Thursday, June 25, 2020

Summer is here

Summer is here—but such a different summer from all the ones that have come before, as we continue to navigate our way through this pandemic!  We tend to think of summer as time for slowing down a bit from the frenzied pace of life during the other seasons of the year, and summer is our quintessential vacation time.  This year, our summer plans are necessarily being shaped by concerns about COVID-19.  We are faced with decisions about health and safety and risk that were never before part of our consciousness. 

I have spoken to a number of parishioners who are looking forward to time away with family in the next few weeks, often with some modifications for health reasons.  My prayer for all of you is that you will indeed find some ways this summer to enjoy the rest and restoration that vacation time provides—even if you end up taking a “staycation” at home.  God knows that all of us are weary and need some recreation (to be re-created!).  And I am praying for all of you to stay safe and healthy.

John and I will be away from the afternoon of June 28 through July 11.  For the first five days we will be in Natural Bridge, VA, with John’s sister’s family:  Elizabeth, David, and their two sons, 9-year-old Matthew and 18-month-old Noah.  We haven’t seen them in more than a year, and I can’t wait!  We’ve been emailing back and forth about social distancing practices so that we are all on the same page when we are together.  Then, from July 4 through 11, John and I will be at the diocesan cottage in Sandbridge, VA at St. Simon’s-by-the-Sea.  We will lead the July 5th service (online?  In person, with social distancing?  Who knows?) and then spend the rest of the week enjoying the quiet peace of Sandbridge’s uncommercialized strip of beach. 

Whatever kind of vacation time this summer holds for you, I pray that it will be restorative and will draw you ever closer to the God who created and adores you.  I love this prayer from the BCP (pg 825) and am praying it for all of you:

O God, in the course of this busy life, give us times of refreshment and peace; and grant that we may so use our leisure to rebuild our bodies and renew our minds, that our spirits may be opened to the goodness of your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Monday, June 22, 2020

A Word from your Vestry about Regathering: When the What Matters More than the When

At our 16 June “Virtual Vestry Meeting,” we spent most of our time discussing the how, what, and when of regathering in our building on 45 Main Street.  Echoing the words of a well-worn adage, our rector, Anne, began the discussion by reminding us that “our job is simply to do the next faithful thing.”  We take comfort in the knowledge that God remains with us in these times of uncertainty and difficult decisions for our future.  Fortunately for us, the Diocese of Southern Virginia released extensive “Regathering Guidelinesto assist parishes like ours in planning for the future, with safety for all participants as the paramount concern.  In accordance with those guidelines, vestry member Joel Duregger has taken on the role of “Health Coordinator” to lead our preparation efforts, including the development of our official regathering plan.  Bishop Susan Haynes must approve this plan before any in-person worship occurs. 

The vestry does not take lightly the tremendous responsibility of providing the safest space possible for parishioners, staff, clergy, and visitors alike.  To that end, a subcommittee has been formed to create a parish-wide survey.  Survey results will provide the vestry and clergy a better understanding of the current feelings and desires of parishioners.  Please plan to complete this survey as soon as it is made available.  This will allow the vestry to operate with the most accurate information possible.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to a vestry member with any questions or concerns.

Finally, and in a nod to the “elephant in the room,” this article will not provide a specific date when in-person services will resume at St. Andrew’s.  That day will come; however, much planning, prayer, and discernment must occur before it does.  In the meantime, here are several specific pieces of information you may find helpful.  (1) The vestry remains grounded in authoring a plan for regathering, with its central principle taken from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s helpful reminder that “God’s rubric of love shows us the way.”  (2) A key component of the success of any plan the vestry develops depends on parishioners respecting others’ personal decisions about when they feel safe enough to return to in-person worship (in the building).  (3) Regardless of when we regather in the church, worship will also be streamed in some virtual format to ensure those most comfortable or able to worship from home may continue to do so.  (4) While the vestry understands and shares the sense of loss and grief of what will be “missing,” it takes heart in the knowledge that God has been with us and will continue to be, and we ask that parishioners continually remind each other of this truth – a cornerstone of our faith.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Answering God’s Call

We just celebrated on May 31 the Day of Pentecost (meaning "fiftieth day") in which the Spirit lighted upon the disciples like tongues of fire and they all spoke in different languages so that each understood the power of God at work in that moment.  Pentecost has been termed the church’s birthday because, having received the Holy Spirit, the disciples finally got back to the work Jesus had prepared them for.  But it was not only in that moment that the Spirit was working.  It continues to unfold precisely because the Holy Spirit that was given on that fiftieth day is one and the same Holy Spirit that is the power behind each and every aspect of faith and life in the church in June, 2020.

Every single week, all fifty two weeks (plus other times), we say in the Creed that we believe in the Holy Spirit; we believe in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting, all possible because God breathed creation into existence with the Holy Spirit, Jesus breathed the Spirit's power into those first disciples by the Holy Spirit, and the people of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Newport News, Virginia, give of themselves for the sake of others in God’s name because it is the Holy Spirit that so enables us.

Every single baptized person in the Church is called by God to be part of the Body and every single baptized person in the Church is empowered by the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost to fulfill God’s call.  Now as we enter into the long season of Pentecost in which we walk with Jesus throughout the years of his public ministry, consider what God is calling you to do and believe, as we say each week that we do, that the Holy Spirit gives the life that makes answering God’s call possible. 

 -- Marc+