E-newsletter | September 17, 2020

Wilderness and Wandering

“The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.”

Ah, the wilderness; the place where we find ourselves lost and wandering between those times in life when we’ve left the past behind, but have not quite yet reached our future.  This wilderness wandering comes to us right on time as we confront the reality of Covid-19 and its impact on our lives and also as we travel through this interim time. The Israelites wandering in the desert can teach us a tender lesson about our own experiences of being lost, and hungry in our own desperate wanderings through this time of deep uncertainty; where everything familiar is in flux.

At this point the Israelites have fled the bondage of slavery and they are only a month or so into their exodus from Egypt, just long enough for supplies to begin to run low. This desert wilderness is Israel’s proving ground; it is the place where a people first attempt to shape their lives and hearts to God as a free people.

The wilderness is a place we all fear in some way, but it seems to be the richest and most fertile place to discover how God is always present and at work in our lives, even when we fear God has forgotten us; God is working on our hearts and minds.

The wilderness is an important and repeating theme in our sacred stories.  It is always the place in which God’s people experience real transformation. And some of our most profound teachings are offered from people who are just out of a wilderness experience.

John the Baptist came out of the wilderness and Jesus emerges from his temptation in the wilderness to begin his ministry. 

But John and Jesus are part of a long tradition: Elijah found his truth in the wilderness and David hid from Saul in the wilderness; it was where he grew from a confused boy into a king.

And of course, there is no greater wilderness experience than that of the people of Israel who will emerge from the Wilderness to enter at last into freedom. 

In theological terms, the wilderness experiences are those that serve as “liminal experiences”. Liminal means “on the threshold.” So a liminal experience is one that finds us in “the space in between.” These are important times in faith community; times when we stand with the past at our backs, but the future is still a bit uncertain. A threshold experience such as the one we are living is very similar to the wilderness experience in our scripture.

And, it is in these liminal times that we are given a chance to redefine ourselves. An interim time in the church is the invitation to redefine our focus, our ministries, our identity, just to name a few.

On Sunday we will meet the Israelites in this “now, but not yet place” and they are fast developing a tendency toward grumbling about their fate. It quickly becomes apparent that they are unable to cope as free people. 
In the first blush of their deliverance they already invoke the fleshpots of Egypt; nostalgia takes hold and they reminisce about a hearty diet.

In another story of these wanderings they say “We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.” 

But in these remembrances, as a colleague once said, they have conveniently forgotten that they ate for free because they worked for free. Pharaoh provided them with fish and all the trimmings but only so they could make more bricks, cut more stone, move more blocks.

As I just mentioned, they were suffering horribly from what we call nostalgia. 

As research professor Dr. Brene Brown says. “Nostalgia sounds relatively harmless, even like something to indulge in with a modicum of comfort, until we examine the two Greek root words that form nostalgia: nostos, meaning “returning home,” and algos, meaning “pain.” Romanticizing our history, our past to relieve pain is seductive. But it is also dangerous.”

It is not to say the past in itself is painful, though often it is, but it is to say that living in a romanticized past can kill our future hope and create needless suffering.

We see this in the Israelites journey. Not only is their memory of their past incredibly flawed, it is actually preventing them from becoming more, from growing into their future with God.

When we feel like we are losing control of our lives or the world feels too chaotic, we too tend to look backwards and we turn the past into a golden time it likely never was. All of life is growth and change and all of life has times of suffering and times of uncertainty. 

Trying to hold back the future or attempting to stop time by living in the past can become a living death. Especially for a church. God always leads us into desert places, God is always calling us to step out in faith and travel into an unknown future.

In a well-established parish like ours it is a particularly seductive danger. As the Holy Spirit moves through always creating and recreating, an attachment to the past can stop the Holy Spirit in its tracks. If we are not careful we can become caretakers of the past instead of midwives of the future. Often, we do this subconsciously, we talk of the future while keeping a death grip on the past.

Just as God pushes the Israelite’s into the desert toward their freedom and future, God calls us into the desert into between space as well. But the promise is that in these desert places of growth and transformation, God always provides everything we need to grow and thrive. Manna from heaven will always be given to us.

But, the place between where we’ve been and where we really want to be definitely tests us. It forces us to really find out what we are made of and what we really believe. The wilderness is the place that strips us bare and reveals our weaknesses. This is a great gift that teaches us where we need to grow.

In all our wilderness wanderings we never need to fear the future because we have learned to trust that God is present with us in all times. The wilderness is always where we rediscover ourselves and find the courage to embrace true freedom; the wilderness is a place rich with the wonders of God; the place where we will always be fed.

Grace and Peace,
Mother Stephanie  

September 20th Service - Sign Up Today and Join Us!

There is still space available to attend the 8:30am and the 10:00am service in the Outdoor Chapel (Labyrinth) this coming
Sunday, September 20th.

We are permitted 35 or less so if you would like to worship in person with mask on and social distancing in place, please reserve your spot by emailing the office at stpaulwilkesboro.org.

Service will be held WEATHER PERMITTING
Can't be with us in person? Join us for Worship on YouTube or click on the link on our website!
We have had great feedback on our first round of Meet & Greets. People enjoyed meeting Mother Stephanie in person as well as visiting with a small group of their church family.

The group is small, the space is large and masks are worn.
Mother Stephanie looks forward to meeting you soon!
Meet Mother Stephanie

In these Covid-19 times, we’ve tried to come up with a creative way we can meet and welcome Mother Stephanie to St. Paul’s. Following Covid-19 guidelines, we will start out with small groups with social distancing and masks required.

St. Paul’s will host a floating Meet & Greet for Mother Stephanie on

Sunday, September 27th - 11:30, 12:30, 1:30

in the Parish House. 

This will be a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know Mother Stephanie and even better, an opportunity for her to get to know us. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, there will be a signup sheet limited to ten people per hour. There will be three Meet & Greets with the first one beginning at 11:30a.m., 12:30p.m., and 1:30p.m. Lite Bites and lemonade will be individually served. 

If you would like to attend one of these venues:

Please call or email Ruth Harris
336.984.9690 or rharris122aol.com

with your preferred time to reserve your place. We may schedule more dates in the future. If you would like to attend, but you are physically unable to, please call Ruth Harris to discuss other options. 

Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 restrictions, you will not be able to attend without signing up.  
Worship Notes:
Updated 9-17-20!

We have begun the Worship Services on Wednesdays at 1:00 PM that will be posted on YouTube for those who are not yet able to join us in person on Sunday. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, this service is primarily limited to clergy, readers and worship support ministries like Altar Guild. But, we are excited to invite up to three more people to join us for this worship!

If you would like to attend please contact Vanessa at office@stpaulwilkesboro.org

An addition to this service that may be somewhat familiar to you from the early days of Covid-19 is another version of Father Steve's prayer for Spiritual Communion. You will hear it at the Eucharist and it is a reminder that through the power of the holy Spirit those at home are spiritually gathered with those in the Chapel.

If you want to follow along with the worship you can find the bulletin on St. Paul's webpage that is the service booklet for the on-line service.

Continual adjustments to accommodate the ever changing realities of Covid-19 means that some of our ministries are temporarily very different than what we are used to. Please say a prayer for your Altar Guild members as they are on the forefront of dealing with worship services that are in constant revision. We thank you all!

And, as always, you are invited to contact me with any questions, comments or feedback.

Mother Stephanie
“It is solved by walking”
-St. Augustine (353-430)
In this difficult and uncertain time, while many of us are staying at home as much as possible and missing contact with our family, church family, and friends, I’ve felt the pull of the labyrinth and thought about how much it means to walk the labyrinth in community. I will be hosting an online Finger Labyrinth Walk and Meditation every Tuesday in September! We will meet in Zoom each Tuesday evening at 7:30 PM EDT.  I invite you to join me!! Please email me so I can send you a labyrinth to use for our “walk” and the Zoom link to attend.
Sheree Sloop—sloopcat60@gmail.com.

“The labyrinth literally reintroduces the experience of walking a clearly defined path. This reminds us that there is a path, a process that brings us to unity, to the center of our beings. In the simple act of walking, the soul finds solace and peace.”
 –Lauren Artress

Let's Create Something Beautiful Together
You are invited to join me in Zoom on October 24, 2020 beginning at 10:00am for a virtual Collage workshop. We will create a 12 X 12 inch, 7 circuit Classical Finger Labyrinth. Please let me know by October 1st if you plan to attend. Space is limited. I will send a supply list when you register.
Sheree Sloop – sloopcat60@gmail.com
July Minutes Now Available

The 2020 Vestry Meeting minutes are now available on St. Paul's website under Vestry.

Click button to go directly there
Readers for Virtual Service

Sept. 9 Nancy Scroggs
Sept. 16 Dick Sloop
Sept. 23 Tana Myers
Readers for September, 2020
8:30 AM

6 - Mary Southwell
13 - Tana Myers
20 - Denise Sturdivant
27 - Tom Carnes
10:00 AM

6 - Nancy Scroggs
13 - Steve Reid
20- Cindy Smith
27 - Maggie McCann

Sept. 20 - Tamara Burkenbine
Sept. 20 - Tina Duncan
Sept. 20 - Kitty Owens
Sept. 21 - Amelia Minick
Sept. 21 - Ron Myers
Sept. 22 - Alaina Grit
Sept. 22 - Angela Nardini
Sept. 23 - Dan Bumgarner
Sept. 23 - Larry Cline
Sept. 26 - Mary Anne Caplinger


Sept. 21 - Joe & Jenny Richardson
Sept. 28 - Tony & Sharon Lyall
Sept. 29 - Dick & Sheree Sloop
Prayer Requests

Prayer requests can be made online
or by calling the office during regular office hours.

Bulletins are printed on Wednesday 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 Tuesdays 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.
Mike Adams, Jim Andrews, Ken Asel, Pam Baugh, Robert Baugh, Dot Beamon, Betty Blevins, John Brame, Fern Brinkley, Jacob Brown, Paul Clark, Billy Coles, Rancene Cook, LaMar Creasman, Ann Davis, Jackie Davis, Thomas Dellinger, Mike Duncan, John Farris, Craig Freas, Estelle Gille, Mike Graf, Edward C. Griffith III, Bert Hall, Kaye Hall, Janet Hartzog, Larry Hendley, Jackson Hering, Steve Jackson, Lisa Lenderman, Lorraine Little, Ken Love, Blake Lovette, Pete Mann, Maggie McCann, Ann McNeill, Gus Newton, Bertie Pardue, Ryan Rigby, Stanley Sanders, Ann Self Sigmon, Beth Sims, Bob Skees, Linda Sloop, Carolyn Stephens, Shirley Sturdivant, Fanny Triplett, Mari-Claire Ucello, Marie Waddell, Robin Walsh, Delores Weaver, Bob Webber, Donna Webber, Kim Wyatt, Cole Younger

Armed Forces
Let us pray for the safety of all our troops, especially Rob Beauchaine, Matthew Cage, Alex Cline, Philip Cooney,  Karl Duerk, William Grant, Edward C. Griffith IV, Jacob B. Hall, Brandon Moore, Russ Necessary, Zach Necessary, John W. Pardue, Charlie & Lauren Pendry, Adam Pinkerton, Avery Smith, Philip Southwell, Mark Stone, Patrick Szvetitz, Jackson Triplett, Levi Walker, Jason Westmeyer, Nathan Wyatt, and all others who serve in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world.
The Lessons for September 20, 2020
Exodus 16:2-15

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.”
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’“ And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’“
In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45

1 Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name; *
make known his deeds among the peoples.
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him, *
and speak of all his marvelous works.
3 Glory in his holy Name; *
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
4 Search for the Lord and his strength; *
continually seek his face.
5 Remember the marvels he has done, *
his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,
6 O offspring of Abraham his servant, *
O children of Jacob his chosen.
37 He led out his people with silver and gold; *
in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.
38 Egypt was glad of their going, *
because they were afraid of them.
39 He spread out a cloud for a covering *
and a fire to give light in the night season.
40 They asked, and quails appeared, *
and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.
41 He opened the rock, and water flowed, *
so the river ran in the dry places.
42. For God remembered his holy word *
and Abraham his servant.
43 So he led forth his people with gladness, *
his chosen with shouts of joy.
44 He gave his people the lands of the nations, *
and they took the fruit of others' toil,
45 That they might keep his statutes *
and observe his laws.
Philippians 1:21-30

To me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God's doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well-- since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
St. Paul's Episcopal Church | 336-667-4231 | office@stpaulwilkesboro.org | https://stpaulwilkesboro.org