|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on October 28, 2021 at 12:55 AM|
Dear St. Alban’s,
Uncertainty has become a way of life for all of us. Truthfully, it has always been the way of life, but once upon a time, it was a bit easier to cling to the illusion of certainty. That has now changed, hasn’t it? We’ve all had to become more practiced at embracing uncertainty rather than constantly fighting it. At least our faith tells us that God is with us in our uncertainty. We are not alone.
In the spirit of embracing uncertainty together, I want to share with you a journey on which my family has embarked.
Early this fall, our 4-year-old began articulating very clearly that Chris identifies as a girl, not as a boy. This did not come as a huge shock to Matt and me because, for at least a year now, Chris has been very interested in many stereotypical “girl” things such as the color pink and wearing dresses. But because we spent much of the past year at home, it may not have been as evident to others.
We began a new year of preschool by changing Chris’s wardrobe. If you’ve been attending church in person lately, you may have noticed Chris happily twirling in a dress or skirt. Our sweet kid is so full of joy and cheer ever since we made this switch.
Could this be just a phase? Yes, sure. But if so, it is a long one. Knowing that many young children begin to form their gender identity as early as age 3 or 4, we are honoring Chris's stated identity as best we can. We know things may continue to shift and change over time, but we are trying to stay focused on the present moment, because at this point, there’s no way for us to know the future. In the present, Chris identifies as a girl.
We've begun to use she/her pronouns like Chris has requested, though at times we accidently use the old pronouns, and that's ok. Our wonderful Weekday Preschool staff has been incredibly supportive.
You may be wondering if there is anything we need. All we need from you right now is an openness to letting Chris explore gender in a nonjudgmental environment. St. Alban’s Episcopal Church has always been a welcoming and open-minded community, so we are not too worried about that. We know that some people may not understand or accept this journey, but we pray that everyone at church will be gracious and kind. While the world can be a challenging place to navigate for young people who do not conform to gender norms, I hope that our parish will always be a safe place where every child and adult is accepted and cherished for who they are.
If you have questions about gender identity in children, I highly recommend this overview from the Mayo Clinic.
It can be especially tough for clergy kids to grow up in a fishbowl where everything they do is more visible because of their parent’s public role. We appreciate your compassion and kindness towards our goofy "PK" who loves Sunday School, ballet, outer space, playgrounds, and the Frozen movies.
We thank God for giving us this amazing child to parent. If there is one thing of which we can be certain, it is that we have no shortage of love within and beyond our family. We thank you for being part of our wider circle of support and for traveling with us through the uncertainties and adventures of life.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on October 20, 2021 at 5:50 PM|
I have been reading the book, How the Word is Passed, in preparation for our Adult Formation offering this coming Sunday. It is a challenging read, in the best sense of the term. It challenges to reader to view aspects of our nation’s history through the lens of slavery and through the experiences of those who were enslaved. And it challenges us to recognize and acknowledge how instrumental slavery was to the origins and development of our nation.
Reading the book, along with others like it, has led me to think about the nature of repentance and how it applies in the case of our national reckoning with slavery and racism. Some have argued that the Christian notion of repentance is not of current relevance when talking about slavery: “How can we be blamed for something that happened well before our time? I shouldn’t feel obligated to repent for something that I had nothing to do with, since I wasn’t even alive when it happened.”
This mindset sees repentance as being primarily transactional and limited in time and space to specific interactions between certain individuals (i.e. “I can only repent of those things that I have actually done or said) The biblical notion of repentance is about much more than apologizing and making amends for specific things one has said or done in certain relationships. The Greek word for repentance is “metanoia”, which suggests the utter changing of one’s mind/orientation. Rather than being transactional and limited to specific interactions between certain individuals, the biblical notion of repentance involves a complete re-orientation of one’s perspective on reality. The way one sees the world is transformed, such that old ways of being and interacting with others are left behind.
It seems to me that this biblical notion of repentance absolutely applies when we are talking about slavery. It’s not that we are being asked to accept guilt and apologize for things that happened before our time, things we had no direct impact on. Rather, it’s that we are being asked to have our perspective re-oriented by a deeper understanding of the evils of slavery and their far-reaching impacts on our nation’s history, right up to the present. We are being asked to acknowledge that many of us have been the indirect beneficiaries of an institution that enslaved and dehumanized fellow human beings because of the color of their skin.
Reading and discussing How the Word is Passed is one way in which we can open ourselves to that transformational re-orientation that is at heart of Christian repentance. I hope that you will take the time to read it and join us for conversation about it this Sunday. Even if you’re not able to read the book by then, you are still invited and encouraged to join us for this important conversation led by members of the St. Alban’s Anti-Racism Team (StAART).
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on October 13, 2021 at 2:10 PM|
Keep your face always toward the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you. – Walt Whitman
Happy Fall Y’all! Hopefully after this week, we will see the temperatures drop a little bit more and truly begin to feel the Fall in the air. This past weekend I took a little time away to breathe and recharge myself with lifelong friends. A surgery was postponed, my friend has a big birthday in November, and it was the perfect time to step away for self-care. Self-care is a word we hear a lot lately, but often do not heed its call. This term or concept is something in our busy lives we often forget to do. It can mean so many things from prayer to meditation or even a trip away. We are always rushing, running errands, taking kids places, appointments and the list goes on. It is critically important in this still crazy pandemic to stop, breathe and see what is around us. Even if it is just a short walk or sitting in a quiet space, whatever we can do to slow things down will inevitably be in our best interest for our well-being. In the next couple weeks, I will be hosting a book study on Seen Healing Despair and Anxiety in Kids and Teens through the Power of Connection. I invite you to participate in reading this short, powerful book that will not only help us to model the self-care for our kids and teens, but more importantly for ourselves. I believe that this will be just another small step in helping us to manage the hustle and bustle of a world that sometimes gets beyond our control.
The connection we make with God, friends, family, and even those we don’t know enables us to see the impact of “Be the change you wish to see in the world. – Ghandi”. We must take every opportunity to “Be the light” from Matthew 5:14. The strength we show from within sparks the same light within others. We are striving for that impact to occur in Sunday School, Youth Group, and service opportunities in our community. I have watched as many of our young people have come together in the last 7 months, all from different schools, and begin to make friendships in our church community. The more we come together, the more that fellowship, community and connection will bring us “out of the darkness and into the light. 1 Peter 2:9”. Please join me in supporting our children and young people by sharing your light with them.
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on October 6, 2021 at 4:30 PM|
We used Eucharistic Prayer C this past Sunday as we celebrated the Feast Day of St. Francis. I will admit that it’s never been my favorite (Sorry! That honor goes to Prayer D!) but it has its merits. Some people call Prayer C the “Star Wars” prayer because it uses language like “the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.” The first Star Wars movie came out in 1977 and our current prayer book was published in 1979, so it’s definitely a product of its time in some ways.
Praying it again Sunday, I was struck by the language it uses to describe the relationship humans have to the rest of the created order. The text of the prayer says that God “made us the rulers of creation” and then describes how we turned away and betrayed God’s trust. Here, the prayer is referring to the creation narratives in Genesis. In the beginning, God creates the earth and oceans and plants, and animals, including human beings. We are all creatures, but about humans, God said, “…let them have dominion over […] every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (1:26)
There is so much we do not understand about how our universe came to be, but we put our trust in a few simple beliefs: God is our Creator and God’s Creation is good. It is beautiful and sacred. If we are going to say we have dominion over the rest of creation, we must remember, as Kevin said in his sermon on Sunday, that the creation is tov--good.
Too often, the responsibility of humans’ dominion over the earth has been abused. The earth’s resources have been treated as disposable rather than good. Greed and sloth have too often had dominion over us. I don’t include this part to incite crippling guilt in anyone—that’s not helpful. I mention it because it is part of the story of how we got where we are today.
Where are we today? You have heard the statistics. These are from National Geographic: Sea level could rise between 7 and 23 inches by century's end. South Seas islands and large parts of Southeast Asia would be flooded. Much of the world's population is concentrated in vulnerable coastal cities. In the U.S., Louisiana and Florida are especially at risk. Glaciers around the world could melt, causing sea levels to rise while creating water shortages in regions dependent on runoff for fresh water. Strong hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and other natural disasters are becoming more frequent in many parts of the world. The growth of deserts may also cause food shortages in many places.
An ever-widening circle of people are becoming ready to change their lifestyle, not out of concern for their own comfort, but to ensure a brighter future for their children and grandchildren. Remember, if we have dominion over our own lives and our own actions, we can change course! There are things we can do now to care for God’s creation in the years to come. Last month, the Archbishop of Canterbury joined with Pope Francis and the leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church to issue a joint statement on the environment, which you can read here.
St. Alban’s has never been a church that would stand idly by in a crisis. Jesus taught that the virtues of faith, hope, and love are to have dominion over our lives. An environmental crisis is happening, and it’s also a spiritual crisis. Climate change will hit poor people and our children hardest. We must act. We must exercise our dominion by being caretakers of the home and the future God has entrusted to us.
We have our wonderful SEEDS Garden and we cherish our beautiful grounds and the creatures that live there, but I know there must be more we can do. If you are interested in exploring how St. Alban’s can grow in our advocacy and work on behalf of God’s creation, I would love to talk to you.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on September 29, 2021 at 10:15 AM|
Are you ever tempted to question God? As with so many things, we wouldn’t be the first one to do so. As the book of Ecclesiastes says, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Most of the old testament readings we will encounter in October deal with Job and how he questioned God about the sufferings he was enduring. It’s quite a fascinating back and forth as he questions and, then, is answered by God. Like us, some of the answers are not quite satisfactory to, or fully understood by Job. After the many tragedies the world and our country have experienced in the last few years, I’m sure many of us can relate to the questions Job had. Below is the text of an old Lutheran hymn that describes the surrender of our will and limited understanding to that of an all-knowing, loving God who created all things. I hope it will speak peace to you during these turbulent times.
Peace to you,
Whatever God Ordains Is Right
Whatever God ordains is right; his will is just and holy. He holds us in his perfect might; in him, our lives are godly. He is our God and all we need, the Father who preserves us still; to him we bend each heart and will. Whatever God ordains is right, and he will not deceive us. He leads us in the way of light and will not ever leave us. In him we rest, who makes the best of all the stumbling turns we take and loves us for his mercy’s sake. Whatever God ordains is right; all that he does is for us. He heals our souls and gives us sight and puts no ill before us. Our God is true; he makes us new; our lives are built upon his rock, our cornerstone and building block. Whatever God ordains is right; he guides our joy and sadness. He is our life and blessed light; in him alone is gladness. We see his face, the way of grace; he holds us in his mighty arm and keeps us safe from every harm.
Words: Samuel Rodigast(1649-1708); translation: Gracia Grindal(b. 1943)
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on September 22, 2021 at 5:10 PM|
As a new school year has gotten underway, it has been difficult to see the news reports about school board meetings across our nation, where adults are yelling at each other, threatening each other, and even in some cases resorting to violence against each other. We’re also seeing similar behavior in restaurants and other public spaces. These expressions of animus and hostility towards fellow human beings has become far too commonplace in recent months.
In our increasingly polarized context, exacerbated by the politicization of the pandemic, we can all too easily find ourselves drawn into the fray. If we’re completely honest with ourselves, the distance from anger to hatred can be frighteningly short for us.
In the midst of all of this, I keep coming back to a phrase that has recently become a part of my own spiritual discipline toolkit: “choose loving-kindness”. On a daily basis we are presented with opportunities to do just this, especially in the current context. It is another way of saying, “love your neighbor as yourself”, which, of course, is at the core of Jesus’ teachings. It is exemplified in the parable of the Good Samaritan, where a man chooses to set everything else aside and go well out of his way to tend to the needs of a suffering stranger.
As we continue to deal with the divisiveness and polarization of the current moment in our history, I invite you to join me in the spiritual practice of trying to choose loving-kindness – day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on September 16, 2021 at 12:30 AM|
Have you ever had to start over in a new country, because your homeland was no longer safe for you? It’s hard for many of us to fathom what that would be like, but it happens daily in many parts of the world.
It happened to Jesus and his parents. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph and Mary had to flee to Egypt with their young son to escape the wrath of Herod, who was threatened by the notion of the baby “King” he heard about from the magi. While Jesus and his mom and dad were eventually able to resettle in their homeland after Herod’s death, I imagine that the experience of being a refugee stayed with them for the rest of their lives. I think Jesus must feel special compassion for refugees, since he was one himself.
Following the fall of Kabul and the evacuation of Afghan friends and allies, an estimated 75,000 Afghans are arriving in the United States to flee retribution or persecution from the Taliban. They are starting over in new communities and rebuilding their lives. They need housing, education, jobs, belongings, and more. Some 500 of these families are expected to make North Carolina home. We expect that some will resettle in the Lake Norman region. The St. Alban’s Outreach Team and the Vestry have already begun to have conversations about how our church might offer support. We have discussed partnering with organizations such as Church World Service, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Galilee Ministries, and Davidson College to assist however we can. As we learn more about how we may be able to serve these families, we will be sure to share this information with you.
In the meantime, I ask that you hold these families in your prayers as they start over in a new land. Please also pray for people around the world who remain in unsafe conditions and are not able to leave.
Loving God, open our eyes, that we may see your Son in the face of those seeking refuge. Open our ears, that we may hear and respond when people cry out in need. Open our hearts, that we may welcome the stranger as we would welcome you. Amen.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on September 8, 2021 at 11:20 AM|
Happy almost Fall and Back to School! This is usually a crazy busy time of year with everyone adjusting to new schedules, teachers, sports, extracurriculars and, of course, safety procedures. Resilient is the resounding word that keeps popping in my head when I think of all of us and what we have experienced over the last year and a half! As we bounce back into a new semblance of normal routines, resilience shares that same meaning of bouncing back according to its definition. Resilience carries great meaning in our Christian life when we begin to look at all the passages to which it is referred. From the popular Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” to 2 Corinthians 4:8, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;”.
Although my most favorite is Isaiah 40:31, “but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint,” which also happens to be a song we love to sing in Sunday School! Yes, Sunday School is back, and we are so excited! This Sunday, September 12 at 10:15am we will FINALLY bring back in-person Sunday School OUTSIDE! It is going to look very different as our PreK-5th graders will meet under the tents on the back lawn and our Middle and High School Youth will meet on the front lawn under the big tree. We hope and pray this will give our Youth and Children an opportunity to meet again safely and thankfully, masks optional. Please have your children and youth join us as we come together again to rejoice in God’s love and celebrate his word with music, lessons, and crafts!
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on September 1, 2021 at 10:00 AM|
What a joy it has been to hear you singing again. Although none of us can say what the remainder of the year will bring, it is my hope that the choir will be able to resume rehearsals in some form soon. In that hope, I invite those of you who are interested in helping lead the worship of God here in our parish to join us. If you are interested in joining the choir or simply have questions about the music ministry, please feel free to email or see me after service on Sunday.
In addition to inviting you to sing with the choir, I would like to invite you to consider how wisdom cries out to us in our daily lives. The first reading on September 12th will be Proverbs 1:20-33. The opening verse of this passage says: “Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice.” Often, wisdom is confused with intelligence, but they are not the same thing. There are many intelligent, powerful, rich people who have no desire or craving for wisdom. One definition of wisdom would be a desire to learn, understand or discern God’s will for our life. Scripture indicates that just our desire to seek wisdom over power or riches pleases God. The first reading on August 15th was 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14. In this passage David’s son Solomon did not ask God for riches and honor. He asked for “an understanding mind to govern God’s people and the ability to discern between good and evil.” Although he was a child, he knew he did not possess the understanding that being king over Israel would require. Below are the words of a song I’ll share in worship on Sept. 12th. The song speaks of a personal search for wisdom. May we, like Solomon, desire and pray for wisdom’s grace.
Even When Young, I Prayed for Wisdom’s Grace
Even when young, I prayed for wisdom’s grace; in temple courts I sought her day and night, and I will seek her to the very end; she is my heart’s delight. My foot has firmly walked the path of truth; with diligence, I followed her design. My ear was open to receive her words; now wisdom’s skill is mine. Glory to one who gives me wisdom’s prize; I vowed to live according to her way. She gave me courage from the very start; she will not let me stray. Something within my being has been stirred; my seeking brought a gift beyond compare: the gift of language loosed my halting tongue; God’s praise is now my prayer.
Words: ©1995 Patricia B. Clark (1938-2009)
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on August 25, 2021 at 2:50 PM|
Together Again Sunday is almost here! When we began planning for this day back in the early summer, we anticipated that it would serve as the kick-off for a relatively normal program year of church activities. Now, of course, we know that “normal” is not going to be one of the words we use to describe the coming months. But there are other words we can use. How about faithful? Creative? Hopeful? I like those words. In the absence of a normal year, let’s strive for a faithful, creative, and hopeful year. Maybe those words can be our “normal” going forward.
So what does it look like to come “together again” right now faithfully, creatively, and with hope?
I don’t really know the answer to that question, but I do know that we need each other. We need worship. We need opportunities to learn, grow, and serve. And of course, we need to be mindful of the health of all, particularly the most vulnerable among us. So we are moving forward in hope, making plans for doing things safely, and knowing that we may need to make adjustments along the way. To start the fall season, we’re planning for the majority of programming to take place in-person and outdoors when possible. This allows for the incarnational connections we desperately need, while also offering the safest environment for gathering as the pandemic continues to cause disruptions.
The Ministry of Fun has planned a wonderful outdoor picnic for this Sunday and we hope to see you there! (RSVP here!) And we’ve designed a fall calendar of mostly outdoor events and classes for all ages which we will debut this weekend. We’re not having a Ministry Fair per se this fall, but we will have a Ministry Table at Sunday’s picnic where you can speak with Outreach Team members and learn more about the many ways there are to share your time and talents in our community.
I want to invite everyone in the St. Alban’s family to find a way to be engaged in the common life of our church in this season. Maybe that means making a commitment to regularly being part of worship, whether in-person or online? Maybe it means prioritizing outdoor Sunday School for your kiddos beginning on September 12? Maybe it means exploring a new ministry? Or maybe it means reinvigorating your prayer life and doing daily check-ins with God? Whatever engagement or reengagement looks like for you, I know you will be glad you did it. We have such a special church family and we need each other. So muster your faith, creativity, and hope, and let’s get together, again.
Yours in Christ,