|Posted by communications on September 16, 2020 at 9:40 AM||comments (0)|
So, 2020: What a year, huh? Recently I saw a post in which the writer said we should “just put up a tree, call it a year and be done with it”. I can relate to that feeling as I’m sure many of you can as well. There have been many challenges for all of us this year; stress and anxiety are all around; floods, fires and even an earthquake in North Carolina. In the midst of everything else friends, family and fellow citizens continue to die. It can feel overwhelming at times. But, I’m reminded of the opening of Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…” Please read the entire psalm when you have time(it’s only 11 verses).
The words of hymn 550 in The Hymnal 1982(“Jesus calls us; o’er the tumult” speak to the challenges of keeping focused on Christ and his call to “follow” him in the midst of chaos. If you have a hymnal at home you will notice that hymn numbers 549 and 550 both use this text. It is the same text but two different tunes. In other denominations this text is sung to yet another tune. Ok, I’m no rocket scientist BUT, if all these composers are setting this text to different tunes maybe there’s something to which I should pay attention. In case you don’t have a hymnal at home, below is part of that wonderful hymn text. I hope it will encourage you during these challenging days.
"Jesus Calls Us; O’er the Tumult"
Jesus call us; o’er the tumult of our life’s wild, restless sea, day by day his clear voice soundeth, saying, “Christian, follow me”. Jesus call us from the worship of the vain world’s golden store; from each idol that would keep us, saying, “Christian, love me more”. In our joys and in our sorrows, days of toil and hours of ease, still he calls, in cares and pleasures, “Christian, love me more than these”. Jesus calls us! By thy mercies, Savior, may we hear thy call, give our hearts to thine obedience, serve and love thee best of all.
Words: Cecil Frances Alexander(1818-1895)
|Posted by communications on September 9, 2020 at 4:25 PM||comments (0)|
A question that has been on my mind a lot in recent days is, “how does the Church continue to be the Church in this moment in our history?” For nearly six months now, we have been unable to gather for worship in our church building. This has been a challenging reality for those of us for whom “going to church” has always been an integral part of our lives. It has even become a source of tension among “church-going” folks, with some insisting that indoor, in-person worship should continue, regardless of the status of the pandemic. There is also a growing fear among many church leaders that the already declining numbers in church attendance will become exponentially worse because of this extended time of not going to church.
The angst is understandable. Even as we have found new ways to do worship and keep ourselves connected, it will never feel the same as coming together in one place on Sunday mornings for worship. I think we do well, however, to remember what it really means to be the Church.
The word that we translate as “church” is the Greek word “ekklesia”, which literally means “to call out from”. It has little if anything to do with a specific location or building, but refers to a gathering of people convened for a particular purpose, with a clear implication that the purpose will be fulfilled by the actions of members after the gathering. In other words, the word that we translate as “church” is much more about how we live our faith in the world than it is about what we do within the church walls on Sunday morning; it is much more about peoples’ lives than it is about a building. Instead of talking only about “going to church” we should rather talk more often about “being the Church."
Now please don’t get me wrong! I am not saying that going to church is unimportant. Coming together in one place for worship, prayer, to receive the sacraments, and to simply be together as fellow members of the Body of Christ is vitally important for our spiritual growth and development. What I am saying, however, is that even when we are only able to “gather” virtually, we can still be the Church. Indeed, in this moment in time we are especially called to be the Church.
We are being called as members of the Body of Christ to live in this challenging time in ways that bear witness to God’s love and mercy for all of God’s creation. We are being called to openly acknowledge racial injustice in our nation and to do whatever we can in our context to facilitate real and lasting change. We are being called to serve as agents of God’s reconciling love in a time when our nation is so deeply divided by partisan politics. We are being called to care for our loved ones and strangers alike, by wearing our masks and social distancing. We are being called to carry our faith with us into the voting booth, not on our sleeves and for the purpose of judging or shaming others, but with a genuine desire to participate in a process that impacts our world and the neighbors we are called to love. We are called to be the Church. We can do that even when we cannot go to church in the way we would like.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by communications on September 2, 2020 at 3:35 PM||comments (0)|
September greetings! By the time you read this, (assuming the weather cooperates) we will have held our first in-person worship service since early March. My heart is humming with joy at the thought of celebrating Holy Eucharist with you after these long months of separation. Of course, it will not be the same as what we had before. Only 25 of us at a time are able to gather. We will break bread but keep our fast from the sharing the chalice. We won’t be able to see one another’s smiles under our masks. We won’t be able to hug each other or shake hands. We won’t be able to sing. Some are unable to return to worship in person yet. And yet, how exciting it is to gather together again, even in these different circumstances. I feel incredibly confident in the safety protocols the Diocese of North Carolina has put in place to make this possible and I look forward to praising God together in the coming days with Holy Eucharist on Wednesday nights and Sunday Mornings, and Wiggle Worship on Thursday mornings.
Of course, we are continuing to gather online for Morning Prayer each Sunday on Facebook. The sense of community we find in our online worship still surprises and delights me, even as I eagerly anticipate all the outdoor in person gatherings coming up. We are very blessed indeed to have our beautiful grounds for outdoor worship AND our technological capability for online worship. Regardless of the setting, our gatherings for prayer and praise of God are such a balm right now. In these days when isolation, vitriol, cynicism, and angst seem ever-present in our society, we need each other, and we need Jesus.
My family and I finally managed to get away for some vacation time at the end of August. It took herculean efforts from the staff and worship volunteers to make it happen, but we pulled it off and we were so grateful for the change of scenery and a chance to unplug. I hope you and your loved ones have also found opportunities for rest and recreation in recent months, whether at home or away. I pray that you are well in the ways that matter most, to quote a friend. God bless you, St. Alban’s.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by communications on August 26, 2020 at 11:25 AM||comments (1)|
May I be happy
May I be peaceful
May I be healthy
May I be gracious and joyous
May I be free from suffering
These words were shared as a mantra by a favorite yoga instructor some years ago. They are certainly worthy goals and words perfect for bringing on a calm and meditative state. With the onset of the pandemic, it seemed a rather egocentric preoccupation. I realized I had been forced out of my comfort zone by something as mundane as the scarcity of paper towels. My need for order and logic was likely keeping me from the spiritual depths of beneficent vulnerability.
I found a parallel sentiment with the safety changes required for La Escuelita San Alban Bilingual Preschool to reopen. St. Alban’s Church started the Escuelita ministry on the notion that it is ESSENTIAL to the well-being of our families and the success of our children. We are funded based on our mission statement. We are supported financially and otherwise because we believe in the “good works” support of a sector of our community. Our journey has been largely one of joy and ease and success. We must persist.
But just as with any spiritual journey, we are now asked to force ourselves into a new environment with new rules. We are asked to leave our comfort zone for the greater good. Our belief in this mission will strengthen our resolve and help us mindfully approach each requirement. We will try to “succeed” in the midst of our doubts and “create order” out of disorder. We must lose some things if we are to maintain grace. We must adapt to new ways for the greater good or we will never learn how to give up control to the Lord. It is the necessary pattern in a life of grace.
I will wait for the Lord,
I will put my trust in him.
|Posted by communications on August 19, 2020 at 10:10 AM||comments (0)|
August is here! I can’t believe it and with it comes high temperatures, end of summer, last vacations, earlier beginning of school, no Fall sports and many other things. The year of 2020 has certainly thrown us some curve balls thus far and August is not looking like any other one we have ever had! Our sense of normalcy has been thrown out the window and we see ourselves taking first day of school pictures without backpacks, not needing to catch the bus or even leave the house. Children from new Kindergartners to Seniors in high school are logging on from their homes to meet their new teachers through a screen. Face masks are our newest item of required clothing and we all continue to look for even more unique ones just to have something fun to show our sense of personality, since you can’t see all of our faces! Unbelievably different and unimaginable? You bet!
How do we navigate all of this and still stay sane? My thoughts go to several places, most importantly to our Faith. We come together for our Sunday worship even if it’s still on our sofas and we reach out with Christ’s love to our children, our families and others in need. One of my mantras is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We find strength in him and take time to breathe, prayerfully meditate and re-group. As many of my friends and I like to say, “We Got This!” or rather “We Got This Because God Has Us” and will strengthen us to endure.
August will be past us soon enough and September will come and we will hopefully know more, have established some new routines and will once again have traversed another month in history like no other. Then, in September, we will bring you the beginning of a whole new Sunday School! Our VBS went so well, we are going to provide you with the materials in packets to have Sunday School at home at your leisure. We have spent some time researching a few curriculums that will work more specifically for each age group. Each month we will put together packets for those registered and will have them available for pick up at the church. Please be on the lookout for additional information and an online registration link in the newsletter next week. We have many other exciting ideas to engage the kids in addition to the packets and look forward to learning and growing with you during this challenging time.
|Posted by communications on August 12, 2020 at 4:30 PM||comments (2)|
Just recently, our Diocesan Bishops made the decision to move us into Stage 1B, which allows us to gather outdoors in limited numbers. Being outside drastically reduces the likelihood of virus spread, as does keeping gatherings small. We are excited to share our plans for outdoor worship in September!
Our 10:30 a.m. Sunday service will continue to be an online Morning Prayer service with a sermon and music. This service is where we continue to put the majority of our time and energy, since it will have the broadest reach.
Beginning September 2, we plan to hold in-person worship on Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. and beginning on September 6, we plan to hold in-person worship on Sundays at 8:00 a.m. These worship services will be simple and short. Our intention is that these will be services of Holy Eucharist, but we are awaiting final word from the Diocese about this.
Additionally, we plan to introduce a special weekly service called “Wiggle Worship” geared toward families with young kids. This service will meet on Thursday mornings at 9:30 a.m. beginning September 10.
Please understand that attendance at any of these services will require strict adherence to all of the following Diocesan guidelines:
• Prior to attending, please pre-screen yourself and everyone in your household for possible COVID-19 symptoms
• Everyone over the age of two should wear a mask.
• Please keep at least six feet of physical distance from anyone not in your household.
• Singing is not allowed.
• Bring your own chair or blanket to sit on.
• Please understand that we will not be able to provide entrance to the building for restrooms except in emergencies. Whenever possible, take care of bathroom needs prior to coming.
• Each attendee must be signed up in advance to ensure we stay within the attendance limits of 25 people per gathering.
In order to safely offer these services, everyone must understand that abiding by the guidelines is a Covenant we all willingly enter, to protect the most vulnerable in our midst.
Signups will be made available next week. As space is limited, please start by signing up for only one service in September. If there are still available spaces on the day of the service, feel free to sign up and attend. Because these services will be outdoors, we may need to cancel in the event of inclement weather. We will do our best to contact everyone who has signed up if we are forced to cancel a service.
We’ll plan worship one month at a time, in case we need to make adjustments as we go. Of course, any plans we make for in-person gatherings are subject to change based on the current situation. We must all stay flexible and do our best to adapt with grace when needed.
Stage 1B also allows for outdoor gatherings for meetings or small groups as long as all the same guidelines are followed. If you are part of a group that would like to meet in person outdoors, be in touch with Jessica in the church office to schedule it. Please be mindful that some members of our congregation are not able to attend in person gatherings and therefore some meetings and group should probably continue online for the time being.
This is a new milestone for us and we will do everything we can to make these outdoor worship opportunities safe and meaningful. One thing I can guarantee you is that it will not feel like “old times” in any way. It will be “good and pleasant to dwell together in unity” (to quote this Sunday’s Psalm) but it will not be the same. Yet we trust that God’s grace will be present in these changes, as it always is.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by communications on August 5, 2020 at 11:10 AM||comments (0)|
I’ve been fascinated by time since my childhood. While we are in the present and the future always lies ahead, the study of the past can give greater understanding of how we humans tend to navigate the joys and challenges of this life. Musicians study the lives and music of composers, poets and musicians of the present and the past. In doing this, one is amazed to learn how people from the past endured and overcame challenges to produce such lasting works of art, literature and music. People need not be famous to accomplish great things. This is true for those in all walks of life. I’m sure you have people from your life who have overcome obstacles and gone on to do great things. In time, what is good and what is bad usually becomes clear. Mother Teresa was quoted as saying “do small things with great love”. How wonderful it would be if we all aspired to live in such a way.
Do you sometimes wish that we could have God’s perspective on time: to know all that has and all that will happen? Scripture says that for God a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day. How wonderful (and frightening) it would be for us to know all that will occur in a lifetime. Perhaps that knowledge is best left for only God to know. With many of us asking “Lord, how long will this go on?”- the pandemic; injustice; pain; suffering- it can seem like little consolation to know that many before us have asked the same question and leaned on their faith to endure such uncertainty. But, lean we must! As a lifetime worrier and accomplished fretter I can whole-heartedly recommend this approach. God doesn’t ask perfection of us; that is only accomplished in Christ. However, through faith he does give us opportunities to see that over time he has and is accomplishing all that he wills for us. We are invited to be a part of the church’s mission. In closing, I would share the text below written by Fred Pratt Green. It is a good summary of that mission and is Hymn 779 in our supplemental hymnal, Wonder, Love and Praise. The Church of Christ in Every Age.
The church of Christ in every age, beset by change but spirit led, must claim and test its heritage and keep on rising from the dead. Across the world, across the street, the victims of injustice cry for shelter and for bread to eat and never live until they die. Then let the servant church arise. A caring church that longs to be a partner in Christ’s sacrifice, and clothed in Christ’s humanity. For Christ alone, whose blood was shed, can cure the fever in our blood. And teach us how to share our bread and feed the starving multitude. We have no mission but to serve in full obedience to our Lord: to care for all without reserve and spread Christ’s liberating word.
Words: Fred Pratt Green(b. 1903); © 1971 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, Il. 60188
|Posted by communications on July 29, 2020 at 11:25 AM||comments (0)|
A number of you have asked me recently about Davidson College’s plans for the coming academic year. I thought I would share with everyone what I know at this point and how it impacts our on-going ministry to the students.
The college is currently planning for students to be on campus for the Fall semester and they will begin arriving on August 15th. Classes are scheduled to resume on August 20th. Those students who are vulnerable due to underlying health issues, or who are uncomfortable with being on campus, will be given the option of doing all remote learning. Even for those students on campus, many of the classes will be held remotely, and in-person classes will have strict protocols in place. Group gatherings in general will be very limited. Students are also being urged to severely limit off-campus trips and activities.
I won’t go into all the details but suffice it to say that things are going to be very different this academic year. This will certainly have an impact on Canterbury. Our Sunday afternoon Eucharists will not be allowed, so we will continue to do virtual worship, as we did for the last part of last semester. The biggest impact for Saint Alban’s will be that we will sadly not be able to do our “Movable Feast” meals for the students on Sunday evenings, at least for the Fall semester. As you can imagine, the students are quite disappointed about this, as am I.
Given our new reality, I would very much like to find new ways for Saint Alban’s to support our students. I have suggested to the students that in lieu of the Sunday evening meals, we might provide goody-bags/study snacks on a regular basis. They like this idea. If it is permitted by the college, we will work out a plan and recruit volunteers for this, so stay tuned! Please feel free to be in touch with me about other ideas of how we might support the students during what will be a very strange semester for them.
In the meantime, I ask that you keep the college community in your prayers. The administration, faculty, staff, and students are understandably anxious about the coming days.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by communications on July 22, 2020 at 1:20 PM||comments (1)|
Are you a part of St. Alban’s? Sometimes we hear from folks who are not quite sure if they are a member. If that applies to you, you’re not alone! Rest assured that no matter your formal membership status, if you consider St. Alban’s your church home, then you belong and we are delighted to have you as part of our family of faith! Officially speaking, we have three main categories of membership in our parish database:
Active Members are those who have been baptized in the Christian faith (any denomination), have worshiped with St. Alban’s at least three times in the past year, have made a financial contribution in the past year, and have completed the membership form.
A Voting Member is someone who fulfills the qualifications for an Active Member, is at least sixteen years old, and has been confirmed or received in the Episcopal Church. Voting members are eligible to participate in voting at the Annual Parish Meeting, serve on the Vestry, and serve as delegates to the Annual Convention of the Diocese of North Carolina.
To keep our records up to date for church governance purposes, periodically we have to go through the database and move people between these categories based on giving records, attendance, etc. As we gear up for another fall season of our annual pledge campaign and vestry elections, knowing your membership category can be helpful. If you are curious about your membership category and/or are interested in officially becoming an Active or Voting Member, then please reach out to our Parish Administrator Jessica Ewell to find out what steps need to be taken. Currently, confirmations and receptions from other denominations by the Bishop are on hold until we can gather in person, but if you are interested in being confirmed or received into the Episcopal Church from another denomination, let us know and we can work with you to prepare you for whenever the Bishops are able to resume confirmations and receptions.
Please know that regardless of whether you are a friend, an active member, or a voting member, your connection to St. Alban’s is valued. We are all part of the body of Christ which has no hierarchy of categories! But for the purposes of our shared life together, we encourage all who call this parish their church home to be faithful in worship, generous in giving, and find a way to serve. While these activities may look a bit different in a time of pandemic, they remain as important as ever for the flourishing of our community!
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by communications on July 15, 2020 at 10:25 AM||comments (1)|
Ode to Child-Rearing Through a Pandemic: A Parenting Manifesto
My own children are grown and self-sufficient (for the most part). Thinking about young families deprived of extended playgroups, without access to story time at the library, and managing an on-line curriculum makes me wince. My heart goes out to you all. On the flip side, you have likely found a new fondness for your children that comes of seclusion and uninterrupted time free from schedules and meetings. I smile to watch my neighbors’ arsenal of outdoor activities multiply. First it was the new bicycles, then the badminton net, now the above ground pool. Sigh. We ALL want school to start again but have niggling fears.
I take this opportunity to share a particularly poignant narrative highlighted by Fr. Richard Rohr who says, “Brené Brown knows the importance of vulnerability and open-heartedness. In her book Daring Greatly, she offers a parenting manifesto that can serve as a touchstone when we feel afraid or resist vulnerability. You might read it aloud to your child, someone you love, or yourself:”
Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions—the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself.
I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.
We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both.
We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values, as well as family practices.
You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel.
I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude. I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.
When uncertainty and scarcity visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.
Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.
We will laugh and sing and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what, you will always belong here.
As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.
I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.
Dear Lord. Thank you for the gift of our children. Help us to love them just as you love us. Being a parent is not an easy task, but with you, Lord, everything is possible. May our children learn from our examples of patience, kindness, and rejoicing in love.