|Posted by communications on May 27, 2020 at 11:45 AM||comments (0)|
This time of year is happy and sad. Happy because school is out and summer is here—teachers love spending time with their own children. No homework makes for great family moments! But it is also a time for the sadness of saying goodbye to children who have become our own in so many ways.
We thank the Escuelita parents for trusting us with their children this year. It is clear they are loved and nurtured. We are proud to be even a tiny part of their upbringing. Together we laughed, we learned, we got dirty, we cried, we watched birds, we sang, we held hands, we prayed. Every year there are projects that become favorites and this year is no exception! Who wouldn’t love a volcano or fizz rocket or frog launcher? We sometimes scrap projects because children teach us what works and what doesn’t. We always learn as much from them as they do from us.
In our role as teachers, time can nearly stand still. Each year our classrooms fill with preschool children… they are curious and rambunctious, guileless and kind. They are always preschoolers. But, like you, our teachers are also parents… and as parents we find that time is fickle and fleeting. As Christmases seem to come closer and closer together, we dutifully log all our children’s FIRSTS: the first step, the first word, the first emerging tooth. We notice.
But those LASTS are more elusive and their encounters catch us off guard. Becoming aware of these changes can tug at our heartstrings. We look ahead and dream of days that haven't come to pass… but as we do, we sometimes miss today's sweet, precious lasts. Last week at virtual graduation we had the opportunity to watch a LAST through slow glass. We took mental photos, caught the grins, heard the songs, noticed the light and the letter of the day. This was a LAST we were aware of—the last day of preschool. For children who are leaving, we wish the best. We know you will do so well in Kindergarten. Please keep in touch—we love to see you grow. For those returning, we can’t wait to see you in the fall. Enjoy your summer; be safe, and keep wonder in your lives! God loves you.
|Posted by communications on May 20, 2020 at 9:40 AM||comments (0)|
As I reflect on everything going on in the world and in my own home, I am reminded of three very important lessons that have influenced me over the years. The first is 1 Corinthians 10:13, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may have the strength to endure it.” The second is thankfulness for everything in my life and around me. The third is acceptance, one I often struggle with sometimes, but is so important in living a peaceful life.
The bible verse in Corinthians is one I sometimes find myself using as a mantra when faced with difficulties in my life. Lately it is one I think of daily as we face this historical pandemic occurring now. Many of us are probably feeling like I am that each day presents new challenges of homeschooling, working from home, emotions, social distancing and the list goes on. With each of these and others, I am reminded of my faith in God and that I will not be tested beyond my strength and that he provides the light to show me through it.
Thankfulness, by definition is the feeling of being happy or grateful because of something, which I have experienced by looking around in nature, seeing friends and family and most recently my role at St. Alban’s. So much occurred with our Youth and Children’s programs prior to Covid19 including renovating two church rooms, beginning our Ministry Architects work and mission, launching High School Sunday School, cultivating a new Middle/High School EYC Youth Group with St. Patrick’s and growing our children’s Sunday School offerings with song and our exciting new 4th Sunday program. Now, in the midst of Covid19, I am thankful for Youth Group Zoom meetings on Sunday evenings, extensive resources and curriculum both discovered and shared weekly with families and each Sunday School class, my new and very novice experiences with YouTube video messages to our children, our continued behind the scenes Ministry Architects work accomplished by our amazing Renovation Team, an attempted Thank You Zoom event for all of our Sunday School and Nursery volunteers hopefully to be rescheduled and of course I am mostly thankful for all of you and your unwavering support in the face of these historic challenges.
Lastly, acceptance, is about accepting what is happening and in doing so finding a peace from fighting against, worrying about and stressing over the coronavirus, social distancing, being in the house too long, no normal routines, no hugs from friends and many others. If we accept that this is just where we are now, we can begin to breathe into the fact that it will not always be this way and find an inner peace and faith that may just lead to us opening our minds to a new reality and new possibilities.
Peace be with you all!
|Posted by communications on May 13, 2020 at 5:30 PM||comments (0)|
This past week, Kevin and I attended our annual Clergy Conference, held entirely online. Part of the conference was devoted to a presentation from the Diocese of North Carolina's Task Force on Reopening. The bishops shared a preview of the guidelines they are working on which will be officially released soon. When that information is made available, we will share it with you. For now, I will share a few important highlights:
• The current moratorium on public worship and building use is extended past the original date of May 17. We're currently in what they are calling Stage 1. We will not move into Stage 2 of reopening until virus cases and deaths are on the decline in our state and adequate testing, tracing, and personal protection equipment are widely available. If we move into Stage 2 and the situation in North Carolina then gets worse, we could potentially go back to Stage 1 again. In laying out these stages, our Bishops seek to keep all of us as safe and healthy as possible.
• As Kevin shared with you on Sunday, we've been asked to wear masks as we lead worship from the church building whenever we are around anyone not from our household. And as I addressed in last week's newsletter, we are no longer singing in the nave unless it is pre-recorded with nobody else present.
• I said this in last week's newsletter, but it bears repeating: even as we get to the point of adding in-person gatherings back into our worship life, we will continue to offer online worship. We are learning so much about how to engage the community in online worship and we will take what we've learned into our future.
• The Diocese has asked parishes to begin working on plans for implementing our next stage of reopening. Stage 2 will still be extremely limited, whenever it occurs. Right now, we are pulling together a group from among the vestry, clergy, staff, and others to help design our plan for reopening gradually when we are allowed to do so. As a church community, we will be guided by both public health recommendations and Gospel values. When the time comes, we will have protocols in place to regather joyfully and safely. There is no blueprint for this. We ask for your prayers as we undertake this important work.
St. Alban's, thank you for your faithfulness, tenacity, and graciousness. Many of you have reached out to me with messages of support and encouragement, and I am incredibly grateful for that. Nothing replaces the joy of seeing you in person and worshiping our Lord Jesus together in sacrament and song, but your love and compassion are deeply appreciated.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by communications on May 7, 2020 at 12:30 AM||comments (0)|
As we approach the fifth Sunday in the Easter season –and nearly two months of this necessary but difficult stay-at-home period – I can’t fully express how much I miss seeing everyone gathered in the church building. I miss seeing the choir every week, I miss seeing and hearing the congregation singing, I miss a lot of things. I, I, I……. However, thankfully, I am reminded in my spirit to give thanks in all things. There are many things for which I am grateful but it is the remembrance of the people that God has blessed me to know that seems to bring the greatest joy. Family and friends can be wonderful, but many others bless our lives: pastors, teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. Like parents, many really never receive a great deal of thanks but their gifts are still priceless. Below is the text of a song that will be included in the Prelude time this coming Sunday. Although it speaks only of women, perhaps it will remind you to give thanks for all of the people that God has used to bless your life. Peace to you, John
For All the Faithful Women
--For all the faithful women who served in days of old, to you shall thanks be given; to all, their story told. They served with strength and gladness in tasks your wisdom gave. To you their lives bore witness, proclaimed your power to save.
--We praise your name for Miriam who sang triumphantly while Pharoah’s army lay drowned beneath the sea. As Israel marched to freedom, her chains of bondage gone, so may we reach the kingdom your mighty arm has won.
--To Hannah, praying childless before the throne of grace, you gave a son whose service would be before your face. Grant us her perseverance; Lord, teach us how to pray, to trust in your deliverance when darkness hides our way.
--We sing of Mary, mother, fair maiden, full of grace. She bore the Christ, our brother, who came to save our (human)race. May we, with her, surrender ourselves to your command and lay upon your altar our gifts of heart and hand.
--We praise the other Mary who came at Easter dawn and near the tomb did tarry, but found her Lord was gone. As joyfully she saw him in resurrection light, may we by faith behold him, the day who ends all night.
Text: Herman G. Stuempfle, Jr.(b. 1923) © 1993 GIA Publications, Inc.
|Posted by communications on April 29, 2020 at 4:05 PM||comments (0)|
Those with really good memories may recall that my very first newsletter article at Saint Alban’s focused on the notion of “liminal space” (from the Latin limen, meaning threshold); that space and time between “what was/is” and “what is yet to come”. I was reminded of this as I have been reading Richard Rohr’s meditations this week, which have been addressing this question of liminality.
When I first wrote about this, I was addressing the fact that at Saint Alban’s, with Carmen and I having just arrived, we were still in that liminal space between past and future. I was encouraging us to not move on to quickly to our “new normal”. I wrote the following:
Now that Carmen and I are here, there might be a tendency to think that we can finally be done with the discomfort of “liminality” and move back into that more comfortable space of “normalcy”. It can certainly be said that we have moved into a different phase of this particular liminal space in the life of Saint Alban’s, but we are still teetering on the threshold of “what is to come”…the good news is that this is truly sacred space. As Richard Rohr says it, liminal space is that space “where God can best get at us.”
Now we find ourselves in another liminal space, one not of our choosing. Although this time of liminality is quite different from that time, I believe some of the same principles apply. It sounds counter-intuitive, and almost insensitive, to suggest that this time of pandemic might be creating sacred space for us, but that is exactly what I am suggesting [note: I’m NOT saying God has caused this]. Physician, bioethicist, and hospital chaplain, LaVera Crawley, acknowledging our discomfort with liminal spaces and the uncertainty they bring, addresses what she calls the darkness of liminality:
“There is deep beauty in the darkness, in the unknowing, in the indescribable, if only we can open ourselves to its purpose. Metaphorically, the dark emotions of grief, fear, and despair can be profound teachers and guides…The primal howl of existential suffering holds within it the lesson that we all must learn at some time in our lives: to heal from suffering – not merely to ease or palliate it, but to transform it into the source and substance of our growth and wisdom – requires a journey through it.”
Richard Rohr would say that this darkness, brought about by the experience of liminality, is a kind of sacred space, which has the potential to become a source of growth and wisdom. This is simply applying theological language to a reality most of us already know on some level: difficult times can provide soil for significant personal growth. Our natural instinct when we encounter these liminal dark moments in life is to find the quickest exit ramp. We are currently seeing this very human tendency writ large during the pandemic in the anxious desire of some to re-open things sooner than we probably should.
Rather than putting all of our time and energy into finding the nearest escape route, we might be better served giving some time to prayerful reflection on how best to live and grow in this challenging time. Author Sheryl Fullerton, writing about her experience of receiving a frightening cancer diagnosis, says, “We can enter into the liminal paradox: a disturbing time and space that not only breaks us down, but also offers us the choice to live in it with fierce aliveness, freedom, sacredness, companionship, and awareness of Presence.” Perhaps, as I quoted in my sermon this past Sunday, this is an opportunity for us to heed Frederick Buechner’s advice and really “listen to our lives”, allowing the reality of the current moment, even in its darkness, to be our teacher. What are some ways that you are doing this now? What are some new and creative ways you might do this going forward?
Hopefully this goes without saying, but please don’t hesitate to be in touch with me or Carmen if you need some spiritual companionship during these challenging days.
God’s peace be with you,
|Posted by communications on April 23, 2020 at 12:15 AM||comments (0)|
Hobart Park is the unofficial halfway point between my house and the church building. It’s a shaded picnic area near the Baker entrance to Davidson College campus. The park’s primary feature is a labyrinth. I’ve taken to cutting through campus a certain way so I can visit the labyrinth on my way to check on things at church and bring in the mail. I know I could drive to 301 Caldwell Lane much faster, but I need the exercise, and--let’s be honest--the time alone.
These days, walking the labyrinth is exactly the spiritual discipline I need. It requires just one thing of me—trusting the path. For a few minutes, I can quiet my mind and have no other task than to put one foot in front of the other and walk. There are no choices to make, because there’s only one way forward. Right now, when even a trip to the grocery store feels like a life-or-death decision, it’s a gift to have no decisions to make for a little while. When I reach the center, I stop and talk to God, who has been a very patient listener. My prayer list is long and scattered these days: my family, all of you, healthcare workers, those who are struggling financially, those who are lonely…the list goes on and on. Then, the way back out is the same as the way in.
I was chatting with some clergy colleagues recently, and one of my friends mentioned something that rang true for me as well. She said that in this season when everything is screen-based (virtual school, virtual staff meetings, virtual worship, even virtual coffee hour (check out the rest of the newsletter!) our brains can start to feel a bit like computer screens with too many tabs open. The whole system runs slower until you click the X in the corner on some of those windows. I’m truly grateful for technology as a means of connection right now, but it takes a toll on us, and we might not even be fully aware of it.
The labyrinth helps. There’s nothing digital about it. Labyrinths have a long history as tools for prayer and meditation, and are often incorporated into sacred spaces such as cathedrals. The circular design represents wholeness, while the meandering path to the center represents life, the journey. While labyrinths have been used in many different faith traditions, as a Christian, I find deep meaning in walking, remembering that Jesus walked almost everywhere he went. I deeply admire Rev. Kevin and others who do Centering Prayer, and I’ll admit to a touch of jealousy too. But I’m not a natural contemplative…I’ve never been able to sit still that long! And so I walk.
For those for whom walking is not an option, I recommend a finger labyrinth. Same idea, just on a smaller scale. There are some nice ones available for purchase on Etsy.com, or a more affordable option is to print out a paper copy and trace the path with your finger.
What spiritual practices are helping you right now? I’d love to hear about them.
Yours in Christ,
|Posted by communications on April 15, 2020 at 1:05 PM||comments (0)|
What a difference a day makes as we shredded our school calendar on March 16. Plans for parent-teacher conferences, Easter egg hunts, Donuts with Daddy and Mentos® explosions on the playground all dashed.
But resiliency has always been part of our credo at La Escuelita San Alban Bilingual Preschool. We are holding parent-teacher TELE-conferences this week. It is a wonderful opportunity to touch base with every family. Our hands-on science program has become virtual but the response is heartwarming. Return videos of volcanic eruptions, slime making, and the launching of fizz rockets abound.
Our “shared” outdoor adventures include extensive chalked obstacle courses and singing walks with Miss Jamie. We have taken virtual trips to the zoo and engaged in remote nature Scavenger Hunts. The 3- and 4-year old winners of our daily theme challenge questions are rewarded by a personal teacher video. There is nothing like a game of preschool trivial pursuit!
We encourage our parents to allow their children to express their fears. One little girl wrote “MicDoNels Haris Tweeter StarBocks ☕️ At the POOL ❤️ are the Placis i I wont to be in When the cronviris is over.” This is accompanied by lots of stick figures and pictures. We should all have such emotional maturity!
In our prayer circle we ask God to guide the leaders of this world. We ask God to please grant us wisdom and patience as we struggle to deal with our new normal. We ask God to remind us of His gift of grace and to see the blessings that are all around us. Amen.
|Posted by communications on April 9, 2020 at 12:00 AM||comments (0)|
What a journey we are on, through unprecedented terrain, that seems so unreal at times. Every day proves to be more overwhelming than the last in terms of information overload and circumstances beyond our control. To ground myself, I find myself looking inward at strengthening my faith and outward for what I am most thankful.
As I look inward, I have taken great solace in the Sunday morning worship online and seeing the positive comments by all of our St. Alban’s community has warmed my heart. Singing on your own in your pajamas while your family occasionally joins in or gives you funny looks has been interesting to say the least, but we are tuned in for fellowship, a positive message and hope. This time has certainly derailed us, but definitely not broken us. We are all getting a time out to reflect, bond and get creative. Our wonderful newsletter and my weekly family emails include great ways to bond and be creative in our time together as families.
As I look outward, I see my blessings of family, health and my surroundings. Even in this time of crisis, nature abounds with Spring in full force. Just walking outside to see the colors and vibrant life has been a blessing. Although the world seems to have stopped, life around us continues. We need to see outside of where we are now to appreciate all life has to offer and remember how precious and short life is and to make the most of every day.
I leave you with the thoughts and questions I am thinking on and have seen posted recently. How can I be better? How can I give back? How can I make a difference? Who can I touch base with today? These questions and many others like it help us to begin the process of looking inward for hope and possibilities and outward for all we see and have to offer. Although this time is challenging, there are still glimmers of light that we will start to see if we look closely enough. Please know the community of St. Alban’s is here for you!
All my best!
|Posted by communications on April 1, 2020 at 11:45 AM||comments (0)|
Dear St. Alban’s:
As we approach the central days of the Church year, I invite you on a sacred journey. This Sunday we begin a period of very intentional contemplation of what the Prayer Book calls “those mighty acts, whereby God has given us life and immortality.” Following the tradition of the ancient Church, we will walk together with Jesus through the key events of the last week of his earthly life: his entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; gathering with his disciples on Maundy Thursday; his death on Good Friday; and his Resurrection on Easter. But we do so this year with the knowledge that our worship will be unavoidably different from what we usually do in observance of these sacred days.
One of the aspects of our current situation that is very painful is that we will not be celebrating Holy Eucharist together for a while. Our original plans for Holy Week included ten different Eucharists during Holy Week! It’s especially hard to imagine Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday without Holy Communion. Some churches are continuing to offer Holy Eucharist with only the small number of people present receiving, and that is a faithful response to the challenging question of how to continue worshiping during this time of mandated social distance. But Kevin and I have decided that until we are able to gather in person, we will worship in other ways. We feel that the sacrament of Holy Eucharist is meant to be shared by the whole Body of Christ, not just a small subset. And we are fortunate to have the rich liturgical heritage of other kinds of services from which to pull for however long we must. This approach has been affirmed by our Presiding Bishop and I commend his pastoral letter to you.
The joy of Easter means so much more when we’ve walked with Jesus through the sorrows of Holy Week, so I encourage you to join us online for as many of our services as you are able. Yes, it will be different this year. But let us remember that the first Easter was a far cry from our typical celebrations. To quote a fellow clergyperson, The Rev. Dr. Emily C. Heath, “The first Easter didn’t happen at a church. It happened outside of an empty tomb, while all the disciples were sequestered in a home, grief-stricken and wondering what was going on. So, we’re all going to be keeping things pretty Biblical this Easter.” I hope you’ll join us for Holy Week and Easter—we need these holy days now as much as we ever have.
Yours in Christ,
|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