Palm Crosses

Palm Crosses

African Palms USA, an outreach ministry of St. John’s Church of Olney, Maryland, was founded in 1965 by Father Alan Talbot, an Anglican missionary in Masasi, Tanzania who sought a way for poor farming families to augment their income and improve their living conditions. The result was turning a simple hand-woven palm cross into a great source of income and humanitarian aid. The net proceeds from the sale of the crosses, and all donations received, are returned to Africa in the form of non-denominational self-help grants to meet basic human needs.  The grants committee awards numerous grants up to $5,000 based on need. Past projects receiving the grants have included disaster and refugee relief, medical and public health programs, education, and agricultural assistance, primarily in east Africa.

The crosses are produced by villagers in Tanzania. Entire families take part in the project.  Palm cross orders ranging from 50 to 10,000 are shipped nationwide to over 3,000 churches, church related groups, chaplaincies, and individuals. And all of this is done primarily by volunteers. African Palms’ crosses are made from dried branches of the dwarf palm Hyphaena coriacia. The crosses are hand-woven, and neither the trees nor the crosses are chemically treated and are environmentally safe.

These crosses can serve as a reminder of your part in helping people in Africa help themselves.

South Mopac Discernment

The St. Michael’s church family is in discernment as to whether or not we should start a second location of St. Michael’s in the south MoPac area. There is currently no Austin Episcopal church west of Manchaca and south of Hwy. 290. Many people have found that helping a new congregation start was life and spirit transforming for them. It can bring a joyous change to the way people view God, themselves, the church, and their neighbors.

We are inviting you to another step in this discernment process. We are holding two meetings (attend one) of people who might be interested in being part of the start of this new location:

Monday, Mar. 31, 7:00 pm    

Ron & Suzan Olson’s home   7912 Via Verde Dr. 78739

Saturday, April 5, 10:00 am    

Jean Grubb’s home     5109 Summerset Trail 78749

The purpose of the meetings, which will last no longer than an hour and a half, is to give people an idea of what would be involved in starting such a congregation and to give St. Michael’s leadership an idea of the degree of interest there is in such a congregation.  Might the Holy Spirit be calling you to be part of something new and important?  Come and meet some of your neighbors.  Coming does not commit you to anything but will answer some questions and perhaps raise questions we have not even thought of yet.  I request that you let me know if you are coming to one of the meetings by simply emailing me.  We need to know how many to expect, and there will be refreshments.

If you have any questions or comments about this meeting, please let me know. If you are interested in learning more about the possibility of a south St. Michael’s location but cannot make one of these meetings, let me know this too.  In any case, keep this discernment process in your prayers.

– The Rev. Robby Vickery

 

How is your Observance of a Holy Lent Coming?

I want to share the following from the Rev. Stephen Gerth of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, NYC:

Before there was anything we would call Lent, in the first centuries of the Christian Era, persons preparing for baptism along with the members of the community celebrating baptism fasted. This was a pre-baptismal fast, one not identified with Jesus’ post-baptismal fast of forty days in Mark, Matthew and Luke. This pre-baptismal fast varied in length from a few days to a few weeks. This fast was not about repentance but preparation to receive a new birth. Things change in the time to come.

From the fifth century onward the late classical world collapses. Christianity becomes almost universal in the West. The conversion and baptism of adults recedes and is replaced by the baptism of infants. A focus on Christ’s suffering and death grows. Lent’s origins in baptism as the work of a community were overtaken by Christ’s suffering and our need as individuals for repentance.

Note, these two emphases, a community preparing to celebrate the new birth of its newly baptized and individuals’ need to repent are not mutually exclusive.  Indeed, personal repentance seems to flow well into new birth into community (see Isaiah 6:5-8).  And, we at St. Michaels may have a half dozen or so baptisms on Easter Eve.  Do you or someone you know desire baptism then?

We are one week into Lent.  How is this repentance and fasting thing working for you? Join us in worship this Sunday as Nicodemus (John 3) struggles to grasp this new birth thing.

– The Rev. Robby Vickery

Adult Confirmation or Reception

Thoughts from the Associate Rector

One of my favorite ministries at St. Michael’s is being with folks who are considering confirmation or reception into the Episcopal Church. It is such a privilege being with folks who are considering making a public affirmation of their Christian faith and we always enjoy super conversation, fellowship, and study during our time together.

This spring St. Michael’s offer a one-day Adult Confirmation Class,

     a Saturday retreat, April 5, 2014, 9 am – 3 pm,

that will feature presentations on basics of the Christian faith, Bible, and life in the church and have lots of room and time for questions and discussions. This workshop will serve to equip those who would like to be confirmed or received, or who wish to reaffirm their baptismal vows, on Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014, when the Right Rev. Dena Harrison, Bishop Suffragan, visits St. Michael’s.

The Sacrament of Confirmation is the adult affirmation of one’s baptism; Reception is the welcoming of an already confirmed person into the Episcopal Church from any Christian denomination. Reaffirmation is for anyone who is just looking for a fresh start or new commitment and has already been confirmed or received.  If you have never been baptized, please talk to Robby or me.  Attendance at this retreat is very appropriate preparation for baptism but is not required.

Please contact me for information or to sign up. You may also sign up in entryway.

Blessings,

Janne Alrø Osborne

 

Spring Forward! Clocks move ahead …

Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead one hour this Saturday night before you go to bed.  Daylight Savings Time officially begins at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 9, 2014 (when clocks should be set ahead one hour to 3:00 a.m.).

Don’t be late to your favorite worship service!

2014 Budget

Thoughts from the Vestry and Finance Commission –

The vestry has approved an operations budget for 2014.  Based on pledges received to date and other projections, this roadmap for the year forecasts income of $821,000.  Planned expenditures for the year total $836,000 leaving us with a year-end deficit of $15,000.  Our operational reserve will just barely cover this deficit and our cash flow swings over the course of the year.  If you have not yet made your prayerful decision about a 2014 pledge, we invite you to do so.  Cards are in the pews and may be dropped in the offering plates.

The diocese has benefited from the $1.3 billion sale of St. Luke’s Hospital in Houston and has passed some of this largess on to the individual parishes in the form of reduced medical insurance premiums.  The net result for St. Michael’s is a reduction of about $51,000.  Despite this savings our Outreach Ministry budget had to be reduced to the tune of  $30,000 in the amount our congregation devotes to helping others.  As a church family, we seek to be the instruments of God’s will in this place, and this reduction of our efforts in this calling should be a signal for us to consider prayerfully our priorities.

On the Bearing Lasting Fruits capital campaign front, things are progressing nicely.  With a total three-year pledge amount of $967,118, receipts to date are $496,931  -  51.4% after only one year of the campaign.  We are now ready to make another $100,000 curtailment of the primary mortgage for a total of $255,000 in reductions, leaving a mortgage principal of only about $124,000 outstanding.  This amount should be completely paid off as the campaign is completed.  Thanks to all involved in making this a reality.

 

The Observance of a Holy Lent

Ash Wednesday is March 5.  On that day the Presider at the liturgy will say to us:

Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

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.

Start planning now.  How are you going to observe a holy Lent?  How are you going to examine yourself, repent, pray, fast, deny yourself, and read and meditate on God’s holy Word?  These things do not just happen.  After Lenten discipline Easter will be abundantly joyous.

– The Rev. Robby Vickery

Mission Over the Years


 In about the 1950s the Episcopal Diocese of Texas (EDOT) realized that the Houston area was way short of hospital beds. The result was that Bp. Quin and many others in EDOT worked hard to bring about St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital (SLEH) in the Texas Medical Center. Quin, over strong opposition, insisted that it be a racially integrated hospital. The creation of such a hospital was a bold and visionary action.

Fast forward to today. The EDOT has realized that Houston is no longer short of hospital beds and that, indeed, the whole shape of health care in the U.S.A. is changing radically. Hospitals need to be part of large, even regional or national, networks to survive. SLEH had become a place that was serving people who could afford quality health care. So, last year the EDOT sold SLEH for about $1,300,000,000. Yes, you read those zeros right. The “1″ is in the billions column.

At first I thought of this as forsaking our gospel commitment to be a healing presence of Jesus. Now I understand that we are actually faithfully expanding this healing presence of our Lord. This is because of how the proceeds of the sale will be used. 90% has been placed in the newly formed Episcopal Health Foundation to provide medical care for at risk and underserved populations throughout the 57 counties that comprise the EDOT. The Foundation is working hard right now to develop and implement strategies for how to best do this. The earnings on the principle of this fund will provide about $30,000,000 per year to serve these medical needs. For example, El Buen Samaritano in south Austin has been a powerful presence with its medical clinic for the last 25 years. Now we may be able to start EBSs in Waco, Bryan/College Station, Beaumont, and Longview.

The other 10% of the sale proceeds have been placed in the newly formed Great Commission Foundation and will provide about $3,000,000 per year for EDOT to start congregational missions and to purchase land and buildings.

– The Reverend Robby Vickery

 

Calling all 3rd-5th Graders!!!

There is still time to join the fun …

THE LEDGE = FUN on February 8th – this Saturday!

 

Can you bowl a strike?  Grab your socks, and let’s see who can score the highest!  Ledges (little Edges) is back and we are going bowling!
All 3rd-5th graders are invited to come and get a sneak preview of what youth group is like.  Meet at the church on Saturday, February 8, at 4:30pm, and we will return at 7pm.  We will have pizza at the bowling alley for dinner.
PARENTS:  If  your mini-youth is interested in being a part of this LEDGES bowling outing, please email Mary Conking by 9am Saturday, and she will email you a release form.
The event is $20 per person and friends are always welcome!  Hope to see you all!!
If you want to learn more about our youth program or have any any questions, please contact  Mary Conkling, our youth minister.

 

Taking Discipleship Seriously

This past Sunday at both the 9:00 and 11:00 services we at St. Michael’s started a new Chapter of the Order of the Daughters of the King.  We also admitted three women into the Order.  As part of the admission these three vowed to follow  the Order’s “Rule of

Newly installed Daughters of the King, Zoe Brown Lawson and Karen Blair.  
Not pictured:  Gail Reid.

Prayer”  and “Rule of Service.”  Such “Rules” spell out their intentional discipline of prayer and service.  I am glad that we got to witness their vows because they were a good model for all of us.

 

All Christians, whether members of a particular order or not, should have rules about how we are going to pray and serve.  “Rules” are not popular.  “Do”s and “don’t”s” cramp our style.  However, there is a time and place for being intentional and disciplined about how we pray and serve.

 

Do you have a “Rule of Prayer”?

  • Do you pray privately daily?
  • Do you gather with other Christians to worship weekly?
  • Do you say grace before meals?
  • If you have been blessed with a spouse, do you pray with your spouse regularly?

Do you have a “Rule of Service”?

  • How do you serve your church family?
  • How do you serve the Austin community?
  • How do you serve the human family all around the globe? 

By the way, if you would like to join with these three women and about another half dozen women from St. Michael’s who were already Daughters of the King in being part of this new Chapter, you(assuming you are female and at least 18 years of age) can still get in on the ground floor.  You can attend the meetings while training for admission. Just contact Kim McDonald.

– The Reverend Robby Vickery

How Committed Are We to St. Michael’s Outreach?

The Reverend Robby VickeryWe say that we want St. Michael’s to be a mission oriented church.  We say that a primary component of mission is reaching out to those beyond our St. Michael’s community.  We say in our Baptismal Covenant that we will, with God’s help, seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.

I am proud of the outreach St. Michaels did in 2013.  I am proud of the hours our people served and of the $125,000 we donated to many different helping organizations, both in the Episcopal Church and outside.  We sent funds to the UT chaplaincy, Safe Place, Trinity Center, St. James School, El Buen, the new missions in northeast and northwest Austin, Mobile Loaves and Fishes, and the Diocese of Peshawar, to name just a few.  We did this in faith, despite having budget deficits the last two years of about $40,000.

One of my favorite prayers speaks of fearing what I give for it hides what I withhold. My hope is that St. Michaels can increase its outreach.  For example, I read that food banks should brace for much heavier demand in the coming months.

However, the reality is that unless more pledges come in and unless some pledges that are already in are increased, St. Michaels will do about $40,000 LESS outreach through our annual budget in 2014 than we did in 2013 (or we would have to lay off a full time staff position). Over the last two years we have used up the reserve funds that were generously given by parishioners in the “13th month” campaign of 2010.  This year we need a balanced budget.  And the above does not even take into consideration that the sale of our Episcopal hospital in Houston saved us $46,000 in medical insurance premiums we hoped to translate into outreach.

Let us pray about how we spend our personal funds.  Is God trustworthy to provide? Does what we give hide what we withhold?

– The Rev. Robby Vickery