E-newsletter | December 16, 2021
Hail Mary
In our Vestry meetings, we begin each gathering with Bible study. In this way, we connect through sacred story and ground all deliberations and decisions from this context. And this past Sunday our Scripture was the text for this coming Sunday’s lectionary. The Bible study that we do does not allow for teaching, but I was chomping at the bit to talk about Mary. The Mary we receive in sacred story is so much more than the voice-less, choice-less woman child we have received from very flawed Church doctrine.

On Sunday morning we will get swept up with the true Mary. We will see her bold faith and courage; it is her strength, faith, and daring that brings us to the threshold of Jesus’ birth. 

Luke is the only gospel in which Mary’s story appears, and in his account, there is nothing submissive or immature about her. 

According to Luke, God’s messenger approached her with words of great honor: Hail Mary, full of grace. Many artists paint the angel kneeling, in recognition of the honor given to her.

The angel is explicit; the honor is for the grace that is distinctly hers. Her culture or the powers that be might not see any value in her, but God sees in Mary someone of immense worth. [1]

It is Mary’s grace that has attracted God’s attention.

And what is this grace?

It is what Luke shows us in her speech and her actions – courage, boldness, and grit, her ringing convictions about justice. There is no submissive meekness here. Grace is not submission. And someone who is willing to harness the justice of God is never docile.

Now I must confess that early in my own faith journey Mary and I were uneasy companions. The BVM, as she is sometimes known, seemed to me, a curiosity at best and an excuse to keep women subservient at worst.  

“Look at Mary’s unwavering obedience” and keep your mouth shut woman!” was the message many women, including myself, have heard over the years in churches all over the world.

But if we take a closer look at Mary as we find her in Luke’s description and put away all of the unfortunate dross that has been piled up around her until she has become utterly obscured by superstition or misogyny, we find a compelling figure who teaches us how to have unwavering participation with God’s call for justice and hope.

Peel away the nonsense and we see in Mary a young woman of immense courage who made up her own mind to say “yes” to God outside the law of her people and by so doing risked everything. 

She did this without heed to what it would cost her socially, publically, and spiritually. [2]  

And of course, we have spilled a lot of blood, sweat, and tears as well as written pages and pages of doctrine around this notion of a “virgin birth.” I have no argument as to whether it was a miracle.

But this is just more static added to Mary’s story---because to me the real miracle isn’t around how Jesus was conceived, but around the fact that in a culture where Mary’s unplanned pregnancy should have spelled a horrible death or expulsion and shame, somehow this young woman was allowed to live and give birth to God’s hope for the human family.

God always chooses the most unlikely suspects as agents of transformation and hope. Mary’s story reminds us that God can use all of us to extraordinary purpose if we claim her courage and join our voices to those who sing out the bold demand for God’s justice and liberation. 

In Mary we are reminded that we should expect God to show up where poor people are forgotten, vulnerable people are oppressed, and weak people are overlooked.

Mary reminds us that we too are called to bear God into the world.

Here we stand, trembling on the brink of celebrating the moment that God becomes flesh and blood. Through Mary’s fierce persistence and survival against threat, she shows us how to give birth to God in our lives.

I am reminded of Meister Eckhart, the medieval mystic and theologian who wrote: “We are all meant to be mothers of God.”  

What good is it to me,” he continued, “if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace?  

What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to a Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and culture? This then,” he writes, “is the fullness of time: 

When the Son of God----- is begotten in each of us.”     

Mary is our guide and template on this dangerous journey. She travels alone or in harsh conditions and she defies the demand that she should be seen and not heard. She is not subservient, submissive, or helpless. 
She is determined, free, holy, and strong as nails.

She beckons women and men everywhere to speak out for God’s justice. God’s justice is born into the world every time and any time people of Mary’s courage break out of conformity, fear, or cultural constraint and dare to give voice and action to God’s call to put an end to the needless suffering of poverty, oppression, and greed.

For many that may mean speaking boldly from an oppressed position even as people say your voice or your life does not matter. For others, it may mean stepping down from a place of privilege and daring to face the truth that from this place of privilege we play a part of the injustice in the world.
Mary meets us at that tremulous intersection where our longing for a better world is transformed into anticipation that God is present when each of us, in our own way, breaks free of imposed convention and dares to give birth to justice, compassion, and peace on the Earth. 

May we all be Mary-strong!

Mother Stephanie+

[1] Nancy McKinnon
[2] Joan Chittister, In Search of Belief, Ligouri/Triumph, Missouri, 1999, pg. 95.
Christmas Eve Schedule
4pm Eucharist in the Chapel
8pm—Festival Eucharist
Preservice music begins at 7:30pm

Blue Christmas Labyrinth Walk

To honor the "longest night" and the sadness that can descend on us during this season of the year. Grief and loss and isolation is experienced in different ways in all of us. As the pandemic lingers, 2021 has been another difficult year for most of us. Come walk in community.
All are welcome. Be a light!
Tuesday, December 21st at 4pm
St. Paul's Episcopal Church --Coventry Chapel Labyrinth on the West side of the church.
Please wear a mask and be mindful of social distancing. This walk will be weather permitting. If you have questions, please contact me: Sheree Sloop
Email: sloopcat60@gmail.com 
Phone: 336-984-8521
Vestry Leadership 2022

Dear Members of St. Paul’s,

It is not a surprise to hear that the last 20+ months have been more than a little extraordinary for your Rector and Vestry Leadership.

Into the tumult of an uneasy pastoral leave-taking, a difficult and heart-rending time for everyone involved, we also experienced a worldwide Pandemic, and our life together as a Faith Community has been altered time and again as this time in our history has unfolded.

What we believe we all crave right now is a sense of stability, constancy, and dare I say it (!) progress! To that end, and in consultation with the Bishop, I have asked the current Vestry Leadership if they would continue in service for an extra year in their term. This would allow us to continue our work, uninterrupted by bringing new Vestry members on board who have not been involved with the Vestry’s work this past year, allowing us to have a slight “stutter step” and keep the continuity and momentum we are currently experiencing.

As the Bishop made very clear, that decision is governed by our Parish by-laws and it is through the Parish by-laws that such decisions can be enacted and ratified. The Vestry has updated our current by-laws to reflect that this would represent a change in our Vestry selection process only until the terms of the present Vestry members have expired with the one-year continuance to each of their terms.

This represents a sacrifice and deep state of commitment from your current Vestry and I for one am very thankful for their willingness to offer themselves in service to our parish as we continue to make our way through these ever-changing times. We are deeply committed to the succession process of parish leadership and welcoming new voices and new energy into our number and that process will return in full beginning with this year's current senior members rolling off at the beginning of 2023.

As ever, we are deeply committed to hearing your feedback with any questions or concerns answered in a timely and welcoming fashion. We are committed to transparency in all decisions and want to hear from you as you feel moved.

See updated by-laws below.

Wishing You the Blessings of Advent,

Your Rector and Senior Warden
Thank you!
Thanks to everyone who helped with donations for the children’s Christmas treats. The bags contained a variety of items including: books, coloring books, crayons, activity books, fleece throws, manger scene with stickers, bracelets, necklaces, hot wheel cars, Christmas stockings, jump ropes, balls, socks, gloves, hot chocolate, oatmeal, granola bars, raisins, skittles, Pez, M&M tubes, candy canes, a variety of chocolates and Christmas candies, a card with warm Christmas wishes from St. Paul’s, and after all that candy, a toothbrush and toothpaste. I was able to make 55 bags! We gave away all that I brought to Crisis Assistance and Step Ahead on the 9th and I will take the remainder on the 16th since we will be closed on the 23rd. We have made arrangements that if we happen to have any treats left over, we will take them to the homeless shelter in case they have any little ones show up at Christmas.

With heartfelt thanks,
Ruth Harris
We would like to say “Thank you!” for your faithful giving and dedication to St. Paul’s. Without your support, and the support of the parish, St. Paul’s would not be able to have the impact on our community that we do.

We have had an amazing response thus far and this is your invitation to make your pledge if you have not already done so.

we have so much for which to be thankful and your generosity of spirit never ceases to amaze! Thank you for all that you do and for all that is made possible by your generosity. 

Thank you to everyone who has donated towards our clothing and coat drives. Our clothing ministry is now in need of socks for all genders and sizes.
Please consider donating only gently used or new items to this important cause
All donations can be dropped off by the church office.

Download our church app!


Masks will be worn for inside worship and other inside activities for the foreseeable future.

In small group gatherings of vaccinated individuals it is appropriate to have a discussion as to whether you want to wear masks or not. But please wear masks if even one member of the group prefers this important safety measure.

Please help us put an end to this Pandemic by getting vaccinated.

Love yourself, love your neighbor, get vaccinated!


Assistance Ministries on Thursdays!

Our Assistance team is back in business! A special thank you to all of those who come out and volunteer their time.
Crisis Assistance and Step Ahead will be holding lunches from 11:30am-1:00pm on Thursdays. For now, the lunches provided will be bagged.

Sponsor our Sunday Flowers to Honor Your Special Memories and Occasions!

Signup sheet and envelopes are in the commons.
Cost: $40 for one vase and $80 for two.
Sign up for one or both vases.

Standing order with City Florist, who will bill the church monthly. If you want something special for your two vases, call City Florist with your request. In that case, if you pay them directly, let them know your flowers replace our order.
If you want to “do your own thing” sign up for both vases then let Kathie Smith know at least a week before your chosen Sunday, so that the standing order can be canceled.

You can now access the flowers sign up form online! Click the button below to sign up today.
The form can also be accessed via the app.
Join us for Worship on YouTube or click on the link on our website!
Ongoing Ministry Opportunities Below!
Listed below are on-going opportunities to give, participate, and serve at St. Paul's. We don't want these ministry activities to become "wallpaper" as they do change slightly from time to time so check in each week and see what invitation to serve might be calling your name!
Offering Hospitality in Time of Need
Thank you for your generosity! $2230.00 so far...

Hospitality is a primary call of faith community. We all have times in our lives when circumstances overwhelm our basic needs and that is when the the care and feeding of our members becomes a paramount need.

There are many in our church family that could use and appreciate a meal. Since COVID, our Feed My Sheep Teams have been inactive.

Until such a time when we can get those teams up and running we are starting a Care & Feeding Fund.

We have received $2230 worth of donations towards our Care and Feeding Fund. A special thank you to those who contributed.

If you would like to donate to this fund by writing Care and Feeding Fund in the memo line of your check, we will purchase food and deliver to our parishioners in need.

Donations can be mailed or dropped off by the church office. And again, please make all checks out to St. Paul’s with the memo of Care & Feeding Fund.
Thank you!
“You created every part of me, knitting me in my mother’s womb. 
For such handiwork, I praise you. Awesome this great wonder!”
 Psalm 139:13-14

Prayer shawls are made to provide warmth, comfort, healing, and peace to those who may need it.

If anyone is inclined to knit or crochet a shawl and would like to donate it to the churches shawl collection, donations can be dropped off at the church office.

A special thank you to those who have made and donated shawls in support of our ministry.

For further information please visit www.shawlministry.com

The Oct/Nov/Dec issues of Forward Day by Day are in the mailbox by the front door of the office.

New Vestry Minutes have been added. October minutes are now available!

Click button to go directly there
Serving in Dec. 2021
Altar Guild
Dec 19 - Mike & Mary Southwell
Dec 24 - Pam & Drew Mayberry (Early)
Dec 24 - Pam & Drew Mayberry (Late)
Dec 26 - Mary Lankford, Sharon Greene, & Bonnie Merritt

Dec 19 - Edward Southwell (8:30)
Dec 19 - Beverly Cook (10:30)
Dec 24 - Robin Shumate & Denise Sturdivant (Early)
Dec 24 - Lisa Beard & Joe Fesperman (Late)
Dec 26 - Robin Shumate (8:30)
Dec 26 - Jeri Martin (10:30)

Dec 19 - Amelia & Julie Koch
Dec 24 - Jenny Nelson & Drew Mayberry (Early)
Dec 24 - Tom Carnes & Drew Mayberry (Late)
Dec 26 - Tom Carnes & Jenny Nelson

Dec 19 - Bill Harris (8:30)
Dec 19 - Sandra Elledge (10:30)
Dec 24 - Jeff Beard (Early)
Dec 24 - Joe Richardson (Late)
Dec 26 - Mike Adams (8:30)
Dec 26 - Ryan Minick (10:30)

Dec 18 - John Oliver
Dec 18 - Naomi Faw
Dec 18 - Lisa Beard
Dec 20 - Caleb Hawkins

Dec 20 - Bob & Alline Skees
Prayer Requests

Prayer requests can be made by using the app under "contact us" and then the "prayer request" tab, or by emailing the office at office@stpaulwilkesboro.org, or calling the office during regular office hours.

Bulletins are printed on Thursday mornings and requests submitted after that time will not be in the printed bulletin for that week, but may still be spoken. Prayer requests received by noon on Wednesday will be included in the weekly e-newsletter.
Please remember in your prayers: All who are ill or unemployed and those who are on our prayer list.

Rick Brockner, Jeff Smith

David Temple

Armed Forces
Let us pray for the safety of all our troops, especially Micha Duerk, Cole Griffith, Zach Necessary, Walker Pardue, Philip Southwell, Mark Stone, Jason Westmeyer, and all others who serve in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world.

Please send to the church office the addresses of troops with connections to
office@stpaulwilkesboro.org, especially those abroad.

The Lessons for December 19, 2021
Micah 5:2-5a
You, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
and he shall be the one of peace.

Psalm 80:1-7
Qui regis Israel
1 Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; *
shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.
2 In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, *
stir up your strength and come to help us.
3 Restore us, O God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
4 O Lord God of hosts, *
how long will you be angered
despite the prayers of your people?
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears; *
you have given them bowls of tears to drink.
6 You have made us the derision of our neighbors, *
and our enemies laugh us to scorn.
7 Restore us, O God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
Hebrews 10:5-10
When Christ came into the world, he said,
"Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body you have prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, 'See, God, I have come to do your will, O God'
(in the scroll of the book it is written of me)."
When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), then he added, "See, I have come to do your will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God's will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Luke 1:39-45(46-55)
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
[And Mary said,
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever."]
St. Paul's Episcopal Church | 336-667-4231 | office@stpaulwilkesboro.org | https://stpaulwilkesboro.org