Dearest St. Mark’s Family,

I hope this letter finds you all healthy and feeling somewhat connected to the life of our church family. This weekend, on Sunday, we will celebrate another holy day from the weirdness that is online worship. I hope by now you have realized that I use the word weirdness as a term of endearment, and I’m actually quite grateful to be able to connect spiritually through the magic of the Internet. It helps me to remember that the original Pentecost day that we celebrate in the Acts story for Sunday was by its’ very nature… weird.

Let’s break it down… the people who followed Jesus (and some that didn’t, I’d imagine) were all in the same place when a mighty rushing wind (or at least that’s how we describe it) busts in and turns their whole world upside down. People were able to understand things they’d never understood before, and the divisions that separated were ripped away. Outsiders thought the people of God were drunk (at best) or losing their minds (at worst)! What we call “the church” emerged out of that topsy-turvy mess and began it’s centuries long journey to right here and right now. People who were separated by language and culture were united in Love and Spirit.

I think what I’m saying here is that the Holiness of Pentecost is not all that different than the holiness of “these unusual circumstances” where we find ourselves. As we begin to move into our next phase of existence together, we will need to keep listening to the language of others and pray that God’s Holy Spirit will transform messiness into faithfulness.

I’m not naïve about how difficult these transitions are. As we begin to shift and change in the midst of the realities of Pentecost 2020, which sometimes sounds like rushing wind and languages we don’t understand, we are called to be prayerful and faithful, just like the disciples we already are. Like the earliest followers of Jesus, we will need to have our ears open and our hearts ready to be blown away by the Holy Spirit, especially when it comes unexpectedly.

People may think we’ve lost our minds, but I’m sure that if we focus on the love of God and the love of neighbor we will be okay. More than okay, really. We will be blessed by the gift of connection that helps us hear new languages, speak bravely, and embrace the wild winds of transformation in our own lives and in the life of our beloved Church. Weird, right? Thanks be to God!

I wish I had an update on next steps that gave you some more concrete timelines. I don’t. I do know that the vestry has begun to discern carefully the guidelines and covenant that we will follow as part of the diocese of West Texas. You can find that information on the diocesan website (dwtx.org) and I would encourage you to read the good work the Bishop’s office has done. Over the next few weeks, we will begin asking for volunteers to help with the tasks that will be required of us in moving forward in creating hybrid Sunday worship with appropriate boundaries for those that choose to be physically present and live online streaming for those that choose to be spiritually present from their own sacred space.

Let me be clear on one thing… we don’t have a date for this yet, and we promise to give you updates through as many channels as possible when that changes .  

We are still praying, planning, and being transformed by the Spirit and I’m grateful to have a vestry that is patient, deliberate, and faithful in these tasks. I’m also grateful to have partners in ministry like Patty, Gloria, Julius, Graham, Kris, and Jenny who make this kind of work meaningful, and, of course, what a joy to do this with my favorite associate, Fr. Mike! 

For now, everything remains the same (in the rapidly shifting, who-knows-what-tomorrow-will-bring, kind of way to which we are growing accustomed).  Online worship will take place on Sunday at 8 and 11.  We will practice spiritual communion and we will pray for God to keep blowing in like a mighty rushing wind that changes everything. We will trust God to do God’s thing, and we will allow the weirdness of Pentecost to wash over us with transforming LOVE. Spirit, help us to hear the many languages of Grace, Mercy, and Kindness in the world around us!

On Sunday, if you’ve got something red to wear… don’t be shy. Wear something crazy to Facebook church this Sunday. Because - Why not? Nobody can see you… and, besides, if people thought the disciples had lost their minds, maybe it can be a badge of honor for us in these unusual times.

And while you’re at it, remember that you are loved, okay?  

Peace,
Ben+
Connection and Formation
Get your red shoes ready! (Ideas for Sunday)
Are you ready to celebrate Pentecost this Sunday! Put on your red shoes and print this
Children's Bulletin (mainly focused on elementary ages), Discussion Guide, and Coloring Sheet, and from Illustrated Ministry designed for families to use at home along with the service. (Mike will you please embed both links into the sentence?)
Bulletin and devo
Coloring Sheet
What on earth are we doing today?
What would be meaningful and playful?
(Ideas for Monday-Friday)
Do you need some tangible ideas of what you and your kiddos can do today that are both meaningful and playful?

Faith@Home continues to offer fantastic daily suggestions that follow the church calendar. Trust me! It's not stuffy but offers ways for you and your kids to tune in to God and each other in the same environment we work to create within our church community! Let's choose some meaningful ways for children to connect to God in their everyday lives that foster healthy ways they can express their thoughts and ideas! After you click on a specific day of the week, scroll down to see things based on a given scripture that you can choose throughout the day on your own time: 
  • Watch - These videos are a great way to start your day with a mini family devotion or chapel time. Maybe this is a good summer breakfast or lunch habit to create. Sometimes the videos are more focused on mindfulness. Home is the perfect place to try this together!
  • Read - Often these include videos of various people reading picture books. Books they suggest are high quality and would be great additions to your own children's book collection.
  • Listen - Songs are shared along with more open-ended questions.
  • Do - Art projects and ideas here use materials you typically already have at home. Many will most likely inspire more creative ideas. Kids of all ages love to express their connection to a story or to God in a variety of ways like building something, making something with playdoh, or playing a game. 
  • Pray - Maybe these prayers and ideas shared in this section can become a nightly routine for you as your children unwind and reflect on the day with you! 

What do you miss?
What are your hopes for this summer? 

Responses to the letter I shared with you earlier in the week show that we are craving ways to dive into deeper discussion with each other. As we figure out how to best support each other this summer, I'd love to get your input and your children's input to these open-ended questions. Please feel free to reach out to me by email or phone!
  • What is going well?
  • What do you miss?
  • What are your hopes?
  • What makes you feel safe?
  • What do you recommend now that is best for your family? How can we best support you?
New Communication Schedule
This summer, we are shifting to a new communication schedule here at St. Mark's. In an effort to remain connected with the broader St. Mark's community, we are shifting a few of the days which content will be made available! Most content will be primarily available on our St. Mark's Facebook page. If you have not liked the page, please do so. It will help you stay up to date with current information and details as we move forward in our life together. Here is our new communication schedule for the foreseeable future:


Worship
Sunday Morning Worship - Live On FB page @ 8am & 10am

Reflection
Back Porch Blessings - Live On FB page Monday - Friday

Discipleship
Children's Chapel - Live on FB page @10:30am - every Wednesday

Prayer
Morning Prayer - Live On FB page @ 9am every Tuesday
Noonday Prayer - Live on FB page @ 12pm every Wednesday
Compline - Live on FB page @ 7pm every Thursday

Communication
St. Mark's eNews - Sent out through email every Thursday and made available on the St. Mark's Facebook page

If you are interested in participating by reading one of the three Prayer Offices, please contact Fr. Mike:mike.woods@sanmarcosepiscopal.org for availability.