St. Mark's Stories

Stewardship - Church Speed Dating

October 31st 2017 I moved back to Richmond after about 25 years away and found myself settled into the Fan. Though a vastly different city than I remembered; I was fortunate to still have some family friends here but looking to grow additional roots and a support network; I was looking for a new Episcopal church in Richmond. Shouldn’t be too hard until you realize there are 19 Episcopal churches with a Richmond Address. Only 19.
 
So I had in mind this approach of “church speed dating” and a quick google search pulled 4 Episcopal churches within walking distance of my apartment. I figured I’d start with the closest and December 3rd 2017 I walked through those red doors for the first time. After the service Father David said hello and invited me to a new members dinner at his house a few days later. So I’m on my first date with St Marks and already getting a second dinner date invitation at the priests house! Smooth move Father David, Smooth move. So blind faith I went over to his house that evening (Paul Shane was there) and the warm hospitality and inclusiveness I felt was so special; I realized that this was going to be my first and last speed date. And in the four years since, not only have I gained a church family; had Sarah officiate our wedding last year but found a home through those red doors that have become our doors.
 
Everyone that walks through our red doors is greeted and made to feel like family. And nobody does a social hour, sorry I mean “the peace” like St Marks ok. It can be a bit overwhelming your first service but quickly becomes the thing I know I look forward to every Sunday. 
 
Inclusiveness: St Marks’s is hands down the most diverse and accepting congregation in the city of Richmond. The differences that divide the outside world are invisible through our red doors. And through our red doors you’ll find the kindness, love and support no matter who you are and where you come from.
Spiritual Connection: I found myself placing a higher priority on spiritual guidance and wanting that deeper relationship with God when I moved back to Richmond. At St Marks I found that connection through the collective clergy, their approachable personalities and the way they shared the gospel and message each Sunday that kept you paying attention (Which if you ask my wife is a huge win; she’ll tell you I have the attention span of a toddler) so go figure. 
Outreach & Ministry: As an inner-city congregation, we sit on the front lines of this community; giving back to those outside our red doors. And I think its important to note the additional responsibility we have as an inner-city church. We answer the call to those who need it most in this city. I’ve been part of several (suburban) Episcopal churches that financially fund many worthy causes and programs. But anyone can write a check and I always felt a disconnect without the personal goodwill gained by volunteering. St Marks does this this better than anyone else hands down. The countless service hours we provide to support programs like CARITAS, Food Pantry or ACTS – getting involved and participating will nourish your soul greater than a bowl of Campbell’s Chicken Soup ever will. 
So Why St Marks? Through our red doors is Hospitality, through our red doors is Family, through our red doors is Inclusiveness, Outreach, Spiritual Connection; God’s Peace - that’s what makes St Marks so much more than 4 walls and a new roof. Its our home 7 days a week, 365 days a year. And after 18 months away, it feels absolutely wonderful to be back home.

by Mike Evranian  | 

Stewardship - Our Love for God

Stewardship Month: October 17th 2021 - Tara Peyton-Burgess

 

          Good morning! My name is Tara Peyton-Burgess.

I was so excited when Howard Pugh called and asked me if I’d share my

story about what brought me to St. Mark’s. I have shared my love of this

church with my family and many friends, and I am grateful to be

standing here to share it with each of you.

 

When we moved to the Museum District five years ago, one of my

priorities was to find an Episcopal church to attend. My family and I

were members of Christ and Grace Episcopal Church in Petersburg for

20 years. While it was difficult to change our membership, my mission

was to find a church close to our new home.

 

The first service I attended was at an Episcopal church where the

Rector of Christ and Grace had been a former Assistant Rector. This

church had a very large congregation, and I just felt lost. I knew I’d have

to seek out small group activities to become a part of things. While the

church itself and the music were beautiful, I didn’t feel it was a good fit.

The following Sunday I decided to attend St. Mark’s. I remember it

being a beautiful morning, so I walked from our house. As I made my

way through the parking lot, at least 5 people greeted me, before I’d

even stepped through the front doors. Upon entering, I observed lots of

conversation amongst the parishioners, which was something I was not

accustomed to seeing take place prior to the service. I loved seeing this

interaction and witnessed it again during the 5 minute Peace.

Something that was definitely a first for me!

 

As I sat down before the service began, I started reading the mission

statement “Love is Our Tradition” that was printed on the front of the

bulletin.

 

Three of the parts aligned with most church’s beliefs:

To love God

To serve the community and

to love your faith.

It was the fourth one that jumped out at me:

Our love for God compels us to love and welcome others with open

arms ----- regardless of age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or social

status.

 

As I read these words, I knew God had led me to the right place.

Growing up in many different churches, I had never seen the words

actually written in a bulletin of how Jesus wants us to treat one

another. I was ELATED!

 

I continue to share my joy of being a member of St. Mark’s with my

friends and family. I’ve posted my feelings several times on Facebook. I

scrolled back yesterday and found a post from August of 2017. I had

made a collage with a photo of the church’s steeple, our flag which

states, “Love is Our Tradition”, a photo of two children of different

races loving one another and the fourth part of our mission statement

that I read earlier.

 

These are the hash tags that were under my collage:

#lovenothate #weareallGodschildren #loveourchurch

#keepingthefaithinhumanity #beautifulviewonmywalk

#GodBlessAmerica

I am so blessed to be a member of Saint Mark’s. How awesome is it to

attend a church that loves and accepts EVERYONE. Thank you for

listening to my story. May God bless each of you.

         

by Tara Peyton Burgess  | 

Stewardship - What St. Mark's Means to Me

Stewardship Month: October 10th 2021 - Ryn Kennedy

 

Why did you join St. Mark’s? Why have you continued as an active member?

 

          When I graduated from college I had a very tattered relationship with God, not only was I struggling in my adolescence with my identity, but my father began to develop parkinsons, and so rarely would I pray unless in dire need of a miracle and after highschool I would tentatively attend the late Christmas eve service at the Church in which I was raised. 

 

          And at some point I entered into a questioning period, wondering if I was truly loved by God, because I had felt so unloved by the world around me, like an outcast. I was a angry queer transgender adolescent, searching for my own sense of self and I was drinking from fountains that could never end my thirst.

 

 I would quietly test and probe the limits of this lifetime and God searching for answers without even understanding the questions, and then about four years ago a personal tragedy occurred and I felt shattered. I needed God, completely needed God, and so I called out, and he answered in the form of the young woman I was dating at the time. She invited me here to a church she had felt welcomed in.

 

          I had never been to a service like this one before, I had always attended a very contemporary service with a praise band and certainly never a kneeler or a pew. Even with a few first lound clangs of the kneeler, I felt like I had found a place I could praise and worship the God I had come to rely on and walk with. 

 

          And it is that simple for me, I was welcomed in.

 

I continue here at St. Mark’s because I feel as though we are called to open these doors and welcome all who are seeking to love and be loved by God.      

by Ryn Kennedy  | 

Stewardship - A Matter of Caste or Kingdom?

Howard spoke eloquently of his time as a student in Singapore. He shared with us the experience of his host country - one stratified by race, social and economical status, and ancestry. His host thinking this would be strange to an American must have been surprised by Howard's answer - staring at the young man Howard shared, “Ian, I grew up in Richmond, Virginia. We perfected social stratification by race, ethnicity, and class a long time ago. So, no, I do not find it strange, just extremely sad.”
 
Looking for a church to attend Howard found one. It had all the colonial era trappings. He wondered who would attend. His story continues:
 
The first person to enter was a late middle-aged woman. The severity of her posture; her high heels, silk dress, perfectly coiffed hair, and an arresting pearl necklace all spoke eloquently to her place in the social order. She advanced down the center aisle, came to her pew, knelt and began to pray. I looked down at my knit shirt, thin cotton pants, and running shoes and decided that if I had breached the preserve of the well-dressed elite, I should leave now, before I embarrassed them and myself. But as I rose to leave, the next person entered: a young Indian man, mid-twenties, who seemed to be wearing a neatly pressed work uniform. As he passed the pew where the woman was kneeling, he paused and addressed her by name: “Good morning, Lady Isabel.” She looked up and warmly acknowledged his greeting. I dropped back into my seat.
As the sanctuary filled, I was surprised, and then confounded. The congregation reflected the city’s diversity. I expected to see the various racial and ethnic groups cluster as they sat. They did not. I witnessed greetings, handshakes, hugs, and even kisses across social barriers I had been led to believe were impermeable. I began to wonder, is it possible? Is it possible that the New Covenant can transcend caste? As the service concluded, the Rector invited everyone to join him at the refreshments table at the foot of the garden—and at the nearby sign-up table. The church was beginning a major outreach effort, and many hands would be needed. Whose hands, I asked myself.
The young Indian man preceded me into the garden. There he joined a woman I presumed to be his wife who was holding a loudly unhappy infant. As they tended the child, they were overtaken by Lady Isabel, heading toward the tea urns. I know the clenched-teeth smile of social condescension, the smile that does not rise to the eyes. This was its opposite; this was pure delight. I watched as she extended her arms, clearly asking to hold the infant, who, in her arms, instantly fell silent. Then a small hand shot up, closed on the pearl necklace, and began to yank. The father was alarmed, the mother horrified; in the distance I held my breath. Lady Isabel could have gently pried the little fingers open. She did not. She reached behind and unclasped the necklace, which the baby began to flail with gleeful abandon. Lady Isabel laughed, turned, and the four of them began a slow progress toward tea and sandwiches.
My attention was diverted by the swelling crowd in front of the sign-up table. The volunteers crossed race, ethnicity, gender, and age. I marveled. My thoughts went to the Apostle Paul writing to the community of believers he had founded in Galatia: “In Christ,” he proclaimed, “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28) My focus reverted to the improbable family of four who were now passing through the only area in the garden not in full shade.
And that’s when I saw it, fleetingly, but I did see it. In the white heat of the equatorial sun, I saw the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
 
It is my task as chair of Stewardship, and my privilege as your fellow parishioner, to invite you to renew and, if possible, increase your pledge, remembering, please, that no collection plate has been passed in this church in 19 months. You will receive a pledge card in the mail to be filled out and returned, but I ask you to consider pledging online, which would be more expedient for everyone.
I solicit your financial support, not out of the church’s need but rather our common thankfulness. And we have much to be thankful, do we not. We are thankful for the decade Fr. David cared for this congregation, culminating symbolically and literally in the very roof over our heads. We are thankful for the two exceptional priests Fr. David called to join us, and for the continuing ministry of our curmudgeonly, but much loved, senior priest. We are thankful for our conscientious and capable Vestry who, in time, will call our next Rector, and who, at present, are implementing our Long-Range Plan. We know who we are. With the Plan we know where we are going and how to get there. And we will. We are thankful for our tireless director of lay ministries whose teams, supporting the needy in our city, have kept St. Mark’s open while the church was closed.
 
And last, my own gratitude—that I do not have to make my way to Richmond International Airport to board a succession of penitential flights to jet half-way around the world to rejoin a congregation that is building the Kingdom of God. That salvific work is being undertaken here, at St. Mark’s. Thanks be to God!   Amen, amen.

by Howard Pugh  | 

Transition - Saying Goodbye

Transition

 

Saying Goodbye

 

There are words in the Episcopal Book of Occasional Services written to tell us how to say goodbye. And that is good as we gather together this Sunday to wish Father David well in retirement. Good as I imagine words may come difficultly as emotions play their part in our last Sunday together.

 

We have much to be thankful for. Father David's time with us have been years of health, mutuality, and growth in ministry. We have fed the hungry and helped clothe those in need. We have sheltered the homeless and supported those in recovery. We have stood as witness on the Arthur Ashe Boulevard for what is right and kind and just. We have actively listened to God's call to us as individuals and as a community. We have worked to bring the kingdom closer.

 

And this will not stop. We are stronger and more confident for Father David's presence and guidance. We will miss him and he us.

As Rev. Dorothy preached on Sunday referencing the reading from James.  Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.  Father David, I realize that the path for life’s journey brought many of us to this intersection.  Many loving hearts that those around us never seemed to understand found that understanding here.  Many who just hoped to have a chance to belong and serve learned the epitome of service is rooted in the hermeneutic of love.

 

Though most of us possess the ability to see -- many have learned to do so in a deeper and fuller way.  Whether we showed up high maintenance or low, complaining much or little, possessing much or little, whether we showed up with a camera looking for a place to belong, the atmosphere of welcome greeted us.  And Father David in the days ahead may that amazing grace of welcome go with you as you keep giving because I have come to realize, that is just who you are.

 

The heart of the matter really is the matter of the heart.  Transformation is the fruit that comes from following that wisdom.

 

Posted 9/22/2021

Transition - We did It! One Congregation No Matter Where We Sit

 

One congregation no matter where we sit

 

It was the mantra and the mandate of church leadership and members - we don't want to be two congregations, we want to come back when everyone can come back, we want to keep our members and friends in worship with us no matter that they live in another state or another country.

 

And we did it.

 

Was it perfect? No, but then worship never is.

 

Was it good to be back together - so good! One member commented, Thank you for today!!! It was so great to be back. Please pass on my gratitude to the St Mark's crew. Such a beautiful service and feeling of community!

 

We prayed the prayers, we shared communion, we listened to glorious music (thank you, Amos), we laughed, we applauded, we rejoiced at being together. And it is just the beginning!

 

We are one congregation

one community

no matter where we sit. 

 

Posted 9/17/2021