Parishioner Laura Conard, far left, with young Kuwaiti interpreters who dropped out of school in the U.S. to serve their country when the oil fields were burning. They were attached to the 360th Civil Affairs Brigade.
In times of stress, it helps to hear from those who have been through other crises and come out on the other side. Five among us who have each served during military deployments share their thoughts this week.

Bob Bell/ retired Army colonel/ as shared w ith Mitch in an email this week:

I have participated in very unique church services during my career, most of which were during deployments at Christmas:
  • Aboard the USS Lexington (aircraft carrier) with flight operators ongoing and very loud background noise;
  • Operation Just Cause in Panama on Christmas Day when a small number of us gathered in a hallway for just for a few minutes;
  • Operation Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia when my commander and I relieved a machine gun crew at about 11 p.m.Christmas Eve so they could attend the midnight service;
  • And finally in the desert of Iraq during Desert Storm with the hood of an HUMVEE as the Lord’s table and all weapons pointed at the ground.

I know it’s hard for you and your team with these very unique church services (we all miss the hugs and smiles), but hang in there . . . we will be a stronger family for all our efforts when this is over.
While this is not a photograph of Bob's experience, it is one that reminds him of what it was like to hold church in the field,
Laura Conard/ 360th Civil Affairs Brigaide Airborne nurse out of Ft. Jackson/ as shared in an email for this article:

On Christmas Eve 1990, the reserve unit I had recently transferred into as the only nurse, the 360 th  Civil Affairs Brigade Airborne of Ft Jackson, received deployment orders to Southeast Asia. In the week that followed, I prepared to go to a combat zone for the first time in the 17 years that I had been in the Reserves.  I updated my will, packed uniforms, equipment and my new Book of Common Prayer, given to me by the Rev. Jim Abbott, in a rucksack and backpack. I tried to prepare myself, Tom my husband, and sons, Nelson, 16, and Ryan, 10.

Several weeks later, after setting up in an area of Saudi Arabia where the Iraqi forces were firing SCUD missiles  . . .
We were all getting more and more anxious as the days went on.  The more stress, the more people acted out. We really needed someone who could exert a calming influence on the troops.

As Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.” One definitely emerged in our unit. The most helpful, calmest, strongest  leader in our unit was our chaplain, LTC David Rhyne.  Each night, he would conduct a prayer service, listen to our concerns and offer words of consolation and counsel. He reminded us of the power of prayer, wherever we were, and whatever was happening. He reminded us to quiet our minds and listen for the prayers of others who were lifting us up. Never before had I felt so impacted by prayer.

Right after returning from our deployment, LTC Rhyne died suddenly while jogging. Twenty- nine years later, I still remember this diminutive man, whose quiet strength and comfort made him stand out as a giant of a man.
John Newton/ retired Army Lt. Colonel/as Desert Storm began, parishioner and then-Army Capt. John Newton was deployed so quickly in 1990 he had no time to say goodbye to his wife and two sons as they were on vacation when his unit was alerted to deploy. 

Under unusual circumstances, anxiety or uneasiness can be expected, but one can’t let it become disabling, where hope and prayer are not at the forefront. 

My military training prepared me for my job, and I was confident in myself and my fellow soldiers; however,  it was my trust in God, knowing he loved me and forgave my sins, that allowed me to know that my family would be OK, and I would have the strength to win, no matter the final outcome, . . . this, too, shall pass!!   
Barbara Kelly/ 1 st Lt. Signal Officer with the Army, stationed in Darmstadt, 
Germany during the Cold War, where skirmishes would occur on the east German border/ as shared in a phone call:

As an officer, I had people for whom I was directly responsible. Once, we were literally in a blizzard out in the field, and I had to send one of my men to adjust an antenna on a tower because it was vital that we maintain those communications.

Another time, right after attacks from the Badder-Meinhoff organization, a terrorist organization, we had another major attack in Frankfurt. That night, I was the officer of the day for our barracks area, in command of our reactionary force in case we were attacked.

In both of those situations, I knew what had to be done, and I was determined that I was going to do that, but I was concerned for my people. I think it was being concerned for other people and for setting an example, trying to be there for them and yet holding them to the standard that got me through.

Translated to today, I would say reach out to other parishioners. Set an example of trying to project some optimism that you do have faith in God, and he will steer us through this, regardless of the consequences. There might be good outcomes and there might be some tough ones, but that's the anchor. 
Vern Brantley/WWII Army veteran who survived the Battle of the Bulge/ as shared in a phone call:

"Actually prayer is the thing that got me through every time. When I felt I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, prayer allowed me to do it."

Vern recounted how just before his deployment overseas, after he and his late wife Doris has been married only four weeks, she managed to get on base and meet him at the base chapel. There, they wrote a prayer together on the back of a song sheet. He kept it with him throughout the war, and still has it today.

He encouraged us today to keep our faith by keeping our prayer life fervent.
Have you seen Vern's picture, center, on the side of The Comet, a salute to WWII heroes?
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Holy Week, which begins Sunday with Palm Sunday, promises to be unique. In truth, every week for the next month or so promises to be unique. You might say 'unique" is our new normal.

Thoughts on social media
One thing I have observed over the past three weeks is our social media usage has gone way, way up. I know mine has, and, judging by what I have seen, I know yours has as well. I want to offer these thoughts about our use of social media.

First, friends, remember that we are in the midst of Lent, a time when we examine the sinfulness of our lives, contemplate our mortality, and remember the sacrifice of Jesus so that we might be free.

How are our words experienced online?
In the first Station of the Cross, we remember that Jesus was judged even though he was innocent. I am pretty good at being a nonjudgmental person when it comes to face-to-face interactions. A funny part of being a priest is that there is not a lot in this world that I have not encountered, so usually, when I am dealing in person with goofy, strange, and even downright wrong things, I manage to keep a level head. If I am lucky, I even manage to say something constructive. But when armed with a keyboard, and when seeing something from afar, I am much more likely to judge and send that judgment into the world. I have noticed in the past few weeks that I am not too different in this regard than many of you. As we walk towards Holy Week, I urge you to be careful with what you post. Judgment is judgment no matter what forum it uses or form it takes.

My next observation is positive. My friends, the office staff has worked hard to keep everyone in touch with what is going on in our parish. The church is a high touch, high communication entity, which makes this work hard in the midst of "physical distancing." While it is still a challenge, this work has been made easier by the many of you who have used your phones and your social media accounts to bridge physical gaps. I have experienced and shared virtual "cheers" with folks, physically distanced worship, random Facetime calls, and much, much more. These things have been positive and powerful, and when I have felt lonely, as I am sure many of you have during this time, these things have lifted me up. Thank you for doing this.

Sharing Christian love online
With more cases of COVID-19 arising in Columbia, social media will, more and more, be the way we communicate and present ourselves to the world. I urge you to think about how you can use your account to educate, not to share fear; to be honest; not judgmental; to be Christian and loving. The face we show the world will continue to come through our screens, and our voices will continue to come through our keyboards. Let us make sure the voice we use is Christian and good. 

In Christ,
The Stations of the Cross
Stations of the Cross are being posted daily on our YouTube Chanel, between now and Palm Sunday. Our clergy are preparing them from different places in the community. You can listen to them and catch up by clicking HERE , which will take you to the church's YouTube channel where all of our videos are being posted and archived.

The Rev. Susan Prinz has organized pastoral caregivers who are able to shop for those who cannot get out.
  • If you are someone in need of a grocery or pharmacy run email susan.prinz@smifsc.com and she will coordinate your list with a shopper.

  • If you are older and able to get out, however, please take note of local groceries that are offering specific hours for older shoppers. Click HERE for a complete list.

A dedicated extension,
(Ext. 201), has been established for pastoral care calls for the parish. Should you have a need requiring clergy, please follow the instructions you will receive when you call the parish office, 803.787.0392.
Need some guidance and a bit of humor while becoming a homeschool parent? Click HERE.

And HERE for more resources provided by SCETV.

Or watch a National Theatre play and discuss as a family.
While scrolling Instagram at the end of the day, be sure to follow @smifsc for Compline from Home postings, Monday through Friday, featuring different parishioner's art work. We hope these are soothing posts to help you rest. This week's artist is Mimi Upton Fulmer.
Last week, we shared with you some Grace Notes that the staff had noticed since our virtual office life began. We also asked you to share yours. Here's what two of you experienced last week:

Nancy Truluck: I got a lovely email last week from a woman I do not know. She is a member of Grace Church in the Mountains, the church Richard and I attend when we're at our mountain home near Waynesville, N.C. She said that the vestry and others were each taking the names of 20 families to pray for so that every person in the parish would be prayed for individually. She asked if we had any particular prayer requests. Imagine! Someone I didn't even know offering to pray for me and my family. What grace! I was deeply touched. When times are different, we agreed to meet in person for coffee.

Patsy Farr: As I was driving in an adjacent neighborhood, I passed 10 or 12 children and two sets of parents walking together in a large crowd, two of the children in strollers, one in his mother’s arms, some walking while holding their daddies' hands, and mothers grouped together talking and smiling. I felt a tinge of joy to see these families enjoying their walk together on a beautiful sunny day.  

Share your Grace Note by emailing allison.askins@smfsc.com

A few tips to help you navigate online church:

  • Each Sunday, a little before 10 a.m., click HERE or go to the video section of the church's Facebook page. The video will not appear until it goes LIVE so if you're a bit early, wait. Perhaps say a prayer. Still yourself. The video will appear. When it does, you will automatically be able to start to view it.

  • After the service, go to the video of that week's devotion on the church's YouTube channel. You will be reminded of this at the end of the service.

  • Still afraid you might miss it? No worries. An email will be sent each Sunday afternoon in case you didn't make it to church on time.
Thank you in advance for keeping your pledge current during this time of uncertainty. You may pay your pledge in these ways:

  • Use this link to keep your pledge up-to-date by going online. You will need your bank routing number, which is the first set of numbers printed on the bottom of your checks, on the left side. You will also need your account number, which is the next set of numbers beside the routing number at the bottom of your check. This online link is safe and secure. 
  • You may also mail your checks to the Parish Office at 5220 Clemson Ave., Columbia, SC 29206.
5220 Clemson Avenue
Columbia, SC 29206
803.787.0392 | www.stmartinsinthefields.com