|Posted by communications on March 25, 2020 at 1:45 PM||comments (1)|
Psalm 46:1-2 says: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. There fore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea”. One of our most-beloved hymns, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, is a paraphrase of this Psalm. It is Hymn 688 in The Hymnal 1982. In these most unusual times it is important to be reminded of God’s promise to always be with us. Reading this psalm and others, along with the texts of favorite or new hymns, is a wonderful way to be reminded of the faithfulness of our God. Like many of you, my mind can barely take in all that is going on in the world at this present time. Those of you who have been caregivers for family members and/or friends know how memories of stressful times can be triggered by current events. This week will mark another anniversary since my mother’s passing in 2001 and a dear friend’s last year. Just as all of those memories were flooding my mind and I was trying to mentally process the daily news, God, in his faithfulness, reminded me of a song I learned as a young Christian. The name of the song is ‘Til the Storm Passes By and was written by Mosie Lister. Matt Presson and I will offer this song during the 3/29/20 Morning Prayer service. Below are the words to this wonderful song inspired by Isaiah 32. I hope it is the reminder you need of God’s faithfulness.
‘Til the Storm Passes By Words & Music: Mosie Lister
REFRAIN: ‘Til the storm passes over, ‘til the thunder sounds no more, ‘til the clouds roll forever from the sky, Hold me fast, let me stand in the hallow of thy hand; Keep me safe ‘til the storm passes by.
1. In the dark of the mid-night have I oft hid my face, while the storms howl above me, and there’s no hiding place. ‘Mid the crash of the thunder, precious Lord, hear my cry, “Keep me safe ‘til the storm passes by.” REFRAIN
2. Many times Satan whispered: “There is no use to try, for there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by.” But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise where the storms never darken the skies. REFRAIN
3. When the long night has ended, and the storms come no more, let me stand in Thy presence on that bright, peaceful shore. In that land where the tempest never comes, Lord, may I dwell with Thee when the storm passes by. REFRAIN
|Posted by communications on March 20, 2020 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
How are you? How are your spirits today? I know we are all carrying an enormous amount of grief and anxiety right now, while also trying to muster all the joy and silver linings we can. It's bizarre to think back to this time last week when we were still trying to figure out how to safely worship together in person. Now, we know that won't be possible for some time. This week, https://www.episdionc.org/blog/bishops-coronavirus-response-0317/" target="_blank">the Bishops of the Diocese of North Carolina confirmed that, in accordance with guidelines from the CDC and government, all in-person worship, gatherings, and non-essential meetings are suspended through at least May 17. It's quite surreal to think about not being together in the flesh for that length of time, not gathering in person for Holy Week and Easter, and abstaining from Holy Eucharist for that long, but that is what we must do for the health and safety of our wider community.
Right now, my family and I are trying to adjust to our new routine. I imagine many of you are doing the same. We are all figuring this out together, and things will be very different for a while. This week, Kevin and I have begun making pastoral contacts by phone with individuals and families, and this task will continue in the days and weeks to come. There is much we could do, and may do in the weeks to come, but right now, the pastoral care of our parish family is my top priority. I ask for your grace and patience with your clergy and staff as we juggle the demands of our families and our ministries. I also urge you to extend the same grace and patience to yourself and your loved ones. None of us were expecting this reality. None of us are totally prepared. But God is with us, and the love of Jesus Christ will accompany us through "many dangers, toils, and snares" as it always has. I love you, I miss you, and I am praying for you.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by communications on March 19, 2020 at 3:05 PM||comments (0)|
Connection. I think if there's one word that speaks to the spiritual realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's connection. In these days of forced "social distancing" we are all being reminded of how deeply connected we all are, in ways that are both beautiful and, at times, frightening. We are also discovering anew how important relational connections are to our emotional and spiritual health. We are being confronted with a profoundly important existential question: as we seek to keep a safe distance from one another, how do we maintain and even strengthen those life-giving connections that are so essential to Christian community and to our well-being?
This question has relevance beyond the current crisis. In our 21st century context, we have an incredible capacity for connection. Social media in the internet age allows us to connect and re-connect with friends and family across the distances of both space and time. We can make very good use of these tools during the current crisis, as we seek to continue to be with each other, even as our in-person contact is becoming more limited. I'm watching with amazement and gratitude as churches, schools, and other service organizations are so adeptly using social media to reach out and maintain connections, and even establish new connections. Many of us are being forced out of our comfort zones, some of which are isolating and unhealthy. I see all of this as evidence of God's Spirit at work in and through these challenging days. And I see much potential for some enduring and life-giving changes as a result.
That being said, I think this moment is also calling us to reevaluate the ways in which we establish and maintain connections. As helpful as communication technology can be in these efforts, it can also be quite detrimental if used wrongly. We see all too often how email and social media can be used in counterproductive ways: as tools of prejudice and hatred, rather than compassion and mercy; to create discord instead of unity. As someone who is an introvert and conflict-averse by nature, I know the temptation to hide behind electronic communication and to use it in passive-aggressive and destructive ways. Many of us know the temptation to present ourselves and our lives inauthentically on Facebook and other social media. There are indeed ways in which we misuse these tools of connection to create barriers and unnecessary boundaries that are death-dealing instead of life-giving.
As always, we do well to look to the life and teachings of Jesus. Jesus never allowed societal boundaries or barriers to prevent him from reaching out and showing compassion, especially to those who most needed it, to those who had been relegated to the margins by societal and even religious norms. He very intentionally crossed those boundaries to extend God's unconditional and limitless love to all. He went out of his way to spend time with the tax collectors, the prostitutes, and the lepers; those who were considered by their society to be untouchable and unworthy of love and compassion. His public ministry was one of constantly ignoring and breaking down these barriers of prejudice, fear, and hatred.
Don't misunderstand me here. I'm not at all suggesting that we should stop practicing the necessary "social distancing" during this time of pandemic. What I am saying is that we need to find new ways to maintain and strengthen our connections with each other, even as we are forced to limit our in-person contact. Instead of using them as tools of division, use social media and other electronic communications to intentionally reach out and show love and compassion to others, especially those who may be feeling marginalized and isolated at this time. Don't forget the good old-fashioned phone call: pick up your phone and call that person that you know is living alone and may be feeling isolated, even the neighbor or relative that you're not crazy about or don't talk too that often (maybe especially these folks). Call those folks you know that may not have access to email and social media, so are feeling particularly disconnected. Even while maintaining the safe distance that is being called for in this moment, be on the lookout for new ways to cross the boundaries of prejudice and fear to show love and compassion. In other words, do what Jesus would do.
These are indeed challenging days for all of us, but in them there is also tremendous potential for the strengthening and deepening of those connections that are so vital to Christian community. By God's grace and through our intentional openness to one another, I have little doubt that this will ultimately be a time of spiritual growth for all of us.
God be with you, Kevin
|Posted by communications on March 5, 2020 at 5:10 PM||comments (0)|
As we continue to hear news about coronavirus COVID-19, I want to address how we at St. Alban’s can be best prepared. It is not at all in my nature to be alarmist, but I do think it is imperative to be proactive. I hope we can be thoughtful without being fearful. St. Alban’s is committed to healthy and hygienic practices. And given that flu is always a risk, it’s good to be attentive to hygiene anyway, particularly for the protection of those among us with weaker immune systems who are most at risk.
The Diocese of North Carolina recently issued some resources for churches seeking to be prepared for any large-scale outbreak of an infectious disease such as this coronavirus. Among the recommendations are the following guidelines:
If you are sick, please don’t come to worship or other church events! We will miss you, but it’s important to minimize the spread of germs by staying home when needed, particularly for the protection of the oldest, youngest, and immune-suppressed members of our congregation.
Shaking hands is one of the most common human behaviors we know. It is a sign of friendship, welcome, and community. But if you are uncomfortable shaking hands or hugging during the Passing of the Peace and/or during Coffee Hour, that’s ok. Waving, bumping elbows, or even bowing to one another is perfectly acceptable. Even if you’re a hugger like me, try to respect others’ needs and personal boundaries when requested.
Before and after shaking hands with others, remember to wash your hands (with soap and water for at least 20 seconds) if possible or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content. We have also equipped the nave and narthex with hand sanitizer. The clergy have hand sanitizer beside our chairs and will always use it prior to celebrating and distributing Holy Eucharist.
Speaking of Communion, I know many folks have questions about the hygiene of receiving wine from the chalice. There’s a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to the common cup and germs. Research has shown that sipping from the common cup with proper purificator procedure presents low risk. Intinction, thought by many to be a practice that reduces the risk of contagion, may actually increase such risk. Dipping the wafer into the wine may contaminate the wine with pathogens clinging to fingers, thus spreading contagion to others. Anyone who is concerned about the spread of germs via the chalice may choose to abstain from the wine. Receiving just one element is still a full Communion. If you are curious about this and want to learn more, here is an informative article by an Episcopal priest serving on the west coast: https://mailchi.mp/687aa6e2baa7/covid19-communion" target="_blank">https://mailchi.mp/687aa6e2baa7/covid19-communion
Rest assured that the clergy, staff, and vestry will continue to monitor the news closely and make decisions or adapt our plans as best suits the situation at the time, so stay tuned. And please remember to pray for those currently experiencing the effects of this disease, and for those working to combat it.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by communications on February 27, 2020 at 9:40 AM||comments (0)|
It is hard to believe that it is already February, Lent is upon us and before we know it Easter will be here. I guess it is true that time flies when you are having fun. It has been about six months since I started this new adventure of working with children, youth and families and I have to say it continues to give back trifold. This opportunity has been a calling for a long time and comes at a time that feels very meant to be. Many thanks go out to all of the dedicated volunteers, supportive church members, friends and amazing staff that make this work a true joy to experience.
At six months, I thought it best to reflect on all the exciting things we have done and all those yet to come. For the children in Sunday School, we have added music, a new PreK-K curriculum and singing during the 4th Sunday services. For our older youth, Middle School continues to be inspired by the creative and exciting teachers that lead them. The launch of High School Sunday School was a great success with nine in attendance. With a new teacher and a new curriculum, we are thrilled to offer this opportunity for our High School youth. We also look forward to VBS this summer June 15-18 and summer camp opportunities for HUGs camp, Camp Henry, Camp Trinity and many more.
Our partnership with St. Patrick's continues for our Youth Program and provides so many great opportunities. It has been so fun to meet new friends and have amazing new experiences like the Middle and High EYC meetings, the Ski Trip in January, Pumpkin carving and s'mores, Urban Air outing, painting the new youth room, packing turkey boxes and many more. Working together we are creating lasting memories for our youth with more to come like Diocesan events in March (Happening for High School and Genesis for Middle School), a Middle School Mission Events Week (June 22-26) and a High School Mission Events Week (July 27-31) ending with a Missions Celebration at Whitewater Center on August 15.
Please continue to bring your children and youth to our many activities. Family support is so greatly valued and appreciated. We continue to work to bring many varied and exciting programs, activities and service opportunities to our children, youth and family ministry. It is my distinct pleasure and honor to serve in this role. If you are looking for opportunities to serve our children and youth, please contact me.
|Posted by communications on February 20, 2020 at 9:40 AM||comments (0)|
Every year as we approach the season of Lent, I find that I really need Ash Wednesday. There is something very powerful about having the sign of the cross traced on my forehead and hearing that I am dust and to dust I shall return. I actually find great comfort in this annual declaration of my sinfulness and mortality. It reminds me that I am not God, and neither is anyone else, except God. That should be obvious, and yet the ways we cling to control (or rather, the illusion of control) would suggest we all need this reminder from time to time. Ash Wednesday is February 26. We will offer services that day at 8:00 AM, noon, and at 7:00 PM. I hope you will come.
None of us is God, but we ARE God's disciples-followers of Jesus, who taught us to love as he loved. This year, during Lent, I invite you to explore something called the Way of Love. Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has asked every Episcopalian to learn about The Way of Love, which is a modern version of what's called a Rule of Life.
A Rule of Life is a commitment to live your life in an intentional way. A Rule of Life differs from goals or resolutions. Those methods are task-based and measurable, and they're often focused on what we do. A Rule of Life, on the other hand, helps you become, not achieve. It is not lived perfectly but can be lived faithfully.
The Way of Love is a Rule of Life that centers on seven spiritual practices which are the essentials of Christian discipleship: Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, and Rest. This will be our topic for Adult Forum this Sunday February 23. Come to the nave at 9:20 and learn more about the Way of Love and how it might serve to reorient and refocus your spiritual life as we enter the Lenten season next week.
Yours in Christ,