A Pastoral Message from Charlie+

Stillness.

There’s a certain amount of talk in scripture about stillness. I think of Jesus who said to the storm, “Peace. Be still.” I think of the psalmist who says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). I think of the Jesus who wanted to get away from his disciples and have some time alone to pray. Stillness is a part of who we are as Christians. Yet, I think even Jesus would agree that it is hard to be still in the midst of pandemics.

For most of us, news of the corona virus (COVID-19) has brought about anything but stillness. The situation seems to change daily as we sit and wait in our homes. We distance ourselves from family and friends. We worry about limited supplies of groceries. We are more alert to sneezes, coughs, and handshakes. The routines of our children have been disrupted.

Where is the stillness in the midst of all this? I heard the Right Rev. Gene Robinson once say, “Sometimes Jesus stills the storm and sometimes Jesus stills the child.” These words have always stayed with me. The storms of COVID-19 are swirling all around us. I can only imagine what the lives of our health professionals looks like right now. I feel that the winds of this situation will continue to blow for quite a long time. Two nights ago, I received a communique from our Bishop. At the encouragement of our Presiding Bishop, she will continue the suspension of public worship through Holy Week and Easter Day. This is, indeed, unsettling news – something I’ve never experienced. But I trust in the wisdom of our church leaders and know that these decisions are grounded in protecting the most vulnerable and to keep this illness at bay. All of these measures are meant to “still the storm” and we have to take responsibility for our part, even though it is disruptive.

The St. Paul’s leadership and staff is busy developing ways to help you cultivate a sense of stillness. Even though we can’t be together physically, we can still be connected, and connections help us be still. The hope is to create opportunities for daily worship, study, and stillness. This season of Lent is intended to help us grow. We will not be able to do that in the more traditional ways with which we are comfortable. We will need to try new ways of being “Church away from Church,” remembering that we are the body of Christ regardless of where we meet. Hence, the name of our specially-designed programming during this time will be called “ChurchAway.” It reminds us that we are disciples both in our church building and outside of it. We are a community, and that community, by its very nature, is an instrument of stillness.

A first step toward routine and stillness begins next week. Each day, I will offer a live, online service of Noonday Prayers that includes a simple reflection. Since many of you are working from home, I hope that this brief service will provide a needed break – a time to be with yourself, be with God, and be still.

More ChurchAway opportunities will be made available as they are developed. You can find resources here, on our ChurchAway webpage.

And, don’t forget . . . there is the telephone! Please take this time to pick up your church directory and reach out to a member of St. Paul’s and let them know they aren’t alone. Sometimes, yours is the voice that can bring stillness and comfort.

Thank you for your flexibility as we move through this season and discern what it means to be responsive, calm, and attentive during this time. And, remember that there is always a stillness inside of you. God planted it there at your creation – a way that God connects with and speaks to you. You only have to remember that it’s there and feel God’s calming presence, even as the waters are choppy. Jesus is with us in this boat, and, as promised, he will not leave us without comfort.

A reminder: the church offices are closed; your clergy and staff are working remotely. You can reach them by calling the church office and leaving a voice mail. If a pastoral emergency arises, please call (804) 349-3020 . Contact information for clergy, staff, and vestry may be found at www.stpaulsrva.org/staffandleadership

With every prayer for peace, good health, and stillness, I remain

Faithfully yours,

Charlie+

As a way of connecting through worship and prayer, we will be offering the following services next week. You can join us via Facebook Live for all of them, and on the homepage of our website on Sunday morning.

Sunday - Morning Prayer at 10am with Linda Willis and Charlie - through Facebook Live and on our website .
Monday – Prayers at Noon
Tuesday - Prayers at Noon
Wednesday - Prayers at Noon, Evening Prayer at 6:30pm
Thursday - Prayers at Noon
Friday - Prayers at Noon

We hope you will join us in worship and prayer as we walk the way of love safely and with intentionality.
“Spiritual Focus of the Day”[Staff Contact:  Keli Shipley Cooper , Minister for Faith Formation]

“Spiritual Focus of the Day”  On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we will provide short devotionals which include ways for you to engage in prayer, readings, Scripture, and stories as we continue to be the church from at least six feet apart. Sign up to receive them directly through email by contacting Keli Shipley Cooper (kshipleycooper@stpaulsrva.org) or Sarah A. Foote (sfoote@stpaulsrva.org) , or visit our  Facebook  page to view the latest post.  These will begin Monday morning, March 23rd. 

We have a list of recommended resources here on our ChurchAway page that you can also explore. 

We are hosting an online  Bible study  with our clergy during the week of March 22nd.  Specific details to come.
Coming in April:  Enneagram Small Group. We will learn what the Enneagram is, explore each of the nine types, and process how to apply it to our lives. Learn more on our  social media and website.  This group has a limited capacity of 30 people and we will close registration once that is filled. *Note: we are still accepting registrants and are assessing plans for this group. We will be in touch soon!

[Staff Contacts: Linda Willis , Director of Children + Family Ministry and Cat Parler , Youth Ministry Intern]

While we are physically apart, our hearts are always connected to each other and to Jesus. Know that you are in my daily prayers, like this prayer from Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund:

"O God, we pray for our children and family members and for our neighbors and their children. Help us God to remember that all Your people are our neighbors and all children are our own. We pray especially for every caregiver, doctors and nurses, health and hospital personnel, and those who serve people with special needs and other vulnerable populations. And please help us to show all children by our actions as well as our words that they are loved."

On the first Sunday in Lent, we began our Godly Play stories "Faces of Jesus". The wonderful thing about Godly Play is that the stories are open to the child's natural spirituality. They may want to pretend "to be church". Let that happen at their direction by your lighting a candle, deciding on a way to sit and join their circle and finish with the Feast, which can be as simple as water and crackers. We'll be posting Godly Play links and more resources on our ChurchAway page.
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my Mother would say to me, look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping .” ~ Mister Rogers

From Lynn Williams , Minister of Outreach + Community Engagement: One of the many things that inspires me every day (even as I work from home) is that St. Paul’s is filled with helpers. Every day I hear from parishioners that want to know how they can help others. It always brightens my day and fills my heart!

Currently we are exploring how to be there for others without physically being present. Please know that Emmaus is continuing to provide needed meals and support on Thursd ay; we are not using volunteers at this time. We will let you know when that changes. We are also highlighting a handful of organizations you can support from your own home.

This week we are focusing on supporting  Richmond Public Schools  and their ongoing program to provide meals for students and families in need during this time. For more information on RPS and other organizations working on the front lines, visit our   Outreach Resource Page .

If you have other ideas or things you would like to share, please contact  Lynn  at lwilliams@stpaulsrva.org . More ways to give back to your community and engage responsibly can be found on our ChurchAway page .


Our Pastoral Care team is reaching out to those who have long-term illnesses and/or are homebound to offer special encouragement at a time when we cannot visit them.
 
In addition, the Vestry and other parish leaders are systematically calling everyone in the 2020 Directory, just to check in and remind everyone that we are connected through God’s loving care.  If you see an unknown caller, please take a chance that it might be a fellow parishioner and take the call.  We are finding that quite a few telephone numbers are no longer correct. So if you haven’t been called, it may be that you need to update our directory (when this crisis is over). Please be mindful, of course, of any calls labeled "Spam Risk" or something similar!
 
Charlie and Rainey are available to receive your phone messages through the church if you have particular pastoral needs. We will be glad to call you back.
 
During these trying times, we are learning how important it is to stay connected with each other. Please know that your staff and leaders are thinking of you, as together we pray for God’s mercy and healing on our community, country, and those in need around the world.
We continue to be grateful for the generosity of spirit and resources within our community during these uncertain times.

For those of you who are able, please consider supporting any one of the organizations highlighted on our  Outreach Page .

You can also give to St. Paul’s directly through the mail with a check,  ONLINE , or text  stpaulsrva give   to 77977.

If you need to put a pause on your pledge payment or have any other financial questions, do not hesitate to reach out to the finance office: ahart@stpaulsrva.org snolan@stpaulsrva.org  or  rwolkiewicz@stpaulsrva.org . We are here to support you.
 
We pray for those who are ill and in need of healing: Barbara, sister of Lindy Wright; Bruce Kissal, brother of Maria Everett; Malcolm Ilnicky, son of Helen and Scott Ilnicky; Bishop Susan Goff; Beauchamp Payne; Jim Wingrove; Jamie Miller, son of Mary Miller; Vivian Cramer; Liz Whitehurst; all members of the medical community, and those who are suffering economic hardship.

We pray for those who have died: Sonny Harris; Otis Burns, father of Michele Tisdol. May their souls be at peace.

If you would like to add a name to the prayer list, please contact Administrative and Membership Associate, Carter Johann, at  cjohann@stpaulsrva.org  or (804) 643-3589 ext. 5501. For our Prayer chain and more information about Pastoral Care at St. Paul's,  please click here .