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—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.
In contrast to mainline Christianity in general and the Episcopal Church in particular, Old St. Paul’s Church in downtown Baltimore is growing! You can feel it on Sunday mornings. Our numbers are up in worship attendance, Children’s Worship, and Education Hour participation. We have expanded our fellowship opportunities and outreach ministries. This is all great news!
However, expanding programs means more financial demands on our church. As we enter Stewardship season, one of the questions we might ask ourselves is, “If I were to make a financial pledge for the first time, or if I were to increase my pledge, where would that money go?” Here are some responses to that question.
- With all the new babies being born, we are expanding our nursery care staff.
- Our breakfast program before the Education Hour and our Coffee Hour after church are a huge success. The hospitality costs for coffee, treats, and refreshments have gone up significantly this year.
- We would like to expand our Downtown Partnership security team to make sure everyone is safe and all program areas are covered on Sunday mornings.
- On kick-off Sunday, we had 70 participants in the Sunday School and Youth Programs, as well as 36 participants at The Forum. We are having to add staff such as a new “Middle School Youth Minister” and a “Community Builder for Families with Infants and Toddlers” in order to keep up with these needs.
- As we explore new outreach ministries, our newly formed Social Justice and Service Committee would like to look at ways our church could increase our financial giving to address needs here in Baltimore and beyond.
- After being rented out for many years, in 2015 both the Historic Rectory and the 309 Cathedral Street building came back under control of the church. The use of these buildings is a gift, but this also means more financial spending on repairs and maintenance to take care of these historic structures.
All these important needs and programs require money. The trajectory of our parish looks promising, but we need the financial support of all our members to support the expansion of our ministries. Your financial contributions are needed in order to keep our church vital and growing.
Stewardship Packets can now be picked up on Sunday mornings or can be mailed to you. You can also pledge online at http://www.stpaulsbaltimore.org/?page_id=1683
Thank you for your generosity!
—The Reverend Mark Stanley, Rector
I don’t have a good answer for how to address the unfiltered, harsh, and mean-spirited language that is often used all around us. All you have to do is look at the news to see people verbally attacking each other. There certainly should be room for disagreement and debate about important issues, especially in our personal relationships. Anger is a natural and appropriate response whenever we feel wronged. But there are ways to honestly express our views without degrading the worth of other people. Christians are called to strive to use words in ways that express respect for the dignity of every human being.
Americans cherish the right to freedom of speech, and we believe this sets us apart from many other countries. But Americans also value the responsibility of every individual to work for building up the common good. These two values are in tension because building up the common good might sometimes cause us to practice restraint about the words we choose to say out loud. In recent years, the practice of rugged individualism has often won out over the practice of working for the betterment of a more just and peaceful society.
Christians have a higher calling to follow Jesus and the disciples by trying to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Here are some quotes from the New Testament that challenge Christians to be careful about what we say.
“be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” —James 1:19
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up” —Ephesians 4:29
“get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth” —Colossians 3:8
“make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” —Romans 14:19
The Golden Rule to “do unto others as we would have others do unto us,” has been a cornerstone of all the world’s great religions. Those who call themselves Christians have a high calling to use words in ways that take into consideration the well-being of others, though this can be difficult in the heat of the moment when we are having an argument.
Brain researchers, along with Daniel Goleman and others working on the study of emotional intelligence, report that whenever human beings feel threatened or angry or fearful, there is a certain part of the brain called the amygdala that takes over, sending out neurochemicals that override other parts of the brain with powerful fight or flight messages. Throughout human evolution, this response has helped us to survive. But the problem is that when we are having an “amygdala hijack,” it’s hard to think rationally. For about ninety seconds (the typical lifespan of an “amygdala hijack”), we can only think about the fight or flight response, and rational reason is impossible. In the midst of a conflict, that’s why it is often so difficult to avoid blurting out things we later regret.
“Emotionally intelligent” people have learned to notice when they are feeling threatened or angry or fearful, and have developed the ability to pause for those ninety seconds before they say anything. That pause provides time for the neurochemicals caused by the amygdala response to settle down, thus allowing the rational mind to take over again.
One way to use this information is for us to take a “holy pause” whenever we are feeling upset. Once we notice we are feeling threatened or angry, we can say to the other person, “Let me take a moment to think about what you have said.” Then we can take ten long deep breaths, spanning about ninety seconds, to allow reason to return to us before we say anything else.
After taking a “holy pause,” we might have a better chance of coming up with words that are more thoughtful, realistic, and kind. At the very least, we might be able to achieve the ethical goal to “do no harm.” In the midst of taking a holy pause, and breathing deeply, we might even invite God to help us come up with the best words to respond.
—The Reverend Mary Luck Stanley
Needless to say, there’s a lot going on right now.
Our city is still reeling from last week’s events as we begin to address the issues of stunning inequality, systemic racism, violence, and poverty.
In the midst of all this, many are also having their own personal crises as loved ones pass away or suffer illness, as unsatisfying jobs or the utter lack of them sap energy and optimism, as things don’t work out as hoped, as more die in Texas and Nepal and all around the world. —All of these things have the power to haunt and tear down all our stores of enthusiasm, hope, patience, and empathy if we allow them to.
In last Sunday’s Forum (led by The Reverend Mary Luck Stanley), we were encouraged to share “I” statements about how these issues have made us feel or have altered our perspective on things. I didn’t share anything at The Forum, not knowing how to put it all into words then, but now, here, I’ll do my best:
Last week, I began feeling that nothing I’d previously held important—my work, my regular/daily concerns, my personal goals—was important anymore. In the face of my neighbors’ pain and struggle, all these things so personal to me seemed empty and small.
Last week, I felt exhausted, oscillating seasickly (and often selfishly) between an energetic desire to act and a great energy-sucking despair at not knowing what to do (or, worse, knowing what to do but being too afraid to do it).
Last week, I felt my whiteness (and all the racist advantages it gives me) with an incredible, constant keenness that made me feel terrible about myself and my society.
Last week, I felt the nature of my neighborhood—one of those within Baltimore’s “White L”—with both a tremendous guilt and also an odd (troubling) sort of gratefulness.
Last week, I often felt petulant, petty, resentful, and angry.
But that was last week. And while many of these feelings continue to linger in me and while many of the lessons I’ve learned from this past week will no doubt stay with me for years to come, I have—through meditation, church, friends, and family—come to a much healthier, more energetic, and more hopeful place.
Last week, my husband and I listened to Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates speak about many of the challenges and problems that Baltimore’s been facing for so long now. During the Q&A session, one woman asked Coates what she could do to re-inspire her children who, given all that they’ve seen on the news about the world around them, have come to feel helpless, hopeless, and at a loss. Coates, to my surprise and great appreciation, replied (paraphrasing), “If Ida B. Wells didn’t give up hope, then your kids certainly don’t have a right to.”
Last week, I let myself begin to feel hopeless. Because it was easy.
This week, I am practicing hopefulness because I believe it is what’s right. Consider John 3:17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” God didn’t send Christ into a world deemed hopeless—but into a world deemed worthy of saving, a world full of possibilities, potential, and love.
And this means it’s all worth fighting for. This means it’s worth not taking the easy way out by falling into self-pity, hopelessness, and prejudice.
This week, I’m ready to take up the challenge Mary posed to us at our last Forum: to live by and look out across a twenty (thirty, forty, however long it takes) year horizon, and continuously open myself up to learn from and listen to my neighbors. For learning and listening are the tools of the hopeful.