Friday, April 1, 2022

Rector & Parish Sabbatical

 Dear members of St Andrew’s,

It will soon be that time again. Time for our rector and our parish to go on sabbatical. Sabbaticals sustain healthy ministers and healthy parishes. It is important to view this time as renewal for Anne as well as our congregation. We will hope to gain new insights, new energy for ministry, and renewed vision for our future together.

Anne’s sabbatical dates are from Sept 2023 through November 2023. We are applying for a grant from the Lilly Foundation that will cover the cost of Anne’s sabbatical and offer funds for parish use. The Lilly Foundation requires that this be a joint endeavor involving the rector and parish, and for that reason we will need your help in determining what renewal could look like for St. Andrew’s.

As we think about this, it is important for us to recognize the difference between a sabbatical and a vacation. Even though both a vacation and a sabbatical allow for a time of rest away from routine responsibilities, a sabbatical serves to help us all reconnect with our inner spiritual resources.

Anne’s plan is to take a series of pilgrimages. She intends to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and travel the Civil Rights Trail in the Southern US. This sabbatical also includes time for retreat, rest, and visits with mentors. The gentle rhythm of this pilgrimage will give Anne the opportunity to find a full sense of renewal.

Meanwhile, we at St. Andrew’s will also be participating in activities to provide us with renewal for the next season of our ministry together as rector and congregation. In line with Anne’s emphasis on pilgrimage and retreat, we are contemplating a special focus on labyrinths as part of our spiritual pilgrimage; and a parish retreat weekend with opportunities for rest, reflection, and the deepening of relationships.

It is important to note that the vestry fully supports our application for the Lilly Foundation grant and the sabbatical is part of the agreement under which Anne was called. The success of earning the Lilly Foundation grant is dependent on the support and full engagement of the congregation. So we are requesting your response by April 11 to these two sets of questions:

Renewal for St. Andrew’s:
  1. What renewal activities/opportunities could St. Andrew’s provide during Anne’s sabbatical that would be helpful to you, personally? To our parish as a whole?
  2. Would engaging more deeply with the labyrinth and the theme of pilgrimage be helpful tools for renewal? Why or why not?
  3. How do you feel about a parish retreat?

Support for the renewal experience for Anne and for St. Andrew’s:
  1. What comments do you have about the need and potential benefits of this renewal time for Anne?
  2. For the parish?

To share your responses, you may email our senior warden, Dawn Edquist, at dawnwm94@gmail.com, or call the church office at 595-0371 and leave a message with Ann Turner, our Parish administrator.

Thank you, and we hope to hear from you soon,

The Sabbatical Advisory Team
(Dawn Edquist, Ann Lee, David Lilley)

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Update on masking in church

 Dear friends,

Beginning Sunday, March 6, masks will no longer be required inside our buildings—but they will still be recommended.  

As you probably know, the CDC issued new Covid guidance last week, listing our area as a “green zone," where masking is recommended only for those who have underlying health conditions or are unvaccinated.  Following up on this new CDC information, our diocese has asked all parishes, even those in green zones, to consider carefully the risk level of our parishioners and community members.  What does that mean for us at St. Andrew’s?  Our parishioners and building users include several groups of folks at higher risk:  children too young to be vaccinated, elderly people, and people with underlying health conditions.  And so we are recommending but not requiring masking; and we are asking you to be mindful of those around you as you decide whether or not to unmask.

Our choir will continue to wear masks while singing.  Our staff members will continue to wear masks while walking through the building and during worship but are free to unmask as they and those around them feel comfortable in small group settings.

Please, do what is safest and most comfortable for you and your family. Please continue to mask and social distance if that is what is best for you. If you do not feel safe attending worship in which folks may be unmasked and singing, you might consider attending the 8 AM Sunday service or the 11 AM Wednesday service. Neither of those services includes singing and both are smaller gatherings. We will continue to offer virtual worship as well.

In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul tells the Christians of Corinth that our decisions about what we choose to do or not do should be grounded in our care for one another, rather than just in our own freedom. As we all make decisions about when and where to wear masks, I pray that we will all keep Paul’s admonition in mind and choose what is safest and best not only for ourselves, but also for those around us.

I am so grateful for your compassion and graciousness—to each other, and to those beyond our doors.  With God’s help, I pray that we will continue to offer and receive those blessings as we move into this next step together.    

Faithfully, Anne 

Monday, February 28, 2022

Outreach opportunities!

 Asset-Based Community Development discussion on March 8

All are invited to join us on Tuesday, March 8, 6:30 to 8 PM to learn about Asset-Based Community Development. Jim Moynihan (www.weareonechurch.com), whose calling is ministry to and with the local community, will talk to us about Asset-Based Community Development and the ways in which St. Andrew’s can be more productive in our community organizing and outreach in 2022. This is open to anyone interested in the topic as well as any guests or neighbors that you would like to bring. Coffee and light refreshments will be provided. No RSVP necessary. For questions or ideas, feel free to contact Matt Deller at pablodeller@outlook.com or 757-812-9852. 

PORT volunteers needed

St. Andrew's will be partnering with Denbigh United Presbyterian Church on Tuesday evening, March 22, through Wednesday morning, March 23, for our second PORT commitment this winter. PORT is a program that provides meals and overnight accommodations at host churches for the homeless in our community. Our volunteers will be feeding and hosting the overnight guests at the site location (302 Denbigh Blvd, Newport News). We are looking for a leader for our cook team! The St. Andrew’s cook team will prepare a hot dinner meal and “breakfast in a bag” items for the overnight guests. Volunteers in the evening will greet the guests, help store their personal bags and hand out bedding. Morning volunteers will assist in handing out bagged breakfasts, returning personal belongings, and taking in bedding. If you would like to join us on any of these teams, a sign-up sheet will be made available in the Main Street Lobby or you may contact Matt Deller at pablodeller@outlook.com or 757-812-9852.

Speaking up on behalf of the oppressed

 Dear friends,

In both the Old and the New Testament, believers are called upon to speak up for those who are oppressed. Proverbs 31:8-9 says, Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. In the sheep and the goats parable in Matthew 25:40, Jesus tells his followers, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."

As you know from a recent newsletter article, I have been facilitating an interfaith clergy group here in Newport News with the aim of finding ways to work together for the betterment of our city. In response to the hostage-taking last month at a Texas synagogue, members of our group composed a statement, which Unitarian Universalist Pastor Andrew Millard submitted to the letter section of the Daily Press and the Virginia Pilot

The other day, Pastor Millard received a poignant letter of thanks from a Jewish woman who lives in Norfolk. In her letter (see below), she talks about what it means to oppressed communities when other people are willing to speak up on their behalf. I thought you might want to read and ponder her words.

May God bless us as we carry out the work of ministry, including advocating for others. 

--Anne

--------------------------------------

Dear Rev. Millard,
 
I want you to know that your letter to the Editor in the Virginian Pilot, “Address Antisemitism,” affected me deeply. As a past director of the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, I have spent years studying and teaching about this tragic time.
 
One of my “heroes” is Elie Wiesel, survivor of the Holocaust, writer, teacher, and perhaps a prophet in our time.
 
One of Wiesel’s statements has remained with me all these years; “It must be emphasized that the victims suffered more, and more profoundly, from the indifference of the onlookers than from the brutality of the executioner… it was the silence of those he believed to be his friends… which broke his heart.”
 
Your letter came at a time that helps to restore the Jewish people’s faith in humanity, when once again antisemitism rears its ugly head. In the words of Wiesel, “Indifference can be… seductive. It is so much easier to look away from victims… It is, after all, troublesome to be involved in another person’s pain and despair.”
 
Please let your friends in “Pastoring the City” know how grateful the Jewish community is for your courage to speak out, for your commitment to “dismantle antisemitism, racism, hatred and bigotry.” And for your friendship.
 
I am forwarding your letter to Rabbi Ron Koas, the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth El in Norfolk (to which I belong) in case he missed it.
 
Again, our hearts are filled with gratitude to know that we have friends, friends willing to speak up on our behalf against not only hate, but also indifference.
 
B’shalom,
Betsy O. Karotkin
Past President of Congregation Beth El

Monday, February 21, 2022

A Lenten Invitation

Just like Advent isn't really a season in its own right, but rather a period of preparation for the celebration of the Incarnation, Lent is at its core a period of personal and communal self-examination intended to prepare us for the celebration of a glorious Easter.  But that is not how we usually think of Lent.  Lent is penitential, gloomy, a time to take a hard look at ourselves and the burden of sin we carry, a time to give something up that we like, a time when we shout as a congregation “Crucify him!” (him being Jesus) during dramatic readings of the gospels on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.  Nothing very glorious about any of that!

But consider a different perspective, one more faithful to the intent of the Lenten season.  Lent is derived from a word meaning “springtime,” denoting new birth, restored life, a chance for a new start.  Here is a novel idea to think about.  Instead of giving up something you like, how about giving up something that you don’t like, such as things that get in the way of a glorious Easter celebration?  Things like self-absorption, lack of charity, refusal to forgive, or disdain for those who differ from you in some way.  That, of course, means taking a hard look yourself, maybe expressing sorrow to God for hurt that is caused, but there is little chance for a new start without knowing where those things that hinder our relationship with God and one another reside in our hearts and actions.

The Invitation to a Holy Lent during the Ash Wednesday service in the Prayer Book (BCP p. 264-5) notes that, by our disciplines of self-examination, repentance, prayer, fasting, self-denial, and reading and meditating on God's holy Word through this season, “the whole congregation [is] put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior,” such that our cry to “Crucify!” culminates in Thomas’ post-resurrection experience with Jesus, as he (we) exclaims “My Lord and my God!” 

Penitential?  Maybe.  Gloomy?  Doesn’t have to be.  Hard self-look?  Sure, but worthy endeavors, all, because our Lenten preparations are intended to culminate in a glorious Easter.

-Marc