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—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:
—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?
In 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.
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.
I have long been a dedicated reader of Wendell Berry, both his poetry and his essays, and often turn to his work whenever I feel a struggle in my soul for a moment of peace and wilderness.
His poem “The Peace of Wild Things,” especially, has always held tremendous power for me:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water …
Poetry in general holds a great deal of the stuff of God for me, reminding me to be mindful, present, and appreciative as I move through a world filled with the Creator’s wonder and mystery.
The Bible itself—like many sacred texts from around the world—is packed with poetry, from the psalms to the Song of Solomon. I suspect that this is not simply because of poetry’s popularity at the time of the sacred texts’ inception nor because this was the only art form available to its authors. Rather, I suspect that the use of poetry points to the fact that there are some things, some ideas and inspirations, that simply cannot be accurately conveyed through purely literal and linear forms of storytelling. Knowing this, it makes perfect sense to me that so many authors have turned to poetry to help them better capture in words the rapturous sensations and experiences of God’s presence in the world.
Another poem that continuously arrests and inspires me is Walt Whitman’s “A Noiseless Patient Spider”:
A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
Returning to this poem, I’m struck with the sensation of some gossamer thread of my own soul finally catching somewhere. I’m struck with a moment of peace in the midst of my constant web-weaving and thread-throwing. I’m struck by the strange power of God to speak to me afresh through the work of poets long-dead, unknown, or faraway.
I’m struck with a newfound appreciation for not only the mysterious, wonderful works of God, but for the gift of poetry that so faithfully reminds me that these catching-places are wonders deserving of constant pause, recognition, and gratitude.
Where are your catching-places? Do you find that poetry helps bring you back to these spots and moments, or is it something else—some other art, exercise, or discipline—that grabs your attention and reminds you of the beautiful wilderness of God?
For those of you interested in learning more about Lent and creative ways to observe it, just check out some of these stories from both our blog and from Episcopal News Service:
In this talk given at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Feb. 19, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby reflected on what makes a good Lent for individuals, communities and society as a whole.
“That cross that comes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday is a reminder of the cross that’s put there at Baptism,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in her Lent Message 2015.
By the Rev. Mary Luck Stanley
Sometimes I make mistakes, sometimes other people make mistakes, and sometimes we both make mistakes. A lot of communication is required in order for us to sort out what the mistakes are, and where the misunderstandings are, and to get to the point where authentic apologies are made. Now, that’s a tough process to go through, so I’d rather avoid it as long as possible.
By the Rev. Mary Luck Stanley
During the forty days of Lent, you are invited to take better care of your soul. Here is a list of some traditional and not so traditional spiritual disciplines that may help you to grow in the knowledge and love of God.
To mark the season of Lent, The Episcopal Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew has invited 14 Brooklyn artists to contribute innovative works for a “stations of the cross” exhibit.
The tradition of walking the 14 stations of the cross, which portray the events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion, is an ancient Christian practice, but this exhibit “brings a new level of artistic expression to the experience,” according to a press release from the parish, part of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.
This year, the Episcopal Public Policy Network’s Lenten Series focuses on “Engaging Poverty at Home and Around the World.” This Ash Wednesday reflection from Alexander D. Baumgarten, Director of Public Engagement and Mission Communication for The Episcopal Church, is the first installment of the series. Each week, we will send an excerpt of the reflection to your inbox and provide you with a link to read the full reflection on our website.
By Katherine Mead-Brewer
Lent has long held special meaning for me, even if I haven’t always treated it with the respect it deserves. For me, Lent serves as a reminder of the tremendous mysteriousness of my creator and of just how small I am in the vastness of God’s work, of the universe’s many galaxies, planets, peoples, and creatures. Bishop Jefferts Schori captures this sentiment so well: the cross that comes at Ash Wednesday is a reminder … that we share that dust with all that has been created.