From the Rector's Desk:
On our first Sunday of the New Year we will read from the Acts of the Apostles 19:1-7. Without composing my whole sermon here, I will only say that there is a recurring theme in Acts found in this pericope: humans interacting with one another is an important component to Christianity.
As we begin our new calendar year, my hope is that we will continue to grow in faith as a parish, one made up of individuals who corporately come together to live into our identity and serve as God's church. We embark on this adventure by our human-made choices, but also by opening up ourselves to the Spirit. What a great opportunity we have to witness this later this month when a number of our members, both teenagers and adults, will make the decision to be either confirmed or received into the Episcopal Church. Confirmation is the opportunity to take claim of the Holy Spirit continuing to work in one's life and accept the same as a "confirmation" of one's baptismal vows. Being received is for those who have already been baptized and confirmed in another denomination; members being received make the declaration that the Spirit who has worked and guided them thus far now brings them to an affinity with the Episcopal Church.
Rachel Held Evans is a blogger and published author. In her latest work Searching For Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church (Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2015), she remarks about the sacrament of confirmation as it ties in with the statement of faith in our Church, the Nicene Creed. She writes, "What you promise when you are confirmed is not that you will believe this forever. What you promise when you are confirmed is that this is the story you will wrestle with forever." I love her take on this, because it is when we feel that we "get it" that we tend to leave the Spirit behind and go at it on our own. It is important to remember that our life is best balanced when we bring our human experiences and spiritual ones together as equal partners on the walk of life.
For those of us not being confirmed or received, besides remembering our own baptismal vows at the service, January offers other ways to continue our faith practices. I am delighted that Megan Coffey, one of our Children's Church volunteer organizers, is leading a four-week Adult Forum based on Rachel Held Evans' book. The forum will meet between our Sunday worship services. Additionally, near the end of the month, we will begin our service to the community by hosting the Hypothermia Prevention Shelter for Fairfax County. By worship, by learning, by doing, we all can continue on our faith adventures and continually discover and discern God's call. January offers us wonderful ways to get jump-started on our new year with many blessings.
By Liz Zubritsky
The boiler replacement was completed, and the heat was restored in the church before Christmas! The work took a bit longer than expected because the entire system was updated to be compatible with a modern air handler and air conditioner, paving the way for future installation of those components. At the time of the December vestry meeting, the four HVAC units had been delivered for the education building. The vestry gratefully acknowledges the careful attention of Jim Armstrong, buildings commissioner, who keeps this project moving forward, and the donations to the capital campaign that make this work possible.
In addition to the normal year-end business, the vestry discussed the status of the capital campaign and priorities. A significant portion of the funds received so far are paying for the replacement of the church's boiler and the installation of the four new HVAC units in the education building. Other major expenses that lie ahead include the air conditioning for the church. During the December meeting, the vestry pledged some capital campaign funds toward restoration of the kneelers at the altar, in recognition of their historic significance and central role in worship. A donor also has promised designated funding for the restoration.
The church is expected to end 2017 with several thousand dollars less income than budgeted, primarily because of a reduction in plate income. However, expenses this year have been in line with the budget or have been reduced, and the church has been meeting its fiscal obligations. The stewardship campaign for 2018 is proceeding on track, with 100 pledges received so far.
Adventures in Children's Ministry
2017 Christmas Pageant A Success
By Megan Coffey
Despite some illnesses preventing a few children from participating, the 2017 pageant is being regaled as a tremendous success. A huge THANK YOU to the congregation who came together to make it happen, assisting in everything from hanging the "starry sky" to donating costume fabric to attending the sewing/set creation party - all to bring the pageant to fruition.
Since the participating children ranged in ages from 12 to roughly 3, showtime started to take on the form of "a holy mess", as Father Peter once described it. We had lambs crawling under the altar, cows wrestling in the corner, and Mary adamantly refusing to let Jesus leave the manger, but overall the children, parents, and parishioners seemed to enjoy the play.
The pageant tied the church together; as I mentioned in last month's article, the communication barriers came down. God's love shone through us, and together we made the pageant happen after a many-year hiatus. I enjoyed preparing with my friends and further strengthening existing friendships; watching the children light up with excitement at the costumes and bond with each other over their roles; and seeing the happiness in the congregation as they watched the "holy mess" unfurl. Looking forward to the 2018 pageant!
One Parishioner's Experience with Church Inspires Her to Facilitate an Adult Ed Course
As a cradle Episcopalian I have limited Christian-life experience outside of the Episcopal Church. While I've attended the services of many different sects - Baptist, Pentecostal, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and more - I grew up as a weekly attendee of Christ Episcopal Church in Springfield, Ohio. I remain content with the Episcopal service and my parents' decision to raise me in this community of faith. I feel tied to the traditions, prayers, and community that have existed for hundreds of years, where the primary focus is on Jesus' message to love one another. That's one of the reasons I have chosen to raise my children in this faith, to tie them to a cause bigger than themselves and continue the traditions.
In 2005 I married a man raised in the Church of Christ, part of the Evangelical strain of Christianity. While dating my husband, I attended some of those services, which are very unlike the Episcopal service. Their prayers vary from week to week, depending on who was asked to lead them. The buildings are largely unornamented, as they consider ornamentation to be distracting from their relationship with Jesus; and there are no musical instruments, as there were none in the Bible (despite me questioning mention of lutes and harps), with all singing done a cappella. Women are prohibited from participating in church matters short of being Sunday school teachers or organizing potlucks, communion is served with grape juice, and at a minimum there are three services a week (one on Wednesday, two on Sunday), among many other differing practices. Because of this upbringing, my husband has chosen not to participate in church life. He doesn't protest me going, or taking the children, but he chooses not
attend outside of major holidays, my birthday, or Mother's Day. So when I saw the book Searching For Sunday, I immediately related to Rachel Held Evans' story.
Rachel Held Evans' memoir is about her faith journey from her childhood in the South, where she was raised in an Evangelical church, to choosing to worship in the Episcopal Church as a 29-year-old. While she discusses what she thinks Millennials are looking for in a church and what the church should do to address this, I don't think her recommendations are a panacea for declining church attendance. Instead, I was drawn to Evans' personal journey, as it resonated with me via my husband's relationship with God and church, my own experiences with evangelism, and why I like the Episcopal Church. I hope you'll join me for the next few weeks, starting January 7 at 9:15 a.m. each week, as we discuss one of the seven sacraments, consider Evans' faith journey, and reflect on our own.
: Do not forget, as we continue to create this Monthly Newsletter, that we need your articles. Announcements as always will come via the weekly bulletin blast on Thursdays. This Newsletter serves as a wonderful way to advertise our parish to people who want to come to know us. It also serves those who have moved away who want to remain in touch with what is going on here at St. Christopher's. What a wonderful opportunity this Monthly Newsletter offers us to share with many the exciting events that take place here. So, if you are one who writes an announcement for the Sunday Bulletin think about also composing an article after your event in order to share how it went! Send your articles to Fr. Peter by the 25th of each month for publication in the next month's Newsletter.
Happy New Year to all!