Monday, November 26, 2018

Same Sex Marriage at St. Andrew's

Dear Friends, 

As you may know, at this past summer’s General Convention, The Episcopal Church passed a resolution allowing all rectors of Episcopal Churches to perform same sex marriages.  This means that every Episcopalian now has the opportunity to be married in his or her home parish.  As of Advent I, which is Sunday, December 2, all clergy in Southern Virginia may use the trial rites for marriage – including same-gender marriage - without permission from the office of the Bishop.

As has always been the case, parish clergy with primary authority (rector, priest in charge, etc.) are free to decide for themselves whether or not to perform any marriage – same-gender or otherwise. In other words, no clergy person in the Episcopal Church is obliged to perform any particular marriage.

The vestry and I have talked about same-sex marriage.  My stance about same sex marriage is the same as my stance about heterosexual marriage:  If a couple loves each other, loves God, and is actively involved in our faith community (or, because of distance, in some other Christian community), then it is my honor and privilege to bless their marriage.  As a clergy person, I am not willing to perform weddings for folks, straight or gay, who are not actively engaged in a relationship with God that is being lived out in a community of faith.  I have no interest in St. Andrew’s becoming a “wedding chapel”—a pretty backdrop for any couple that is not serious about grounding and nurturing their relationship in God.

I know that, as in so many things, there is wide diversity of opinion at St. Andrew’s about same sex marriage.  As I’ve said before, one of the great blessings of our faith community –and one of the great gifts we have to offer to our increasingly polarized world—is the way we at St. Andrew’s come together despite our differences to worship God and be nourished at God’s table.  A parishioner whom I greatly love and admire and whose views on same sex marriage are completely different from mine said to me, “I wouldn’t want to be part of a church in which everyone has to believe that same sex marriage is okay.”  Neither would I.  I want to be part of a church in which we recognize, honor, and respect the dignity of every human being—even and especially those whose views are so different from our own.

As we enter into this new season of life in our church, may we hold one another and ourselves gently, trusting in God’s love and mercy.  And let us hold in our prayers all couples preparing for marriage.  Make their life together a sign of Christ's love to this sinful and broken world, that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair (BCP, 429).

Anne +

Meet our Vestry nominees

The following parishioners have been nominated for the Vestry Class of 2021. We are grateful for their willingness to serve: 

Tonia Graves
Moving to Virginia, it was important our children have a say in choosing our church.  The reception we got from St. Andrew’s, especially EYC, made the decision easy.  I don’t know what I would do without my St. Andrew’s family and my continued service now that the children have grown up and moved away.  With this nomination, I am, as always, blessed and honored to be able to give back to my church home in service to God.

Steve Howell
I would like to be considered for a position on Vestry for a number of reasons. I have been attending St. Andrews for almost ten years now and have benefited personally and spiritually from the St Andrews community. It is now time for me to give back to this wonderful Church. I will bring my time and prior knowledge as a business owner to the Vestry in hopes of contributing positive supportive input in Vestry activities going forward. I’m honored to be considered for this position. 

Betsy Jones
Our family first came to St. Andrews when Cassie and Tucker were attending St. Andrew's School.  The warm and friendly environment made us feel at home right away! I’ve enjoyed helping Jackie and her hospitality crew out over the years; I’m currently one of the greeters and it’s always uplifting to say hello as people are arriving at church. I had been thinking over the past few months that I would like to become more involved at St. Andrew's and am excited about hopefully serving on the vestry.

Allie Wittkamp
St. Andrew’s has been such an important part of my spiritual foundation as the church where I myself was baptized and had my Christian upbringing.  My experience is made whole being part of the parish as an adult, where I worship alongside my parents and foster a spiritual foundation for my young daughter.  It would be an honor to serve at this time when the St. Andrew’s family discerns its intended purpose and mission in the present-day parish.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Advent is almost here: Got repentance?

Next Sunday December 2 is the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the four-week season of Advent.

The word Advent comes from the Latin adventus, which means “coming,” or “arrival.” For many Christians today, Advent is the time when they prepare for Christmas, the coming of the Christ-Child. Looking forward to the birth of Jesus is definitely a large part of the season of Advent, but seemingly less important to today’s Christians is the other large part of the season, which is the looking forward to the return of Christ to the world as he promised.

It is easy to get caught up in the twinkle and sparkle of the purple and pink (or blue and pink, depending on your preference) Advent candles as we mark each Sunday of Advent, and forget that we as Christians need to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming back of our Lord Jesus.

Advent is a season of repentance like Lent, when we examine our hearts and resolve to change our behaviors to be more Christ-like, including practicing more love and compassion in our lives. What would Jesus find if he came back to the world today? Would he find you a more loving person, a person who cares for others, especially those who are in pain, those who know poverty, or those who struggle with addiction or with their own identity?

Throughout the season of Advent flows both joy and repentance. It is also a time of hope. Christians can look forward to new beginnings, find ways to improve our relationships with each other and also renew our faith in God. It is important for us to remember the first coming of Jesus and also anticipate his second coming.

The words of Hymn 66 which is in the Advent section of our hymnal underline for me both parts of the season:
Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.

Born thy people to deliver, born a child, and yet a king,
Born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring.

The Rev. Lorna Williams

Friday, November 9, 2018

Love always conquers hate

As part of the Prayer Vigil held at St. Andrew's following the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, cards expressing our grief, and love, were sent to our Jewish friends. This response was received from Congregation Emet v ' Or which meets here at St. Andrew's:

While all our hearts grieve for families of senseless violence (regardless of faith), we are very comforted knowing that the love and friendship shown remains strong and unbending. All of us a Emet v’Or feel truly blessed to have and know neighbors like you! We have felt your generosity, know your warmth and concern and feel the community bonds strengthen. It is wonderful to be assured that love always conquers hate.

Our very best to all friends!
Lisa Stern
Corresponding Secretary, Emet v’Or

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Some thoughts about solicitations at church

Maybe it’s happened to you: You are coming into St. Andrew’s for a service or volunteering at the front desk or just chatting with a friend in the lobby, and someone comes up to you to ask for money.  You don’t know the person, but he or she has a compelling story and definitely looks needy.  What should you do?

My reply may surprise you:  Say a silent prayer, introduce yourself, ask the person’s name, express your concern about their situation, invite them to enjoy St. Andy’s CafĂ©, but please don’t give the person money.  Instead, offer them one of the “Seeking Help?” papers from the tract racks in the Main Street Lobby, which list contact information for LINK, THRIVE, and several other local agencies.  Why?  Because LINK and THRIVE are far better equipped than we are (or at least than I am) to ascertain how best to help someone asking for aid, which is why our parish partners with them and provides financial and other support for their ministries.  Usually when a person is asking for money there are a number of underlying issues that need to be addressed.  I trust our friends at LINK and THRIVE to be able to assess the situation. 

Some of the folks who come to St. Andrew’s seeking help have been here numerous times before but have not been willing to work with LINK or THRIVE.  If we give them the cash they are seeking, we enable them to continue to avoid doing some important internal work that might actually resolve some of their financial problems. 

I know that it’s hard to say, “No” to these requests.  It is for me, too.  In my car I carry brochures with contact information for THRIVE and LINK and other agencies, and I offer bottled water and granola bars to folks who come to my window asking for help.  I tell them that I don’t give out cash because I donate regularly to the agencies on the paper, who are better equipped to help them than I am.  And it’s true. 

Anne +

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Veterans Day 2018

There is a time for everything...a time for everything that is done on earth.
There is a time to be born and there a time to die.
There is a time to plant and a time to pull up what is planted.
There is a time to kill and a time to heal.
There is a time to tear down and a time to build up.
There is a time to cry and a time to laugh.
There is a time to be sad and a time to dance.
There is a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them.
There is a time to hug and a time not to hug.
There is a time to search and a time to stop searching.
There is a time to keep and a time to throw away.
There is a time to tear and a time to mend.
There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.
There is a time to love and a time to hate.
There is a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

This year has been an exciting year in the life of Hilton Village and thus the city of Newport News, with various groups focusing on our impact during World War I.  In the years of that war, more than 500,000 horses and mules were sent to England and other countries out of Newport News; and over 500,000 men returned to Newport News and were honored to walk through our Victory Arch.  I can’t speak for them.

I can’t speak for those who, in World War II, went to Europe, maybe to brave the beaches at Normandy, or to the Pacific Theater to brave the untold fear of the islands.

I can’t speak for those who went to Korea, or to the Middle East, or to Afghanistan.

I can only speak of having gone to a small country where, when Christ was born in what we call the Holy Land, a war was being fought.  It was a land of airstrips, jeeps, tar paper houses with tin roofs held down by old tires, motorbikes, black silk pajamas, water buffalo, sandbags, straw hats, green and camouflaged fatigues, trash, mountains - with some of the best marble in the world, land mines, and thousands and thousands of miles of barbed wire.

Veterans in all wars:
have endeavored to plant the seeds of democracy and peace,
have made many efforts to rebuild what was destroyed,
have cried and laughed with each other,
have hugged and gathered to remember, as we do today,
have kept their thoughts and maybe relics from their past, often finding
it difficult to throw away those thoughts and relics,
have been silent and have spoken out,
have tried to turn hate into love,
and have hoped that war will be replaced with peace.

May we all plant joy; support those who are downhearted; dance, and hug, and even cry together; speak from our hearts, and hopefully one day be able to replace hate and war with love and peace.   Amen.

Bill Wilds