Friday, February 23, 2018

Supporting St. Andrew's School

Dear friends, 

As I mentioned in my sermon on Feb. 18, one way we can respond to the tragic school shooting in Florida is to redouble our efforts to support schools like St. Andrew’s that strive to provide a safe and nurturing environment and to teach children our Christian faith and values. In the name of the children who were killed, we can reach out generously to those who are alive and in need of help.

Our school’s annual fund drive is underway.  Financially, this is a challenging time for St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.  Our vestry and the school’s board have been working hard for the past two years to broaden the school’s mission in order to meet a greater need in the community.  Your support of this year’s annual fund will enable us to continue to provide our excellent academic and Christian foundation as we begin to implement three exciting initiatives (special training for dyslexic children, an innovation lab, and variable tuition).

I encourage you to support the St. Andrew’s Episcopal School Annual Fund in any way you can.  Contributions can be made online at or you can send a check directly to the school at 45 Main Street, Newport News, VA  23601.

Thank you!


Thursday, February 22, 2018

New Chromebooks for Holy Cross School in Belize

On behalf of the Outreach Team, I wanted to share an exciting update on the status of some monies that had been designated to fund ongoing work at Holy Cross school in Belize. We were able to contact Brian Ostenso who is the Chairman of Holy Cross Education Foundation. He was beyond thrilled to hear of the funds that St. Andrew’s wanted to donate to the school.  I want to share his response with all of you: 

Dear Elise,

Your gift of about $4000 will allow us to purchase 20 Chromebooks. We have been using them in our 6 upper division classrooms. Right now we only have 5 per classroom and could really use 10 per classroom. The teachers and students have been using them a lot and will be very happy to hear that more may be on the way.

Thank you for your very generous gift and ongoing support of the children at Holy Cross Anglican School.


Thanks to everyone at St. Andrew’s for your time, talents, and monies that continue to touch lives outside our walls!

Elise Wall
Vestry Liaison to Outreach Team

Monday, February 19, 2018

Mutual Ministry Review & Staff Covenant

Dear friends,

Now that February is here, the vestry, staff, and I are busy with the important task of evaluating our first year of ministry together.  At our retreat on February 10, the vestry and I conducted a Mutual Ministry Review; and I am in the midst of holding individual performance appraisals with our parish staff.  Those of us who work at St. Andrew’s have a covenant with one another, an agreement to abide by fourteen practices to ensure that our interactions with one another are healthy, holy, and life-giving—for us and for the church as a whole.  Preparing for staff appraisals has reminded me anew of how very blessed we are by the ministry and presence of each member of our amazing team:  Lorna Williams, Kathy Gray, Brad Norris, Rachel Roby, Matthew Williamson, Bill Boyer, and Bill Wilds.

Lent is a season for introspection, an opportunity to look anew at the patterns and relationships in our lives and to re-commit to engaging in healthy, holy, and life-giving relationships.  I invite you to spend some time reflecting on the staff covenant (see below).  Please join me in giving thanks for our gifted, dedicated staff team; and please join me also in considering how each of us might adapt these practices into our own relationships—for the sake of the Church, and for the sake of the One who calls us to be church.


St. Andrew’s Staff Covenant
We, the staff of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Newport News, VA, as an expression of our commitment to God and God’s mission in the world, make the following covenantal promises and commitments to each other.

  1.   We will value our ministry of leadership to our congregation as a team and offer our primary relational loyalty to that team.
  2.   We will express criticism and negative feelings first to the person, not to others.
  3.   We will refuse to talk with a complainer until that person addresses the person she or he is complaining about.
  4.   We will maintain confidentiality in staff conversations and meetings.
  5.   We will explain clearly to people who bring staff complaints that we will be sharing the conversation with the staff.
  6.   We commit to being gracious towards one another about our personality differences in order to support strengths and to balance weaknesses.
  7.   We will lay our cards on the table and openly discuss our personal hopes plans, dreams, and agendas relating to proposals being made.
  8.   We accept the fact that disagreements are expected and are to take place behind closed staff doors; in public we present ourselves as a team.
  9.   We will not participate in factional power plays within the parish and will disclose any such invitations received immediately to the entire staff.
 10.  We will serve as “acolytes” to other staff in their ministry endeavors.
 11.  We will make amends to the staff person(s) we wrong when we break one of these promises, and we will forgive those who make amends.
 12.  We will remind each other of these promises when we observe another staff person breaking one of them.
 13.  We invite parishioners to join us in these behaviors.
 14.  We will ask God to write these covenants upon our hearts.  “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God and they will be my people.” -- Jeremiah 31:33

My Impressions of the Trinity Institute Conference - 2018

On February 2 and 3, 2018, I attended a conference at St. Paul's, Newport News entitled Values in Action. St. Paul's was a partner site for this conference which was held at Trinity Church and St. Paul's Church in New York City.

Friday evening was made up of a worship service at Trinity with a sermon by the Most Reverend Michael Curry, our Presiding Bishop. The gospel reading was the Beatitudes and he called on us to dare to live the values which Jesus taught us. The part of his sermon which struck me most acutely was his father's advice (direction!) to him as he was driving Michael to college. "Son, treat every young woman as you would want your sister to be treated and treat every young man as you would want your brother to be treated. In actuality, that young woman IS your sister and that young man IS your brother." Bishop Curry said he has never forgotten those words.

Also that evening we heard from one of the 11.4 million undocumented Americans, a man by the name of Jose Antonio Vargas, who has founded an organization called Define American. You might want to look up the website. Mr. Vargas spoke to us about the gift of uncomfortable conversations and the power of story.

The following morning, Michelle Alexander, an author and teacher took values as her subject matter, saying that hers have evolved from the abstractions of freedom, equality, and justice to values which now more adequately reflect her fundamental belief structure: care, compassion, and concern. She spoke quite a bit about healthy conversations in which we're not trying to educate the other, but wanting to dialogue about what prevents us from responding with care, compassion, and concern. She challenged me to ask myself: Do I have the courage to act on what I value? Can I muster the courage to speak my truth and to step out?

The next speaker was an Irish poet, Padraig O Tuama, who spoke to our willingness to tell our stories truthfully to one another. We broke into small groups and were asked the following: "If you were to tell the story of your life right now, what would the first sentence be?" Quite a fascinating and ongoing exercise!

The last session which I attended was a panel discussion with a Jewish woman, a Christian woman, and a Muslim man. They told us about their part in a national nonpartisan campaign that brings together scholars from a diverse range of religious traditions to articulate core American values. If you are interested, the website is 100 Days, 100 letters.

I am so grateful that I said "yes" to this stimulating and valuable (pun intended!) conference.

Ann Lee