Thoughts from the Rector…
You have probably noticed that symbol around St. Michael’s. Some folks think it is trees. Others think it is people holding hands. When I arrived at St. Michael’s in 1990, this symbol had already been here a long time. It went with a vision statement of early St. Michael’s: “Every human relationship is an eternal responsibility.”
Look closely at the very stylized people. They are not holding hands but rather are reaching out with their hand to touch the head of the other, an ancient sign of blessing.
This symbol of mutual blessing is surrounded by a very stylized circle, a common symbol of eternity.
But hey, if you want to see trees in it, go ahead. St. Michael’s has long been blessed with great trees.
The symbol should challenge us:
- Are we reaching out enough to others with the Good News that Jesus forgives, reconciles, and heals.
- Are we reaching out enough to others that are hungry, homeless, or abused?
- Are we reaching out enough to others who are “not like us”?
- In the paradox of the Gospel of Jesus, would we ourselves be more blessed if we did?
Back to Church Sunday: September 15, 2013
In 2004 in Manchester, England Michael Harvey co-founded an initiative called “Back to Church Sunday.” What began as a simple, localized effort to invite friends to church has grown beyond all expectations. It is now the largest single local-church invitational initiative in the world, taking place every year in churches across denominations worldwide.
Seeking to unlock the potential in personal invitation, “Back to Church Sunday” is an opportunity to act together and take the simplest and shortest step in evangelism – inviting someone we already know to our church. Overwhelmed by the success of this simple approach of bringing people back to church – particularly the younger generation – Harvey says, “We are now 8 years into invitation and we still have thousands of people accepting an invitation to church. It is simply stunning.”
The Episcopal Diocese of Texas has embraced “Back to Church Sunday” and has invited the churches in our Diocese to participate starting this year. Your Vestry decided at our Workshop last month to accept that invitation and to lead a Back to Church ministry at St. Michael’s as part of our focus on becoming an Inviting Church. We are targeting September 15 this year and inviting all members of St. Michael’s to invite a friend or family member to come to church with them that Sunday.
We’ll talk more about the why and the how of “Back to Church Sunday” over the coming weeks, starting with this Sunday’s sermon.
IN A NUTSHELL – WHAT’S “BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY” ABOUT?
Back to Church Sunday is all about the people who are not currently part of a church community. We aim to reach these people through the people who are part of our St. Michael’s community. We believe success isn’t a percentage, a number, or a line on a graph. Success is one person inviting one person. We best support success when we act all together as One Big Church. When that happens, we are an Inviting Church.
–Lee Crawford, Sr. Warden
Thoughts from the Rector…
This past Sunday my sermon considered how God’s grace is poured upon us at St. Michael’s by being part of the Anglican Communion. These pictures illustrate this. The Easter cards shown were made by our Kids’ Intermission children (elementary school aged). They went to Holy Cross School, Grahamstown, South Africa where like aged children received them. Cameron Spoor, who grew up at St. Michael’s, is currently serving as a young adult Episcopal missionary at the school.
The Rev. Robby Vickery
1. In a recent sermon I reported that the St. Michael’s Vestry had unanimously approved a resolution encouraging Boy Scouts of America to change its policies to allow those having a same-sex orientation to be both members and leaders. St. Michael’s has a particular stake in this issue as we are the Chartering Organization for Troop 30. Click here to view the whole text of the resolution. Below is an excerpt:
- “St. Michael’s Episcopal Church wishes to affirm its support of the BSA and of Troop 30, to encourage Troop 30 to strongly consider accepting members and selecting leaders without regard to sexual orientation if permitted under BSA membership rules, and to affirm its willingness to continue as the sponsoring organization of Troop 30 in the event Troop 30 accepts is members and selects its leaders without regard to sexual orientation.”
2. I concluded the sermon by calling upon the entire St. Michael’s community to enter into a period of discernment that I hope will result in the St. Michael’s Vestry supporting us being clear in our publications that we welcome those in same-sex covenants who intend their relationship to be loving, life-long, monogamous and faithful. Furthermore, I called upon a similar period of discernment for the St. Michael’s community that I hope will result in our Vestry supporting our blessing such same-sex unions. Our Associate Rector, Janne, joins me in this calling.
I have been asked how long this period of discernment will be and what it will look like. I do not have a pat answer. It will be a matter of weeks or months, not days. It will give everyone who wants to be heard a chance to be heard. The duration and shape of the period of discernment will depend upon the feedback received. I have already been on the receiving end of many conversations and many emails. The members of the Vestry and their email addresses may be found on our website .
– The Rev. Robby Vickery
|Sunday Morning Workshop
Sunday, April 28, 8:30 am – 12:45 pm
If you find yourself nodding “yes” to any of the above questions, please click here to learn more.
The sermon this past Sunday was the second (and last) in a two-part series entitled “Towards a Christian Understanding of Sexuality.” It is highly unusual for me to do a sermon series, particularly on a controversial topic. (Both sermons can be listened to by downloading them from our website.) The first sermon described the scriptural position that sex is a good gift from God and sacramental, an outward and visible sign of the one-fleshing of a husband and wife physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and financially.
The second sermon wrestled with the difficult question of what should be the St. Michael’s community’s response when the desire to one flesh is not directed toward the opposite sex but the same sex. The sermon acknowledged that no teaching of Jesus has come down to us regarding homosexuality, but then it carefully examined two passages in which Paul spoke of some homosexual behaviors. In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul PROPERLY denounces both a passive and an active participation in exploitive male-on-male sex. However, there is nothing in the passage to indicate that Paul was remotely considering the kind of same-sex relationships we have seen at St. Michael’s in which, far from being exploitive, the couple enter into a covenant with the intention for the relationship to be loving, life-long, monogamous and faithful.
In the sermon I also considered Paul’s reasoning in Romans 1. In this passage Paul describes both women and men being given up to lust for persons of the same sex because they were idolaters (that is, they exchanged the glory of God for images of creatures). Have I ever known of folks who idolized sex and thus fell into horrible distortions of it because of this idolatry? Certainly, both homosexually and heterosexually. However, again there is nothing in the passage to indicate that Paul was remotely considering the kind of same-sex relationships we have seen at St. Michael’s in which, far from growing out of idol worship, the couple enter into a covenant with the intention for the relationship to be loving, life-long, monogamous and faithful.
I concluded the sermon by calling upon the entire St. Michael’s community to enter into a period of discernment that I hope will result in the St. Michael’s Vestry supporting us being clear in our publications that we welcome those in same-sex covenants who intend their relationship to be loving, life-long, monogamous and faithful. Furthermore, I called upon a similar period of discernment for the St. Michael’s community that I hope will result in our Vestry supporting our blessing such same-sex unions. Our Associate Rector, Janne, joins me in this calling.
The Rev. Robby Vickery
- This Sunday, April 14, the sermon will be the second of a two-part series on “Toward a Christian Understanding of Human Sexuality.” The first sermon on March 3 basically dealt with heterosexuality. The sermon this Sunday will venture into new territory for us at St. Michael’s and deal with homosexuality directly. Specifically, it will look at New Testament texts relating to homosexuality. While this sermon will not be as explicit as the previous sermon was, it may still be that some parents might not want younger children in the service during the sermon time. Sunday school will be available as an alternative.
- As I look at the seasonal banners hanging once again outside the three sets of double doors, I am struck by how much our St. Michael’s family owes to all those who do all the little things that make our common life together better. The banners came down because the metal bands attaching them were cutting through the paint on the poles and rusting the steel. The banners went back up after the poles were painted and Tom Bray drilled screw holes for properly securing the mounting brackets. Every week an altar guild team spends time setting up the vessels and linens for eucharist, singers and musicians rehearse, and greeters come early to greet. Every week Sunday school teachers and Seconds ministers share their lives with our children. Every week Stephen Ministers touch base with their Stephen Friends. Every week volunteers prepare the deposit from the Sunday offering. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. It certainly takes one to raise a child of God.
–The Rev. Robby Vickery
Those words describe how I feel when I think of you, my St. Michael’s family. For almost 23 years, you have been part of my life. You have seen our three sons grow to adulthood. You have shared the tragedy and the joy that my husband and I have lived through. You have been a support and a balance. You have been a blessing, not only as a community of faith but also as a place where I continued my calling as an educator of children and youth plus a minister to families.
But, as with all things in life, there are times of transition and change and I find myself in such a season. I feel that it is time for me to step aside and leave a ministry that I dearly love. It is time for me to have more time to spend with family and friends. As most of you know, our three sons now live in Austin plus our daughter-in-law, 2 sweet little grandsons and Rob’s mother. I want to have more time to spend with all of them and with my parents. I try to live my life very intentionally and right now, it feels like I am missing out on opportunities that will only be made possible by freeing up time in my daily life.
I will stay in this position until Robby finds a new Children’s Education Minister. I plan to stay at least through Vacation Bible Camp 2013. I look forward to an overlap with my replacement and a transition that is smooth and meaningful. And, I look forward to being in the pew on Sundays, being involved in other ministries at St. Michael’s and being a parishioner alongside you because You Are Very Dear To Me.
I pray that when you think of my ministry, you will remember that I always searched for the best curriculum, the best methods to present the stories and the best volunteers to mentor our children and youth. For as I say, “If we don’t tell them the faith stories, how will they know?”
I also hope you will smile when you think of the Day School, a mission that this community brought to fruition. I was truly honored to be a part of its beginning. I love hearing those little voices down the hallway as I work during the week, including my own grandson’s – gosh, what a blessing!
–Debbie Vickery, Children’s Christian Education Minister
Thanks to all of you who pledged to the Building Fund in our “Bearing Lasting Fruits” campaign last year. With the giving that we have received already, last month St. Michael’s was able to pay off $105,000 of principal on our commercial loan. That is $105,000 on which we are no longer paying 4.9% interest! Our outstanding balance on that note is now down to about $290,000. With (free) reamortization our note payments dropped $900 per month.
Remember that we also pledged to tithe on campaign giving to the Building Fund to two Episcopal agencies in Austin: El Buen Samaritano and St. James Episcopal School. So, last month we sent $14,712 to each of these institutions. Hence, this seems like a good time to review their ministries.
The vision statement of El Buen Samaritano, located in south Austin, is “a hand up, not a hand-out.” Many St. Michael’s parishioners have served on its board. In 2012 EBS served over 12,000 people. It offers a low-cost, on-site medical clinic for those with no medical insurance. This spring EBS taught classes for English as Second Language (ESL), Spanish literacy, conversational Spanish, Community Health Worker certification, technology, citizenship class preparation, GED exam preparation, youth after-school programs, and Health & Wellness (e.g. nutritional cooking, fitness, and prenatal classes). EBS also offers a food pantry.
St. James Episcopal School offers educational opportunities for children 18 months to 6 years of age in east Austin. It is open 7:15 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. to serve working families. Its strengths are its Episcopal identity, flexible programs, modern facility, and a community that is diverse religiously, ethnically, and economically. St. Michael’s members have served on its board for years.
–The Rev. Robby Vickery
- Lent has brought some changes to worship at St. Michael’s. The first thing folks probably notice is that the altar is rotated a few degrees eastward (choir pews too). This is to remind us that in Lent we are not home but on a journey. The decorating principle is K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Saint): a purple swath of cloth across the south wall, no frontal (decorated cloth hanging) on the altar, pottery chalices, officiants sitting in a different spot, and instead of flowers a simple arrangement of wooden stems. Some churches veil their decorative crosses with purple in Lent. We have turned the center cross from its decorative side to its simple “musculature” side. At the 9:00 service we are exploring projecting the entire service on the wall. (There are no plans to do this at the 11:00 service.)
- On March 3 I am going to preach the first of a two-part series “Towards a Christian Understanding of Sexuality.” This first part will be an updated version of a sermon on heterosexuality that I have done twice before in my 22 years at St. Michael’s, but not recently. The second part will be a sermon on homosexuality on April 14 (3rd Sunday of Easter). As St. Michael’s decides as a congregation if we wish to bless same-sex unions, it seems “meet and right” to prayerfully consider this controversial topic in light of the three guides of Anglican ethics—scripture, tradition, and reason.
The Rev. Robby Vickery
Following the practice of the early church, Holy Baptism is celebrated at the Great Vigil of Easter, Saturday, March 30, at 8:30 pm. Please speak with one of the clergy to schedule an adult, child or infant baptism. Required baptism preparation class will be the week of March 24.
— Thoughts from the Associate Rector
Lent is a great time to shape up — mentally, physically, spiritually! Consider getting rid of practices that keep you from spending time with God and your brothers and sisters in Christ and consider adding practices that bring you closer to God and your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Take a walk
Read a book
Pray and Meditate
If you’re involved in a ministry, go the extra mile. If you’re not involved, get involved. If you pray weekly, change it to daily. If you make it to church twice a month, make it three or even four times during the month of March. If you occasionally glance at your Bible, read a whole chapter or even a whole gospel account.
Many folks give up chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, red meat, or other specific items – others give up TV watching, Facebooking, or playing Solitaire! How about giving up (or reducing) your carbon foot print?
With my prayers for a most holy and blessed Lent,
Janne Osborne, 2/24/12
Ash Wednesday Liturgy and Eucharist
with optional imposition of ashes
Wednesday, February 13
6:45 a.m. - 12 noon - 6:30 p.m.
Our Youth Group will be sponsoring
Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper
Tuesday, February 12
6 – 7:30 p.m.
$3 youth/adults, $2 children … $10 maximum per family
All proceeds will benefit the youth mission trip.