St. Mark's Stories

Transition - What Will Change

Transition - What Will Change
 
We welcome Zoombo Tron into our worship space.
 
Kinda looks like a little person on top of the stand!
So she needed a name.
 
This not so new to us now Zoom technology is a step toward doing what leadership has said from the beginning of the virus shutdown - when we come back together we want to come back together as one congregation. As St. Mark's.
 
Zoombo will allow for that 10am check-in with our distant and at home members and friends. If you are in the church walk up to the screen and say hi to Becky and Diane, Bill and John, and Sarah's mom.
 
At 10:30 the view will change and those on Zoom will see and hear the service.
 
Will there be technical issues and glitches - yes, already have had some!
 
But we are working to do the most we can with what tools we have.
 
Our intent is to be one congregation
no matter where we sit.
 
The service will be somewhat different even for those in person. Masks, social distancing, no congregational singing and guys we have to rein in the Peace at least for a few more Sundays, fellowship after the service outside on the porch or in the side parking lot.

Posted 9/8/2021

Transition - What Won't Change

Transition - What Won't Change
 
Rev. Dorothy offered us powerful words in her Sunday sermon. She asked the question, What does one who loves God look like? Her answers are more questions - good thought provoking questions for us and our times.
 
  • What does one who loves God look like? The intent of the question is that the focus be internal. The outer ritual is intended to be a reflection of the inner reality.
  • What does righteous anger look like? The profane condemnation of others, the language and actions designed to keep “them” in line?  
  • We readily celebrate Christmas and Easter with such pageantry outwardly. But are we really glad that love showed up in Bethlehem? In our depictions of that grand event of Jesus’ birth do we sanitize the birth so much that we forget the point was to identify with the ordinariness of the human experience?
  • Then the crucifixion-- the pain of false accusations. Jesus was not Empire -- Jesus was crucified by Empire.
  • Yes, this teaching is about moral laxity -- but not as those who challenged Jesus intended the question. The law was intended to be a life affirming way to live. Jesus never condemns the law. You see, the intent of the law was the matter of the Heart. No wonder Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the law. Jesus lived as one who loved God.
 
Jesus lived as one who loved God.
 
Dorothy quoted Richard Rohr on this manner of life:
 
Good theology maintains two freedoms: it keeps people free for God and it keeps God free for people. The harder task is actually the second, because what religion tends to do is tell God whom God can love and whom God is not allowed to love.
In most church theology and morality, God is very unfree.
 
Putting God in a box, making God a commodity is not the message. God does not equal empire and empire certainly does not equal God.
 
In her book, The Church Cracked Open: Disruption, Decline, and New Hope for Beloved Community, Stephanie Spellers asks: How does a denomination historically connected to establishment and empire become a church that loves Jesus, lives in solidarity with the oppressed, and seeks the flourishing of all God’s children? Friends, she is talking about us - the Episcopal Church. Historically the Episcopal Church has too often been identified with and allied with the empire. Remember in the 60's - "the man." That has in some communities changed. That has in St. Mark's changed.
 
Spellers continues her good line of questions quoting the Rev. Paul Washington who challenges the church with the following:
 
Those who are cowards will ask, ‘Is it safe?’
Those who are political will ask, ‘Is it expedient?’
Those who are vain will ask, ‘Is it popular?’
But those who have a conscience will ask, “Is it right?’
 
Certainly in the long history of St. Mark's - 155 years - there were times when we did the safe, expedient, and popular thing. But there were on balance more times when this community stepped out in faith to ask, Is it right? And today we continue to ask, What is it we are called to do and to be, what is God calling St. Mark's into and out of?
 
This will not change. This is who we are as those who love God.
 
Rev. Dorothy with some edits from Malinda

Posted 9/1/2021

Transition Terms

Terminology Around Transition, Search, and Calling:  
What Some Key Words Mean
 
The Transition and Search process has its own distinctive vocabulary and protocols.  Let’s get started learning what some important words in the process mean.
 
After David completes his ministry with us the Vestry has some choices in how to proceed in calling a new rector.  Happily, for St. Mark’s we are not in a position that requires a quick decision.  We are blessed with three clergy that although none are full time have already worked out the preaching schedule through November 21.  We have a strong staff to keep the office running and tremendous lay leadership to keep our ministries humming.  We have time to decide the best course for the church.  
 
Some options are listed and explained below.  The definitions are from the Diocese website.
 
Interim Rector – Temporary, usually one year or so 
 
The Interim shall work closely with the wardens, Vestry, staff, and other parish leaders to prepare the congregation for the coming of the next rector by identifying and facilitating healing where there are internal conflicts and divisions within the congregation.  The Interim will also help the Vestry and lay leaders align parish life and administration with the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention and of the Diocese of Virginia.
 
In this capacity, the Interim will perform functions normally undertaken by a rector on a full-time basis. Working with the Vestry and other lay leaders, the Interim will:
 
1)     Manage the church office and will provide general direction to the staff; 
2)     Attend and preside at vestry meetings and any planned retreats;
3)     Conduct the worship of the parish; and,
4)     Tend to the pastoral needs of the staff and congregation.
 
Priest-in-Charge – Three Years
 
The Bishop of Virginia appoints the Priest to lead the Church as pastor, worship leader, and teacher, sharing in the councils of this congregation and of the whole Church, in communion with the Bishop. By word and action, informed at all times by the Holy Scripture, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention and of our Diocese, the Priest shall proclaim the Gospel, love and serve Christ's people, nourish them to glorify God in this life and in the life to come.
 
The Priest-in-Charge’s ministry includes not only activities directed to the parish and its wellbeing but also to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the community. The Priest in Charge shall attend Convention, Clergy Conferences, Fresh Start, and others “Councils of the Church” and is encouraged to participate in a clergy support group and/or spiritual direction.
 
This Letter of Agreement is for an initial term of three years, during which time the Priest will be appointed as Priest-in-Charge of the Church. Prior to the conclusion of the three year period, but after no less than 18 months, there shall be an evaluation of the ministry. At the conclusion of the evaluation, and with the consent of the Bishop, the Priest may be considered for election as rector in a process of election approved by the Bishop and consistent with the Canons.
 
Further, it is stipulated that there shall be annual evaluations of the mutual ministry of Priest and congregation, and that the initial evaluation shall take place after Priest has been in place approximately six months with subsequent annual evaluations.
 
Rector – Permanent
 
The Rector shall lead the Church as pastor, priest, and teacher, sharing in the councils of this congregation and of the whole Church, in communion with the Bishop. By word and action, informed at all times by the Holy Scriptures, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention and of our Diocese, the Rector shall proclaim the Gospel, love and serve Christ’s people, nourish them, and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and in the life to come.
The Rector’s ministry includes not only activities directed to the parish and its wellbeing but also to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the community. The Rector shall attend Convention, Clergy Conferences, Fresh Start, and others “Councils of the Church” and is encouraged to participate in a clergy support group and/or spiritual direction. 
 
Search Process:
National Search – Unlimited and expansive advertisement of the parish profile. A candidate submits their name to the search team via the diocese transition officer.
 
Targeted Search – The Bishop working with the transition officer provides candidate names for the search team to consider – usually 3 to 5 which the Bishop feels are potential good matches for the church.  
 
As example the process that called Father David to St. Mark’s was a targeted search for a Priest-in-Charge.   David began his ministry with us in June of 2012. He was elected (by the Vestry) Rector in May 2014.  We did not have an Interim prior to David’s coming, Buck in his role as Associate Rector managed the worship and other functions associated with a rector or interim.  
 
Our previous Rector, Rev. Margaret Watson was called after a national search process to St. Mark’s as Rector.  
 
Malinda Collier
 
 

Posted 8/25/2021

Our Hoped-For Regathering

A parish member recently commented, This whole pandemic thing has been beautifully handled by St. Mark’s, in my opinion. Zoom has been very satisfying, and I hope it or live-streaming will continue for the sake of those who cannot be at the church building on Sunday mornings. 

 

But I realize I’m feeling confused about why we are not further along in resuming full services at the church. Other churches who appear to have no better handle on managing this than do we are opening and seem fine. 

 

I realize there may be issues to which I am not privy, as it should be. But I think it would help to have some update to the parishioners. Feels like we are behind the curve on regathering. And it would help to know the rationale. 

 

Great question!  And one we are glad to have the opportunity to address with the congregation. 

 

The roof replacement is one reason for the delay in return to full in-person worship.  Without knowing exactly how much disruption and safety issues a project of this magnitude would cause we chose to not try to do more inside the church than the noon services until it was completed.  Happily, the company is moving the work along and so far, (at least) we have not had the raining debris issues inside the church and safety issues outside that we were concerned about.  We have covered the chancel organ pipes to protect them and the organ console as the roof directly over them is being repaired.  Significant damage to the existing roof structure above the chancel pipes was discovered when Brent and the organ specialist (David Storey) went up to determine how best to cover them.  This means the organ will be unavailable for a week or two at the minimum.  

 

The other issue is the one we’ve faced all along in not being entirely sure of how this virus will behave.  While health markers have been good, and many are vaccinated the Delta variant is causing a rise in cases in the unvaccinated and poses a threat to those with compromised health conditions and those under the age of 12.  The mandate from the St. Mark’s leadership (both clergy and lay) from the outset of this disease was to wait to come back until we all could come back.  This has meant not creating an “us and them” in terms of who could or would be comfortable in-person and those for whatever reason would not.  We want to be one congregation, one community and that has led us to sacrifice individually for the sake of each other.  

 

A third less pressing reason is the many members who are at last able to travel to see relatives, take vacations, go to the beach, etc.  The refrain of this summer is, “We’re out of town.”  Summer usually sees a dip in attendance but after 15 months of being cooped up almost all the families we talk with are planning multiple trips.  We are thrilled for them.  

 

During its July meeting, Vestry affirmed a hoped-for date of Sunday, September 12 to be in the church both physically and electronically at 10:30am as one congregation.   Our goal is to maintain a Zoom connection for those at a distance and those still not comfortable being in person in the church.  We are working on getting the necessary equipment to provide stable wifi in the church so that our Zoom members will be right there with us.  Zoom is not going away.  When we are able to renovate the interior (probably 2023) more work will be done to install a true sound system and more on-line capacity.  We are recruiting our “Alter Guild” to help manage this and using the current noon in-person service to get our ministry folks back in the groove of arranging flowers, setting the altar, participating in the service, etc.   Ministry team leaders are looking optimistically to Fall programs and a more familiar 2022 schedule. 

 

What we cannot control is the virus.  Recent Delta driven spikes have resulted in our Bishop once again mandating masks for indoor gatherings.  The Vestry had and has maintained mask-wearing and safe social distancing for indoor worship.  This will not change until the virus is sufficiently under control.  If you are eligible and able to be vaccinated, please do. 

 

From that day in March 2020 that the Bishop sent word out to close the church buildings we have been grateful that the clergy, leadership, and congregation of St. Mark’s has acted carefully and intentionally in managing first the disruption caused by the closure, the process and programs to maintain worship and community on-line, and to thoughtfully approach a return to full in-person “hyflex” worship (means incorporating in person and on Zoom) when we can all be back together again.  

Posted 8/1/2021

Please join us in daily prayer for those who work on our roof

The Roof

The roof work has begun.  The scaffolding and walk boards are now populated with workers – some carrying debris to the drop points – some picking up and staging materials across the south face of the roof.  It is kind of eerie in my office, suddenly there are shadows of these people moving to and fro, their voices easier for me to hear than the doorbell! 

They begin work early but there is no way to escape the summer heat.  They are completely exposed to the heat of the sun.  I looked out my window when a break came.  One young man was slouched against the brick wall, relaxing in what shade could be found.  Even with his work gloves off his hands were black with grit and sweat.  I suppose there is no point in washing up until the work-day is over.  Looking at his hands I began to pray – for him and for all working in the heat and the dirt. 

I ask you to join me in daily prayer for those who work on our roof – for the men and yes, the women who offer their working expertise to rebuild our roof.  They are literally unseen, high above us but so present in their efforts and endurance doing this hot and dirty work. 

Holy One, you guide our hands as we labor, as we work to build, create, and produce. We give thanks for the gift of strong bodies and astute minds that allow us to accomplish many great things. Lord, we pray that you surround them, the shadow of your protection guard them and their families from all harm as they work. Give to them assurance of income and provide for them all the resources, strength, and support that they need. Gracious God, you bless all of us in so many different ways. Shower all of your children working with your blessing and love. All this, in your holy name we pray. Amen. 

Adapted from a prayer by Sarah Swindall, Pastoral Intern, Augsburg Fortress

April 6, 2020

 

by Malinda Collier  | 

Mercy

Mercy

Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm. (OED)

We pray to a merciful God.  We know this because it is what Jesus taught.  And Jesus taught this at a time when mercy was in short supply.  Praying to a merciful God would have been unknown in the first century Roman Empire.  Imperial gods were as the Greco-Roman myths tell us capricious and fickle at best, down-right spiteful when vexed - often treating humanity as mere pawns on the divine gameboard.  Prayer was offered to appease the gods, not to heal the human heart.

Our scripture is a different story, one most often telling of human failing and divine forbearance and forgiveness.  I have this conversation with Father David from time to time, wondering aloud if God knew from the get-go that humanity would regularly and consistently “blow it.”  I mean we are barely a handful of chapters into Genesis when the problems start…

We pray to a merciful God.  We pray to a God willing and wanting to forgive, reconcile, and redeem.  I thought of this during the Sunday sermon, Father David’s word sent me to my bookshelf.  Bryan Stevenson writes in his book, Just Mercy, of his work with death row inmates, Whenever things got really bad, and they were questioning the value of their lives, I would remind them that each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.

Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. 

Don’t know about you but many times I want to believe that more than I am able to.  Surely, I am judged harshly based on my failings, my falling down and acting out of fear rather than love.  Broken for sure.  Beloved…?

Stevenson continues, In fact, there is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise.  You see things you can’t otherwise see; you hear things you can’t otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us.

We pray to a merciful God.  Thomas Merton wrote, we are bodies of broken bones.  All of us.  I wonder if this is what set Jesus apart, that he looked upon brokenness and saw beauty.  He looked upon a wounded and dehumanized people and saw image-bearers.  Mercy was in short supply in the first century.  Let it be abundant in our time.

by Malinda Collier  |