E-newsletter | December 10, 2020
Hail Mary Strong and Sure
Over the last four weeks we have been traveling a journey that moves us from longing to anticipation; a long-awaited guest is about to arrive. On Sunday we will be swept up in Mary’s bold faith and courage; it is her strength, faith and daring that brings us to the threshold of Jesus’ birth.

Luke’s 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, 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, publicly, 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.

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 become flesh and blood. Through Mary’s fierce persistence and survival against threat she shows us how to give birth to God’s 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.
Since March of we have been traveling a road none of us could have anticipated; it is a journey that has tested us. As the vaccine rolls out into our hospitals and nursing homes we can anticipate the beginning of the end of this trying time. We have a few more miles to travel yet, but Mary comes just in time with a display of courage and strength that we can follow.

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+

Christmas FOOD (Flower) Donations
Get Your Memorials In
Time is Running Out!


This year instead of donating toward our Christmas flowers, our donations will go to feed our neighbors at North Wilkesboro Housing and the North Wilkesboro Food Bank. In these times of Pandemic we want our Christmas love and joy to spread from our faith community out into the community at large.

Just as with our Christmas flowers, your donations can be in honor of someone you love. Suggested donation is $10-$15.00 and your monies will buy food boxes that will help our neighbors celebrate with a Christmas dinner!

Make your checks payable to St. Paul's and please write Christmas food in the memo line. We look forward to sharing your generosity of spirit with our neighbors this Christmas.

Live Streaming



We can now enjoy live-streaming on Sunday Morning at
9:30 AM and we are offering expanded opportunities with a ZOOM coffee hour (see permanent link below). If you are a little
technophobic please notify Mother Stephanie and she or someone else will be happy to teach the ways of Zoom!

On Christmas Eve we will have one live-streamed service beginning with LIVE music at 3:45 and Liturgy beginning at 4PM.

Our worship at 4 will be followed by an opportunity for those who watched the service to receive communion (individually wrapped wafers
consecrated during Christmas Eve worship) from your vehicles.

Please notify Mother Stephanie at
to SIGN UP and receive instructions.

Blue Christmas Labyrinth Walk
Monday, December 21st at 4PM
Coventry Chapel and Labyrinth

For so many the Christmas season comes with sadness and tender anniversaries in which we are thrown into a time of grief as we remember those who are no longer here to celebrate the joy of the season with us.

For still others, memories of Christmas' past are still a difficult burden and in the midst of demands to be happy we go further in the opposite direction.

A Blue Christmas service is a sacred and holy way to ground that sadness, burden or grief and to remind you that God will meet you right where you are, just as you are.

Join Sheree Sloop and gather with others who need this tender consolation.

Ramona Curtis and Ruth Harris are in the process of updating the church directory from 2018. If you’ve had any changes since 2018 to your phone numbers, mailing address, email address, or if you want to be added or deleted, or if you know someone that you would like to add, please email your changes/requests to:
Thank you for helping us with these updates.
Join us for Worship on YouTube or on our website!
St. Paul’s Zoom Coffee Hour
Our live-streamed service begins at 9:30 to be followed by a time of fellowship at

If you are not yet Zoom proficient please contact Mother Stephanie at rector@stpaulwilkesboro.org and she will help you!
Join Zoom Meeting by clicking on the link below:
Meeting ID: 851 9114 3705
Passcode: Coffee20 
Children, Youth, and Families are invited to join a family fun night of Zoom trivia on Sunday, December 13th at 5:00pm. We will also discuss how we might present a virtual Christmas pageant this year.
Email Rachel (rachlhawkins@gmail.com) to RSVP!
Fill the Box to Overflowing before Christmas
Your offerings of deodorant for Hospitality House were greatly appreciated! You did so well that we are going to do it again.
Disposable Razors, Rolaids and Tums.
The box is back out in front of the office and we want to collect as much as we can to offer to them by Christmas. Thank you in advance for the avalanche of Razors, Tums and Rolaids to come!
Candidates For Vestry Announced!

We are delighted to announce that three excellent candidates for Vestry service have said yes! Carol Canter, Joe Fesperman, and Gwen Temple will be presented at the Annual Meeting on Sunday, January 27th. The Annual Meeting will be held by Zoom and details are in process, but please mark your calendars to join us on that day following our streamed service.

In the continuing work of our process of healing and reconciliation from recent events, it is the deepest desire of the rector and Vestry to have a transparent process in which all questions are welcome.

The Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church do not require either contested elections or the nomination of candidates from the floor. The Vestry selection process is governed by Parish by-laws. The pertinent section of St. Paul's reads as follows:

6.a. The nominating team shall consist of the outgoing members of the Vestry whose terms are expiring and the rector.
b. Vestry will review number of Vestry seats needed each year.
7.The nominating team shall meet November-December each year prior to the date of the vestry meeting to review nominations that have been compiled through a variety of means. A list consisting of qualified candidates will be recommended to the Vestry to fill the number of empty seats. Approved nominees will be presented at the Annual Meeting and nominations from the floor will be permitted if the person(s) have agreed to stand for election prior to the meeting and meets all other qualifications.

St. Paul's By-laws were amended by the Vestry in October to reflect the desire for transparency and have been amended to allow for nominations from the floor. This will probably be amended again to remove this provision as a transparent process of invitation and selection should suffice, but in the interest of healing we wanted to leave that option open for this year.

As noted previously, per Parish by-laws, the Vestry selection team is made up of the Vestry Members whose term of service is over and the Rector/Interim Rector/Priest in Charge/Vicar. This year Mother Stephanie was joined by Dave Barton, Ruth Harris, and Tana Myers.

After prayerful reflection they began a two part process of invitation that included names from the Selection Team and an invitation to the wider parish for names to be added for consideration. In the course of these invitations three excellent candidates were invited and consented to volunteer for Vestry service.

It is our goal to fill these three seats for a total of ten seats this year and only nine seats next year so that the size of the vestry more accurately represents the size of our parish.

As always, you are invited and encouraged to reach out to Mother Stephanie or a member of the Vestry if you have any questions or concerns about this process. The Book of Common Prayer states that our primary mission is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. Your Interim Rector and Vestry believe deeply in this mission and we hope to join with all of you in unleashing the joy, vibrancy, and hope of this wonderful parish!

Well Done Good and Faithful Servant

It is with sadness, but sure and certain hope of the resurrection that we share the death of Doug Rhodes father.

Spencer 'Bud' Rhodes
Bud joined the saints in light on December 14th.
Please keep Doug and his family in your prayers.

The Nov/Dec/Jan
Forward Day by Day
are here and in the brass mailbox by the front door of the office.
Readers and Altar Guild for December, 2020

Readers for Live Stream Service
Dec. 20 - Nancy Scroggs
Dec. 24 - Cindy Smith
Dec. 27 - Mary Anne Caplinger

Altar Guild
Dec. 20 - Mary & Mike Southwell
Dec 24 - Pam & Drew Mayberry
Dec. 27 - Mary Anne Caplinger & Tom Carnes

Dec. 18 - Lisa Beard
Dec. 18 - Naomi Faw
Dec. 20 - Caleb Hawkins

Dec. 20 - Bob and Alline Skees
Prayer Requests
Outside of a few long-term prayer needs, our prayer list begins fresh on the first Sunday of every month. To keep someone on the prayer list please refresh your request on the last Wednesday of the previous month to make our printing deadline.

Prayer requests can be made by emailing the office at office@stpaulwilkesboro.org
or by 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.
Prayer List

Please remember in your prayers: All who are ill or unemployed and those who are on our prayer list.
Jim Andrews, Pam Baugh, Robert Baugh, Bella, David Blair, Nancy Blair,
John Brame, Thomas Dellinger, John Farris, Laura Gentry, Karen Hennig, Margo Hurd,
Barbara Kepley, Ken Love, Tony Lyall, Misty Millsaps, Tyler Olender,
Jordan Samuel, Rebecca Shaw, Linda Sloop, Jeff Smith, Delores Weaver,
Bob Webber, Donna Webber

Armed Forces
Let us pray for the safety of all our troops, especially
Dr. Matthew Cage
Edward Colville Griffith
Zach Necessary Walker Pardue
Philip Southwell
Mark Stone
Lt. Col. Patrick Szvetitz
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
especially those abroad
Fourth Sunday of Advent

The Lessons for December 20, 2020
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
When the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, "See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent." Nathan said to the king, "Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you."

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.

Romans 16:25-27

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith-- to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

Misericordias Domini

1 Your love, O Lord, for ever will I sing; *
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.
2 For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever; *
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.
3 "I have made a covenant with my chosen one; *
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:
4 'I will establish your line for ever, *
and preserve your throne for all generations.'"
19 You spoke once in a vision and said to your faithful people: *
"I have set the crown upon a warrior
and have exalted one chosen out of the people.
20 I have found David my servant; *
with my holy oil have I anointed him.
21 My hand will hold him fast *
and my arm will make him strong.
22 No enemy shall deceive him, *
nor any wicked man bring him down.
23 I will crush his foes before him *
and strike down those who hate him.
24 My faithfulness and love shall be with him, *
and he shall be victorious through my Name.
25 I shall make his dominion extend *
from the Great Sea to the River.
26 He will say to me, 'You are my Father, *
my God, and the rock of my salvation.'

Next Week's Scripture
First Sunday after Christmas

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Galatians 3:23-23; 4:4-7
John 1:1-18
Psalm 147
St. Paul's Episcopal Church | 336-667-4231 | office@stpaulwilkesboro.org | https://stpaulwilkesboro.org