Monday, October 15, 2018

Take my life

In my 20 years of ordained ministry, I have attended many Confirmation services, and brought many young people to the Bishop to be confirmed. I have great memories of those services, including the joy of seeing each young person confirm their baptismal vows before receiving the laying on of hands by the Bishop.

Also, at many of these Confirmation services, the music was just glorious, and sometimes included a hymn which I consider to be one of the best hymns ever. And that is Hymn #707 in the 1982 Hymnal written by Frances Ridley Havergal:

Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee;
Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of thy love:
Take my heart, it is thine own; it shall be thy royal throne.

To me, this hymn expresses dedicating one’s life to the way of Christ, which is similar to what confirmands do when they confirm their baptismal vows, affirming their adherence to the faith of Christ and living out that faith as vibrantly as possible.

I have started Confirmation classes for youth at St. Andrew’s on October 14 and will continue through April 2019. The confirmands are being prepared through studying the Baptismal Covenant (BCP, page 304), Episcopal Church history and learning what it means to be a Christian in their church and in their communities.

Please pray for the confirmands and for the adults who will be taking part in preparing them to present themselves before the Bishop, the Church and God.  The confirmands are:  Grace Duregger, Rachel Klinger, Caitlin Knapp, Alex Rous, Vanessa Smock, Libby Wharton, and Bobby Wharton.

The Rev. Lorna H. Williams
Associate for Children and Youth

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Cookies for Kairos!

The November 14-18 Kairos weekend is coming up at Nottoway Correctional Center in Burkeville.  The team orchestrating the weekend for about 34 inmates includes Matt Deller, Joe DuRant, and Brad Norris from St. Andrew’s.  This is a very involved undertaking: four all-day Saturday organizing and training sessions plus the Kairos weekend.

My preconceived ideas about prison ministry melted away pretty quickly.  You get a taste and maybe a heaping helping of what servant ministry is like.  Lots and lots of guidelines and rules, all of which must be followed to have a successful weekend.

The end result is most appreciative people and changed lives.  This is the Church spreading the Gospel of Christ in a place that is starving for the Gospel of Christ.

Home baked cookies are a manifestation of the love of the Christian community.  Will you help out?  Please make cookies without sprinkles, nuts or raisins, bag them (one dozen per bag) in clear plastic and bring to the big freezer in the church kitchen.   Thank you!

Brad Norris
Minister of Music

Abundant Blessings stewardship talk given Sept. 30 by Dan Waddill

When the church asks us for a pledge, it joins a chorus of other charities, all worthwhile and deserving.  I’d like to offer 2 reasons for us to make St. Andrew’s a priority.

First, the future of our church depends on what we do now.  For many years, our Diocese has reported declining attendance, fewer young people, and less money coming in.  Other denominations face the same issue, and throughout our country, cities and towns are dotted with the empty buildings of failed churches.  In part, we can chalk it up to changing times.  But here’s the thing – the need for church has not gone away.  While church attendance in our modern society is falling, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and addiction are growing, especially among young people.  If we pledge our money, time, and talents to the church, we can be sure that we are addressing the true and enduring needs of the human spirit. 

The second reason to prioritize the church is that churches are sacred places in a culture that is becoming more and more secular.  Here’s what I mean.  Last month we took Henry to his college orientation, and it was well done.  But during two days of speeches and sessions and meals and receptions, not one prayer was offered, and God was never mentioned.  This at a school that was founded by Presbyterians, a school where daily chapel had been mandatory for over 130 years.  My point is not to criticize, but only to show that our institutions have changed, such that churches now stand virtually alone as places where prayer is welcomed and God is worshipped.  So more than ever, church matters. 

The oldest son of my college roommate went to the Naval Academy, became a helicopter pilot, and completed several tours of duty courageously and honorably.  Last year, he took his own life, as too many of our servicemen and women have done.  When I saw my old friend, I realized that the only words I knew that would be of any use, or have any meaning, were words I had learned in church.  And my friend knew the same words, so in the depths of unspeakable heartbreak, we were, in fact, able to speak.  We spoke of his son as a beloved Child of God, created on purpose, and held in God’s hands during his life and even now in his death.  We spoke of death as not having the final word because we knew words of resurrection and joy.  Words we had learned in church. 

To us here now, the words are so familiar, it’s easy to forget we once had to learn them; and if we hadn’t gone to church, we wouldn’t know them.  Words of joy and good news.  At baptism and marriage, we speak of celebration, lasting commitment, and bold vows.  At a funeral, we speak of hope and trust and life.  Clearly, the words we speak in church are profoundly different from the words we hear elsewhere. 

Within these walls, we hear “Love is patient, love is kind. It rejoices with the truth.”  Do we ever see this on our internet home page?  In the news, we do hear frequent demands for an apology, but never “forgive us … as we forgive.” How about, “We pray for all who govern.”   “Give us grace to do your will.”  “We confess that we have sinned.”  “The Lord be with you.” “You have fed us with spiritual food.”  Here in this place, we encounter these words, but I don’t see them trending on Netflix.

Next year, St. Andrew’s will celebrate its 100th birthday, and it’ll be great.  No one knows what the next hundred years will bring, but here’s what I see.  At our 200th birthday, I see every pew full to overflowing, with kids squirming and babies calling (that’s a joyful sound).  I see Sunday School bursting at the seams, with classes for every age.  And when people ask, “how did this happen?” the old timers will recall that it started in 2018, when the congregation decided to challenge the times and change the trends.  To pledge their time and money and talents, enough to make a difference. 

It’s pledge season and the future of our church is in our hands.  Let’s renew our strength.  Let’s mount up and make it happen. To Randy and Susan, our deepest thanks for leading us and hosting us another year.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Why I give to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church

When I was a child our family went to church every Sunday.  There was never any question or decision to be made week-to-week whether or not we were going – we were.  As we took our seats, daddy would give me a quarter to put into the offering plate.  As I got a little older, the quarter became a dollar.  But it was always money that was given to me, never my own money.

When I was a young adult I fell away from attending church except when visiting my parents.  But when Al and I married, we made the decision to attend regularly as a couple.  When the offering plate came around we gave, but we didn’t pledge.

Our lives progressed and we found ourselves the parents of two small children.  Following in our parents’ footsteps, we went to church every Sunday.  We gave each of the children a quarter to put in the offering plate.  One week our son asked what the money was for.  We said to help people in need and to take care of the church and the people who work there.  The next Sunday he emptied his whole piggy bank and put the money in the offering plate.  He was excited to be giving his own money.  The smile on his face said it all.  He was only 4 or 5, but he felt like he was doing something great and important!

That’s why we give to St. Andrew’s.  We know we are doing something great and important!  And we make a commitment through our pledge so our leaders can plan for the year with confidence.

St. Andrew’s has stood on this corner for a century.  Al and I have only been here for a short fraction of that time, but as your parish administrator, I’ve had a front row seat to all the good we do together and the way we care for one another and the greater community.  When someone asks what church I attend, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride when I answer, “I am a member of St. Andrew’s!”

Rachel Roby 

Commitment Sunday is November 4, 2018. Click here to learn more about St. Andrew's Abundant Blessings campaign and how you can support our ministry with your time, talent and treasure.  

Pacing ourselves

Dear friends,

In our busy and chaotic world, with pressure to work ever-longer hours and accomplish more and more every day, with information assailing us from every direction and available 24/7, how do we pace ourselves?  How do we make space in our lives not only to hear God’s voice but also simply to be in God’s presence? 

The story of creation tells us that God rested on the seventh day.  For thousands of years, our Jewish brothers and sisters have set aside one day a week as a sabbath.  Jesus often went off by himself for quiet time with God.  Human beings profit from down time, time to reflect and re-center and even to play. You’ve probably heard it said that we are human beings, not human doings.  We forget that at our peril.

When I was a child, Sundays were a time when stores were closed and youth sports leagues had not yet started requiring Sunday participation.  Without the internet and cell phones, it was much easier for children and adults to get away and be away.  The world has changed, but our human need for rest and restoration, play time and pray time, has not changed.

How do you attend to that need in your life? 

One way I try to honor my need for restorative time is to use all of my given vacation, continuing education, and retreat time each year.  According to our letter of agreement, each year I have 23 work days of vacation, plus two weeks of continuing education and retreat time.  I know that Rob Marston liked to use all of his vacation days in one fell swoop, taking a month off each summer.  I’ve discovered that it works better for me if I spread out my vacation, retreat, and continuing ed days across the year.  This coming week I’ll be on retreat in Boston, re-centering through prayer and worship and silence at the Society of St. John the Evangelist monastery.  I am so grateful for that opportunity.

What about you?  As we enter the final quarter of 2018, how will you pace yourself and attend to your own needs for quiet time, for reflection, for prayer and rest and play? 

May the God who created and adores each one of us bless you with the wisdom, grace, and courage to pace yourself, finding and making and taking the time you need to nurture your soul and draw closer to the Lord and Giver of Life.