As I write this Monday morning, I am still buoyed by Sunday’s church picnic at Jimmy’s and Gina’s. It was good for my heart to see well over 100 parishioners, new and established of all ages, there to enjoy a beautiful day, to celebrate their connection to Saint James’, and to show their appreciation and affection for Gina.
While pleasantly distracted, much of me feels compelled to use this medium to express my heartache, solidarity, and prayers for the victims of Hurricane Harvey and to discuss the divisive events that unfolded two weeks earlier in Charlottesville. In fact, many times on Sunday, I was struck with the difficult dichotomy between the absolutely perfect weather and beautiful bucolic setting in Virginia and the grey skies, torrential rains, downed limbs and power lines, and rising waters in Texas.
Below you will find photos and video of each service in Holy Week, and Scripture readings for each day of the week. We know that Holy Week can be an overwhelming time, with so many services and so many stories packed into such a short time. We hope that you will reflect on each day, and the power of each moment, at your own pace.
Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
It is right to praise you, Almighty God, for the acts of love by which you have redeemed us through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. On this day he entered the holy city of Jerusalem in triumph, and was proclaimed as King of kings by those who spread their garments and branches of palm along his way. Let these branches be for us signs of his victory, and grant that we who bear them in his name may ever hail him as our King, and follow him in the way that leads to eternal life; who lives and reigns in glory with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen. – Book of Common Prayer, Page 271
The Season of Lent is a time for us to examine our commitment to Jesus Christ and take steps to be more intentional in our faith as we prepare for Holy Week, when we remember with our hearts the last week of Jesus in Jerusalem.
A Saturday or so ago, we gathered for a family movie night. We settled upon the movie, October Sky, based upon the book Rocket Boys. An interesting aside, the exact same letters that form “October Sky” also make up “Rocket Boys” (Try it and see).
The movie is about Homer H. Hickman, Jr. and his friends’ interest in building rockets, but it is about much more than that. In Coalwood, West Virginia life was pretty much tracked for you at a young age. If you were a boy growing up there, you attended school long enough to test your football acumen or settle for life working in the depleted coal mines.
Homer quickly established that football was not going to be his route out of Coalwood, but he was equally certain that life in the coal mine was not for him. As trapped as Homer felt in Coalwood, his friends’ tracks seemed even narrower, as their family systems were wrought with instability, alcoholism and abuse, or profound poverty.
Our beautiful, historic, welcoming church will be made even more hospitable with the addition of new handicap parking spaces in the parking lot, permanent ramps, a lift for Parish Hall access, a centrally-located elevator in the new building, and ADA-certified bathroom facilities.
Father Ben shared this remembrance which highlights just one example of how needed and how welcome the planned accessibility upgrades will be:
“The Director of Christian Education from my previous church in Louisville came to church one Sunday. Lauralee wanted to show Ms. Martha her classroom so she led her down the stairs. Ms. Martha has some mobility issues and I forgot how much she had depended upon the elevator in Louisville. As I watched her slowly go down each step backwards, clinging to the rail, and wincing the entire way, I realized that the most formative person in my children’s faith development would hardly be able to teach Sunday school at Saint James’ much less serve as Director of Christian Formation. It was a profound recognition of the need and the fact that it is not just those confined to wheelchairs whose ministries are limited by our space.”
Our exciting renovation plans will open up our spaces to everyone who wants to share in them!
As your children learn about Advent and the story of Jesus’ birth in Sunday School this season, we encourage you to continue the conversation at home. Each week, we will provide you with the reading done in church for the lighting of our Advent Candles and questions that can be used to discuss them. You can use them as you light your own candles or simply as a conversation-starter.
Come celebrate Easter Day with us! Having completed our journey and walked through the sorrow of Holy Week, we now come ready to experience Easter joy.
Our 10:15 service begins with the children flowering the cross and following behind it in procession. The joyful music fills the space as we tell the story of the empty tomb and the reverberations of that moment throughout history and in our lives. Following the service our children will continue the celebration as they search for Easter eggs.
While God may have called me to ordained ministry, I have long claimed that there are two core reasons why I am an Episcopal priest.
The first is centered around my experience as a navy brat. On average I moved every two years. I lived in the south, New England, the Pacific Northwest, and even overseas. Regardless where I lived, I belonged to ONE church, each new building or congregation an extension of the other. The second reason is affirmed in the prayer for the newly baptized. We pray for an “inquiring and discerning heart”. Our creedal beliefs and our identity as the body of Christ hold us together, but while we may have one head, Jesus Christ, we do not share one mind.
There is no ultimate earthly authority on the myriad of complex issues we face in the world today. We have tools, the three legged stool of scripture, tradition, and reason, our ecclesiastical governance, our common prayer, but we do not have universal consensus or a crib sheet of the church’s stance regarding x, y, and z (for which I am mightily grateful).
Even here at Saint James’ Episcopal Church, as the rector, I still speak only for myself. Our congregation holds as many worldviews, political, social, and theological views as we have members. I revel in the dynamism of our Thursday discussions with the bishop as we share, challenge, and learn from our different perspectives. I also believe when we gather communed by Christ’s grace and love and not by our like mindedness, we stand as a witness to our faith and an icon to the outside world.
A group of men from Saint James’ recently made a trip to Mary’s Rock in Shenandoah National Park. They are planning another hike in the Blue Ridge soon – make sure to email Scott Christian if you’re interested!