Living Our Faith: St. Paul's Episcopal Church

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Why I Give

—Larissa Peters, St. Paul’s Member 

Growing up, when I was told in my church (and by my parents) that we should “tithe”, I didn’t question it too much. That’s what you did if you went to church. If I didn’t have money, my dad would pass me a bill from along the aisle, so I had something to put in the offering plate.

Somewhere along the way, it became “I have to do it” and then just a habit. So when I was asked to pledge a regular monthly gift to Old St. Paul’s a few years back, it was no big deal.

But now that we’re about to go through this pledge campaign at Old St. Paul’s, and I’m about to ask others to give, I’ve started really asking myself why should I and why do I give?

How giving makes me feel:

You know what really makes me happy in giving? It’s when I see a friend in need, or when I have the opportunity to share something with my family. It’s sharing what I have with loved ones, and seeing how it’s helped them.

You know when it’s hard? It’s when I have to share or give something I was planning to keep for myself, such as when I go grocery shopping and pass by Jerome, a homeless man outside Eddies, our local grocer. I know that sounds selfish. It is selfish. But it’s so much easier (and actually brings me more happiness) if I’m in the store and pick something with Jerome in mind. It’s when I have him in mind and plan to share my food or money that giving makes me feel happy and helpful.

What this means for pledging at church:

I’ve made a lot of good friends at church and I have a lot of good friends I want to invite to church. So when Carol asks me to give monthly to help support Old St. Paul’s, I don’t think about supporting Old St. Paul’s. I think of supporting Jaime and Myrna in the choir, or of ensuring that Kate, Anne, Sarah, and Francine’s kids keep Eileen Brittain as their Sunday School teacher, or that my friend has a welcome and comfortable place to visit and worship, or that we can provide a great space for quality discussion and pay speakers for The Forum.

What’s more, it’s helping me make a plan, to set aside something special throughout the year. The organized side of me knows what’s coming in the year and how to plan accordingly.

And I would be remiss if didn’t say that I am also the recipient of the generosity of many other pledgers, my church friends. I benefit from the parties, the amazing Christmas concert that I invite my friends to attend, the Sunday receptions, and the opportunity to advocate for refugees.

Sharing my resources monthly at church is sharing with friends who I’ve grown to love and appreciate.

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Coming Together for a Day of Service

—Amber Herzer, Chair of OSP’s Social Justice and Service Committee

This year, Old St. Paul’s established a relationship with Civic Works and sponsored the Ricky Meyer’s Day of Service. Civic Works is a local non-profit that’s been working in Baltimore for twenty years, with a focus on strengthening Baltimore’s communities through education, skills development, and community service.

Our partnership with Civic Works enabled thirty OSP congregation members and over five hundred other Baltimore citizens to spend a day volunteering together across the city. The congregation’s financial gift was used to purchase trees, flower bulbs, tools, trash bags, paint, garden gloves, and refreshments to sustain volunteers.

Together, the five hundred volunteers planted over 120 trees and 6,700 bulbs at the REACH! Partnership School, YMCA, eight city parks, a senior housing center, and more. Volunteers assembled one thousand energy-saver kits with Civic Works’ Baltimore Energy Challenge, made one hundred school supply kits for students in need, and crafted one hundred seed-bombs to help spread native flowers. Volunteers performed vital repairs at four homes belonging to low-income seniors, beautified six vacant lot green spaces along with a historic cemetery, built a rain garden in a city park, and made improvements to our Real Food Farm and Little Gunpowder Farm. The team at Civic Works beautifully stated,

“The rich and diverse community of volunteers who participate every year are a testament to the perseverance and boundless love present in our city.”

Fellow volunteer and Civic Works board member Robert Zdenek expanded on just this point, saying

“it was thrilling to observe and participate with more than thirty fellow OSP congregants to contribute to the Ricky Meyer Day of Service, our signature volunteer event at Civic Works. Community engagement and revitalization takes so many forms, from planting bulbs and trees to cleaning up parks and streets. The net effect is two-fold: a safer, more engaged community, and the individual and collective smiles of over five hundred volunteers.”

Throughout the day, congregation members were able to work with and learn from each other, engaging in meaningful conversations, sharing laughs, and creating new friendships. The pouring rain wasn’t even a deterrent! Amber Herzer, the OSP Social Justice and Service Chair noted,

“This was the first time the church participated in this city-wide volunteer day. It was a joy to participate and know that our church’s financial contribution facilitated the success of this important community activity.”

We look forward to hosting another Day of Service event in the Spring of 2017.

If you have any questions or would be interested in joining us for our next service event please contact Amber at AmberLHerzer@gmail.com.

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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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Different People Around the Thanksgiving Table

—The Rev. Mark Stanley, Rector

A friend just expressed to me his concerns about his upcoming Thanksgiving dinner. His relatives who come to gather around the table have views from across the political spectrum. After a particularly divisive Presidential election, he is worried that the conversation at this meal will become uncomfortable, heated, and maybe hurtful.

Here at Old St. Paul’s we too gather around a meal—The Holy Eucharist. Around our altar table we too have a broad variety of opinions. Some are delighted with the outcome of this recent election, and some are devastated. With such diversity, how do we move ahead as a healthy and caring community?

mark-stanleyIn this congregation, we want people to express themselves and to be authentic. Being genuine with each other is a way we learn and grow in real relationship.

Can we balance our need to express ourselves with the possibility that others might feel excluded or put down by what we say? Followers of Jesus are invited to pay special attention to anyone who is hurting. Some in our community are worried and fearful after this election. There is concern that the rights and needs of certain groups in our society, particularly the most marginal, are being threatened. Others in our congregation have felt unfairly labeled because of the way they voted. Now is a time for sensitivity, especially with regards to all things political. Being thoughtful about how we come across shows our love and respect for others.

It takes energy to be a healthy and loving community. Real listening, respect, and compassion go a long way to keeping us connected. I give thanks to all of you for all your good work in building up the Body of Christ here at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Baltimore.

The Church is a People

The church is not a building;
the church is not a steeple;
the church is not a resting place;
the church is a people.

“I am the church” Avery and Marsh © 1972 Hope Publishing Co.

Adapted text of a sharing by Eileen Donahue Brittain at the Forum on Sunday, October 16, 2016, A Place Where Lives Are Changed

The above is the first verse from one of my favorite Church School songs. I have sung it many times in many different places. The tune and these simple words bring to life for me the scriptures of 1 Peter 2:5 and Acts 2:1-4, 17:24. The hymn also describes the essence of the parish of Old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church—the church is a PEOPLE whose lives are changed.

Here are some of the many ways I have experienced such change and how the church of OSP is not just a building, steeple, or resting place, but “a people”:

On August 21, 2014, I was standing on the corner of St. Paul and Lafayette when a large pick-up truck turned the corner going 38 mph and hit me, propelling me across the street. I was rushed to the Shock Trauma Center where medical staff used their expertise to repair my badly injured right arm and left leg. Needless to say, I still have a large external scar on my arm and much internal scar tissue as well. I cannot help but see and feel the scar each day. Since I have no “memories” of the actual event, only what my husband John and daughter Genevieve tell me happened, I don’t constantly relive the event.

I do have another “scar” though, and that is a blessed scar that is written on my soul. I bring this scar to mind frequently. It is from the wonderful outpouring of prayers, love, support, and assistance from the congregation of OSP. People called, emailed, sent cards, offered meals, and a myriad of other expressions of Christ’s love. This is the church where I have been changed.

Another time of experiencing the living expression of God’s presence through OSP happened eight months later. John was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He began a long chemo treatment to stop the growth of the cancer. It meant almost weekly appointments at Johns Hopkins Oncology Department. Again, people offered the love and assistance to help us in any way we needed. He is on the other side of the treatment now, with energy and hair returning much to our delight. But we also carry with us the delight of feeling how we have been supported in so many, many ways by so many, many people. Our lives have been changed.

I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus
,
all around the world!
Yes, we’re the church together!

This verse of the hymn brings to mind yet another instance that brought home for me how OSP is the embodiment of “the church.” We have a strong and vibrant Church School for our children, a place where their young lives may be continuously changed for the better as they grow and learn in an open, supportive environment. Much care is given to ensure that the children of our parish always know how “we cherish [them] so they know they are cherished by God.”* One Sunday during Communion, I saw young Henry, not even three years old, walking up for communion intently looking at his hands, which were folded to receive the host. It “made my heart sing”* to know that even at this tender age, Henry has been given kind and appropriate instructions during the Children’s Worship on how to approach communion and he has taken it to heart.

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Eileen and John Brittain

 

There are many stories similar to mine in the pews of OSP. I imagine you have a few of your own that you could relate, and I hope that you will share them both at OSP and beyond so that we all may rejoice and be changed.

I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world!
Yes, we’re the church together!


*Favorite sayings of Reverend Mary Luck Stanley, Associate Rector, OSP

 

Ministry Takes Money

—The Rev. Mark Stanley

Bishop Swing, the bishop who ordained me, often said, “Ministry takes money.” Ministry certainly takes a lot of other things as well—prayer, compassion, hard work, and so on. But Bishop Swing wanted to let people of faith know that we can’t shy away from the fact that money is needed to carry out the work of the church. The church does not run on air. The diocese doesn’t pay our bills (I have heard more than one someone wonder about that). We depend on the giving of each member of the congregation.

Talking about money can make people feel awkward or uncomfortable. It can even seem not very “spiritual.” Yet it was one of the main topics that Jesus liked to teach about. In this congregation, we actually don’t talk about money that often. As we begin our 2017 Stewardship Campaign, we invite people to consider all the gifts we have, including our finances. Please read through the materials in the Stewardship Packets that are being handed out. Thank you for being willing to reflect on money, ministry, and your faith.
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When you get to a place where you feel good about making a 2017 pledge to Old St. Paul’s, you can turn in your pledge card or pledge online by clicking here. Thank you for helping the ministry happen at our church.

Gratitude, Generosity, & Happiness

—Carol Sholes, Stewardship Task Force, Chair

On a recent Sunday, The Rev Mary Luck Stanley preached about gratitude and how it can change your life. She called gratitude the “mother of all virtues” and spoke about how gratitude is acted out as generosity. The Gospel reading (Luke 17:11-19) talked about the gratitude of one of the ten lepers who was healed by Jesus, while noting the lack of gratitude of the other nine. This sermon provided me with an opportunity to think about where I am on the gratitude scale. Am I like the “one” being grateful and showing my gratitude, or like the “nine”—happy, but not taking the time to really think about being grateful and generously showing my gratitude for said happiness? Sometimes I am definitely the “one,” but too many times I am part of the “nine.” I have wonderful ideas about how to generously show someone my gratitude, but then life takes over and I don’t follow through.

What better place to count your blessings than church? What better way to generously act on your gratitude than by making a pledge to Old St. Paul’s? As I reflect on my blessings and the role St. Paul’s plays in my life, I am grateful and happy to give generously. I don’t want to miss this chance to be the “one” who is grateful and generous, and not one of the “nine” who misses out on the opportunity to show my gratitude.

I will be increasing my pledge for 2017 because I am excited about so many things that are happening at our church. I am proud that our community is not only a great place to be, but is actually growing—not the typical story at an urban church, but it is ours. This year we have more children, more events, more outreach, and more people giving their time as we continue to maintain our beautiful historic buildings and provide a lovely Sunday service with amazing music and opportunities for Christian education for all ages. All of this needs our support.

Every member of the Vestry has completed their pledge for next year and they have all prayerfully reflected on their ability to increase their pledge for 2017. Please consider your blessings and what Old St. Paul’s means to you and your family. Then ask yourself if your gratitude can be expressed by giving generously to your church in 2017.

You can pledge online by clicking here, and if you pledge by November 30, you will receive an invitation to our Early Pledger Celebration at the Ritz Carlton. Our Stewardship Campaign will culminate with sealed pledges being blessed on the altar on December 11.

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