Weekly Reflections from the Clergy and Staff
Although I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink…
- 2 John 1:12
Music Notes from John Bailey
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on March 29, 2023 at 12:25 AM|
As this March comes to a close so, too, comes the end of the celebration Women’s History Month. We have sung several new hymns this month that were written by women, and I so appreciate your willingness to learn new songs. Also coming to a close is this season of Lent, as we approach the events of Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. As our clergy have been wise to point out, Easter means so much more when we are willing to go through the events of Holy Week with our Lord. This time period is often called Christ’s Passion. While we are not physically going through these events, the spiritual impact of learning about them can be transformative. Below is the text of a hymn that describes this journey with Christ. It was written by Dr. Mary Louise Bringle. Dr. Bringle is an author, theologian and professor at Brevard College in Brevard, NC. May her beautiful hymn text enrich our understanding.
Would You Share Christ’s Passion?
Would you share Christ’s passion? Take your cross and follow; climb Golgatha’s hill. Taste the cup of sorrow, wine and gall commingled: drink its bitter fill. Bear the scourge of doubt and fear. Though a jeering crowd deride you, he will walk beside you.
Would you know Christ’s meaning, dazzling in its radiance? Lie down in the fire. Brave the flames of wisdom, searing with their mystery, fierce with love’s desire. Cast the darkened glass away: open to a brilliant burning, seek and find true learning.
Would you join Christ’s triumph, over death victorious, rising from the grave? Pain and grief are forecourts of the heavenly city, bought with blood he gave. Suffering marks the narrow gate. Yet, though trials throng to greet you, none shall now defeat you.
Message from Deacon Valerie
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on March 22, 2023 at 7:45 PM|
Meditation during Lent
This is the time of year I really beef-up my meditation, scripture reading and self reflection. Recently, I came across this bit of encouragement and I thought I would share it.
"Marked by Love"
Imagine God’s perfect creation: the garden of Eden. In the garden, there was no evil and hardship—the world was perfect and good. Unfortunately, because humans were deceived by the devil into disobeying God, we now live in an imperfect world.
The world we live in is different from what God intended—in this world, situations are not always good. People make mistakes and they sometimes hurt us and the people we love. Because of this, you might feel uncertain about loving others … or even God. But there’s good news: when our world changed, God did not change.
God is still perfect—and He still loves us perfectly. Regardless of the mistakes we make, God will not stop loving us. We know God loves us because He redeemed our mistakes on the cross through Jesus. And when Jesus returned to heaven, He sent His Holy Spirit to be with us.
His love for us is not dependent upon our love for Him—it’s not reliant on what we do, what we say, or how we act. This does not mean we should purposefully go against God’s Word—it means that no matter where we are at in life, God’s love will meet us where we are.
In 1 John 4, we are told that whoever remains in love remains in God because God is love. If we say we love Jesus, the evidence of love in our lives should be seen through how we treat and serve others. This does not always feel natural—but this is a challenge the Lord wants to help us overcome.
As we continue to grow closer to Him, His love is perfected in us. And as He transforms us into people perfected by His love, we do not have to fear His judgment because we can be confident that we are His.
God desires our love, and our love for Him grows through worship, prayer, and spending time in His Word. But God is also the source of love, and He wants to help us remain in love so we can remain in Him. He loves us perfectly, He understands our imperfections, and He can make us perfect in His love.
So today, take some time to ask the Lord to help you live a life marked by love. Today make a focused effort to let the love of God shine through you in everything you say and in everything you do. Remember you cannot do it on your own so call on the one who is always willing to help. Call on the name of the Lord!
Be blessed my sisters and brothers in Christ!
Message from Rev. Kevin
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on March 15, 2023 at 4:05 PM|
As I write this, I’m mostly recovered from the jet-lag following my pilgrimage to Taize with eighteen Davidson students. This was my second time going and it did not disappoint. For those who are unfamiliar with the Taize Community, it is a unique and remarkable place; it is one of those “thin places” spoken of in Celtic spirituality.
During the second World War, Roger Schutz, a young Swiss theology student, felt called to travel to France to serve those who were suffering because of the war. He ended up settling in the small rural village of Taize, just on the other side of the line of demarcation from German occupied France. He and his sister bought a small house, where they provided a place of hiding and respite for war refugees, both Jewish and Christian. While not his original intent, this ultimately became the roots of the ecumenical monastic community that remains in Taize to this day. There are over 100 brothers from Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox traditions. Beginning in the 1950s, it has become a place of pilgrimage and spiritual retreat for young adults from all over the globe. During the summer season, they welcome thousands of pilgrims per week.
Every other year, the College Chaplains’ Office, Episcopal Student Fellowship, and Presbyterian Campus Ministry jointly sponsor a Spring Break pilgrimage to the Taize Community, taking up to twenty Davidson students per trip. The first one was in 2010. It has become a very popular opportunity for students from various faith traditions.
This year, eighteen students and three adult chaperones made the trip. It is hard to fully describe the profundity of this week-long experience. The week is built around a monastic rhythm of three daily services of prayers, scripture readings, and glorious Taize-style music. The brothers sit in the middle of the worship space, with everyone else gathered around them. Hundreds of people praying and singing together in multiple languages. It is perhaps the most profound experience I’ve ever had of unity within the midst of diversity!
Following the morning service, one of the brothers offers reflections on a bible passage. Then everyone is broken into small groups (you have the same small group for the whole week) for further conversation on the bible passage and whatever else the group decides to discuss. Despite cultural and language differences, although most of them are in English, it is quite remarkable how quickly these conversations become deep and transformative interactions.
Each afternoon, the small groups of students are assigned various tasks to help maintain the facilities and help with meal preparation, distribution, and clean-up. There is also a significant amount of free time for socializing, quiet reflection, and simply enjoying the beauty of the grounds and French countryside.
It is hard to sum up the Taize experience. It is indeed a thin place that pulses with a palpable sense of God’s loving presence. It is a place where cultural, ethnic, and religious differences are much less important than our shared beloved-ness as children of God. It is a place where ecumenism and Christian unity are a lived reality.
I could say more but will close by simply expressing my gratitude for the experience and for the role Saint Alban’s plays in making it possible.
Here are some photos from our recent week at Taize: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/1pi620zmnx1wj5e/AAC4NZmJAkgOZjL9lSI3gecba?dl=0 ;
Yours in Christ,
Message from Rev. Carmen
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on March 8, 2023 at 5:05 PM|
In our Wednesday morning Bible Study this week, we discussed the Gospel lesson for Sunday – the story of Jesus and the woman at the well in Chapter 4 of John’s Gospel. It has always been one of my favorite Jesus stories. Our discussion took me back to my 2014 visit to the well. Thirsty pilgrims who visit can still pull up a bucket of water and taste it, fresh from the source.
The Samaritan woman must have been so startled and confused by the mysterious behavior of this weary but talkative Jewish man hanging out by the well. His entourage would have considered their conversation taboo, but those guys were off running errands. In speaking with her, Jesus disregards multiple conventions of ancient society, but he does not seem overly concerned about this. He’s not worried about the woman’s gender or her religious/ethnic identity or even her seemingly questionable romantic history. Rather, he seems more concerned that she understand his history, his identity—as the Christ, the Messiah. He desires that she recognize him as God. She’s tentative at first, acknowledging him as a prophet who knows the truth about her. Then Jesus proclaims his own divinity to her again and she begins to believe that this odd man might really be who he says he is.
Read the story for yourself (John 4:5-42) and observe that Jesus is the thirsty one, at first. Fully human, he is as susceptible to the fatigue of a long journey as you and I. But rather than helping himself to a drink, he asks the woman to serve him. While he may be physically thirsty at that moment, he recognizes that the woman is spiritually thirsty—aching for acceptance, for meaning, for love. In asking for a drink of water, Jesus gives her the opportunity to know and be known by God, which quenched a thirst in her she didn’t even know she had.
How might Jesus be doing the same for you today?
A prayer for anyone thirsting in the wilderness:
God, you are the Living Water and you are also the Wellspring, the source from which it flows. Sometimes you come to us in the form of a stranger, startling us with your mysterious ways, which are not our ways. We thirst for acceptance, for meaning, for love, and for the opportunity to serve you. Today, we ask that you surround us with your healing embrace and help us find some relief from this thirst. And we thank you because some day, through eternal life in your Son, we will thirst no more. Amen.
Message from Courtney Fossett
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on March 1, 2023 at 10:10 AM|
But those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run, and not be weary. They will walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
This verse always gives me a renewed sense of purpose and makes me feel like I am filled with the Spirit to accomplish anything. What a powerful verse to inspire such emotion and feeling and the best example I can give of this is being the Director of Children, Youth, and Families Ministry and the renewed strength I get back from it. There are many stories I can tell, but most recently my greatest moments have come from service projects with our youth. There was a Youth Group meeting a couple weeks ago where we were making tie-knot blankets for Bright Blessings, a non-profit organization benefiting homeless children. I used this opportunity to follow up with our youth from the previous service project of making Valentine’s for those at the Pines and those unable to get to church. I read one of the thank you notes we had received and reinforced the idea with them that you never know what impact even a small gesture can have to the world around you. This was followed by a great share circle on what was happening in their lives, where I became acutely aware of the community of youth that has really come together. As I listened, I became overwhelmed with the comfort they had to not only share, but also to be a cohesive group. My strength was renewed!
Youth is only a part of my job, so I would be remiss in not telling stories or at least moments I experience with the younger children, whom I very affectionately refer to as “the littles”. They surprise me all the time and bring me so much joy. There are those that run up and hug my leg saying nothing, even when I am unaware they see me, and immediately I and whoever I am speaking with at the time put our hands over our hearts and are strengthened. Many other of my littlest littles only make eye contact, look at me a certain way, and give a big grin. In that moment, I know I am doing God’s work and I am strengthened. May we all be so blessed to be surrounded by children and youth, that with even a look or sharing of themselves can strengthen us. If God is calling you to contribute to children and youth, please come join us, we would love to have you!
Message from Deacon Valerie
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on February 21, 2023 at 3:30 PM|
“An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” (Don S. Armentrout & Robert Boak Slocum) states that early Christians observed “a season of penitence and fasting” in preparation for the Paschal feast, or Pascha (BCP, pp. 264-265). The season now known as Lent (from an Old English word meaning “spring,” the time of lengthening days) has a long history. Originally, in places where Pascha was celebrated on a Sunday, the Paschal feast followed a fast of up to two days. In the third century this fast was lengthened to six days. Eventually this fast became attached to, or overlapped, another fast of forty days, in imitation of Christ's fasting in the wilderness. The forty-day fast was especially important for converts to the faith who were preparing for baptism, and for those guilty of notorious sins who were being restored to the Christian assembly. In the western church the forty days of Lent extend from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, omitting Sundays. The last three days of Lent are the sacred Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Today Lent has reacquired its significance as the final preparation of adult candidates for baptism. Joining with them, all Christians are invited “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word” (BCP, p. 265).
What will Lent look like for you? Will you complete specific activities or try to accomplish certain goals during the 40 days of Lent?
I have tried over the years to focus on self-examination, fasting, self-denial, planning more focus reading and meditation of God’s holy Word. I have found that it is in preparation, the self-examination, when I am the most successful in modeling Jesus in the wilderness. I stop and look at my current situation, stresses, longings, dreams and desires to see what would best serve me to have a closer walk with God right now in the here and now during Lent.
The year after my mother had her second diagnosis of breast cancer, I decided to give up red meat. At the time it was being highly regarded as a carcinogen. I likened it to treating my body as a temple for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And to this day, I rarely eat beef any more. On occasion, I will eat a thick juicy hamburger or a tender filet mignon once or twice a year.
During another Lenten season, I would fast for 6 days during the week and would eat 3 meals on Sunday. I must admit that for me the activity which I completed and felt the most impacted by was when I had purposeful and planned reading of God’s holy word. This would have included reading a book and meditating on a specific Gospel or book of poems about God’s creation. I was able to see and experience previously read and discussed scripture from an entirely different perspective. This is one of the reasons, I thoroughly enjoy St. Alban’s Adult formation poetry sessions. Our discussions are so thought provoking on the goodness and wonders of God.
I have found much joy in combining a little of each of these things. For example, giving up chocolate and meditating daily. Or exercising every day and drinking more water, and focusing on a specific Gospel writer. I realized my joy was not in the denial but in the commitment to do these things because of my love for Jesus. The more I understood that I was made in God’s image, the more I wanted to try to be more and more like him. My commitment is only for 40 days and I always want to try and stick it out because His Son stuck it out for us and gave His life to reconcile us to His Father.
So, each year, I no longer try to decide “what am I going to give-up” but “what can I do to give back of myself” for all that God has done for me. What will Lent look like for you?
Music Notes from John Bailey
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on February 13, 2023 at 3:25 PM|
With Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent approaching, we often think of journeys: Israel’s 40-year journey through the wilderness; Jesus’ 40-day journey through the wilderness and, hopefully, our own journey through the season of Lent. Although arriving at one’s destination is certainly a reward in itself, there is so much to see and learn along the way to that destination. Yes, we are most thankful that when Easter Day finally arrives, we can give thanks for Christ’s resurrection and the gift of eternal life that is now possible for the redeemed. However, there is much we can learn through this season of Lent that deepens our understanding of all that has been won for us in Christ. Israel’s struggles in the wilderness and Jesus facing Satan’s temptations mirror the questions we all face in our life’s journey: Will my faith be enough? Will God really provide what he has promised.
As we struggle to understand our own(sometimes painful) journey, it is helpful and enlightening to attempt to understand the journey that others have experienced. In Matthew 9 scripture says that as Jesus moved through the crowds he was ‘’moved with compassion”. What was it in Jesus that caused him to be “moved with compassion”: simply his being the Son of God, an innate sense of human empathy, or both? Although we cannot fully understand the pain and trials of another person, it is possible to be open to the Holy Spirit’s unction to be open and empathetic to a pain that you yourself may not have experienced. February is Black History month and I’d like to share the lyrics of a song that describes some of the pain, injustice and hopes of those whose journey may be quite unlike our own. The words to “Lift Every Voice and Sing” were written by NAACP leader James W. Johnson in 1900. His brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, set the poem to music and it was first performed in Jacksonville, Fl. To celebrate President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. As we read these words may we begin our Lenten journey with humility, compassion and a deep desire to strive for justice.
Lift Every Voice and Sing
Lift every voice and sing till earth and heaven ring, ring with harmonies of liberty. Let our rejoicing rise high as the listening skies; let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us; sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us; facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on, till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod, felt in the days when hope unborn had died; yet, with a steady beat, have not our weary feet come to the place for which our parents sighed? We have come over a way that with tears has been watered; we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who hast brought us thus far on the way; thou who hast by thy might led us into the light; keep us forever in the path, we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee; lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee; shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand, true to our God, true to our native land.
Words and Music: © 1921 Edward B. Marks Music.
Parish Hall Update
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on February 8, 2023 at 1:05 PM|
Since the Grow, Gather, Serve capital campaign to raise funds for the design and construction of a parish hall at St. Alban’s concluded on June 22nd of last year, so much progress has occurred.
As many of you know, before the parish hall can be constructed, an important piece of our facilities must be replaced and relocated: the church playground. In tandem with engineering and architectural design efforts for the building, a new playground design and construction effort has also been underway.
The details of this new space were closely coordinated with the Preschool, and it will be located in a more preferential location for the Preschool right outside of the double doors to their space. A rendering of the new playground is provided below.
Construction of the new playground will begin in just a few days on February 13, and following the construction of this new space, the existing playground will be demolished and removed, thus clearing the footprint of the new parish hall building which will begin construction later in the year.
Once construction begins, you can expect to see activity Monday – Saturday generally between the hours of 9AM and 5PM, weather dependent. Playground material, equipment, and dumpster will be staged in a small section of the back parking lot as well during the duration of construction. It is expected that this project will wrap up by mid-March, at which time the new playground will be available for use.
During construction, signage, caution tape, and other indicators will be placed on the new playground equipment advising people not to disturb the work while in progress. It is very important everyone does their part to stay off of this equipment until these indicators are removed so that safety can be ensured and the equipment can be properly installed so it will provide many years of use once opened. We thank you for your cooperation in this very important aspect of making the project a success!
In my letter to the parish at the start of the capital campaign, I noted that the next chapter of our parish history can be an exciting one if we all joined in this effort by supporting the project with prayer, interest, and financial contribution. I am confident we will reflect on this chapter of our parish history with pride, knowing we expanded God’s mission here at St Alban’s.
Parish Hall Committee
Message from Rev. Carmen
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on February 2, 2023 at 12:35 AM|
I listened to Kevin’s sermon from my sofa on Sunday morning. The doctor’s office said my antibiotics for strep needed a bit more time to work before I could lead worship, so I found myself at home, enjoy a hot cup of tea and a timely message. Kevin shared how the prophet Micah spoke to the people about God’s expectations for God’s people: to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
As Kevin pointed out, God’s expectations for us have not changed since the time of Micah. When Jesus came on the scene, he offered further instruction and encouragement, often echoing the voice of the prophets who came before him. Jesus himself often witnessed the breakdown of justice, kindness, and humility. And he experienced firsthand, on a Roman cross.
We are still asked to live justly, kindly, and humbly. And, we are still struggling, as individuals and as a society, to do so. This week, our Presiding Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, offered a powerful message to the church in the wake of yet another breakdown of justice, kindness, and humility. Please read his words below.
Yours in Christ,
A pastoral word from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on the death of Tyre Nichols
Sense cannot be made of the murder of a young man at the hands of five men whose vocation and calling are to protect and serve. This was evil and senseless.
There is a passage from the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah, which is later quoted in Matthew’s Gospel when innocent baby boys are killed by an immoral dictator:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.”
—Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:18
With the murder of Tyre Nichols, another mother, as in the biblical texts, weeps, with the mothers of Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. A family grieves. A community fears. A nation is ashamed. Like the psalmist in the Bible, something in us cries out, “How long, O Lord, how long?” How long violence, how long cruelty, how long the utter disregard for the dignity and worth of every child of God? How long?
As if this wasn’t enough, there is another horrible dimension to what happened. Tyre Nichols was beaten, kicked, and cursed as if he was not a human being. Then, after he was lying on the ground, having called for his mother, they let him stay there for several minutes without anyone, including the police and EMT who were present, providing medical assistance. Not one Good Samaritan.
Jesus once told a story to teach about what it looks like to love one’s neighbor, which Moses and Jesus both said is a commandment of God. It’s a story about a man beaten nearly to death and left on the side of the road to die by people who knew what Moses taught about love for God and neighbor—and what the prophet Micah taught when he said that God requires three things of us: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
Only one person stopped to help the man, and he did so without regard for the fact that they were of different religions, nationalities, ethnic groups, and even different politics. This second man was a Samaritan, and he helped because the man on the road was human. He helped because he was a fellow child of God. He helped because the man lying on the side of the road, regardless of race, class, clan, stripe, or type, was his brother. And the man who helped has been called the Good Samaritan.
The fundamental call and vocation of law enforcement officials, and indeed every one of us, is that of the Good Samaritan.
Here is where there is hope: The Good Samaritan in the parable of Jesus was not the last one.
There are Good Samaritans who are government officials in Memphis who, after assessing what happened, fired the offending officers, charged them with crimes against human life and dignity, and have committed to addressing systemic and cultural issues that created an environment in which this evil was enabled.
There are Good Samaritans doing what is necessary to radically reform the environment and culture of law enforcement—to create an atmosphere in which the dignity and worth of every human being is respected, protected, affirmed, and honored.
There are Good Samaritans in law enforcement, and other first responders, who often work while others sleep, laboring to protect and serve, at times risking their own lives for the neighbor they do not even know.
There are Good Samaritans, people of goodwill and human decency, who are peacefully protesting. There are Good Samaritans who are activists working tirelessly for the realization of communities and countries where there is truly, as the Pledge of Allegiance proclaims, “liberty and justice for all.”
While we grieve, we cannot give in or give up. Just throwing up our hands in despair is not an option lest we leave a brother, a sister, a sibling on the side of the road again. No, let more Good Samaritans arise so that Tyre Nichols’ death will not be in vain.
Please pray for Tyre’s family, the whole Memphis community, this nation, and world. But also pray for people to rise up like the Good Samaritan and work to create change so this never happens again.
And may the soul of Tyre, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercies of God, rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
Message from Rev. Kevin
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on January 25, 2023 at 4:50 PM|
Believe it or not, we are just a few weeks from the start of Lent, a season that invites us to reflect on our spiritual lives and find ways to deepen our connection with God. As such, I would like to remind everyone that I continue to host a Zoom Morning Prayer on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:00 a.m. We have a small, but faithful group of participants, and we would love to welcome some new faces to our screens. It is a modified version of Morning Prayer that lasts about twenty minutes. This is especially meant for those whose schedules don’t allow them to make it to our in-person Morning Prayer services on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can join from wherever you are.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the Episcopal service of Morning Prayer, it is part of what is called the Daily Office, which has its roots in the rhythm of daily prayers that is found in monastic communities. The Episcopal Daily Office includes prayers and scripture readings for morning, noonday, evening, and end-of-day. These are intended for use by anyone in any setting, and provide an organized, user-friendly way for deepening one’s spiritual life. You can read more about the Daily Office here: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/glossary/daily-office/.
People can use the Daily Office on an individual basis, but it is intended for communal prayers, and I find it much more meaningful and formative to do it with others on a consistent basis. For those whose schedules simply won’t allow them to make it to the church for any of our in-person Morning Prayer opportunities, the Monday and Wednesday Zoom option provides a convenient way to take advantage of this rich and largely untapped resource from our Anglican tradition. And you don’t even need a Prayer Book to participate, as I provide everything you’ll need right on your screen!
If this something you would like to try, during the season of Lent or anytine, you may join us at 9am on Mondays and/or Wednesdays at the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9497600098. Don’t hesitate to be in touch with me if you have any questions. Hope to see you on my screen sometime soon!
Yours in Christ,