Thoughts from our Bishop
In the modern history of mass shootings in America, Orlando is the deadliest – Hate engendered violence leading to more hatred. This shooting, it’s shooter, and victims, will be politically used to create more hate that will lead to more violence. The shooting is caused by hate for those who are different and it will expand hatred for still others. Availability of weapons that can cause this level will be defended due to the hate. All of which is unjustifiable. We live in a nation that pretends civility and Christian values while rejecting the core and central tenets of Christian faith: love God and love neighbor and help create a peaceable kingdom. We live in a country that is revealing its underbelly of death, hate, and love of violence.
I pray for the victims of hatred, I pray for those who use fear and hatred to inspire further violence towards others, I pray for our country.
Our Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, or a staff member on his behalf, posted a piece in the wake of the shootings, it is from Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” He now states it was a mistake and planned before the shooting. It was taken down. Maybe it was taken down because it was in poor taste and timing.
The shooter is now believed to be a radical terrorist of Isis. The shooter was on a watch list but able to purchase an assault rifle because of our sad state of gun laws in the US.
The Internet is already full of unchristian, disrespectful, and horrific responses supporting the shooting and demonizing Islam.
The reality is that we in this country are responsible for creating a place where hate speech is glorified, unnecessary weapons of mass destruction are freely accessible, and violence is cheered.
Yes America, we are reaping what we sow.
Violence and hatred shall beget only more violence and hatred. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.
The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, IX Bishop of Texas
Thoughts from the Vestry 05-22-2016
Doing Good for Others – Outreach at St. Michael’s
The approach to outreach has changed in the last year, but all around I still see such an impact that our church community has on others. Just look around any Sunday or read in the Trumpet to see how to donate books, get involved with Mobile Loaves and Fishes or help with various other projects and outreach organizations that St. Michael’s supports.
Many of you know that outreach funds were previously a budget line item that represented a tithe from the pledge donations. This approach changed beginning in 2016 as some tough financial decisions were made to balance the budget. Hopefully, this change is temporary, but in the meantime a different outreach organization is highlighted each month and parishioners can make donations to these organizations through St. Michael’s. In addition, our impact to numerous outreach organizations continues at St. Michael’s through the service of many generous parishioners. It is apparent that outreach continues to be a way to reveal God’s love from our church community. This is shown by parishioners watering and tending our community garden, organizing food donations, making sandwiches for the homeless, just to name a few examples. If you want to become involved in any of the numerous outreach opportunities at St. Michael’s, please contact Margo Russell, the Vestry Liaison to Outreach. An Outreach Report is available to the church community and highlights the budget changes and well as summarizes past outreach donations. This report is available here.
Margo Russell, Vestry Jr. Warden
Thoughts from Brin 05-08-2016
A couple of years ago I read the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up:
The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. As someone who loves a good deep-cleaning this book was like gold! Unlike other books on cleaning and organizing, Kondo’s book is less of a “how-to” with advice on storage solutions and how to organize your papers than a philosophy for managing one’s life and possessions. Her philosophy centers around the principle that the things around you should first and foremost bring you joy. An oft-quoted line from her book says, “Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.”
Much of the language that Kondo uses would sound familiar to a Christian—language about renewal and new life, language cautioning us not to be encumbered by the trappings of the material world, and language discouraging excess. Spring—especially in the time surrounding Easter, when we focus on renewal and recommitment to the spiritual life—is a great time to clean out both spiritual and physical clutter.
Cleaning a church building is not quite like cleaning your house, but much of the same wisdom applies. On Saturday, May 21st, from 8am to noon, we will do a little spring cleaning of our church building and grounds. This will be a good time to tidy up a bit, take stock of what we have and what we need, and continue practicing good stewardship of our many material blessings. There will be jobs for young and old alike, and we’ll celebrate our work with a festive picnic beginning at noon. If you can’t come clean, at least come share a meal with us. I hope to see you there!
Thoughts from Brin 05-01-2016
How many times have wandered past a table full of neatly stacked books with
fresh, new book covers that caught your eye—smart new fonts, appealing colors, attractive images—only to stop and see that the books are not new releases, but Classics that were originally released decades, or even centuries ago? We’ve all been told not to judge a book by its cover, but the fact that we all so frequently do is precisely the reason even old books get outfitted with a new cover every few years.
Websites are kind of like book covers—they have to be updated from time to time so they feel fresh to the user and attractive by current standards. According to studies on internet use, a visitor to a website will make its mind up about a business or organization within seconds of viewing its website. Combine that with the fact that nearly every visitor to a business or organization (and the church is no exception to this) first goes to the organization’s website before deciding to go to the physical location, and you can see how important a church’s website is.
Like a great Classic, the St. Michael’s website has been through several iterations over the years, all of which have served their purpose well for the time. For the past few months, the vestry and staff have been working with a web designer and a graphic artist to create a new website for St. Michael’s. Before we launch the new site, we hope to gather information from as many St. Michael’s parishioners and friends as we can. To help with that, our web designer, Jason, created a brief survey that I’d like to invite you all to take. It can be found here, and is also available on the current website under Log in &More tab.
Thank you for your feedback as we get ready for our new site. If you have any comments or questions about the web redesign, please contact me to share your thoughts.
Thoughts from Brin 03-20-2016
Holy Week is nearly upon us, and with it the Paschal Triduum, which will begin with our Maundy Thursday service and end with the celebration of the Great Easter Vigil. This is a rich time to experience the majesty of our tradition.
I invite you to participate in as many of our services as you are able to during this holy time (see page 8 for service times and descriptions), knowing that you will not only be recalling this amazing story with our St. Michael’s family, but along with millions of Christians all over the world. All services are appropriate for all ages, and there is no better way, whether young and old, to understand the power of the Christian story than to experience this holy reenactment for ourselves.
We will begin our time together with an agape meal and Eucharist on Maundy Thursday, where we will participate in a supper much like Jesus would have had with his friends the night before he was crucified. We will do as Jesus did, by breaking bread and sharing the cup of wine, while having a meal of tabbouleh, hummus, cheeses, and fruit (and some turkey sandwiches for the less adventurous eaters among us). At this service, we will also have the opportunity to wash each other’s feet, which Jesus did for his friends at the Last Supper. We especially encourage families to bring their kids to see, firsthand, the roots of our Eucharistic celebration. We will gather in the Parish Hall starting at 6pm and we will start our service at 6:15pm. I hope you will join us for this special service, as well as our commemoration of Good Friday and, of course, Jesus’s triumphant resurrection at the Great Easter Vigil.
—The Rev. Brin Bon
Thoughts from Kay Allen 03-13-2016
Thank you, St. Michael’s Parishioners, for your donations toward Simple Gifts during Advent, which enabled us to give a total of $3705 to some of our favorite causes. To St. Etienne alone, we were able to pay a full month’s salary for 14 employees. See the results of your generosity below:
SMEC Food Pantry – $432
Episcopal Relief & Development – $495
St. Etienne (Haiti) – $1,063
Refugee Services of Texas – $465
Peshawar (our sister Church) – $755
Warm Heart International (Malawi) – $495
You now have an opportunity to give Simple Easter Gifts to your loved ones. We are collecting donations to help Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) dig wells for those in need of a clean, dependable water source. On the 2 upcoming Sundays, March 13 & 20, look for the table in the church foyer where you can contribute $$ in honor or memory of a loved one, or simply in gratitude to God.
Thoughts from the Youth Minister (Anthony Orona) 03-6-2016
Hello St. Michael’s family!
First, I want to say how much I’ve enjoyed my first few weeks at St. Michael’s. I have truly been blown away by the welcome I’ve received. I’ve enjoyed meeting everyone and look forward to getting to know each of you better.
Now, I guess I should probably tell you a little bit about myself. I was born and raised in the great city of Houston and attended the University of Houston. After graduating with a B.A. in communication I moved to my favorite city in the world…Chicago! The two years I spent there were two of the most impactful of my life. I worked for a non-profit called the Center for Student Missions. CSM serves and partners with other organizations that operate on the front lines of urban life and ministry. My time there helped shape my beliefs and gave me a clearer idea of my vocation.
I’ve spent the last ten years in student ministry in Houston. As a cradle Episcopalian, I’ve grown to love our church and mission. I feel a deep calling to serve students and their families by helping to facilitate a safe and welcoming youth community where all are truly welcome.
In addition to student ministry and my family and friends I have one more great passion…sports! I’m an avid baseball, basketball and hockey fan. I understand there aren’t many hockey fans in this city but hopefully I can convert you, one by one. : )
I’d love to connect with you so drop me a line or stop by the church offices. I’m excited about what’s to come!
Thoughts from Mary Parse 02-28-2016
To my friends and fellow parishioners at St. Michael’s:
As most of you know, this Sunday, February 28, will be my last Sunday as pianist atthe 11:00 service. This has not been an easy or sudden decision, but is the result of much thought, discussion, and prayer. Klaus’s cancer diagnosis and treatment last year, and our advancing age, have given us a direct confrontation with Robby’s radical assertion that “the mortality rate is still 100%.” I decided last summer to move toward retirement this year, while we are both still able to travel and have active fun together.
I have been pianist at St. Michael’s for most of the past 36 years – about half my life. I have been through three rectors, five associate rectors, three sanctuary buildings, six choir directors (seven if you count the early years when I was also the choir director), and many, many dedicated, lively, talented, outspoken, opinionated, and inspiring choir members.
I am not leaving St. Michael’s as a parishioner, although I will take a short break to visit other churches and see what else is going on out there. When I return from that break, I hope that my vocal cords, and Jim Morrow, will allow me to become another lively member of our inspiring Chancel Choir.
I have loved my job at St. Michael’s. I love playing the hymns and hearing people sing them. I love working with the choir and Jim Morrow. I love choosing the hymns. I love the liturgical seasons and finding music that fits them. I will continue to enjoy St. Michael’s and hymn-singing and the liturgy and working with the choir – but from a different perspective. Continued on the next page
Thank you all for your support and enthusiasm and feedback. Thanks especially to Robby, to Janne, to Gena and June, to the choir, and to Jim Morrow.
Among the many people to whom I am grateful for support and education, I want to mention all those worship commission leaders and members who taught me everything I know about liturgy and hymn-choosing. At one of those meetings I was told emphatically, “I didn’t know a single hymn today. You robbed me of my worship experience!” What I learned from that statement was how important the hymn-singing was to that person. Another time I was told, “People don’t want to hear a fancy choir performance for the prelude on Christmas Eve. They want to sing Christmas carols!” Oh.
I am especially thankful to Robby. When he came to this church, which was broken and in pain and barely limping along, he looked around and said, “Is there any group which is still functioning?” The answer was clear: the choir. Robby immediately put Leonard Johnson back on the payroll, from which Leonard had voluntarily withdrawn himself in order to help support the church, and Robby has been a strong supporter of the choir in every way since then.
I loved all those choir directors, and learned so much from them – about music, about singing, about how to be a good choir member, about how to support from the piano bench. But what I have learned and been able to experience with Jim Morrow is far beyond anything I could ever have imagined. He is demanding, without ever being mean. He expects our best efforts, without ever denigrating us when we fall short. He has given us opportunities that I thought were impossible to do, and he simply made them happen. I’ve been able to play harpsichord on Schutz and Bach cantatas, organ on Handel’s Messiah, and even a Mozart Piano Concerto. What a rich and rewarding and fun time I have had! Thank you, Jim.
Thoughts from Brin 02-14-2016
In “church talk” these days, a common subject is the recent phenomena of folks who consider themselves to be “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR). It was once assumed that spirituality and religion belonged to the same domain, but there is a new generation of people who don’t claim a religious affiliation but who still seek spiritual connection.
I grew up with an opposite sort of disjunction that you might call “religious but not spiritual.” As I’ve shared before, I grew up fully steeped in the church, but “spirituality” wasn’t a big part of my life until I was an adult. I now realize that my life was always filled with spiritual moments, and that my church pointed to them in a number of ways, but I simply didn’t have the vocabulary to describe them as “spiritual.”
So, as we begin this season of Lent–a season for tending the soil of our spiritual groundings–I invite you, in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, “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” (p. 265). We have a variety of options to help you explore these disciplines and help you develop your own language of spirituality. From our Wednesday night Family Spirituality program, to our Sunday Forgiveness Workshop and new Adult Education offerings (see page X), I pray that you will find something spiritually meaningful for you in this season, and I hope that St. Michael’s will be a source of both spiritual and religious connection for you throughout the year.
—The Rev. Brin Bon
Why Children Need to Get to Church on Christmas Eve
In most families Christmas Eve and Day are busy, chaotic times. It is not easy to get a family that includes overly-excited children to church. But, it is worth the effort. Children (and their parents) actually need it. The church helps when it articulates for parents clear reasons to make the effort. Here is my starter list of reasons.
To hear the story read or told in an important way on the “night it happened” – Children like hearing the story of their birth on their birthday and celebrating other big events on “the very day it happened.” So, the story which may have been acted out in a pageant and discussed in church school and read at home, feels more “real” when read on Christmas Eve or Day in the sanctuary.
To go to church at night – These days children are at church most often during the day. To go at night to a decorated, even candle-lit church is almost magical. When the family makes this an important part of Christmas – even in the middle of the chaos – just being there reminds children what is most important about Christmas.
To be with a crowd telling the story – Joining church friends in a packed sanctuary reminds children that this story is something bigger than just their family traditions. They are part of a huge family of families who celebrate Jesus’ birth.
To sing the carols at least one more time – Not many families sing together at home and not many children’s groups sing religious carols any more. That means we need to be intentional about singing with the carols with the children. And, who would want to miss singing “Silent Night” in the Christmas Eve sanctuary while hugging your child!
To create a context in which to discover the truth about Santa – If Santa is all there is to Christmas Eve once children learn “the truth,” Christmas is just a greedy gift grab. But, if Christmas Eve has always circled around the story of Jesus told in the sanctuary, the truth about Santa can be fit into that context and the Christmas celebration gets richer.
To create memories – Worshiping on Christmas Eve or Day as a family creates over the years a treasure trove of memories. Some of them shine with wonder. Others make for eye-rolling stories that are retold every Christmas. These memories are precious for both the children as they mature and the parents as they age.
Thoughts from Brin
Nestled between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we quietly started the season of preparation before Christmas known as Advent. Traditionally, this is a time in the church year where we are invited to prepare ourselves outwardly and inwardly for the celebration of Jesus’s birth. There are a variety of ways to mark this time, either individually or with our families, like lighting Advent candles at home, reading Advent meditations, or by enjoying a little chocolate Advent calendar. While my kids prefer the chocolate, I have found a great new way to prepare myself for Advent, by participating in the Global Advent Calendar that has been created by the monks at the Society of St. John the Evangelist.
Each day participants are given a word or phrase as a prompt, for example, wake up, forgive, dare, wonder, listen, etc., along with an image and a short meditation, and are invited to respond to with an image of their own that they post on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook with the tag #adventword. These images, taken by Christians all over the world, are compiled into a global Advent calendar that allows us to pray with others as, together, we await the celebration of Jesus’s coming. Even if you do not take a picture and share it on one of these mediums, it is a neat way to imagine how the things around us help us find God, and to share in a spiritual practice with Christians all over.
If you are interested in signing up for these emails, or want to find out more, please visit the AdventWord website, adventword. The poet and essayist, Wendell Berry, writes, “We are holy creatures living among other holy creatures in a world that is holy.” Regardless of how you mark the season of Advent, I pray that you would be alert to the holy in your life and ready to celebrate at Christmas the arrival of Jesus, the Holy One of God.
—The Rev. Brin Bon
Thoughts from the Bishops
About Those Refugees:
An Open Letter From Houston Christian Leaders
‘It is morally irresponsible for political leaders to lead with fear and misinformation.’
Give me your…huddled masses yearning to breathe free…
People of Christian faith are on the cusp of the season of Advent, a time when we remember the birth of Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that just after Jesus’ birth his family became refugees to Egypt in order to flee persecution and violence. Our scriptures and many other faith traditions have as a central and prominent tenet the welcome of the stranger, the foreigner, and the immigrant. This nation has a history of such welcome.
Fellow citizens, these lines are written on our Statue of Liberty. When commissioned, this monument and these words were meant to welcome people fleeing all sorts of situations back home in native lands to our shores. Many of our ancestors were among these huddled masses.
Fast forward to this historic moment in 2015. We live in a time of mass migration. Refugee crises are the reality the world over. This has been true not for months but for years. Those from Central America, and now from Syria, and the war-torn Middle East are the latest ones. Old and young seek a safer, more hopeful life somewhere other than in their ancestral land – a striking decision when you stop to think about it. The vast majority of them come with this simple aim: a peaceful life.
During times of terror, murder, and violence, political leaders will make decisions that protect their own innocent citizens from harm. Yet what about the innocent who are left in the crossfire? Of the Syrian refugees being referred by the United Nations for settlement, more than half are children under the age of 18. Continued on next page
A large proportion of them are women or elderly men. The protocol for admittance under refugee guidelines takes an average of 18 to 24 months during a rigorous screening process. Kathleen Newland, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute says, “The refugee resettlement program is the least likely way for a terrorist to infiltrate the United States.”
It is morally irresponsible for political leaders to lead with fear and misinformation. Governing is about making considered choices in speech and action for all of a nation’s citizens. Recent statements by political leaders are disappointing and appeal more to our base selves than to our more worthy selves. We expect our leaders to shepherd us on a higher plane.
Does this mean we receive people indiscriminately and irresponsibly? Of course not. But neither do we indiscriminately and cavalierly shut out those masses who are “yearning to breathe free.”
One year ago we were grappling with a response to those coming in larger numbers to our southern border. That challenge is ongoing. The Syrian question is the latest manifestation of a global reality. This challenge will not go away and, in fact, is an opportunity for our communities to show our moral courage in the face of fear. If we are not able to do that, I am afraid we have responded in exactly the way the forces of evil desire. If instead we respond with conviction we will show once again that, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.”
As Christian faith leaders, we call upon:
* Governor Abbott, U.S. representatives, and senators to reject any bill
that shuts down funding for refugee resettlement;
* Each faith community to find tangible ways to welcome a refugee family;
* All citizens and leaders to reject rhetoric unbecoming American values;
* And all Christians to speak in ways that give dignity and honor to all people.
Janice Riggle Huie, Bishop, Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church;The Rt Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas; Michael Rinehart, Bishop, Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; The Rev. Mike Cole, General Presbyter, Presbytery of New Covenant; The Rev. Tommy Williams, Senior Pastor, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church; The Very Rev. Barkley Thompson, Dean, Christ Episcopal Church Cathedral; Rev. Dr. Steve Wells, Pastor, South Main Baptist Church. The Rev. Harvey Clemons, Pastor, Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church.
Thoughts from a Stephen Minister (November 22, 2015)
This Sunday (11/22) is Stephen Ministry Sunday at St. Michael’s. It is the Sunday that we take over the sermon time to introduce Stephen Ministry to the congregation at large. Stephen Ministry grew out of the recognition that most congregations have more pastoral needs than the ordained ministers can reasonably handle. We provide care for those going through the times in life when we are stressed: divorce, loss of job, health crises, aging, etc. While we are not professional counselors, we can often refer you to such if that is what is needed.
I first heard of Stephen Ministry in the early 80s. I read the book Christian Caregiving—a Way of Life (which you can find in our library), considered becoming a Stephen Minister, but life interfered. A decade later I was still interested when St. Michael’s began this ministry, but again, circumstances prevented my getting trained. Finally, I found myself in need of a Stephen Minister while going through a divorce.
My Stephen Minister and I would mostly meet at what was Town Lake and walk for an hour. Just getting that exercise was helpful and I talked and he listened. When he retired and moved away, I was given another Stephen Minister. We met at the local McDonald’s and had coffee. Eventually we ended our relationship, but I began meeting at his house where he had had a long-standing book/Bible study. While that group was not a part of the Stephen Ministry program, it was very helpful in my healing process. Other members of my family also took advantage of Stephen Ministry at various times just to get over the rough spots of life.
Finally, three years ago, I was trained to be a Stephen Minister. The training is extensive, consisting of fifty hours of class time. But the training never stops. We meet twice a month to help each other and have continuing education. We discuss the progress with our Care Receivers, all in confidence; names are never used.
We meet in two groups, which allows us to split up care givers who might be meeting with people from the same family. A great deal of care is taken to maintain confidentiality.
I was given the opportunity a year ago to be trained as a leader. The Stephen Leaders train the new Stephen Ministers and plan the activities of the group. Leader training was an amazing experience. I had never been to anything as well organized. Every eventuality has been carefully planned for. The trainees are all eager to participate. It is clear that they are constantly doing all they can to make the program as effective as possible.
If you want to know more about this ministry, you have the chance this Sunday to speak to us. If you want more extensive information, I refer you to the book I mentioned above and the Stephen Ministry web site.
Having a rough patch? I can recommend having a Stephen Minister.
Thoughts from the Associate Rector (November 8, 2015)
Growing up in Utah, I was always a little bit of an outsider. I was raised in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, the only-child of two working parents, and if that wasn’t odd enough given my surroundings, I was an Episcopalian, to boot. It’s a running joke that there are only two religions in Utah—Mormons and non-Mormons—so the fact that I was an Episcopalian mattered less to others than the fact that I was not a Mormon. But my Episcopal identity meant the world to me.
My church home was nearly as important as my family and I can pretty fairly say that I was raised by my church as much as by my own parents. Now that I am a parent trying to raise three healthy, well-rounded and faithful kids, I know what a blessing this was for my parents as much as for me. I learned how to wash and iron church linens before I knew how to do the laundry, my favorite foods were all pot-luck dishes, and when I said that “coffee hour” was my favorite part of church, I wasn’t being a smart-mouthed kid—I actually thought it was part of the Sunday service!
My church community loved me as a precocious, albeit opinionated child, encouraged me as a budding social activist, nurtured me through my days of pink hair, and blue hair, and no hair, and celebrated with me when I met and married my husband just 3 years after I graduated from high-school. St. James Episcopal Church saw me through just about all of the ups and downs of my early life, but more importantly, my church family showed me the best that church can be.
Now I’m not saying that everything was perfect at our church—I heard the church gossip, witnessed difficult transitions in leadership, sat through a number of anxious stewardship pleas, and saw my share of friends fall away from religion altogether—but church was always a place where I felt like I truly belonged.
I’ve been a member of several churches since I left St. James, but my church has always been the place I feel the deepest sense of connection—to others, to God, and even to myself.
I am thrilled to be making St. Michael’s my new church home, and to be joining such a warm, vibrant, and faithful church family. I am eager to get to know each of you, and am excited to introduce you to my family, too. It is a privilege to be able to serve with you, and with God’s help, I hope we can continue making our church a place where all of us feel like we truly belong. -The Rev. Brin Bon
Thoughts from the Associate Rector (November 1, 2015)
Sunday, November 1, 2015, is a big day for me.
It is the last day I will serve as your associate rector.When Robby called me to serve on his staff back in 2005 I had no idea I would spend about half of my ordained life at St. Michael’s. It has been a blessed time and it has been a great privilege for me to have been with you and your families in times of birth and death, health and illness, prosperity and trouble. I have loved teaching and celebrating in this holy place. Thank you to every St. Michael’s parishioner and thank you to every member of the staff.
It is also the last day I will serve in active parish ministry. I have worked for the church since 1985 and been ordained since 1994 and I now hear a call to make time and space to do the things I have not been able to do while serving in parish ministry. I hope to write, quilt, knit, water-color, as well as have time for my family and friends, both near and far. I plan to just be. And, of course, there’s the little girls and the dog. They’ll get some time. I am not stopping being a priest but hope to serve the greater church in supply and interim positions as well as participate Bishop Doyle’s vision of our church’s future: CHURCH A Generous Community Amplified for the Future. #amplifiedchurch #futurechurch
And, most important, it is the day when we celebrate the Feast of All Saints.We will baptize four children as well as remember by name our family members and friends who have died. On this day we celebrate the reality of finding ourselves in the midst of a great cloud of witnesses: those who have died, our brothers and sisters with us now, and those yet to come. We are one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of Christ and no matter where we go, far or near, whether we live or die, we are God’s children. Nothing truly separates us from one another or from God. Blessings,Janne+
Thoughts from the Youth Minister (October 4, 2015)
Where will you be in 10 years?
…a neonatologist, raising a family in a house with a white picket fence, wearing Lilly Pulitzer (Mary Oleson Conkling 2005)
That is a question I was asked in 2005 when the yearbook staff wanted to include predictions for each of the graduating seniors. As Norfolk Academy floods my inbox with daily invitations for my approaching 10-year high school reunion, I am reminded of the person I was at 18. At 18 time seemed to move like molasses. Yes, I had achieved some major life goals: getting a drivers license, taking the SAT, making it to the state championship in swimming, applying and then getting accepted to college, but it was hard to see beyond the immediate future. Graduating from high school, spending one last endless summer with friends, and starting college impeded my ability to forecast where I would be in 10 years. As with many of the youth, the future for me seemed foreign, scary, and a long way away, so my goals for the next ten years were ambitious to say the least.
While I may not be living in a house with a picket fence and I don’t ever wear Lilly Pulitzer anymore, some things did come to fruition: I am surrounded by family. When I started at St. Michael’s in 2009, I had just graduated from college, and moved from my home in Virginia to a state where I did not know a single person. Looking back on it, what was I thinking? I think my naivety propelled me through those initial days of uncertainty. Over the years I learned how to navigate Austin, and truly began to deeply love this adopted city I called home. As they say, “Home is where your family is” and to me St. Michael’s will always be home. During the past six years I have gotten to work, serve, and worship alongside all of you. It has been a privilege to become a part of your lives, and been entrusted with your youth.
We have had many shared experiences and those are the memories I will take with me as I begin the next chapter in my life.
Recently, I was accepted into an accelerated Bachelor of Science nursing program at Jefferson College of Health Science in Roanoke,Virginia. While this new opportunity comes with much excitement, it does not take away the sadness that I feel. On several occasions, I would leave the church after a full day of work, head to a youth sporting event, and then wind up at a coffee shop where I would study until the wee hours of the morning. At times when I wanted to give up because my dreams of becoming a nurse seemed unachievable, I would be reminded by a sermon, a bible study passage, or a comment a youth made in small group that Christ was supporting me. He was my biggest encourager and I was heading down the path He is calling me to follow. I will be leaving St. Michael’s this Advent season. The Fourth Sunday of Advent, this year on December 20, has always been my favorite Sunday at St. Michael’s, and it only seems appropriate that it be my last Sunday worshipping with my family. You, your children, and in some cases your grandchildren have been an important part of my life journey, and for that I will be eternally grateful. –Mary O. Conkling
Thoughts from our Associate Rector …
We are significant because God breathes significance into our lives. Our Creator’s abundant act of love gives us value. The call to Sabbath – to rest and worship – is a call to be still and get to know God, to wallow in the wonder of that love, to remember that we are not defined or determined by our culture (Milton Brasher Cunningham, 2002).
We live lives bombarded by messages telling us we must have it all and that we cannot get it fast enough. We buy and consume as if our lives depend on it. Stress, guilt, and worry are constant companions. Expressing gratitude, delight, or peace becomes something we strive for rather than a way of life.
The ancient way of Sabbath keeping – of stopping everything and spending time each week – realigns us with God’s rhythm, releases our hearts from culture’s stranglehold grip, and opens us to God’s gentle care. Keeping Sabbath is an act of profound faith, allowing us to remember that we are not in charge of the world, but we rest in the arms of the Holy One who is. Sabbath properly orients our human desire: We know we must eat and work so that we can live, but the work, the striving, the busy-ness is not what defines us.
Do I observe Sabbath? I certainly want to. Many weeks it actually happens. If not on Friday evening and during Saturday, then some specific second choice time. The shabbat candles are lit and left to burn. God is thanked for bread, salt, and wine. Prayers are said. Books are read. Resting, reading, sleeping happens without schedule. No shopping, no complicated cooking (sandwiches, salads, slow-cooker meals are great), no cleaning, no television or movies, no projects. Minimal feeding of my internet addictions (really have to work on that one) and no catching up on work.
I have learned that in keeping Sabbath I become more alert to God’s presence and understand time to be God’s precious gift rather than the slave driver I usually find it to be. I find that God’s “way of life abundant” flourishes in my life and my usual selfish lifestyle of abundance is kept in check.