borrowed thoughts …

posted on, Sep 19, 2014


I came across the poem below recently. T. S. Eliot asks a great question: Why should we love the Church? After all, the Church is loaded with sinful people who will hurt others given half a chance, but … And there shall be Martyrs and Saints, not by our will but God’s gift.

- The Rev. Robby Vickery

Loving the Church

Why should we love the church?
Why should we love her laws?
She tells us of Life and Death, and of all we would forget.
She is tender where we would be hard,
and hard where we like to be soft.
She tells us of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts.
They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.
But the man that is will shadow
The man that pretends to be.
And the Son of Man was not crucified once for all,
The blood of the martyrs was not shed once for all,
The lives of the Saints not given once for all:
But the Son of Man is crucified always
And there shall be Martyrs and Saints.

- T.S. Eliot

What’s Going on?

posted on, Sep 19, 2014
gospel dinner
Joyful Noise Gospel Dinner
Saturday, September 27, 6:30 pm
Donna Hulsey and James Russell are cooking southern food
and Courtney Sanchez is providing music.  
A great evening is in store for all!
Online registration is now closed.
For last minute registrations please call the church office 512.327.1474


What’s going on?

Thoughts from the vestry … INVITATION SUNDAY

posted on, Sep 13, 2014

Did you know that nationwide only about 2 percent of church attendees ever invite someone to church? Yet 82% of those who don’t attend a church say they would come if invited! Sounds like there’s an opportunity here!

Sunday, September 21 is Invitation Sunday in the Diocese of Texas. We are embracing Invitation Sunday at St. Michael’s as part of our vision of being an Inviting Church. In preparation for that day, your Vestry is asking all members of our church to consider prayerfully whether there is someone in your life that would like to introduce to St. Michaels on September 21. It could be a friend or family member, or someone from your work, school, neighborhood, or recreation team. Maybe it’s someone you’ve thought about in the past when you were attending a Taco Sunday breakfast or a conference at St. Michael’s and thought – I’ll bet they would enjoy this if they were here!

Why not invite that person to come with you on September 21, and just see what happens? Maybe they say yes, maybe they say no. Remember: their answer is not up to you. Your role is simply to make the invitation.

On Invitation Sunday we will have special receptions after both the 9:00 and 11:00 services to greet our guests, as well as the usual great music, Sunday school and adult education programs, and warm welcome we experience every Sunday at St. Michael’s.

We all see that St. Michael’s is a wonderful community, with great people who are there to support us in good times and bad, lots of activities to enrich our spirits and broaden our minds, and an open and inclusive worship style that accepts us regardless of where we are on our faith journeys. We are members of our church because – at some level – we see it’s good for us. Here’s your invitation to share our community with someone you know. Let’s be part of that 2 percent – go for it!

God is a Parent

posted on, Sep 5, 2014

I am always struck by the number of people who tell me that I haven’t seen them in church for a long time because they have gone through a really tough time in their life (e.g. death of a loved one, divorce, illness, job loss), but now things are better, and they are back. This seems to be just backwards. It is the really tough times when we most need to be seeking God. I am reminded that I heard a colleague of Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa say that the archbishop prays one hour each day, except on the days that he is really busy. On those days he prays two hours.

Remember, one of the primary symbols for God, used by Jesus, is “Abba.” Abba is Aramaic (the everyday language of Jesus and his contemporaries; Hebrew was for formal occasions) not for “father,” but for “daddy” or even “dada,” the name a small child would use for “father.” In other words, Jesus teaches us that God is a parent and wants us to trust in God’s care like a small child trusts in the child’s parent.

As a parent I want my children to share the good times with me, but I particularly want to be there for them in the hard times. Jesus asked (and I’m paraphrasing), “Hey, if you who are quite flawed parents give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Daddy give if you seek him?”

So, seek God, the parent who loves you better than you love yourself. Seek God in your personal prayers and in your personal scripture reading.  But do not neglect to seek God in God’s community, the church. We cannot do it by ourselves.  There are times when we have to receive an epiphany/revelation from God through our interaction with other people of faith. The insight/comfort/challenge might come from a line in a hymn, from the burn of port wine going down one’s throat, from putting sheets on a mattress for the homeless during an Interfaith Hospitality Network week, from putting a hard earned check in the offering plate, from an casual remark at coffee hour, or from inviting someone to join you at church. Our heavenly Parent is just waiting for an opening to break into our lives.

– The Rev. Robby Vickery

Invitation Sunday

posted on, Aug 31, 2014

Thoughts from our Vestry by Lee Crawford …

One of our most important ministries at St. Michaels is to become a more “inviting church.”The core idea is that we look for opportunities to invite others to share our wonderful St. Michaels family - and then we act on those opportunities when we see them.

In 2013, we participated in “Back to Church Sunday,” when we invited friends and family to come to church with us on a designated Sunday. We will participate again in that program this year, though we are now calling it “Invitation Sunday” throughout the Diocese of Texas. Mark your calendars:  Invitation Sunday isSeptember 21.

Invitation Sunday is an easy and terrific way to do something nice for people you care about. You may have heard Cameron Spoors lovely sermon this past Sunday about the power of invitation to create trust between people, strengthen bonds of friendship, and promote a sense of community. The “Good News”of Camerons message is twofold: (1) that our invitation will be well received whether it is accepted or not; and (2) that we grow spiritually just by reaching out in faith to make the invitation.

Well have more to say about Invitation Sunday in the coming weeks leading up to September 21. For now, please mark the date and think about whom youd like to invite. Special Bonus Offer: If youd like to help out with our special greeter, hospitality, or follow-up ministries on Invitation Sunday, please contact Ann HarwoodKirstie Cowan, or Lee Crawford.

Looking Back at Summer Youth Group

posted on, Aug 24, 2014

Thoughts from our Youth Minister … Mary Conkling cropped

It had been a long day.  Earlier that morning all the youth on the Houston Mission Trip had gathered early to pack and organize the van, before attending the 11 am service.  We made it to the north side of Houston  just in time for our 5 pm check-in at our housing site. Everyone quickly worked together and before long all the vehicles were unloaded, youth were setting up their bunks and beginning to get ready for the evening. Then there was orientation, dinner, and a guided prayer tour of the city.  It was suddenly after 9 pmand we had not even begun our devotional, let alone done compline. In an attempt to reinvigorate the youth, we planned to do Bible Study in McDonald’s and enjoy ice cream afterward.

Just outside the restaurant we were approached by a father and son looking for assistance, and the youth group bought that pair a meal. Just as our group began debriefing the day and talking about group goals and expectations, another patron at the restaurant approached one of our leaders. He explained that the three of them had seen what we had done for the father and son and would like to buy our food. We thanked them and accepted their generosity, but told them we had to first finish our Bible Study. Their group needed to leave, but on their way out they stopped at our tables and handed Andy Hines some money, a $100 bill.  We spent $12 dollars on ice cream and the youth elected to spend the remaining $88 on toys, games, art supplies, and balls for the day care we would volunteer with each afternoon.

As summer comes to an end and I reflect on all that the youth have done, (Service Camp, two mission trips, several day-long activities), it is easy to focus on the logistics of each event. Were there enough sponsors?  Did I spend my budget wisely?  Did I serve enough youth?  I recently re-read a talk one youth had written about prayer and what it means to him. In talking with him we began discussing what it was like when he stopped searching for what he described as a “big God moment,” but instead realized God had always been there, supporting him all along in every decision he had made. Yes, some may say thatSunday night at McDonald’s was a “lightning bolt” moment, but as I sat with our youth and listened to their reaction and discussion that night about what had just happened, I realized something. While that event might have been the first “God sighting” moment for some of our youth, they were all beginning to understand something we all need to remember– God is always there, supporting us and guiding us down the path that we are called to follow.

– Mary Oleson Conkling 


Some highlights of late …

posted on, Aug 24, 2014
NAMI Family-to-Family Program begins at St. Michael’s on
September 11
South Altar – beginning to become a reality
Recent Pics – more sightings of Flat Robby and Flat Janne!

Borrowed Thoughts – On Growing …

posted on, Aug 14, 2014

The following is by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on the insights of Origen (d. 254 A.D.) on prayer:

Growing in prayer is not simply acquiring a set of special spiritual skills that operate in one bit of your life. It is about growing into what St. Paul calls “the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). It is growing into the kind of humanity that Christ shows us. Growing in prayer, in other words, is growing in Christian humanity.

It seems that all Christian reflection, all theology worth the name, began as people realized that because of Jesus Christ they could talk to God in a different way. It was the new experience of Christian prayer that got people thinking, “If Jesus somehow makes it possible for us to talk to God in a new way, then surely there are things we ought to be saying and believing about Jesus.” And so the great exploratory business of theology began to unfold.

That newness of prayer is expressed most vividly by St. Paul in Romans 8 and Galatians 4. “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal. 4:6). The new way we talk to God is as Father, and that is the work of the Spirit of Jesus. And of course it is the prayer recorded of Jesus himself, the night before his death (Mark14:36). So, for the Christian, to pray-before all else-is to let Jesus’ prayer happen in you. And the prayer that Jesus himself taught his disciples expresses this very clearly: “Our Father.” We begin by expressing the confidence that we stand where Jesus stands and can say what Jesus says.

Some kinds of instruction in prayer used to say at the beginning, “Put yourself in the presence of God.” But I often wonder whether it would be more helpful to say, “Put yourself in the place of Jesus.” It sounds appallingly ambitious, even presumptuous, but that is actually what the New Testament suggests we do. Jesus speaks to God for us, but we speak to God in him. You may say what you want-but he is speaking to the Father, gazing into the depths of the Father’s love. And as you understand Jesus better, as you grow up a little in your faith, then what you want to say gradually shifts a bit more into alignment with what he is always saying to the Father, in his eternal love for the eternal love out of which his own life streams forth.

That, in a nutshell, is prayer-letting Jesus pray in you and beginning that lengthy and often very tough process by which our selfish thoughts and ideals and hopes are gradually aligned with his eternal action, just as, in his own earthly life, his human fears and hopes and desires and emotions are put into the context of his love for the Father, woven into his eternal relation with the Father-even in that moment of supreme pain and mental agony that he endures the night before his death.

– The Rev. Robby Vickery


St. Michael’s Ministry for the “Border Crisis”

posted on, Aug 9, 2014
Thoughts from the Associate Rector…

The current ‘border crisis’ has touched the hearts and minds of many. No matter what our political beliefs are, as Christians we do not want to see anyone suffer and we want to live into our baptismal covenant promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” (Book of Common Prayer p. 305).

While we must work for both immediate and long-term political solutions, we also know that a cup of cold water is the minimum requirement for biblical hospitality: love of the stranger. Jesus says that whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones [of all ages] will not fail to receive their reward (Matt 10:42). Hospitality is a Christian virtue. “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers for some have entertained angels unaware” (Hebrews 13:2).

What are we called to do? What can we do?

  1. Pray without ceasing.
  2. Demand that elected and government officials take action.
  3. Give money and gift cards.  The Rio Grande Valley Food Bank has asked that supplies be halted for the time being but is accepting money and gift cards as resources that can quickly be shifted as needs arise with various local groups. The Diocese of West Texas needs our support as does our own local food banks and other programs.
  4. If you work in the legal, medical, or social services fields, please keep in touch with your local professional chapters to learn how your particular skills are needed.
  5. Keep informed about the rapid developments along the border. Here’s a current New York Times article about some of the challenges and benefits of the new detention centers.

Our September mission trip has been cancelled. The opportunity for service has changed as almost all refugees are being sent to a detention facility in Karnes City TX and as a result Sacred Heart which was assisting about 200 people daily is now seeing less than 20 folks daily. It is not yet clear how we may best respond to the needs in Karnes City and other detention centers.

Let me know if you want to receive Border Ministry e-mails and information as it becomes available.

– The Rev. Janne Alrø Osborne

Why are we Considering a South Campus?

posted on, Jul 31, 2014

At the last meeting of those exploring the possibility of a south campus for St. Michael’s a person shared that they had become part of a small group in their south Austin neighborhood.  The group was led by a very congenial person from a large bible church.  The group had wonderful discussions and included folks from all sorts of religious backgrounds.  However, it became clear that the bible church’s vision did not include women in leadership and did not include homosexuals at all.  The person shared how she wished there was a church near that offered fuller participation for women and homosexuals.  A south campus for St. Michael’s could be such a church!

There are many churches in the south MoPac area. There are not many churches there delivering the prophetic call to ministry and justice which Janne proclaimed in her sermon this past Sunday.  We can be such a church, and in developing the south campus we can nurture the west (current) campus to be more inviting too.

We have 11 families committed to the South Altar Launch Team (SALT; Mt. 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth”).  We need more for this spirit-transforming adventure.  If you are interested in learning more about what is involved in being SALT of the earth and of south Austin, contact me.

– The Rev. Robby Vickery


Two thoughts from the Senior Warden…

posted on, Jul 24, 2014

Final Discernment of a South Altar - Are You Called?

St. Michael’s is in the final stage of our discernment of whether we are being called to have a satellite site for services in South Austin.  A South Altar Launch Team (SALT) has been meeting and is seeking enough committed members to go forward.  SALT is a unique opportunity for sharing fellowship and working closely with other faithful on the logistics of bringing a South altar into reality.  We are coming up on a deadline at the end of this month to seek financial support for this effort from the Diocese over the next three years.

If you feel personally called to be a part of this invitational effort, now is the time to become involved in SALT.  Please immediately let Robby or Ron Olson know.

Capital Campaign Update – Celebrate Our Success

On behalf of the Finance Commission and the Vestry, it is my pleasure to report great news on the Capital Campaign. We are currently in the second year of our three-year Campaign. Due to the sharing of treasure by our parish, we have been able to make payments of $255,000 in mortgage curtailments to date from the Campaign. This has reduced our current primary mortgage balance to $117,000. We are now $20,000 away (we received $5,000 in June) from our next benchmark for an additional $50,000 curtailment payment, which will bring our mortgage balance down to $67,000.  We have been able to do this while maintaining money in reserves for our Campaign tithe to El Buen and St. James, a year’s worth of mortgage payments, and $50,000 for unexpected major maintenance.  Thank you to all who have pledged and contributed to this Campaign.  We are truly blessed – celebrate!

Ron Olson, Senior Warden