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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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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.

March for Refugees: Pray, Act, and Walk

A message from Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton

“Cursed is the one who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!” (Deuteronomy 27:19)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Do you know what it feels like to be rejected – not for anything you’ve done, but because of fear of your skin color, religious faith, orientation, or national origin?

I have…and it doesn’t feel good. Rejection makes you feel unworthy, lonely, and angry.

It’s even worse if you’re rejected by a nation that likes to pride itself for providing safe harbor for refugees.  When you and your family are desperately trying to escape violence, war, poverty, and oppression, and a country rejects you, it makes you feel like you’re just a worthless piece of refuse that can be thrown or shipped away.  You and your family have been rejected because of what others have done who look like you, and your life just doesn’t seem to matter that much to alter the equation of injustice.

One of the driving forces in my ministry is to lead by word and example the Gospel, the “good news” of Jesus Christ, that God loves you – not the bad news that the world rejects you because of who you are.

There’s simply too much fear and hate that’s driving much of our national agenda now, and those emotions are the opposite of Christian faith and the values of our nation.

As your bishop, I stand with thousands of Christian leaders opposing the executive order by President Trump to ban refugees from some predominantly Muslim countries. For more background on this ill-advised policy please read the statement from The Episcopal Church’s President of the House of Deputies.

That’s why I’m asking you to join me this Saturday, February 4, 9:00 AM for a “March for Refugees.” We’ll begin at Old St. Paul’s Church, 233 North Charles Street, Baltimore, march up Charles Street to the Cathedral of the Incarnation, 4 East University Parkway. At 11:00 AM we’ll have a service of prayer, music and testimony ending by Noon. Further details are below.

If you can’t march Saturday, you can still act by “praying with your hands.” Write or call your elected representatives in Congress and President Trump. Tell them your thoughts about our nation’s stance against those seeking refuge. Be sure to stress your values as a follower of Christ. How to contact them and a sample letter or script are on the Episcopal Church website.

Let’s stop the hate. As Christians, let’s stand up to fear, bigotry, and injustice.  Clergy, wear your collars. Parishioners, bring your signs and singing voices. Let’s walk, speak out, and pray for refugees – the “strangers” in our world whom the Bible tells us to receive as Christ himself.

Faithfully yours,
The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
Episcopal Bishop of Maryland

MARCH FOR REFUGEES

Episcopal Diocese of Maryland
February 4, 2017
9:00-11:00 AM

Starting at St. Paul’s Church, 233 Charles Street (corner of East Saratoga) and ending at the Cathedral of the Incarnation (4 E. University Parkway).To carpool to the start, meet at the Cathedral at 8:30 AM. To return to parked cars downtown, the Charm City Circulator leaves 33rd Street and St. Paul Street for free after 9:00 AM.

Parking is available at the St. Paul Place garage. From St. Paul Street, enter the garage through the alley just past Saratoga and the Embassy Suite hotel or from Saratoga Street enter behind the church. Take elevator to Level 2 (Charles Street side) and use the pedestrian walkway to Charles Street. Turn right and enter the church to validate inside (one dollar for all day).

The march route is up Charles Street for 3 miles. We will walk on the sidewalks.

Please follow this link and share this event on Facebook

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.

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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