Give the Morning to the Lord

  

The picture is of the building where I attended the longest church service of my life.  Just a few minutes before I took this picture it had been jammed with over 150 people, even filling the center aisle.  There were over 40 people standing outside looking in through the windows.  Between 9:00 am and 1:20 pm (yes, that’s 4.3 hours) we:

  • Dedicated the church building
  • Heard the Rev. Tom Day of League City, Texas preach a sermon that was translated sentence by sentence into Chichewa
  • Confirmed 10 people
  • Married one couple
  • Commissioned four 20-somethings as diocesan youth ministry officers
  • Heard the bishop teach
  • Had eucharist
  • Presented gifts to the bishop, including a 50-pound bag of milled maize (corn) and a LIVE goat.  I would love to see the reaction if we gave our next visiting bishop a live goat.

Two things stand out from the service:

  • The earnestness of the people.  They were worshiping because they expected God to make a difference in their lives.
  • The singing by the people.  There were no musical instruments to accompany the congregation, just a cheap sound system, but they sang out with enthusiasm and joy.

Lord, grant that we at St. Michael’s may worship with such faith and sing with such joy as our brothers and sisters at St. Cyprian’s Anglican Church, Chilimba Parish, Namadzi, Malawi.  Amen.

– The Rev. Robby Vickery

  

The Vision Thing

I keep reading about the importance of clear vision. So, what is St. Michael’s vision?  We talk about being:

An ever widening, ever deepening circle of reconciliation in Christ.

I like the concepts of widening, deepening, and reconciliation, but these could/should apply to most churches. What is our vision of what God is calling us to at St. Michaels specifically?  I would say,

We strive, imperfectly, to be a family that knows the risen Lord Jesus and makes him known through the Eucharistic mystery of his Body and Blood, proclamation of the Word that takes the bible seriously but not always literally, and actions that witness to the love, mercy, and justice of his coming kingdom.

This explains why all four services on Sunday offer Holy Communion. This is why we have posters with a picture of Jesus, saying, “He died to take away your sins, not your mind.” This is why we tithe on our capital giving to outreach projects.  This is why we are always making announcements about ways to serve this or that helping project.

What is your vision for St. Michael’s Church, and even more importantly, how do you fit into your vision for the church?  Indeed, what we participate in says a lot about our vision of the church and what we expect from church.  Most of us need to expect much more from God and God’s church.  This is why our former diocesan bishop the Rt. Rev. Claude Payne spoke over and over about having “Miraculous Expectation” as he strove to transform our vision of the church.

– The Rev. Robby Vickery

 

Border Crisis Ministry

Read story from Episcopal News Service – contact the Rev. Janne Alro Osborne for additional information about opportunities to get involved

Brothers and Sisters in Malawi


I missed y’all here at St. Michael’s, but it was a good two weeks in our Companion Diocese of Southern Malawi.  I met lots of good people who are faithfully doing lots of good things for our Lord Jesus and his coming kingdom with VERY LITTLE resources.

Our second day there we went to St. Andrews where there is a school and feeding program.  The feeding program is for the school children, the elderly, and those who are HIV+, irrespective of whether they are Christian, Muslim or animist.  (The best estimate is that 15-20% of the population of Malawi is HIV+.  It is hard to get good data because of the stigma associated with being such.)  The picture here is of lunch at the school.  The young children are eating maize (corn) porridge.  The elderly and the HIV+ also received a cup of very sweet tea.  Maize is the staple of the diet.

On our third day we bounced down a pot-hole filled dirt road for over an hour to visit a church that was way out in the boondocks.  The church has 350 worshiping at it on Sundays (St. Michaels has 300), so they are building a new, larger worship space, but construction halted with it 80% completed because of lack of qualified workers.  The same with a new house for the priest.  It is 80% completed, but work has halted.  There is also an 8-bed hospital that is 70% completed but work is halted because the organization funding it ran out of money for the project.  The new well the diocese put in brings up water that is too salty to use even to scour pots, let alone drink, so villagers have to walk another mile to a good well.  I try to imagine what life would be like if Debbie and I had to carry all the water we use every day in a bucket from a mile away.  The women are very skilled at carrying large tubs of water on their heads.

Keep our Malawian brothers and sisters in your prayers.  You’ll hear more about this in a sermon soon.  It is good to be back with you.  

                                                                                                   
– The Rev. Robby Vickery

 

Prosper the work of our hands


T
houghts from the Associate Rector…

Sometimes I am asked why I knit. One answer is that I was taught to knit when I was about eight years old along with “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” and when you see me knitting you may be thankful that at least I’m staying out of trouble! I also knit because it gives me great pleasure to work on something, watch the work progress, and then finish it. I must of course, like most knitters, confess to quite a few (so far) unfinished projects.

But knitting is more than the satisfaction and beauty of the finished project. The process also soothes my soul and my spirit. It is so when I place a chair before my Jesus icon, light a small candle, read a verse of sacred text, and pick up my knitting as I repeat and reflect on the holy words. As my hands are one with the knitting needles and the yarn flows into stitches, the images of holy words knit themselves into my very being and I know the presence of the Holy One. This is also my way of praying for family, friends, and parishioners – simply saying your name and knowing that as surely as one stitch follows another, so God’s gracious love, mercy, and healing surround you in ways I cannot begin to imagine.

I also knit because it makes me aware that I have a responsibility to do my bit in the economy of God’s creation. I am able to use the cotton and wool, grown and produced by other hands, and work them to provide cover and protection for family and friends. This is also why I bake my weekly loaf of bread. Gathering ingredients made possible by the labor of others and then working them into a fragrant loaf helps me claim my spot in God’s order of things and prods me to give thanks for all the work that goes into the many things I buy, all made by hands of folks I do not know. I am thankful for their work.

Blessing upon you and your work,

Janne

May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us;

prosper the work of our hands;

prosper our handiwork. 

– Psalm 90:17 

 

This Sunday We Welcome …

The Rev. Paul Johnson as our Preacher

 

And here is the latest news from the new congregation:

Dear St. Michael’s Friends,

We are pleased to announce the congregational name of the Lake Travis Area Mission.  Because at the foot of the cross there is room for everybody; because at the cross we can lay down our burdens and are made free; and because from the cross comes power and strength to stand for God’s purposes, this new gathering of faithful seekers is named Church of the Cross.

Please keep this ministry in your prayers.  We are grateful for the privilege of serving with you on the west side of Austin.  It is a grace to walk alongside our St. Michael’s friends and witness with you to the restoring, transforming, and healing power of God’s love.  Read about the life of Church of the Cross here.

Blessings, and we bid you God’s grace and peace.  Faithfully,

Paul Johnson

Missioner, Church of the Cross

Some Thoughts …

From the Children’s Minister…

Vacation Bible Camp

From what I have been told, vacation bible camp is a memorable childhood experience for many of you. I never had the opportunity to attend as a child but as an adult this one certainly was memorable for me. Being responsible for all the planning and preparation was a challenge but my main trepidation was ‘will the children all come on the first day and if they do, will they come back on the second?’ My fears were unfounded. Everyone came and returned each day singing the catchy worship songs, telling me about their favorite classes (everyone got a mention) and asking if it could go on for another three weeks (volunteers – what do you say?). All in all, a wonderful week and I look forward to the memories of my next one.

– Lesley Margerrison, Children’s Minister

 

From our Senior Warden…

Update on Discernment of South Altar

Our parish is continuing the discernment process for whether St. Michael’s is called to start a second parish service site in South Austin.  Currently, a South Altar Launch Team is seeking to form.  This Team would be a fellowship group, would further discern St. Michael’s calling, consider the logistics of a South Altar, and launch such if it comes to be.  If you feel you may be called to participate in the Launch Team, please prayerfully consider it.  Our timeline for confirming a Launch Team is the end of July.  If you would like to join the Team, please contact me as soon as possible to share your interest.

– Ron Olson, Senior Warden

 

Discernment about a 2nd Altar for St. Michael’s

in the South MoPac Area

 

Following good food and fellowship at a dinner meeting last week, the Olsons, the Pencises, the Vickerys, and Britt Behrens committed to being on the Launch Team for a second altar (location) for St. Michael’s Church. Janne Osborne and Jean Grubb have also committed. This gives us 6 families, but to launch we would really like to have at least 15 such. You do not have to live in the south Austin area.

Is our Lord Jesus calling you into such discipleship?

It would be challenging but also perhaps the most spiritually enriching and transformative thing you’ve ever done. In the words of last Sunday’s Pentecost reading, come and experience “God’s deeds of power.”

If you have questions or would like to sign up, contact the Rev. Janne Osborne.

– The Rev. Robby Vickery  

 

From Alice Hall, your friendly Administrative Assistant …

I’ve always been blessed with good jobs, with very few exceptions, and have worked with some amazing people, including my present “office family.” As much as I love this job and these people, I have made the decision to retire at the end of August. What’s nice about leaving a church job is that I get to still be a part of my church family and still see everyone–including my office family–just not every day! My love and thanks to each of you. See you in church!

– Alice

 

Revelation, a Theophany …

A parishioner shared the following experience with Janne and me. She had returned alone to the dark, stripped worship space after the Maundy Thursday service:

Well, it was my first time going through all the Lenten events at church. It’s so hard to put into words what happened when I went back to church to get my phone. I knew the moment I got out of my car that something was way different than I had ever experienced! I touched the holy water to ask the Lord for forgiveness. I realized the holy water was covered with a black veil, and the emotions went through me of the night of Jesus and the last supper events. I felt Peter’s denial.  I felt Judas’ betrayal. I felt as if the phone was just like the silver that Judas had received for [betraying] Jesus. After looking back, it is beyond my imagination, all that I was shown. One of the loudest things is not to put anything in front of the Lord and God!!!’ So much of what I know from the program is that I have had a spiritual experience!

I’m grateful that St. Michael’s is where I get fed! It has been one of the greatest gifts from God.

This parishioner had an epiphany, a manifestation, a revelation.  When such are specifically about our relationship with God they can be called theophanies.  Theophanies can happen to us any time and any place, but they tend to happen more frequently when we prepare and open ourselves to God.  Thus, note that the parishioner had gone “through all the Lenten events.”

When the priest at the Ash Wednesday service says:

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.

s/he is trying to get us to open ourselves to theophanies.  Hey, this stuff has been working for thousands of years.

The Rev. Robby Vickery

God Does NOT Take A Vacation

The Reverend Robby Vickery
Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel *

shall neither slumber nor sleep; (Ps.121:4)

 

I’m glad that God does not take time off from being God.  We need his “keeping watch over [us].”  But, we do need times of holy rest (Sabbath). I pray that you slow down your busy life some this summer.  Some folks try to slow their lives down in the summer by skipping community worship.  This is spiritually self-defeating. Consider taking part in MORE worship this summer.  God is found easier when God is intentionally sought, privately and corporately (i.e. in community).  As I keep quoting my seminary prof, “If you want to know God, walk with those who walk with God.”

Even if you are out of town on Sundays, God still shows up at faith communities gathered wherever you are.  Go!  Debbie and I were on vacation with other family on May 18 in Park City, Utah.   A web search quickly revealed that St. Luke’s Episcopal Church was about 3 miles from our hotel with a 10:30 service.  Yes, they did things a little different than we do them here at St. Michael’s, but the liturgy was still quite familiar and nurturing.  Jesus was clearly there in Word and Bread and Wine.  I remembered you, the people of St. Michael’s, in my prayers that day, as I hope you remembered me in yours.

After the service at St. Luke’s there was a nice coffee hour with lots of refreshments. Debbie and I got something to drink, shared a wonderful big chocolate chip cookie, and found that the church was “typical” in that no one greeted us, an obviously visiting couple. Debbie struck up a brief conversation with one person, and we retreated to the parking lot, reminded once again of the importance of all congregational members intentionally seeking out brothers and sisters in Christ who seem to be “outside” the community.  This is a ministry for all of us, not just the clergy and greeters.

I hope you get some serious Sabbath time this summer.

32. For the Good Use of Leisure

O God, in the course of this busy life, give us times of refreshment and peace; and grant that we may so use our leisure to rebuild our bodies and renew our minds, that our spirits may be opened to the goodness of your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  (BCP p. 825)

The Rev. Robby Vickery

In His Presence

Thoughts from the Associate Rector …

Be still and know that I am God

Psalm 46:10

The use of prayer beads helps bring me into contemplative prayer, thinking about and being mindful of praying, of being in the presence of God by use of mind, body, and spirit. The touching of each successive bead is an aid in keeping my mind from wandering, and the rhythm and repetition of the prayers lead me into stillness and peace.

I pray using what is known as an Anglican Rosary that for me symbolizes the repeating cycles of time … days, weeks, seasons, years. My prayers, which move around the circle of the beads, are grounded in my Christian spiritual pilgrimage through time, following Christ. The Anglican Rosary is made up of beads divided into four groups of seven called weeks. I think of the four groups as representing spring, summer, fall, and winter and of the seven beads as the days of creation, the days of the week, the seasons of the church’s year based on Jesus’ life (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost). Between each week is a single bead called a cruciform bead, reminding me of the central role of the cross in my life and faith. The initial bead, right after the cross, is my invitation to prayer as well as my conclusion.

There are many rosary prayers available – a favorite of mine is Julian of Norwich’s prayer with its assurance that “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”. You can find Celtic prayers, the Jesus Prayer, and many others, all adapted for use with a rosary.  I’ve put copies of some of these prayers on the table in the entryway.  And here is a link with prayers and other resources. You can, of course, also use your creativity; a friend of mine uses her rosary to count her blessings, naming a blessing for each bead.

The Rev. Janne Alro Osborne