day of the year. While we hopefully are thankful every day for our lives, and it's probably a safe bet that other people are happy we're around, too, we know that the celebration of our birth comes around once each year, on its anniversary. There is a different quality to our thanksgiving on that day, as there should be. Doing so marks that day as different from the rest of the year. The same applies for Easter. Yes, each Sunday is a feast of the Resurrection, and so in some sense each Sunday is a "Little Easter," but not every Sunday falls within Easter Season, that Queen of Feasts, and those that day deserve a little special treatment.

The Sacred Triduum

 Clockwise from upper right - Maundy Thursday, Holy Friday, Easter Vigil

Clockwise from upper right - Maundy Thursday, Holy Friday, Easter Vigil

As we make our way through Holy Week we find ourselves in a time known as The Sacred Triduum - Holy Three Days - spanning the time from evening on Maundy Thursday through the Great Vigil of Easter. While Christmas generally gets the most attention as far as church days go (at least here in America), these three days are the holiest time of the year for Christians.

Maundy Thursday  - called that from the Latin mandatum,  or commandment, is the celebration of the institution of the Lord's Supper, the washing of the disciples' feet, and the New Commandment given by Jesus - that we are to love one another as he loves us. All these are driven by the coming Passion of our Lord. All that we are as Christians takes its meaning from the events of this evening.

Good Friday - or more appropriately, Holy Friday - is the day we remember the crucifixion and death of Jesus. All decorations have been removed from the church, and our mood is somber and reflective. We are called simply to draw near to the cross of Christ and remain there with him. It is a difficult day, not only because we are commanded to be present to the sufferings of Jesus but to be reminded our our own part in causing them.

The Great Vigil of Easter, the first celebration of the Easter season, is our Passover. It is the night Christ passes over from death into life, the night we are joined in that holy journey as well. The Great Vigil starts in darkness; the new fire is then kindled, so that the Light of Christ may shine brightly in our lives and in the world.

These three days are really one event, and when we take part in that event we are joined to the life, death, and new life of Christ. In other words, we are changed and are never the same again. At this writing, we are squarely in the middle of the Sacred Triduum. Holy Friday services continue with Stations of the Cross at 6pm and the Good Friday liturgy at 7pm. We celebrate the Great Vigil of Easter at 8pm on Saturday evening. You are invited to join in this most holy of times as we witness and take part in the new life of creation once again.

Palm Sunday

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On Sunday (weather permitting, of course) we will gather in Daffin Park to begin the Liturgy of the Palms before processing down the street and into the church for the rest of our service. So begins the most important week not just in the Church year but in our lives. As Christians, our lives find their meaning in the life of Jesus and especially in the part of his life that lies between the Last Supper and the Resurrection. More on that in next week's post.

For this week I want us just to focus on Palm Sunday. We begin with recreating in our own time Christ's entry into Jerusalem where a cheering crowd as gathered to greet him. Their shout is "Hosanna!" - a shout of praise to God. The mood is all joy, excitement, and expectation. The long awaited heir to David's throne has come, and all will be set right.

We know, though, that in just a few days, by Friday, that shout will turn ugly, frenzied, and deathly. "Hosanna!" gives way to "Crucify him!" and we play the part of the raucous crowd turned angry mob. Given a choice, I expect most of us would much rather choose to play the first part but not the second, or if we're feeling particularly morose or repentant, we might decide we are unworthy to greet the Lord with palms and should stick to calls for his cross. Here's the truth, though - we're not allowed either of those luxuries. What makes Palm Sunday so powerful is that both of those words come out of our mouths. We are not only Christ's triumphant supporters or his sinister accusers; we are both, all the time. It is the turn from one to the other, the betrayal and treachery that lies within us, that Palm Sunday and Holy Week force us to confront and admit. WE see ourselves as we are - sometimes faithful and sometimes not; sometimes glad and other times filled with rage; sometimes loving but also often hateful. This week reminds us that not one of us is so good that we don't need redemption or so bad that we are beyond it. We are all in need of of God to save us and all within God's reach to do so.

Oh, and the first shout of joy - hosanna? Do you know what it actually means? "Save us, we pray."

Holy Week and Easter

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Holy Week begins this year on Sunday, March 25th, Palm Sunday. St. Michael's will hold services every evening of that week, Monday through Friday (along with a noonday service on Friday). Consider this a quick commercial plug for Holy Week services. Palm Sunday is moving and powerful, as we take our part in the two great crowds of Holy Week - the first welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem and hailing him as King of Kings, the second gathered in front of Pilate's headquarters, screaming for his death. Easter Day is joyful and glorious with bright flowers and cheerful hymns and celebration of the empty tomb. 

As wonderful as these two days are in their own respects, how we get from one to the other matters. If you think of those two days as bookends around Holy Week, then the days of that week make up the book in between them. Holy Week is the text, the story of Jesus' words and actions that reveal who he is more clearly than all the rest of his life put together. Holy Week is the condensed and concentrated version of the entire story of Creation and Salvation, a story we need to be a part of.

I have said for some time that if everyone came to every service during Holy Week, by the time we get to Easter Day, we wouldn't even need a sermon; we would all just "get it." I encourage you to come to church this Holy Week, not just once or twice, but every day if you can. Immerse yourself in these sacred stories, take part in the journey of Jesus from Palm Sunday to Easter, and i think you will come to see Easter in a whole new light.

Statement from the House of Bishops on Gun Violence

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Statement of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church 

Camp Allen, Texas

March 7, 2018
 

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19)
 

At this critical moment young people of the United States are inviting us to turn away from the nightmare of gun violence to the dream of choosing life. The young people of Parkland, Florida are calling for elected officials to: 
* ban the sale of assault weapons
* prohibit the sale of high capacity magazines
* close loopholes in background checks

Others are seeking to:
* ban the sale of bump stocks
* raise the age to 21 years to purchase firearms
* challenge the National Rifle Association to support safe gun legislation.

We, the bishops of The Episcopal Church, wholeheartedly support and join with the youth in this call to action.

At the same time, we acknowledge that black and brown youth have continuously challenged the United States to address the gun violence that they and their communities are experiencing. We repent that, as bishops, we have failed to heed their call.

As bishops we commit to following the youth of the United States in their prophetic leadership. To that end we will observe a day of Lament and Action on March 14th, one month to the day after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. We pledge ourselves, and we invite our dioceses, to participate in the "March for our Lives" on March 24 in Washington DC and in cities and towns across the United States. We recognize the urgency of this moment and we recommit to working for safe gun legislation as our church has called for in multiple General Convention resolutions. In addition, we pledge ourselves to bring the values of the gospel to bear on a society that increasingly glorifies violence and trivializes the sacredness of every human life.

We will walk with the youth of the United States today and into the future in choosing life.
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Our Handbells

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This Sunday our Handbell Choir is playing the prelude before the 10:30 service. This group of dedicated parishioners gathers every (and I mean every) Thursday at 12:30 to rehearse. They do not play every Sunday, and usually the pieces that they play are not terribly long, but they have become a vital part of the liturgical ministry of our congregation.

A prelude before the Sunday service isn't just background music, at least it's not supposed to be. It is an introduction of what is to come. Preludes point to and illuminate something that is to come, something we do not want to miss. One of the downsides (and I admit that there aren't many) to being clergy on Sunday morning is that I'm usually getting vested or making other last minute preparations for the service, and oftentimes I miss the prelude entirely. Sometimes, though, as i am putting on my Eucharistic vestments, the sacristy is otherwise empty, and all i hear is that piece of music drifting through the door leading into the sanctuary. I'm thankful for those moments, as they help me shift my thoughts and my intentions away from whatever else might have been occupying my attention and towards what is at hand - the celebration of the mystery of the death and resurrection of our Lord.

When the Handbell Choir provides the prelude, I cherish that time even more. You may have noticed that on those Sundays, the prelude actually begins at 10:30, not a few minutes prior. They do that specifically so all of us (even your sometimes tardy rector) can be present and settled and can turn our attention not just to the music they will play, but to that which it introduces, to that which is to come.

This Sunday the prelude is O Sacred Head Now Wounded, a lovely and traditional Holy Week composition. It points us not just to the mass that follows it but also towards Holy Week, towards Good Friday, towards the moment of our salvation and redemption. 

I am so thankful for our music program here, for our Organist and choir, and for the other musicians who on occasion accompany them. This week I am especially grateful for our Handbells, for their faithful ministry, and for the gift of the prelude they will offer.

The Way of the Cross

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As we enter the season of Lent, I want to remind you of a liturgy we offer to help mark this holy time, The Way of the Cross or The Stations of the Cross. The practice of walking in the footsteps of Jesus' last hours before he was crucified goes back at least until the fourth century. After legalizing Christianity, the emperor Constantine set up official markers along the path that Jesus walked from Jerusalem to Calvary, and the Church's traditions hold that Jesus' mother Mary walked that path daily throughout her own life. Each year, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims descend upon Jerusalem during Lent and especially Holy Week, to walk that same road.

While most of us cannot do that literally, the Church has developed a way for us to walk those steps with Jesus wherever we are. The Way of the Cross is a short devotional service. We process around the inside of the church building, stopping along the way before plaques bearing a cross and a carved image representing the particular moment each station marks. Our set of Stations were made for us by Scott Woodside in 1989. One of the most striking ones to me is the first one, which bears a hand (Pilate's) with the thumb pointing down, in a universal symbol of condemnation. At each Station, we read a prayer, a short passage of scripture, and a very brief meditation. The whole service lasts about 25 minutes.

I hope you'll come, at least once. The real power in this service, though, lies in its repetition. That's why we offer it not just on Good Friday but on every Friday in Lent, beginning with this one. Consider adding this service to your other Lenten observances; you may be surprised how powerful it can be.

Ash Wednesday

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As I'm sure you know, this Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. It is one of two major fast days on our calendar (the other being Good Friday) during which we are called to observe a fast - to not eat or to eat far less than normal - for the day. Also on Ash Wednesday we will hold our traditional services for the day, at noon and at 7:00pm. Both liturgies include Holy Eucharist, and both will also have something particular to the day - the imposition of ashes. Members of the congregation are invited to come kneel at the altar rail and to have a small smudge of ashes placed on their foreheads, generally in the shape of the cross. You are probably familiar with both of these if you're accustomed to coming to Ash Wednesday service.

According to the Prayer Book, the ashes serve as "a sign of our mortality and penitence;" we acknowledge when we receive them that we know we are not going to live for ever and also that we have sins for which we need to ask forgiveness. As Madeleine L'Engel so eloquently put it, those ashes are nothing less than the first handful of dirt thrown onto our grave. We receive the ashes during a portion of the service known as "An Invitation to a Holy Lent," and that is what i want us to focus on for a moment.

During that invitation, the priest tells the congregation about the origins and meaning of Lent, how it was historically a time of preparation for baptism and a time of restoration of those who had been "separated from the body of the faithful," or put out of the church because of some notorious sinfulness on their part. This restoration was made known to the congregation at large, and the penitents often were required to perform some public display of penance as part of it. (I suspect many of us are thankful that nowadays we tend to deal with sin and penance more quietly.) The whole church, then, was aware of Lent as a full season and not just a collection of Sundays leading up to Easter. The Prayer Book invites us to observe the holiness of that full season and not just think about Lent on Sundays. That observance is marked "by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word." Getting ashes rubbed on our forehead isn't the essence of Lent or even of Ash Wednesday; it is only a "right beginning." We come up for those ashes only if we intend to dedicate ourselves to observing the season of Lent, not just because it's a special day.

The Prayer Book lays out three ways to observe Lent properly: 1) Self-examination and repentance - we look honestly at our lives, our words and our actions, and where we are amiss, we make amends; 2) Prayer, fasting, and self-denial - this is what we generally think of as our Lenten Discipline, something that we normally do that we abstain from for this season as an intentional sacrifice to God. (That's why i can't give up kale or coconut for Lent; doing so would hardly be sacrificial on my part); and 3) Reading and meditating on God's Word - reading and reflecting upon God's Word as contained in the Scriptures. Our Presiding Bishop has offered us a vehicle to do just that by reading Luke and Acts throughout the Lenten and Easter seasons, something he's calling The Good Book Club; (click that link for more information.)

However you intend to observe the season of Lent, I hope that you will do something. If you have questions about it, talk to Fr. Kevin or to someone else you know with a serious spiritual life. Come to Stations of the Cross on Fridays or the Wednesday healing mass - or both. Lent is our time to reset the pattern of our spiritual life, to increase its depth and scope. Ash Wednesday is certainly a good beginning, but we remember that it is only a beginning.

It's been a quiet week...

 Just some of St. Michael's Angels at the recent Revival.

Just some of St. Michael's Angels at the recent Revival.

 Our Presiding Bishop, The Most Reverend Michael Curry, makes a crack about Bishop Benhase's age.

Our Presiding Bishop, The Most Reverend Michael Curry, makes a crack about Bishop Benhase's age.

Remember how Garrison Keillor always started his bit about Lake Wobegon? "It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon..." and then went on in perfect deadpan to prove that it had been anything but. I kind of feel that way about St. Michael's, but not just in the last week. It's been a quiet few weeks at St. Michael's, out there on the edge of Daffin Park..." Several of us attended the Boundless Love, Fearless Faith Revival at Honey Creek. If you missed it, you missed out, but fear not; you can watch a video of the Presiding Bishop's sermon here, or see the entire service here. It's worth your time, i assure you. Do not expect upcoming services at St. Michael's to be like this one, but then again, one never knows what the Holy Spirit might do some Sunday...

Our "quiet" time hasn't ended, though. This Sunday we hold our Annual Parish Meeting. Remember we have one combined service at 10:00am, followed by lunch and the meeting in Patton Hall. The entree and drinks are provided; please bring "stuff and desserts," (okay, side dishes - which should probably include vegetables - and desserts, if you'd like). We elect the incoming class of Vestry members at the meeting; you can find the names and some biographical info about the nominees in last week's blog post here. This Sunday is also Boy Scout Sunday, so we will have the scouts and their leaders from Troop 1 with us in the service. It's not ideal to have Scout Sunday fall on the Sunday of the Annual Meeting, we realize, but between their schedule and ours, we had to make do. Please come join us for the service, meet the Boy Scouts, and stay for lunch and the meeting!!

Vestry Nominations for 2018-21

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Our Parish Annual Meeting is coming up the last Sunday of this month, January 28, following the joint 10:00am service. During that meeting, the congregation will elect three people to three years terms on the Vestry. The Nominating Committee is pleased to present to you the slate of nominees they have received; their names and some biographical information is below, as well as each nominees response to the same question: "What are your hopes and dreams for St. Michael's in the coming three years?"

Please feel free to contact any of the nominees if you have questions for them or if you would just like to get to know them better. The Nominating Committee and Vestry have determined that each of the candidates satisfies the requirements of the canons and by-laws to serve, and each nominee has agreed to stand for election.

We have four members nominated for three spots. As always, there will be an opportunity for nominations from the floor, but before you nominate anyone, please make sure you have their permission to do so, that they agree to serve if elected, and that they satisfy the requirements to serve on the Vestry of St. Michael's. 

According to our by-laws, members 18 years or older who are communicants in good standing are eligible to serve, with two exceptions - those living in the same household or who are immediate family members (parent, child, sibling, or spouse) of current Vestry members, and any outgoing member of the Vestry who has served a full term. A communicant in good standing is defined as a member who "unless for good cause prevented, for the last year has been faithful in attendance and in working, praying, and giving for the spread of the Kingdom."

I ask that between now and the annual meeting we please hold these four angels in our prayers, including prayers of thanksgiving for their willingness to serve our congregation.

 

Nominees for Vestry 2018-2021

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Victoria Blair usually attends the 8:00 service and has been a member of St. Michael's for two years. For the last few months she has been filling the final year of Jim Payne's unexpired term; she is eligible for election to a full term of her own.

Victoria's answer: I hope in the following years to help to grow the community of St. Michael's. As I and many others have felt upon coming into this congregation, I would like to expand on the welcoming feeling a newcomer finds when it happens to be their first oppurtunity to be with us. I want people to know that there is a place to call home when you feel you have nowhere else to turn and that the members of our church welcome others to be a part of the proverbial family with open and loving arms. I also hope to strenghthen my relationship with God to be of service of Him in helping others to find their way "home" in the sunlight of the spirit. I've found that in my short time as a part of St. Michael's I've come to a much better understanding of the liturgy and have been granted an abundance of gratitude to have met some wonderful people. I would hope that I could make that difference in someone else's life by being a member of our very admirable vestry.

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Donnie Gruver usually attends the 10:45 service and has been a member for the past forty-five years.

Donnie's answer: I would like us to seek and attract more persons and families from our neighborhood. Also, I would like us to grow enough so that we will be able to offer Sunday religious education for the number of youngsters that will come with their families. Finally, I would like to get more of our members involved in the activities that we offer here at St. Michael and All Angels.

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Jane Riner usually attends the 10:30 service and has been a member for 69 years.

Here is Jane's answer: I hope that St. Michael's will get some young families with children. I hope to have a young people's choir. A dream is to one day have a bigger place to operate the food pantry out of. I hope the church can have enough money to fix all that needs repairing in the church. My hope is to get more of the congregation involved in activities in the church.

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Terry Timmons usually attends the 10:45 service and has been a member for three and a half years.

Here is Terry's response:

Continue to create, develop and enhance opportunities for:     

      ----- Community focus among the congregation and through outreach efforts

                      -Pastoral Care

                      - Food Pantry

      ------10 Year Plan for Facilities updating which includes a vehicle for funding 

      ------ Foster congregational growth and vitalization

                      -optimization of two services                                                                           

Epiphany and the Sunday Following

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This Saturday, January 6, is the Feast of the Epiphany, when we celebrate the coming of the magi to the Christ Child. A couple of things to note - nowhere in the Bible does it say there were three; we only know that there was more than one because the noun is the plural form. And there were three gifts named: gold, frankincense, and myrrh, so the Church has maintained the tradition that the three gifts were brought by three visitors. And despite what crèches around the world (including our own) depict, the magi did not arrive at the manger in Bethlehem. We can infer from what the story says that it was sometime within the first two years of Jesus' life that they came, but the exact date we don't know. What we do know is that the coming of the magi - who were foreigners and not even practicing foreign Jews - represent the coming of the Messiah to the whole world and not simply to the nation of Israel. That is why in many parts of Eastern Christianity, Christmas is actually celebrated on January 6. The view the Feast of the Nativity as the gift of the Messiah to Israel and what we all The Epiphany as that same gift to the whole world.

This Sunday is the First Sunday After the Epiphany, which is the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. It is one of the days the Prayer Book designates as appropriate for the sacrament of Baptism to be administered, and since we do not have any baptisms scheduled at St. Michael's this year, all of us present on Sunday will renew our own Baptismal Covenant. The Feast of the Epiphany is important, though, even to us Western Christians, so we're going to play a little fast and loose with the rubrics this Sunday and celebrate both it and the Baptism of Jesus on the same day. Our Christmas decorations will be taken down and put away, as Christmas season will be over, but for this one last day we will still keep the crèche in the church, complete as last with the visiting magi.

Happy New Year

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This Sunday is, of course, New Year's Eve, and many folks all over will be celebrating the beginning of another year in one fashion or another. One tradition is to make New Year's Resolutions, but I have to admit that those usually fail me. Or I fail at them. I wonder if this Sunday will see a general uptake in church attendance; perhaps people will resolve to be more faithful in being part of a church and will start that off on New Year's Eve. (I'm almost certain there will be more folks in church this year than there would be had New Year's Eve fallen on a Saturday, but i'll leave you to make your own conclusions there.) Whether we make resolutions for the coming year or not, I'm fairly certain that by now our traditional greetings have morphed from "Merry Christmas" to "Happy New Year." I know mine have, even though I don't always mean to say that; it just sort of comes out, especially if someone else says it to me first.

We know of course (or at least we should) that not every one of the next 365 days is going to be happy for everyone, no matter how much we may wish them to be. I suppose it's part of the cultural idealism of America to expect that they not only will be but that they should be. While we certainly don't need to be Eeyore like in out outlook on the future, at the same time life isn't always easy or happy, and when it isn't, we shouldn't think that means that something has gone wrong. We have our ups and downs, our joys and our sorrows, our triumphs and our failures. What I really mean to say to folks is that i wish them shalom in the coming year. I've tried making a habit of that, but despite my best intentions, it never seems to come off the way i mean it to.

Shalom is the Hebrew word for "peace," and our habit of exchanging the Peace during the Eucharist comes from the Jewish practice of greeting one another with that word. Our definition of peace, however, doesn't quite manage to contain all that shalom means. Shalom is a form of blessing; it is way of saying "May everything God has in store for you come to pass;" it is also a way of acknowledging that our relationship with one another is right and good and as it should be. Shalom, and the peace that comes with it, isn't dependent on our life being happy every single day; instead, it comes from the knowledge that God is with us and at work in our lives whether we are in the midst of joy or in sorrow, in triumph or despair. It is what is contained in the famous phrase of Julian of Norwich, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be very well."

Whatever you are doing to celebrate the coming of the New Year, and in whatever state of happiness you find yourself during the year, I wish you shalom.

Christmas at St. Michael & All Angels

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By now we should all be aware of St. Michael's schedule for Christmas Eve - 4th Sunday of Advent 4 at 9:00am and Christmas Eve at 5:00pm, with decorating of the church in between. Just in case you weren't, re-read the previous sentence. On Christmas Day we have a simple service at 10:00am. It's a very busy few hours with a lot to do, at a time when many are already moving at a frantic pace to get their homes ready for their own Christmas celebrations.

In the middle of the Christmas Eve service, something wonderful happens. It happens every Christmas Eve, at the same time and in exactly the same way, but this is the only time of year that it occurs. I'm talking about the reading of the Christmas gospel from Luke. It's so well-known, so familiar to us, that it's a wonder we even notice it when it's read. And yet, we do. This year, i invite you to listen to that moment when the Gospel reading begins. There is a special kind of quiet that falls over the congregation; there is a hopefulness and an expectancy to it that we don't hear from any other reading from the Gospel. It's as if the whole congregation is holding their breath.

At least, that's how it always feels to me. I always imagine as i hear those words that it isn't just our congregation that's holding their breath but all of creation. I think of us as reading that Gospel not just to ourselves but to the whole world, in the hopes that the hope and expectation we experience will spill out onto all creation. I like to believe that the whole world - not just us people but literally all of creation - hears and understands what those words mean - "for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." That's what Christmas is - our celebration and proclamation that Jesus - born so long ago in Bethlehem - was then, is now, and always will be the Savior and Lord of all creation, the one for whom we have waited and hoped.

I hope you will be with us this Christmas Eve, "to hear again the message of the angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass." Come hear the holy silence that precedes the telling of the story of our salvation.

May you have a happy, joyful, and blessed Christmas.

Who are we doing this for?

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While we say Advent is a four-week season, it isn't always. It is actually a four-Sunday season, and since this year Christmas falls on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, it's really only a three-week season this time. The Gospel reading about Mary and Gabriel, probably the one we most associate with this time of year, doesn't come until next Sunday, Advent 4. But this is the last week before Christmas, and it can be such a hectic time for so many, i don't want the idea of Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem, worrying about and then preparing for the birth of her child, to get lost.

I always find it helpful - when the realization hits that Christmas is nearly upon us and how will we ever get everything done - to remember why and for whom we are doing this. Whatever the coming week and the days after will bring for you - if they seem overwhelming because you have more to do than you have time to do it, remember that all the hurrying, all the preparations, all the seemingly endless tasks that may still be looming - we have a choice about how we approach them. We can see them as things we have to do that we rather might not, things we should do even if we wonder how we will manage them, or we could view them as preparations for the coming of Jesus into the world.

It may seem trite, but when i get so wrapped in and worried about all the things i still have to do, i try to imagine that i am really doing them for Jesus, to show him that he is important to me and that i love him. That may not make the tasks go more quickly or seem more enjoyable (although often they really are, if i stop and think about it), but it does help me with my annual attempt to make Advent more holy and less hectic.

I will especially try to remember this next Sunday, when after our 9:00am Advent 4 service, we tackle the herculean task of decorating the church for Christmas all in a few hours. Many hands make light work, so i hope you will join in our labors as we prepare to celebrate again the birth of our Savior.

Advent, a Season of Verbs

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The season of Advent is upon us, and one of my clergy friends, who is also into photography, likes to participate every year in the Advent Word Global Advent Calendar. Hosted by the Anglican Communion, The Society of St. John the Evangelist, and the Virginia Theological Seminary (and found here), it offers a different word to contemplate each day. Followers are invited to take a photograph that reveals that word and post it online using the hashtag #AdventWord. While i've never really gotten into following it every day, i do enjoy seeing what others are doing throughout Advent.

The Calendar got me to thinking about many of the words associated with this season, and i noticed how many of them are simple verbs - watch, wait, prepare, repent, comfort, greet, expect, proclaim, rejoice, etc. I confess i sometimes struggle with my attention span, so trying to reflect on a different word every day is probably just going to lead me to frustration and disappointment (not good Advent words), i can manage to attune to a few - perhaps four, one for each week of the season. If you are looking for a way to keep Advent apart from the rest of the year, to mark this season as different - less hectic and more holy - i suggest you consider this simple discipline.

Because they are words that convey actions, verbs are especially helpful for spiritual disciplines. In fact, one of the best preachers i know, Barbara Brown Taylor, regularly begins her sermon preparations by looking only at the verbs in the Gospel passage and building from there. I find some of the Advent verbs - watch and wait, for example - particularly helpful because to do them properly, they require a certain stillness and calm we don't often associate with action. So while i suggest that you do choose some verbs (or maybe just one for the whole season), i don't want to suggest which verbs to pick. I will suggest a couple of ways to narrow your choices, however; perhaps pick the ones that most resonate with you, words that you immediately feel drawn to. If you're up to more of a challenge, then maybe do just the opposite. What verbs seem the least comfortable or comforting to you? I find God often speaks to me either through those things that come most easily or through those that challenge me most.

Whatever you decide, i hope you will find some way that works for you to mark this season in which we prepare not only to celebrate the joy of the birth of Christ but also to receive him when he comes in his glory.