Living Our Faith: St. Paul's Episcopal Church

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My Old St. Paul’s Story

—Barry Brown, St. Paul’s Stewardship Committee

Suzanne and I arrived in Baltimore in the summer of 2015, after an unexpected job change and relocation. We soon began looking for a church that would be near our new home. More specifically, we wanted a traditional Episcopal service with good music and a progressive understanding of the Christian experience.

BarryWe made our first visit to Old St Paul’s on October 11, 2015, and we were hooked by the end of the service. For me, the music, liturgy, and message were all just right. Then, to make a wonderful experience even better, we were warmly greeted by many people after the service.

Over the subsequent months, we visited other churches, but never quite felt the connection we felt at OSP. We returned about every other week and began attending the forum, participated in Civic Works day of service, served lunch with the OSP team at Our Daily Bread, and attended numerous parties. All the while our network of friends at OSP continued to grow.

It is very difficult for an introvert like me to pull up my roots and move off to a strange new city. I’ve had to do it a few times in my life, and sometimes wasn’t sure I’d survive. For me, stepping into OSP felt almost as if I had always been here. This church has had an incredible impact on my adapting to a new city. So we support Old St. Paul’s with our financial pledge to help keep our spiritual home healthy, and to help insure it is here for others who need the same support it has given me.

Please consider your commitment to growth and give electronically to Old St. Paul’s:

http://stpaulsbaltimore.org/pledge/

Why Bishops and Our Dioceses are Vital to Our Giving as Episcopalians

–The Reverend Tom Andrews

“Episcopal” means having bishops, and bishops and the diocese are the center,
the heartbeat of what it means to be part of this church. The diocese is where
we come together as a Church with our bishops in democratic decision-making
processes. As such, we are reminded that as individual believers, we are
connected with other Christians, both in heaven and on earth. We connect out
of mutual support in faith, not because we are completely in agreement,
completely perfect, or complete in any way.

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It’s important for Episcopalians to support our Bishops and the work of our
Church in the Diocese of Maryland. We pledge to Old Saint Paul’s knowing that
part of our giving supports the mission of the Bishops, the Diocese and the
National Church. Our delegates to the annual Diocesan Convention vote for the
mission of the Episcopal Church in Maryland, and choose our Deputies to the
General Convention where God’s mission for the Church is decided and acted
upon. The full name of our Church is the Domestic and Foreign Missionary
Society of the Episcopal Church. I have worked with a number of Bishops in the
dioceses where I’ve lived and know firsthand of the importance of the ordained
and laity working together to accomplish the mission of the Church and
responding to such needs wherever they may be.

The Church, led by our bishops, fulfills three important functions. The first
purpose is worship. We don’t worship God because we have to or because
we’re afraid of what God might do to us if we don’t. We worship God because
we believe that God is a being who fully deserves our respect and love.
Worshipping God is simply the best response to God’s generous love and a
church service is an effective and time-honored way of carrying out this
behavior.

The second purpose is teaching. To some extent, this is something we do for
each other by reading passages from the Bible aloud in church combined with
sermons commenting and connecting spiritual teachings and secular issues that
relate Christianity to real life. Christians have a responsibility to make their own
insights about God available to the rest of the world and an organized Church
can provide that framework of tried and true insights for individual Christians
who don’t have time, energy, or even feel the need, to reinvent the wheel.

Our third purpose is fellowship. We are a community of people with a common
goal, supporting and strengthening each other as we work towards that goal. An
important part of Christian teaching is compassion for others and the Church
provides material support for the needy, as it attempts to promote social justice
to the rest of society. While Christians have certainly done some very unchristian
things, that’s only part of the story. On the whole, the world is healthier, better
fed, better educated, with more rights because of Christianity than it would be
without it. Just because Christians have sometimes failed to live up to our high
ideals doesn’t mean we haven’t made great progress in striving toward them. A
current example is our Bishop’s appeal to help with the vitally needed rebuilding
of Puerto Rico.

We believe in a God who loves us and calls us, the Church community, to follow
the teachings of Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Individual
giving is extremely important and appropriately led by our parishes under the
guidance of our Bishops and our dioceses in accomplishing our mission. This is
who we are, and it’s vital to who we are as Episcopalians.

To pledge to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, who contributes to The Episcopal
Diocese of Maryland and the National Episcopal Church, please use this link: http://stpaulsbaltimore.net/pledge/

Step Up Your Pledge

Vicky Murray, St. Paul’s Stewardship Committee

If you already pledge to Old St. Paul’s—thank you!  Your generosity funds our operations.  The pledge commitments that parishioners make are used by the Vestry and church leaders to build an operating budget.  Just like your personal budget, the church budget includes basic expenses (utilities, salaries, building maintenance, etc) as well as the programs that keep our congregation growing (music, education for children and adults, etc).

The theme for this year’s Stewardship Campaign is “The Gifts of God for the People of God”.  We hear these words every week when we prepare to receive communion, but what do they mean? Everything that we have in our lives, from our relationships with others to our material possessions, is a gift that is given to us by God.  As people of God, we are stewards of all that we hold dear.

For over twenty years, the luxury watch brand Patek Phillippe has used the advertising slogan: “You never really own a Patek Phillippe.  You merely look after for it for the next generation.”  This year marked our 325th year as a parish, an incredible testimony to the stewardship of those who came before us.  We must continue the tradition for those who come after us.

Look around the church at the names and dates of those who are forever memorialized in our stained glass windows.  Think about the financial support that they provided to Old St. Paul’s.  We are blessed with a strong endowment thanks to their gifts.  We are fortunate to have it, but it is our responsibility to maintain and build the endowment rather than relying on it in lieu of our pledge of financial commitment.  I grew up in a church where my great-grandparents had been founding members.  It is my hope that Old St. Paul’s will be there for my great-grandchildren.

We ask that you prayerfully consider increasing your pledge from what you gave in 2017.

Please consider your commitment to growth and give electronically to Old St. Paul’s:

http://stpaulsbaltimore.org/pledge/

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Step Up to Pledging

—Vicky Murray, St. Paul’s Stewardship Committee

Pledge – noun; a solemn promise or agreement to do or refrain from doing something.

Many parishioners regularly contribute money to the collection plate but are reluctant to commit to a pledge amount.  Maybe you fall into this category.  Maybe you like to keep your options open, maybe you don’t feel like your pledge would be sufficient, maybe you just haven’t before considered the differences between giving on Sunday morning versus making a pledge.  If you aren’t already pledging, we on the Stewardship Committee would like you to consider this as the year that you step up to pledging.

Consider that you are being interviewed for a job.  The job sounds appealing and the employer says they think you are the one and they’re excited to make you an offer.  But then they say, “Here’s the thing.  We can’t commit to a regular salary.  We want to pay you, but we’ll just have to see how much we can pay out each week or month.”  Would you take the job?  Unless you are independently wealthy, you probably wouldn’t.  Why?  Because you have bills and obligations and you want to know that you have a regular income that you can count on and use to budget your expenses.

The church is no different.  We are blessed to have a thriving and growing congregation.  With this growth comes a need for more programs and resources—childcare, youth ministry and education in addition to the basic necessities of utilities, building maintenance, and salaries.  And of course, there’s the wonderful music program as well as our outreach and adult education programs that keep people coming back for more.  Without firm commitments from our congregation, the vestry and priests cannot make prudent budget decisions.

If you haven’t pledged before, here are a few things to consider:

  • The average pledge in the Episcopal Church in the United States is $2,700 per year.
  • The average pledge at Old St. Paul’s is $1,700 per year.
  • Many people consider proportional giving, making their pledge as a percentage of their income.
  • Your pledge amount will never be disclosed to other parishioners.

Please consider your commitment to growth and give electronically to Old St. Paul’s.

http://stpaulsbaltimore.org/pledge/

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Building the Beloved Community

—The Rev. Mary Luck Stanley

Many in the United States are feeling that their basic human rights, privileges, and safety are being threatened. There is a lack of civility in our public discourse and an uptick in the number of hate crimes in the U.S. Yet each morning also brings news of radical changes in the capacity of our country to practice Christian principles such as compassion, mercy, service to others, welcoming strangers, and respect for the dignity of every human being.

We Have Room for YouInstead of allowing politicians to determine our “frame of reference,” it’s time for us, as Christians, to lift up the “frame of reference” that supersedes all others. We are followers of Jesus Christ. And the values that Jesus lived out are the ones that we are called to put first in our own lives. Our Judeo-Christian tradition tells us that every person is created in the image of God and is a beloved child of God who is worthy of our care.

It’s time for us to renew our efforts, as followers of Jesus, to practice the spiritual discipline of loving kindness. We take seriously St. Paul’s words from Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”

The world’s major spiritual traditions have asserted the principle that if individuals look within and work on generating loving kindness, then that love has the power to ripple out into our relationships and communities, and to change the world. When we are feeling powerless to change what politicians and others are doing, we can still practice loving kindness as a way to transform the world into the “Kingdom of God.”

During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. invited people to build “The Beloved Community.” According to The King Center, “Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger, and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace and justice will prevail over war and military conflict.”

Let’s build The Beloved Community by practicing the sacred art of loving kindness, one action at a time, and so transform our world into a more just and loving home for all.

Thoughts on Advent, 2016

Larissa Peters, OSP Congregant

I’ve put this annual reflection off, and now it’s January 2017. I haven’t wanted to write it because I don’t like to do things for the sake of doing them. I don’t like saying rote things that could be counted as trite, like I haven’t thought about it. Especially to those who are going through pain. I’ve been the recipient of that, and it sucks.

And I’m weary. A lot of people have said that. They have said they are excited to get rid of 2016. But even that makes me weary. I don’t have a lot of hope for 2017.

There have been quite a few I know who have just been through it. Like you wouldn’t believe. Family members sick, broken relationships, internal turmoil, death…. And others  who have been waiting—waiting for jobs, for a change, for health….

And I work for an int’l development agency, and we’re inundated with news of Syria and millions of refugees fleeing. We hear of children trying to cross the border into Texas because of the violence in Central America. And our country is incredibly divided, not to mention our own families at times. And it’s exhausting.

So I want to be careful about saying just words.

As I began this advent, I thought—I’d like to reflect on PEACE. We need peace in us, in our world, all that…isn’t the Christmas story full of peace?

But then I couldn’t find it. Do you know how many times ‘peace’ is mentioned in the Christmas story? Once.

You can’t force a meditation. And truth be told, there wasn’t much peace. Israel was occupied, under another regime. There’s a lot of waiting. And in that waiting, so much anxiety. So much fear and doubt.

And when I read the part about Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem. It hit home. How tired they must have been. Finally getting there and hearing, “No room.” Mary had to have thought (well, I personally would have thought), Of course, this is just about how I’d expect everything to go based on this year….

How exhausting it must have been for Mary, both physically and mentally. Was she full of doubts?—doubts that others had certainly placed in her. Fears she herself couldn’t help but have.

And when they arrived at an inn where they expected to hear yet another, “No room,” only to instead land in a stable, placing their baby—whom they had been told is the Messiah—in a feeding trough, Joseph must have felt incredibly inadequate as a husband and a father.

I’m sure the shepherds couldn’t have come at a better time, bursting in shouting, “Where’s the Messiah we’ve heard about?”

I see both waiting (Simeon, Anna, Israel) and journeys taken (Mary, Joseph, the wise men) in the Christmas story. But the process is the same. The emotions are the same. The inner turmoil and questions still exist whether you are stagnant or wandering.

Were the wise men disappointed to find a baby in the end? How many times did Simeon and Anna ask God, “How long, oh Lord? How much longer?”

And then Mary and Joseph again having to get up and flee for their child’s life—really holding the destiny of mankind in their hands—leaving an entire town weeping behind them…because of them.

So often, I tend to get into myself, and my path feels tired, full of doubt, unrelatable. And just when I think I’ve arrived where I wanted to go, it wasn’t what I expected or it’s even scarier than I’d imagined.
Or I never move.
At all.
And everyone else does.
It can feel incredibly lonely sometimes. And very far from peaceful. And the people I thought I could trust—well, they disappointed me.

So what’s left? What small piece can I take with me as I enter into a new year?

20160828_145216I’d like to be like those shepherds. I’d like to be able and willing to show up in the right moment because I took the opportunity—without hesitation, confirming to a fellow wanderer that they are on the right path. So much of the violence, pain and hatred of 2016 may not have been directed specifically at me or happened to me, but if I can come around and just be someone who says, “I’m here with you,” then I want to be that person.

I’d like to continue on waiting (or moving) despite my fears and doubts. So I have to ask, how could all these people do that? How does anyone? Really, there has to be a very deep motivation for either one—greater than all our unmet expectations, disappointments, and feelings of inadequacies and loneliness.

The wise men, shepherds, Joseph, Mary—all had a deep pull, that only a very deep calling could keep them going.  Something—that in the midst of the oppression, fears, doubts, weariness, murderous threats, fleeing, loneliness, trouble—something greater gave them a reason to continue. And continue in what may have seemed to some a bold or scary choice. I want this courage and this passion. This I want to remember and hold on to.

Theirs was a deep hope in the belief that Mary carried the Savior of the world, and that he was called the Prince of Peace.
There. Peace.
Let me again repeat this line from that old Christmas carol: “the hope and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight …”

 

This article was originally published on Larissa Peters’ blog, In Other Words Poetry. For more of her writing, visit: http://www.inotherwordspoetry.com/

 

An Invitation to Pledge: because it will make you feel good!

—The Rev. Mary Luck Stanley

Experience has taught me that pledging to the church makes people feel good. I know it’s hard to believe, especially when money is already tight, but I have heard church members talking about what a positive difference it has made in their spiritual lives once they made the commitment to pledge.

There is something wonderful about choosing to move from being a guest at church to becoming more of an owner; a full and complete member of our community. People who pledge feel they have more of a voice and vote about important decisions in their church. People who pledge report feeling a sense of satisfaction because they are pooling their resources so that shared values are strengthened and passed on to the children of our congregation, benefiting everyone.

Think about that for a moment. How much is it worth, in this day and age, to experience the inner peace that comes from knowing you are doing all you can to uphold the values of compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and respect for the dignity of every human being? How much is it worth to know that you are positively impacting the children in our midst? Wouldn’t we all agree that we want children to see through the eyes of compassion, justice, and hope for new life?

Is that sense of joy worth making sacrifices for? Does going to church, and taking your family, enrich your life? Might it be worth it to give up one night out a month and instead give that money to the church? What is your inner peace worth?

Pledging is making a promise to the vestry that in the coming year we will fulfill our financial giving to the church. Our pledge totals allow the vestry to create a realistic budget, planning to support programs in the following year, and knowing that the church will have the funds necessary to pay for them.

You are warmly invited to make a pledge to Old St. Paul’s Church for 2017. Consider how much you feel good about giving each week, and then multiply that by 52 weeks. You may fill out a pledge card at church, or fill one out on our website by clicking here. Those who pledge by November 30th will be invited to the Early Pledger Celebration. God loves a cheerful giver. Know that you are cherished at Old St. Paul’s.

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