|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,
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on August 18, 2021 at 3:55 PM|
We seem to be surrounded these days by reminders of the fragility of the human condition. With the on-going pandemic, wildfires out west, and now the frightful news out of both Haiti and Afghanistan, it is tempting to give in to feelings of hopelessness. To borrow from Paul’s language, it can seem as if the “cosmic powers of this present darkness” are holding sway over us, leaving in their wake a trail of chaos, destruction, and death.
It is at times such as this that we do well to remember the resurrection pattern that God has woven into the very fabric of creation. Jesus’ resurrection was more than just a miraculous historical event but was the ultimate manifestation of an all-encompassing truth: that the powers of darkness do not and will not have the final word, no matter how much it may seem otherwise.
One of the great paradoxes of our faith is that within the moments of death and destruction that we encounter on our journey, there are always seeds of new life. This may sound like Pollyannish wishful thinking and denial, but I have found it to be one of the deeply consistent truths of the life of faith – one that is most often discovered with a retrospective look back at life’s journey. In my own experience, the darkest moments of life have paradoxically given rise to some of the fullest experiences of hope and joy.
This is not to say that we should passively accept the presence and activities of the “powers of darkness” in our world. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to confront these powers with grace, love, and compassion. In addition to praying for the people of Haiti and Afghanistan (and perhaps contributing to organizations like Episcopal Relief and Development who provide important support to impoverished and war-torn parts of our world), we look for ways in our own contexts to cultivate seeds of new life for ourselves and others. We seek to become agents of hope in a world that so desperately needs it.
O God, our times are in your hands. In the midst of uncertainty lead us by your never-failing grace as we seek to be agents of healing and hope. Be especially present with the people of Haiti and Afghanistan in these very difficult times; watch over all those who are suffering, grieving, and in danger; and give to us a spirit of love and compassion for those who suffer and mourn. And finally, remind us that you have promised never to abandon us, so that even in the valley of the shadow of death your love is present and cultivating new life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on August 11, 2021 at 9:05 AM|
We all have those moments or coincidences that occur when something you have been thinking about or pondering seems to present itself in many different places. It can be the most obvious like internet tracking when you are searching for a car and suddenly, every site you open contains a pop up about a car. The meaningful incidences are what I am thinking of though. You’ve been struggling with something, and a friend brings up the exact same subject and their action or take on it. Or you are beginning to feel a little lost and in need of faith and hope and suddenly you see an occurrence in nature, hear a moving passage at church or a friend sends you a special quote that speaks to exactly what you are feeling. For those of strong Christian faith, these are believed to be not merely coincidental, but rather God speaking to us through others or other avenues. He presents challenges in our lives to often test our faith, but we believe and trust in him to overcome even our greatest obstacles. The strength of our faith can move mountains and enable us to navigate even the toughest of circumstances.
A similar occurrence happened to me only yesterday when I read a passage in one of my devotions from Ephesians 6, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil”. For any of you who may have been at church last week or this past Sunday morning, you will know this was the entire theme of our VBS that took place on our back lawn last week. How shocked I was to read this exact passage referring to our chant and pieces of armor we assembled last week only a few days after it ended. My thoughts went immediately to how great is it to see this passage that was so instrumental in teaching the kids last week and to remind me of the impact we had on young minds and their faith.
VBS was wonderful last week, finally in person and outside with beautiful weather and only one day masked inside due to rain. It was truly God looking over us and blessing us with over 20 kids for four days, a couple hours each day. The kids were delighted to be together creating their armor of God, learning about the strength of the Lord and his power, dancing, singing, and growing in their faith. It truly was a magical week with the most amazing volunteers and so perfect to be followed by an outdoor Family Service on Sunday, where some of our kids made a reappearance with their armor and the amazing Mr. Matt got to lead us in our fun songs once again. With that momentum and inspiration in August, we now look toward September 12th to launch Sunday School, also now planned for outdoors. Please be on the lookout in the newsletter for an online registration form and more details.
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on August 4, 2021 at 1:45 PM|
Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.
-2 Corinthians 4:1
I will be really happy when I no longer have to write newsletter articles about COVID-19 protocols. And I believe that day will come. But unfortunately, that day is not coming this week.
Our bishops have asked us to require masks once again for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people age 2 and up during any indoor worship service and other indoor activities whenever our county’s percentage of positive tests is above 7.5%. Currently, Mecklenburg County is at 10.4%. I am aware of at least six fully vaccinated church members who have tested positive in recent weeks - blessedly, all have had relatively mild cases. I also know that at least one breakthrough infection of a fully vaccinated priest in our diocese has already occurred. The positive case was not discovered until the priest had already celebrated Sunday services. We very much want to avoid a situation like that here at St. Alban’s, and right now, masks are the best way to reduce our risk but still be able to offer in-person worship and other activities.
And yet, while masking makes sense given the current situation, it is of course frustrating to have to reinstate restrictions at this point. We’re weary of this. We long for an end to this pandemic and we thought it would be here by now.
The apostle Paul was a pastor who had a lot of experience penning missives of encouragement to weary people. In his second letter to the church in Corinth, he writes to a community mired in stressful conflict, saying:
“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure…”
This is what it means to live by faith--to take the long view and trust that renewal is happening even when we cannot see it right now. Paul urges us to think of our short-term struggles as merely waystations on a much lengthier journey toward glory. Taking the long view is a skill requiring wisdom. It’s often the elders of the community who can put things in perspective for us. When you’ve lived through enough big stuff, perhaps the small stuff, like putting on a mask for an hour, does not matter quite so much?
Here at St. Alban’s, we striving to take the long view. The stresses and grievances of today are temporary. Renewal is happening. Our formation programs for children, youth, and adults will resume. Our committees and groups will meet. Our choir will sing. New parishioners will join. In fact, we’re actively planning for all these things to happen THIS FALL, God willing! And we will not be masked forever. For now, we will mask up indoors to love our neighbor and do our part to slow the spread of the virus and its variants. But we must not lose heart. We’ve been learning to live by faith and we will keep doing so. There is glory to come.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on July 28, 2021 at 10:10 AM|
There is an old saying that goes: “the only thing for sure is that things will change”. If nothing else, this last year and a half has proven this saying to be true once again. So, yes, change is inevitable. However, those who desire to see with the eyes of faith are called to evaluate whether a particular change is something of worth, simply a passing fad or, possibly, something that is deceptive and destructive. When objective, provable truth can be dismissed with diversion and lies by elected leaders we should be alarmed by that kind of change. When those same leaders seemingly “get away” with that deception one might question if there is truly any real justice in the world. While this question is not new, it still begs for an answer. Is it any wonder, then, that the conversations between Jesus and the religious and political leaders of his time on earth reflect this need to tell the truth? He, of course, knew the truth and the intent of their hearts, as he does ours. His questioning of them did two things. It gave those leaders the opportunity to repent of their lies, if they chose to do so, and it gave the people led by those leaders the opportunity to choose or reject the truth that he was trying to show them. All of the bad news in the world: upheaval; unrest; sadness; disease and death. God knew all these thoughts can overwhelm even the strongest of us. So, he gave us Christ , on whom we can depend and on whom we can cast all of our cares/worries/depression—whatever it is that weighs us down.
So, are we any different from the people of another time? Probably not. Are God, the Father; Jesus Christ, the Son and God, the Holy Spirit the same as always? Most definitely! This Sunday(8/1) I plan to share a song during the Prelude time titled: “ O Christ the Same, through All Our Story’s Pages”. This old Irish tune is known as Londonderry Air but you will recognize it immediately as the tune to “O Danny Boy”. The text is by Timothy Dudley-Smith who is a retired bishop of the Church of England and a noted hymn writer. I did not include the words in the bulletin but did want to include them here for you to keep. Hopefully, the title and text will be fully visible as the second page of this article so you can print and keep, if you choose to do so. I believe they are an important reminder for us of where and to whom we can turn when things seem overwhelming.
Peace to you,
PLEASE SEE BELOW for “O Christ the Same…” text.
O Christ the Same, Through All Our Story’s Pages
O Christ the same, through all our story’s pages, our loves and hopes, our failures and our fears; eternal Lord, the king of all the ages, unchanging still amid the passing years: O living Word, the source of all creation, who spread the skies and set the stars ablaze; O Christ the same, who wrought our whole salvation, we bring our thanks for all our yesterdays.
O Christ the same, the friend of sinners, sharing our inmost thoughts, the secrets none can hide; still as of old upon your body bearing the marks of love in triumph glorified: O Son of Man, who stooped for us from heaven; O Prince of life, in all your saving power; O Christ the same, to whom our hearts are given: we bring our thanks for this the present hour.
O Christ the same, secure within whose keeping our lives and loves, our days and years remain; our work and rest, our waking and our sleeping, our calm and storm, our pleasure and our pain: O Lord of love, for all our joys and sorrows, for all our hopes when earth shall fade and flee; O Christ the same, beyond our brief tomorrows, we bring our thanks for all that is to be.
Words: Timothy Dudley-Smith(b. 1926)
Music: Irish tune, arr. John Barnard(b. 1948)
Text © 1984 and arr. © 1982 Hope Publishing Co. Reprinted with permission.
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on July 21, 2021 at 1:10 PM|
The on-going and polarizing debate about getting vaccinated during this time of pandemic calls to my mind Paul’s words about “freedom”, especially in his letter to the Galatians. I say this because many who are refusing to get vaccinated are appealing to the notion of individual freedom: “Nobody else should have any say in my personal decisions about my own health.” On the face of it, this seems perfectly reasonable and in keeping with the principles upon which our nation was founded.
Many Christians will point directly to Paul’s words in his letter to the Galatians to support their understanding of individual freedom: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). A mere twelve verses later, however, Paul contextualizes his understanding of Christ-enabled freedom with these words:
“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “ ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Gal. 5:13).
This is a critically important caveat that we do well to remember. Paul is clear on this point: the freedom that we have in Christ is not meant to encourage a life of libertine self-interest. Quite the opposite! The freedom that we have in Christ calls us away from being enslaved to pure self-interest towards a life that is committed to mutual love and care for others. Paul hammers home this point with the rather shocking words to our 21st century ears, “…through love become slaves to on another.” Professor of Religion Bruce Longenecker says it this way: “Christians have been set free from the enslavement of chaos-inducing self-interestedness in order to allow the self-giving Christ to become incarnate within their own self-giving way of life.”
The decision about whether to get vaccinated, like many decisions in life, is undoubtedly a personal one, with various factors at play. That said, it is important that we, as Christ-followers, try to make such decisions from a place of neighborly love, and not from a place of unfettered self-interest. Instead of thinking only about how a decision is going to affect me personally, we are called to also give serious consideration to how a decision is going to impact the lives of others. Instead of, as Paul says, using our freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, we are called to use our freedom in the service of others and for the common good; that is, to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on July 14, 2021 at 2:55 PM|
Last week, a college buddy of mine succumbed to COVID-19. Hailing from South Africa, Cynthia was the sort of person who befriended just about everyone she met. My sophomore year, we both lived on the second floor of the same dormitory and I still remember the sound of her boisterous laugh from all the way down the hall. While in some ways, “normal” life has resumed here in the United States, Cynthia’s death is a stark reminder for me that many parts of the world do not yet have widespread access to lifesaving vaccines. I ask your prayers for her family, in particular for her young son N.
In addition to Cynthia’s family in South Africa, I also am holding in prayer friends of mine in Haiti and Cuba. Over the years, I have had the privilege of traveling abroad to help build relationships with fellow Episcopalians living in other countries. So it grieves my heart that some of the friends I have made are experiencing painful turmoil and upheaval.
I am praying for the people of Haiti as they navigate the fallout of the recent assassination of their President. On Sunday, July 4, I mentioned in my sermon that there are over 84,000 active Episcopalians in Haiti (around 35,000 more than in the Diocese of North Carolina), making it the single largest diocese in the Episcopal Church. As a new priest, I visited Haiti and remember with great fondness the determination and faith of the people I met, despite the many challenges facing them.
I am also praying for the people of Cuba. I have traveled to Cuba five times, and on each visit I’ve had the privilege of spending time with the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Cuba, The Right Reverend Griselda Delgado del Carpio. Bishop Griselda is the groundbreaking and visionary leader of a small but devout group of parishes who have weathered many storms over the years. Her Diocese is made up of warm, funny, resourceful Christians who are hungry for connection and friendship with American Episcopalians after many decades of isolation. It grieves me that my Cuban friends are struggling so much right now, as shortages of food, vaccines, and other necessities are causing the people to raise their voices in protest.
With limited international travel throughout the pandemic, and plenty of issues to navigate here in the States, it becomes all too easy to ignore the plight of those beyond our national borders. But as Hymn 529 reminds us, “In Christ there is no east or west, in him, no south or north, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.” We are inextricably bound to one another by virtue of our membership in the Body of Christ and the human family. We cannot ignore the suffering of our siblings around the world. May God’s gracious love uphold them in these difficult days.
Yours in Christ,