Palm Crosses

Palm Crosses

African Palms USA, an outreach ministry of St. Johns 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 takePalm Cross 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 Palmscrosses 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. They can serve as a reminder of your part in helping people in Africa help themselves.


Things I Love about the Episcopal Church

We at St. Michaels have been talking a lot over the last several years about disciples of Jesus being not only welcoming of people when they visit church but also of inviting them to church. If we are going to invite someone to church, we need a pretty clear idea of why we would invite them.

A couple of weeks ago I came across a blog by Ben Irwin who has moved from a more “evangelical” church to an Episcopal church. He listed and elaborated on “11 things I love about the Episcopal Church“:

  1. The way the liturgy soaks into your being.
  2. The way

    the liturgy invites me to worship with my whole being, bridging the false divide between body and soul.

  3. The way it anchors my faith when no act of will on my part can.
  4. The way it embraces orthodoxy without rigidity.
  5. How it makes room for those who’ve been burned out, worn out, or otherwise cast out.
  6. The way you can simply be, if that’s all you can do.
  7. The way their worship can be deeply moving without resorting to emotional manipulation.
  8. How the “shared cup” matters more than “shared dogma.”
  9. The way everyone is welcome as a full participant, even children.
  10. How it reminds me that I’m part of something bigger.
  11. How at the altar, we’re all the same.

Ben is not saying that any of these are only true of Episcopal churches, nor is he saying that they are all true of all Episcopal churches. He is speaking of his experience.

So, what of your experience? What do you love about the Episcopal Church as you have experienced it? Do you agree with any of the above? Would you add other points?

And last but not least, do you know anyone who might love these too that God is calling you to invite to come to church with you?

– The Rev. Robby Vickery


Baptismal Font with Water

One Church – Two Altars

Right now we are in the midst of observing a holy Lent, but we need to note something on the horizon: our diocesan bishop, the Right Rev. Andy Doyle, will visit St. Michael’s on Sunday, April 26. He will confirm, preach, and preside at the 11:00 eucharist that day. If you are interested in presenting yourself to the bishop for confirmation, contact Janne to learn how to prepare for this important spiritual step.

We are The Episcopal Church, and the word “Episcopal” comes from the New Testament Greek word “episcopos” which meant “overseer.” The New Testament church took this Greek word and used it for the church office we have come to know as “bishop.” Hence, we are “The Bishopal Church.” Our bishops, especially our diocesan bishop, are our sacramental link with the larger church, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

Not only will our bishop worship with us on April 26, but he has asked to be able to dialogue with the whole congregation at

a luncheon that day. Bp. Doyle is trying mightily to help our Diocese of Texas, with its 150+ congregations, to be effective instruments of Jesus Christ in the 21st century. He has observed that the church does not need to be “tweaked,” it is actually functioning very well as a 17th century institution.

So, whether you attend the 7:45, 9:00 (at 360 or South), 11:00, or 6pm, start planning now to be with us for lunch on April 26. Celebrate that we are part of something far bigger, older, and more profound than any one congregation can be. Details about signing up for the luncheon will be available soon.

– Robby Vickery

Keeping Sabbath

Thoughts from the Associate Rector, Janne Alro Osborne …

Do you sometimes feel your life is like one of those jugglers frantically racing from one pole to another first trying to spin the plates then trying to keep the whirling plates balanced? A flurry of movement is followed by a time of keeping up with all the spinning plates ending with desperate moments of trying to prevent the crash.

Do you long to feel more like a dancer responding to music? Flowing from movement to movement with a sense of wholeness and beauty, able to keep your balance as you live in harmony with the rhythm and tempo of the music?

A holy and ancient way to meet that longing is to learn and practice some ways of keeping sabbath. You can begin right now:

  • Recall the creation story when we are told that each day God followed a rhythm of work and recognition of the particular work as good. Read Genesis 1:1-2:3 to learn of Gods work and rest (shabat).
  • Try taking one minute sabbaths off and on throughout your day, making time to appreciate the work you just did. Even if it was an activity you did not particularly enjoy. Recognize it as good.
  • Set aside some time each evening before bed to remember your day, to celebrate your work of that day, and to offer thanksgiving to God.
  • Develop of weekly ritual of sabbath. Consciously prepare for how you will keep some hours of rest in God. Turn off your electronics or at least silence them. Delight in the knowledge that Gods love for you is not based on how much you accomplish nor on how hard you work. Give thanks that God delights in you because you are exactly you.


For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:

In returning and rest you shall be saved,

in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.

– Isaiah 30:15



As Lent Begins …

Let us take off the masks we wear
And kneel before the Lord.

My Lord, you know who I am.
The mask I wear may fool the world,
but it does not fool you.

The baubles I hold dear
are but dust to you,
Creator of the stars that shine
like a million diamonds in the night.

The excesses I consume
deaden me.
The wounds I hide
stifle me.

Help me as I renounce
that which does not serve me
and fall to my knees before you
to beg a mercy I do not deserve.

God of light, Lord of the universe
hear me, free me, heal me.

Keep your name upon my lips
so that when I tell
your holy text to the world
that longs to know you
my heart will hear your voice.


-Network of Biblical Storytellers, Int’l.

Ready, Set, Go … Lent is here!

Thoughts compiled by The Rev. Janne Osborne, Associate Rector – 

* Pray and Worship: Morning Prayer is offered Monday-Friday, February 19 – April 2, in the Worship Space and beginning at 9 am. All are welcome – please talk to Lesley Margerrison. If you cannot attend, check out “The Daily Office” app from Mission St. Claire.

* Pray and Walk: The Rev. Janne Alrø Osborne will offer a guided Lenten labyrinth walk on Sunday, March 1, beginning at 3 pm. Lenten labyrinth walk resources for anytime, individual walks will also be available in the entryway beginning March 2.

* Pray and Walk: We have two sets of “Stations of the Cross”: a series of stations are displayed on the walls of the worship space during Lent. These are executed in silver point by parishioner artist Joshua Kight. We also have a bronze and wood outdoor series of stations on the west side of our grounds, going up the hill.  These were moved from the old Bee Cave Road location to our present site. Prayer meditations are available before the first station, both in the worship space and on the hill.

*Pray and Read: Two books are recommended -

A Grown-up Lent: When Giving Up Chocolate Is Not Enough

Pilgrim Road: A Benedictine Journey Through Lent

Several copies of these books are available in the entryway (or you may wish to order via links above). Other resources are also in the entryway and look for each book’s table talk during the March 1 Taco Breakfast.

* Pray and Surf


This great program from the Brothers of SSJE begins on Ash Wednesday and runs through to Palm Sunday and helps participants with their sense of time, achieving balance and embracing Sabbath wisdom. Three days of introduction are followed by five weeklong sessions on Stop, Pray, Work, Play and Love. Each day there is a video, a provocative question and a call to reflect either in the workbook or via social media. Participate online (join here) or simply use the workbook (available in entryway).



And last, but not least, no Lenten spiritual practice is complete without participating in Lent Madness!

Learn a lot of church history through getting to know the saints and have fun voting! Get the 2015 brackets here.



The Episcopal Church Being Invitational

1.  From the St. Michael’s South Altar Launch Team (SALT):

We are applying to hold weekly services in the auditorium of Covington Middle School (very close to the intersection of Brodie and Wm. Cannon) starting Sunday, March 8. Eucharist would be at 9:00 followed by Christian education time. The Launch Team would have a “dress rehearsal” the week before, so our last Sunday at St. Michael’s-360 would be Feb. 22. Please come Feb.  22 and pray for the Launch Team, that our mission to south Austin may bear much fruit. South Austin needs a worshiping 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.


2.  From the Rev. Paul Johnson:

Church of the Cross, the new Episcopal Church being born in the Lake Travis area, begins its worship life Sunday, February 15. This new community will be gathering for weekly worship at 10:00 AM on Sundays at Serene Hills Elementary School, 3301 Serene Hills Dr. in Lakeway. Here’s how you can help as the Episcopal Church of the Cross gets started:

  • Keep us in your prayers, praying always that the Lord’s will be done through this new people; that God open doors and hearts; and that God’s grace, mercy, love, hope, peace, and joy settle even more powerfully upon the Lake Travis community and all of Austin.
  • Introduce us to your friends in the Lake Travis community. We love making new friends! So we invite you to make a connection. You can send an e-mail to Paul Johnson, Vicar of ECC.  Mailing address is POB 340821, Austin 78734, and phone is 512.695.2803.       

We are immensely grateful to all of our fellow-servants of St. Michael’s, and all who have supported Church of the Cross in the new adventure God has given us.  And we will keep you in our prayers, as well.

Looking for something to do this Saturday evening?
benefitting SafePlace



Is Your Youth Missing Out? Are You Missing Out?

Why do we have a full time Youth Minister? Because, as we shall say in our baptismal liturgy January 11, it is important to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship.  I was copied on the note below from a parishioner to our Youth Minister, Mary Conkling.

Xyz and I have just returned from our day of helping you and the youth group with the mini-mission trip and I wanted to take a minute to write down some of my thoughts and feelings about the day.  I am so impressed with you and with what you do for the youth.  We did so much today – Xyz and I were only with you from 9 until 8 and when I think back to all the things that we did, it feels like we were with you for a couple of days.  The variety of activities was awesome.  I don’t think anyone was bored, but the thing that impresses me the most is what you were actually providing for these teens.  Everyone that was there today was in high school and you provided them with a great time, interaction with peers, activities that they may not otherwise do because they might feel that they are too old or too cool to do anymore, and they did it all and really enjoyed themselves!  They were able to act like kids! It speaks volumes that these teens would give up the last few days of their holiday to be together and with you. What a special group!

Thanks for letting us be a part of this memorable day.  We got so much out of it and really enjoyed ourselves too! And thanks again for being such a positive role model for [our daughter]! We love having you in her life!  [signed: a parent]

Mary does a great job of nurturing the youths and the adults who work with the youth program in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship.  Pray about whether you need to help your youth take part.  Pray about whether you need to volunteer to help the program.

–The Rev. Robby Vickery


Prayers for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day

O God our Creator, you have divided our life into days and seasons, and called us to acknowledge your providence year after year: Accept your people who offer their praises, and, in your mercy, receive their prayers; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Most gracious and merciful God, you have reconciled us to yourself through Jesus Christ your Son, and called us to new life in him: Grant that we, who begin this year in his Name, may complete it to his honor and glory; who lives and reigns now and for ever. Amen.

– from Prayers for Pastors and People, pp 227-228 (Church Hymnal Corp. 1984)

Thoughts About St. Lucy …


Lucy, or Lucia, was martyred at Syracuse, Sicily, during Diocletians’s reign of terror (303-304). Her catacomb tomb can still be visited. Known mostly for her purity of life and gentleness of spirit she was soon venerated and became popular throughout the church.

Lucy, whose name means light, became very popular in Scandinavia because her feast day,December 13, was for many years the shortest day of the year (the winter solstice date changed to December 21with the Gregorian calendar reform in 1582). Her feast day became a symbol of the gradual return of the light during the very short and dark winter days. Even today, Lucy’s day is a festival of light that is kept in churches and homes.

In the home version, the children dress in white (symbol of Lucy’s purity) with a red sash (symbol of her martyrdom), and carrying candles and singing, bring freshly baked breakfast saffron buns to their parents. It used to be only the girls did this, but nowadays boys join in, wearing a star hat and also carrying candles.

 You will also see St. Lucy observances in churches, schools, hospitals, care centers, and more. A procession of children and young people “bring in the light”, sing songs, including Sankta Lucia, and distribute saffron buns. The leader of the procession, “Lucia” has been chosen (it’s quite a competition) and wears a wreath crown with candles and everyone else follows carrying candles and stars.


On December 14, our Sunday School children will come into church in Lucia processions, carrying candles, and presenting saffron scented bread at the offertory. The Music Team and Chancel Choir will get in the spirit with the singing of translation of Swedish version of Sankta Lucia to the tune of traditional Neapolitan boating song.

– The Rev. Janne Alro Osborne, Associate Rector

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