St. Mark's Stories

Naming

Naming

As a student of the Hebrew Scripture I am and have always been reminded of the power of naming. Naming was not just a happenstance - it was an intentional act and meant to prove lineage. It was also a means of conveying power. Power over. 

I name you. I own you. You are mine. 

So I often think of how we are named and how we name others.

For me - I was named for a great grandmother I would never know, her spelling and all. And it is ironic to me that in her day she led the then called "Sunday School" and her husband - George - well just get out on this one - was a "sweet" singer in the choir. 

I was named. In love.

And along the way I learned other names. Some not so good, some I was forbidden to utter - you know what I mean.

So today I wonder at the a names we use for each other. Are we "naming" without knowing? Are we "naming" without understanding the depth and reach of what we call each other? Are we letting names get in our way?

I was talking with a friend and realized that in all that we have shared about our families - you know her kids and grandkids - that I did not know an important family name. She shared it with me and shared moreover that it had been one hard for her family to learn and that for a while they had "shorthanded it" to make it easier. The shorthand was not honoring and it did change. 

I am practicing this new name hoping one day to meet its owner. To honor.

What we call each other is more than words What we call Israel and Palestine is more than words. 

Our names for each other are predictive of our actions. 

Let us do as best we can to make sure we know each other's names.

And act in honor of them.

 

 

by Malinda  | 

Eclipse

So this happened (Monday April 8). We were not in the line of total eclipse but we were promised a changing of our day - a changing of our normal at around 3pm on Monday.

 

And so it was. We went out on the porch not knowing exactly what to expect. It had gotten darker but not dark. And as it happens we were joined by neighbors and then by a few of those just walking by wanting to take a look at the eclipse. We joked that if we were all together on the sidewalk looking up at the sky we wouldn't look so odd - we wouldn't be taken for a bunch weirdos staring off into space.

 

We became for a few minutes a community. We shared our eclipse glasses and helped each other use them to take photos. We talked a bit about being and living around here. What we liked - what we had experienced and what we hoped for. And then we walked away - back to our own lives and homes.

 

We were changed though - even if just for a few minutes. And I hope when I next see these folks they will remember me and I will remember them - with or without our eclipse glasses.

 

I think of St. Mark's so much in this way. We join together as community on Sunday mornings - people who just like this afternoon on my sidewalk might have never encountered or talked with one another otherwise. We share ourselves in the community of worship and fellowship. And it is good.

 

We pray and laugh and eat together. And we part maybe knowing something has been changed. Maybe in us, maybe in the community. Maybe in the world.

 

I think it has.

 

Malinda

by Malinda Collier  | 

Praying for Peace

 

A friend gave me this ornament last year. I told her then that it was perfect as I begin my nightly prayers praying for peace. 

It is ever more perfect this year.

 

I am praying for peace in this war-torn and war-weary world.

 

I pray for the Ukraine - that the Russians pack up their missiles and bombs and drive their tanks home. I pray that healing can begin, that the things which can be rebuilt will be, and those forever lost - mourned. I pray that the Ukraine will once again bloom with sunflowers.

 

I pray for Israel and Gaza - that somehow they will be released from their generations-old cycle of vengeance and violence. I am not naive - I know this is a complex history and much harm has been done on both sides, by both sides. But I pray that somehow they can come to see what they share rather than what separates them. Abraham, father of all the monotheistic religions is patriarch to both Jews and Muslims, as well as Christians. Could we begin there? Could we imagine a Palestine and an Israel seeing each other as images of one another, of God, rather than as enemies to be brutalized and killed?

 

More often than not I think it will be the women, the mothers who will forge the first links in the chain of peace. Just as in Northern Ireland during the Troubles it was the mothers who cried out - saying they were tired of burying their sons, (one Catholic and one Protestant who won the 1976 Nobel Prize for Peace).

 

I pray and have hope that it will be Jewish and Muslim and Christian women, the mothers who will say enough.

 

Peace seems to me so much more challenging and difficult than war.

 

We have to work hard to create a different outcome, one that can look ahead not forgetting the violence, destruction, and devastation but one that recognizes that nothing changes until we change.

 

By now it is getting late. I have prayed for all of you, most by name.

 

And my prayer refrain is always to pray for the peace which passes all understanding, a kingdom peace that while only God can give, is ours to claim and manifest.

 

The kingdom is here and it is now. Peace is ours to build.

 

I pray for peace within myself.

 

Malinda

by Malinda Collier  | 

Faith at Work: A Justice and Advocacy series on how our faith informs and supports our work in the world.


Amy Strite

The Book of Common Prayer has a prayer for the aged.

            Look with mercy, O God our Father, on all whose increasing years bring them weakness, distress, or isolation. Provide for them homes of dignity and peace; give them understanding helpers, and the willingness to accept help; and, as their strength diminishes, increase their faith and their assurance of your love. This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

            A lovely prayer, but providing proper care for aging adults requires more than the power of prayer. It requires work.

It takes the kind of work being done by the staff and trained volunteers at Senior Connections: The Capital Area Agency on Aging, a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower older adults to live with dignity, to choose where they live, to receive proper medical care, to be fed nourishing meals, to spend time socializing with others.

Serving eight localities -- Richmond and seven surrounding counties -- the agency offers 20 unique services providing services for older adults and their caregivers in a variety of ways.

“For example, we provided more than 180,000 meals last year,” said Amy Strite, the agency’s executive director who oversees the day-to-day operation at its headquarters, 1300 Semmes Avenue in South Richmond.

Many services are tailored to help seniors remain in their homes. These services include:

  • Home-delivered meals.
  • Help with money-management and paying bills.
  • In-home personal care services.
  • Transportation to and from appointments.
  • Home visits for safety checks and socialization.

“Isolation is a huge problem, so opportunities to socialize is important,” said Amy. “We have Friendship Cafes in 25 neighborhoods, where seniors gather to stay connected.”

In a comment posted on the Richmond Memorial Health Foundation’s website, Amy wrote: “We are, at every age, inherently social and relational creatures. We need to see one another, talk with each other, hold hands, and laugh together. It is necessary for good health and a good life, whether we are six months old or 96 years old, and every age in between.”

This month the agency introduced a 4-year Area Plan listing programs and services to help people age successfully in the coming years, with special emphasis on older adults who have the greatest needs due to poverty, inadequate housing, or who have no family members able or willing to be caregivers.

“Aging is a justice issue,” Amy said. “How do we in our society see and treat older adults? How committed are we on a policy level to seeing that all people are able to age with dignity, to have their basic human needs met? What value do we afford those people in our society who are professional caregivers for older adults and people with disabilities? These are the questions we must ask ourselves and our communities. Too often older adults and those who care for them are forgotten and unseen. We need to change that by becoming informed advocates.”

She added: “Love God. Love neighbor, Love self. This is why I do the work I do, and why I believe it is important for all of us to advocate for a more just world.” – Steve Clark

(The agency’s website is seniorconnections-va.org

by Steve Clark  | 

Faith at Work: A Justice and Advocacy series on how our faith informs and supports our work in the world.

Lisette Johnson 

 

Gun violence is a public health issue.

It’s a pandemic that has to be addressed.

 

One of the leading advocates for reforming federal and state laws relating to firearms and domestic violence is St. Mark’s parishioner Lisette Johnson, a survivor of domestic violence who nearly died of gunshot wounds 14 years ago. 

 

In the summer of 2009, Lisette informed her husband, Marshall, she wanted a divorce. He had been verbally abusing her for too long. She could not continue to live that way. When Lisette returned home from church on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009, they met in the bedroom. She told him again she wanted a divorce.  

Marshall retrieved a handgun. From a distance of about 4 feet, he shot her in the chest. Lisette ran of the room and yelled to her children – Natalie, then 12, and Graham, then 9 – to run out of the house and call 911. She escaped the house as he continued to shoot her. Marshall then shot himself. Natalie, who had entered the bedroom looking for Lisette, witnessed her father committing suicide.   

Lisette was transported to VCU Medical Center Hospital and immediately taken to surgery. She was bleeding internally and surgeons had trouble finding the source of the bleeding. 

“I lost 2.9 liters of blood,” she said. “They didn’t think I would make it through the night. The surgeon later told me they were praying a lot.” 

By the grace of God and the surgeon’s skills, she survived. Two bullets remain in her body. One in her liver. One in the breast/chest wall. 

 

After a long recovery period, she dedicated herself to advocating for changes in lax gun laws and to speaking on behalf of victims of domestic violence. Her first appearance on the national scene was in 2014 when then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi invited Lisette to speak at a hearing in Washington. The topic was “Domestic Violence and Guns: An Epidemic for Women and Families.” 

“I was also asked to take on an advocacy role to speak for gun violence prevention at the state level,” she said. “Gun violence is a public health issue. It’s a pandemic that has to be addressed.”  

 

Over the years she has become friends with many other victims of intimate partner gun violence. “I have a 44-year-old friend in Texas whose husband shot her in the neck. She’s a quadriplegic and has been since she was 28, raising two toddlers to adults, alone.”  

Lisette has been a volunteer at Richmond’s Safe Harbor Shelter and has worked at VCU’s Injury and Violence Prevention and the YWCA, which provides numerous services for domestic violence victims, including emergency shelter. 

In a 2014 article in the Chesterfield Observer newspaper, Lisette was quoted as saying that for her tragedy to make any sense, she needed to help other people. “This was my survival technique.”  

 

What can St. Mark’s parishioners do as the issue of gun violence relates to justice and advocacy? 

“Vote! Vote! Vote!” she said. “For candidates who will make guns harder to access by those who are in crisis, including those with histories of domestic violence or substance abuse.” 

Contacting lawmakers in Washington and Richmond also is important. 

“Maybe we should have a training session at St. Mark’s on how to contact and talk to elected officials,” she said. 

by Steve Clark  | 

Faith at Work: A Justice and Advocacy series on how our faith informs and supports our work in the world.

We are called to be the neighbor we are meant to be

 

Jeanine Maruca smiled as she recalled a moment in her childhood. “I spoke at my kindergarten graduation and said I wanted to be a nurse to help sick people,” she said. 

 

Jeanine did not become a nurse, but helping people has been the touchstone of her life since earning a master’s degree in social work at Virginia Commonwealth University. Early on in her career she played a key role in creating CARITAS and finding transitional housing for Richmond’s homeless. 

 

For the past two decades she has been the executive director of Greater Richmond SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now), a charitable organization whose mission is to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect in a number of Central Virginia localities. 

 

She has been widely recognized and applauded. In 2019 she was named a VCU Alumni Star by the university’s School of Social Work. One letter nominating her for the award noted: “Jeanine is a healer, a connector, and above all, a doer.” 

 

Jeanine became SCAN’s executive director in 2009 when it merged with an organization providing court-appointed advocates for children and families caught up in the legal system. Under her leadership SCAN has grown from one program to five family-support programs at six locations.  

 “We even started a preschool for children ages 3 to 6, the only one of its kind in Virginia,” she said during an interview in SCAN’s office on East Grace St. in downtown Richmond. The office is in the Winston House, an historic brick house built as a private residence in 1873-74.  

 

Located in Manchester, the Circle Preschool Program offers traditional early educational experience and nurturing support for children who have been abused or neglected. Some of the children have witnessed a traumatic event, including murder or wounding by gunfire. The goal is to prepare the children to move on to mainstream classrooms and be successful. 

 

The root causes of child abuse are many, including poverty, homelessness, lack of education, injustices in the legal system and political policies adversely affecting the lives of many people. SCAN is working to expose those root causes and change them. “We devote a lot of human capital by trying to change the economic, social and political systems in our community that cause children to be mistreated,” she said. 

 

Referring to the Justice and Advocacy Ministry, she added: “That’s what St. Mark’s is trying to do. We are called to be the neighbor we are meant to be.” 

 

SCAN’s work relies on a large number of volunteers and Jeanine would welcome fellow St. Mark’s members. “I would love to have anyone walk up to me at church and ask about volunteering.” --- Steve Clark 

 

For detailed information visit SCAN’s website at grscan.com 

 

by Steve Clark  |