June 11, 2020
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Rector's Message

I have been thinking about our online worship over the past months. The internet, digital media, these things are not really "virtual." They are not unreal, somehow not part of the world. The electrons buzzing about, not to mention the servers, wires, routers, laptops and smartphones are part of God's creation, as is our experience mediated by these tools.

A couple of our Eucharistic prayers have this phrase, "we offer this bread and wine, which earth has given and human hands have made." The created order gives us wheat and grapes, we make of it bread and wine to offer God. Likewise, creation gives us light, human ingenuity has taken this and channeled it into our digital world.

All this to say, if our digital reality is still part of creation, it is capable of bearing God. This question was settled when the church allowed icons and visual representation to be part of Christian worship. Anything in creation can be an icon or it can be an idol. If it is a mirror, in which we worship ourselves, it is an idol. If a created object is a means of grace, it is an icon, a window of God's light shining on us. 

We have been worshiping over Facebook and now Zoom for the past couple of months. Now we are making plans as to how to reopen, which is everyone's wish. However, digital worship is here to stay. It has not been what we wanted, but it has served a purpose; it has helped maintain a level of community, and it will continue to serve this purpose for some as we go forward.

Our prayers together have not been "virtual" worship. It has been real worship. I have been nourished by worshiping with you online. Even as we regather, we will continue to be gathered on Facebook live, and continue to receive God's grace in person or online. God's light always finds its way to us.
Sunday's Service
 Join us Sunday for Holy Eucharist at 9:30 AM on Facebook.

And, beginning this week, also on Zoom.

To view the service on Zoom (go to Zoom.com to sign up for a free account) use this link . (This will change every week.)

If you don't have Facebook or Zoom connections, you can call into the audio part of the service by calling any one of these numbers:

 312 626 6799   
929 205 6099
301 715 8592
346 248 7799
669 900 6833
253 215 8782

(Note, if you don't have toll free long distance calling you might incur a long distance charge for these numbers. )

To join via Facebook, go to the church Facebook page at the appropriate time and look for the window showing that "St. Paul's Key West is now live." Click on the window.

You can open or download the bulletin for the Sunday service here .

Good News and Moving Forward
The Search Committee has finished its draft profile and submitted it to the vestry for approval. If all goes as planned the profile will be approved at the vestry meeting on June 17th. Once the vestry approves, the profile goes to the bishop's office in Miami for approval. Assuming no issues there, it can be published, which opens the path for candidates to be our new rector to begin contacting the committee.

The entire parish owes a debt of gratitude to Bruce Hagemann, Lilla Whiteside, (co-chairs) and Tiffany Hendry, Don Curry, Dave Eyer, Lisa Laskow, Clare Heller and Kyle Campbell for their work. It is a beautiful document that captures the heart and soul of St. Paul's.

Meantime, a committee of parishioners has been working diligently to create a plan to reopen the church for both services and for visitors. As we all know, perhaps alone in the diocese of Southeast Florida, St. Paul's is also a shrine and tourist destination. Many who never attend services find solace in our sacred space.

The requirements set out by the diocese for re-opening are daunting but designed to ensure the maximum possible safety for both parishioners and visitors. The re-opening committee has been working on two tracks. One addresses how we can safely conduct our services. The other addresses how we can safely reopen our landmark treasure to casual visitors during the week -- both with an eye toward safety.

Kudos to Brian Wagstaff, Susanne Woods, Lilla Whiteside, Kim Grizzle-Malgrat, Greta Philip-Ford, Ray Warren and Father Steve for this hard work. Much is still unknown about the novel coronavirus, but rest assured that all issues are being discussed.

With luck (keeping in mind that there is much to be submitted, reviewed and approved) we will have the ability to worship together in July. But, knowing that all cannot, or may choose not to, attend, the virtual services will continue to be offered. We have learned (as Father Steve outlines above) being in community can take many forms.
Senior Warden Notes
Ray Warren
It is exciting news that our Search Committee is moving forward. From the time Father Larry told us he was leaving for a well earned retirement, we knew that the journey before us would be different. But none of us knew how different.

In May of 2019 our interim rector arrived. (It’s always cruel to bring newcomers to Key West in the summer. Many of us are acclimated, but I found myself constantly promising Steve and Jen that the “other” six months would be better.)

Steve’s first summer was difficult. An interim's job is to push us to face things we had not confronted. One of them was our budget.

St. Paul’s is fortunate to have a devoted and generous congregation. But the days when every local official (whatever her or his personal piety) felt the need to attend church are over. We had been running a structural deficit for several years. We were depending on last minute gifts from estates and individuals to make things right. Steve rightly insisted that we choose a more sustainable path.

The path was not comfortable. We ended up eliminating two full time positions once occupied by much loved incumbents. But it put us on the path the sustainability. And, In the face of Covid-19, thanks to your faithfulness, we are afloat. But only because of painful decisions made in 2019.

Next, the generous folks who had handled details for our Fantasy Fest fundraiser notified the parish, on short notice, that they would be unable to continue. That launched a frantic effort by the volunteers to learn the ropes and rescue a major church event. In the midst of it all was our minister, his spouse and a dozen faithful volunteers. The image of the former Dean of the Indianapolis cathedral and his wife sweating along with the rest of us – Conchs and wannabes alike - was inspiring.

Then came Covid. What to do? Before the diocese took control, the wardens and the priest had decided to close the church to tourists on Friday afternoon to protect our parishioners on Sunday. Putting the signs up on the church and locking the gates was one of the saddest days of my life. The fact that the doors of St. Paul's were open every day was a primal part of our identity.

Then, word came from Miami that all church services would be canceled. And the world changed again.

Once we were reduced to a virtual world, it drove me crazy to have a few prominent parishioners suggest that the priest had “less” to do. Nothing could be further from the truth. My sisters and brothers, there is so much more to being the shepherd than preaching on Sunday.

With only a part time staff, our rector (now and in the future) must learn about construction and repairs. In the Covid age she or he must learn about technologies she or he never used before. (Hello Facebook Live, Zoom, Youtube, etc.) In a connected church there are endless consultations with our spiritual leaders in Miami. (Skipping those is not an option.)

Then there is the painful task of comforting the families of the virus victims without being allowed to touch or visit formally.

There is not enough room to describe all we ask of a priest. Going forward, our shepherd will work with limited staff and a physical structure that is both magnificent and in need of major rehabilitation.

We have been fortunate to have Father Steve, but he can’t stay for us forever. So, with him, and when the new person is appointed, please be kind.

People are called to God’s service, but when they report to duty they sometimes find their work includes crumbling stones, viruses, economic challenges and 100 million other things beyond the Gospel they hope to preach.

Pray for Steve and whoever follows as if their success depends on it.

Because it does.
Please Take The Survey

The Reopening Committee has to plan for the first few weeks when St. Paul's is again gathered in the church for services. To do this it is absolutely vital for members to offer feedback as to who will or will not attend services in the first few weeks (and what measures will be most reassuring to those who do attend).

Please take the survey and let the committee know your plans and concerns. Anyone can answer the survey, but it is especially important for those who may attend services in the summer (July - September). Again, here is the link to the survey.

Weekly Events

Tim Peterson "From the Organ"

Each Thursday at noon, St. Paul's music director Tim Peterson presents an informative program on music.

Access the program live each week from the Church Facebook page. After the live session, the program remains available on the Facebook Page to watch on you own schedule.

Morning and Evening Prayer

Daily Morning and Evening Prayer is being offered on Facebook Live at 730 AM and 5 PM on weekdays. Fr. Steve is offering a short meditation during Evening Prayer, Monday - Thursday.

Thanks to Mary Simmons and Bruce Hagemann for volunteering to officiate some of the days!

To join in the prayers via Facebook, go to the church  Facebook page  at the appropriate time and look for the window showing that "St. Paul's Key West is now live." Then click on the window.

"Like" us and turn on live notifications to get a reminder whenever we are offering prayers. 

Know Your History

(From our resident church historian, Dave Eyer.)  

Judge William Marvin (1808-1902)

Judge Marvin was born in Fairfield, Herkimer County of upstate New York in 1808 to Selden Marvin (1779-1832) and Charlotte Pratt Marvin (1779-1816). He had 6 siblings and 6 half siblings from his father’s second marriage.

Judge Marvin was admitted to the bar and practiced law in New York and Maryland in 1830. By 1835 he had moved to Key West and was appointed the United States District Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. He quickly became one of the most prominent members of St Paul’s Church after important judiciary appointments as Judge of the Superior Court of the Southern District of the Territory of Florida. 

In 1847, and thereafter, it was as Judge of The United States District Court where he made his mark as the “Wrecking Judge”. He was noted for setting high standards for the wrecking industry and strict enforcement of the wrecking laws many of which he established during his tenure. It is important for the reader to understand “wrecking” involved the recovery of injured passengers and crew, cargo and re- floating and recovery of ships that had been grounded on the treacherous reef off Key West. The reef extends from the Dry Tortuga Islands and Fort Jefferson to the 75 miles west of Key West nearly 200 miles to north of Miami.

Wrecking as practiced in coastal Florida was not as described in the wonderful 1936 novel “Jamaica Inn” by Daphne du Maurier - where warning lights were moved in storms causing ships to wreck. In the novel, the unfortunate vessels were then beset by vicious thugs who robbed the cargo and murdered survivors of the initial grounding.

In reality, sad to say, before the lighthouse system on the reef offshore Key West was established in the 1840 -1850 decade, the masters of many vessels were quite able to run aground unassisted with great loss of life and property.

Watchers were stationed at vantage points in Key West and along the keys to look for vessels stuck on the reef. It was often a race to get to the stricken vessel. The master of the vessel was not obligated to employ a wrecker if he could get the vessel free himself but that was not usually possible. Usually the first licensed wrecker to get to the vessel got the job. The only way to free most vessels was to unload her so it could float free. The tidal range here is not sufficient to justify waiting for high water if you ran aground at low tide

Wrecking in the Florida Keys was an honorable, dangerous, multi-racial, difficult and well paying task. When a ship wrecked, the insurance companies usually quickly paid the owner of the vessel and the party that owned the cargo. It was usually attorneys for the insurance companies and the wreckers themselves who pleaded their cases before Judge Marvin.

The cargo recovered from the wrecked ships was brought ashore to warehouses that still exist here including what is now the Waterfront Playhouse, Clinton Square, and Pepe’s Restaurant. Periodically auctions were held that were advertised throughout the maritime world. Division of the money derived from these auctions was what was argued before Judge Marvin.

The insurance company attorneys usually argued recovery of vessels and goods by the wreckers should be considered an act of Christian charity. The wreckers argued that without their dangerous work all would have been lost. It was up to Judge Marvin to determine who got what of the auction proceeds and the value of the vessels saved.

“Wreckers “ were licensed and the most prominent, including William Curry and Asa Tift, were also St Paul’s members. Judge Marvin’s first wife was Harriette Newell Foote (1814-1848). They married Oct 15, 1846. Harriette died in 1848 less than six months after the birth of the couple’s only child Harriette “Hattie” Foote Marvin (1847-1910). Hattie married Marshall Independence Ludington (1839- 1919).  
Sunday school is canceled during the virus emergency.
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These communications are currently edited by Senior Warden Ray Warren. Send questions and comments to the editor   here .