Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Thank you, St. Andrew's!

Dear St. Andrew’s,

Thank you so much for a wonderful three years on your staff as part time Assisting Priest.  Being at St. Andrew’s has been a great blessing.  St. Andrew’s is truly a wonderful community of faithful Christ followers.

Many of you might not know that I was hired to work as an interim for six months by Rob.  Fr. Rob is one of the finest clergy persons I have ever had the privilege of working with.  Then I stayed and supplied every Sunday until our interim, Fr. David, arrived.  Fr. David asked that I stay and assist him.  I learned so much about Interim Ministry and Hospitality from David – another great blessing!  And then our team of part timers until Anne arrived.  What a pleasure it has been to serve with Anne as she has begun her tenure at St. Andrew’s.  So, what began as a six-month interim has grown into a little over three years.  Kathy Gray, Jen Kimball, Carol Chamberlain, Dick Holley, and Rob, David, and Anne are some of the most exceptional clergy I have known – and then to be able to team up with them in ministry!

St. Andrew’s has also assembled the greatest lay staff in the world: Matt, Janna, Brad, Bill, Bill, Rachel, Harper, and Elizabeth.  What an exceptional group to have the opportunity to work with and to know!  And, when you add these fine professionals to a truly remarkable congregation with such fabulous vestry and lay leadership – these three years have been blessing upon blessing!  Thank you for receiving Hall and me with such open arms and open hearts.  Thank you for the beautiful print of the Christus Victor window by Alison Clock.  I will treasure it always.

The last few Sundays I’ve been getting a bit teary eyed as we have distributed communion.  You may have noticed that when I give you the bread, as I say “The Body of Christ”, I touch your hand with mine before I place the bread in your hand.  I do this to remind myself that you are the Body of Christ, and it is in our interactions together that we are the Body of Christ, the Light of Christ in the world.  So, these last few Sundays, as I’ve looked at your hands and faces, so familiar now, I’ve been very deeply moved.  We have shared much of life together: births, baptisms, Holy days, deaths, and, of course, these transitions in St. Andrew’s.  And you have done all of this as a community with such authenticity and grace.

St. Andrew’s will continue to our home church as I move from four days a week to five days a week as Chaplain at Patriots Colony at Williamsburg.  And I’m very grateful that Anne will schedule me occasionally at St. Andrew’s.  But, you won’t see us every week.  I will supply at area churches as needed.  I am scheduled to teach dementia awareness at Abingdon for six weeks in September and October.  Also, Hal and I are hoping for some weekends away.  Perhaps you all could help me out by emailing me ideas for my “fun jar.”  We moved here from Florida, and I’ve been working six or seven days a week for quite some time and have not visited Yorktown, Williamsburg, Jamestown, or most of the sites in the area.  If you have a chance, email me your favorite spot(s) for day trips and weekend trips:  I will put them in a jar, draw them out, and Hal and I will explore the area.  Thank you.  Thank you for the privilege of serving in this sacred place.  I am forever grateful for this time.


Vestry Liaison Report: Outreach Team

“I was raised in a family where helping others was a priority.”
“I feel I have been so fortunate in my life and want to be able to give back to others.”
“We as Christians are called to go outside of our walls to do God’s work."

These sentiments are but a sample of those expressed at our recent Outreach Team meeting held in July as to why Outreach is important to each member.  My name is Elise Wall and I am the Vestry liaison to our Outreach Team and these statements express some of my reasons as well as to why I believe outreach is important.  St. Andrew’s, as a church community, has been earnest in its attempt to go out into our community and serve others in need.  Presently as a church community we participate in the following identified Outreach ministries: PORT, THRIVE Peninsula, St. Paul’s, LINK, Kairos Prison Ministry, Turkey Bag Lunches, Halloween, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, Warm Fuzzies, Basketball, Newsome Park, and Scouts.  As wonderful as this list is, it doesn’t begin to acknowledge the many individual efforts of service to our community by our individual church members.  Those would be just too many to mention. 

For our parish profile and from many discussions with members, outreach is a priority for St. Andrew’s.  As our efforts are good, the need still in our community is great.  My hope as Vestry liaison is that we can increase our efforts and become an even larger presence in our community serving those within our walls, within our neighborhood, and within the greater community.  This will take organization, communication, and leadership.  I am happy to report that Lindsey Nicolai has agreed to be the new Outreach Team leader.  Thank you, Lindsey!

In closing I would encourage anyone interested in serving with any of the above ministries or has any information that they would like to share with the committee about a need in our community, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 880-2769 or or Lindsey at

Elise Wall
Vestry Liaison - Outreach

Vestry Liaison Report: Facilities Team

I’ve been attending St. Andrew’s since 2012, was received in 2015, and joined the Vestry in 2016.  Having spent most of my career working on the waterfront at Newport News Shipbuilding, I felt I could best serve St. Andrew’s in the facilities area. Under the leadership of Junior Warden Doug Vaughan, I have been able to assist in some of the projects Doug has led.  In addition to meeting the day to day demands of an aging facility, Doug and his team are working on a number of projects: exploring ways to make the door by the sacristy elevator more handicapped accessible, installing magnetic locks at the Main Street entrance in order to increase security for the school and office, installing hand rails on the chancel and altar steps. In addition to these projects, I am assisting the team by working with the Newport News Traffic Division to add a handicapped parking space near the Main Street entrance to the church.

Danny Switzer
Vestry Liaison - Facilities Team

Monday, August 28, 2017

Lecture Series: Islam for Christians

Thursday evenings, Sept. 21 through Oct. 26, 
7 to 8 p.m.

St. Andrew's, Newport News, invites you to join them for "Islam for Christians", a six week series focusing on Islam as it is practiced in the United States. 

Over six weeks, John W. Herbst, Ph.D, will deliver six lectures on Islam in light of Christianity. Through these lectures, Dr. Herbst will explain what Muslims believe, how they practice Islam, and how Christians and Muslims can co-exist and even work together for the glory of God. Topics include: How to figure out what Muslims really think; Meaning behind the Five Pillars; Muhammed and Jesus; The Qur'an and the Bible; Islamic sects; Women in Islam; What we can do about terrorists; Israel, Islam and the Middle East; What Christians can learn from Islam. 

Dr. Herbst has a Ph.D. in Bible from Union Presbyterian Seminary, and has taught Islam and Religion at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College and John Tyler Community College. He is an ordained Baptist minister, and teaches Bible for Regent University.

EPA praises St. Andrew's for years of Energy Star certification

This week St. Andrew’s, Newport News, received a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that included these words:

“...I am writing to thank your congregation for being a national leader in environmental and financial stewardship represented by your worship facility achieving ENERGY STAR certification first in 2009, followed by 2012-2017 - the most years certified of any congregation."  ---  Jerry Lawson, National Manager, ENERGY STAR for Congregations

On average, Energy Star certified buildings use 35% less energy and cause 35% fewer harmful pollutants than comparable U.S. buildings. "There are many reasons why St Andrew's originally got involved in this program: decreasing budgets and increasing utility rates being the obvious ones," said Bob Lord, the volunteer who spearheads this effort. "Ultimately, though, as a church, we felt we had a special calling by God to be the best stewards possible of the gifts he has so richly bestowed on us."

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Jen wuz here!

My last day with you all is Sunday, August 20.  Frankly I didn't expect to like you so much.  I mean, how attached can you get in one year?

 But open hearts invite belonging, and yours welcomed me in.  I was quickly at home in the circle of the Adult Sunday School, surrounded by active spiritual learners.  I was invited to share my story with the Daughters of the King and Circle 4.  I have shared parts of my story in sermons, and many of you have thanked me for it. 

Our youth have weathered more staff changes than any other group in these interim years (except of course the staff itself).  I will be glad when they get a permanent person again!  Meanwhile they have managed to find their way into my heart, simply by being themselves.  They are loving, creative, spontaneous, accepting, and brave.  Working with their intern leaders, Maggie Mahloy and Alex Shaddock, has been a joy.  Beginning the year with Elizabeth Koerner was practically magic - sign me up to be on her team anytime.

 And then there are the children.  If you know me, you know I love your children.  I have loved when a brave little one comes to Children's Chapel for the first time.  I have loved when a multitude of last-minute angels flew around and around the star on Christmas Eve.  I have loved bringing Bible stories to life with dozens of kids at VBS.  I have loved listening to our school children sing - it is truly breathtaking.  And if I may say so, I am proud of our school children singing all 66 names of the books of the Bible by themselves!

I was here.  And I am glad.  Thank you St. Andrew's.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

EYE17: An experience to cherish

Every three years, in accordance with General Convention Resolution #1982-D079, the Episcopal Church convenes an international youth event so "that the energy of the youth of the Episcopal Church can continue to be utilized in active ministry as members of the Body of Christ." This year, the 2017 Episcopal Youth Event (EYE17) welcomed nearly 1,400 participants, workshop leaders, speakers, and volunteers to the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond from July 10-14. Southern Virginia sent seven youth and two adult leaders to the EYE17 event. Below, Alex Devin Ellis, a youth participant from St. Andrew's, shares his experience of EYE17.

Alex Devin Ellis at EYE17.
EYE was a special experience, one that I will cherish for my lifetime. It was great to meet people from across America. I had a blast learning new games and hanging out with them. I made a ton of friends that I still talk to, though unlike one of the bishops I don't think I found my true love at EYE. Throughout the week I got to know my fellow Diosovas (other members of the Diocese of Southern Virginia) and really felt a strong bond grow between us. Nicholas Sears and I are like brothers and will be friends for life. We even have plans for a cross country road trip along Route 66 in eight years. Caroline Tyler and I had a great time playing cards and getting to know each other and our new friends. Capitalism is a great game that most other states didn't know how to play and is now my favorite card game. It was great having people that I knew there like the members of my EYC board Clare Harbin and Anthony Alfano, but it was equally as great getting to know new faces of our Diocese, like Peter Hood and Allie Sears.

Though I had a great time with friends, it was also a deep and moving week. Tears were shed but hope was all around. We went around Oklahoma City and viewed different Museums, but when we got to the Oklahoma City Memorial Museum I already knew it was going to be hard to get through. It was a very tragic event that took the lives of many innocent people. Going through the museum I saw many things that brought tears to my eyes. There was a clock that had stopped at the exact moment that the bomb went off, that Caroline had pointed out. When I saw it I just thought of how much more that stopped at that exact moment. Though as the day went on you could feel the love and hope for a better world. As we sang and praised God, in both English and Spanish, you could definitely feel the presence of God.

I went to different sessions during the time at EYE where you could learn about different things going on in the church or about God. On the first day, I went to a session where we could talk to Bishop Curry and ask him question after he talked about the Jesus Movement. On the next day that they had these sessions I went to one where they talked about Kids4Peace and how they are trying to make peace and how you can set up one in your area. Kids4Peace is a where you bring kids from different faiths together and talk about differences and similarities and what is going on the world or in our lives. The second session I went to on that day was about a reflection on the week.

I will always remember EYE17, with all the ups and downs. The pain and the hope, the tears and the love, the fact that I lost my favorite water bottle and how I met amazing people and could have them in my life.

Alex Devin Ellis