Farnham & St. John's
Torrence's Weekly Message
“From the Mountain”

We may be “river” folks here at Farnham and St. John’s, but this week we turn our eyes to the mountains.

Why the mountains this week? Because this coming Sunday our Gospel passage offers us a
mountain time “high”. As we find Christ and three of his disciples on one as we celebrate the Transfiguration of Jesus. Something about that mountain air giving Jesus a glowing appearance. And giving the disciples with him an experience of clarity. There is something about a mountaintop offering a 360 degree vision of the world around and below. There is something about mountain air offering a clarity, a crispness that the heavier moister air of the lowlands, the land at lower sea levels, seems to mask. Mountains offer the opportunity to see things more clearly.

Mountains are so “biblical.”

On the third day of creation. God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” (Gen 1:9). I like to think that when the dry land appeared it wasn’t just a muddy flatland that emerged as the waters receded but a majestic mountain range.

Biblically, the ark rested on one (Mt. Ararat) after the one hundred fifty-day rainfall which
brought a flood of Biblical proportions. A flood which could have wiped out humanity and all living things. But then God’s compassion rose higher than the waters and caused the flood waters to recede and the ark came to rest on a mountaintop.

Then there is the story of Moses and the ten commandments on Mt. Sinai. God calls Moses up the mountain to receive God’s word to be spoken to God’s people and then lived forward by them in their covenantal relationship with their Creator. Speaking of words, in the Gospel good news of Christ’s life, there is the Sermon on the Mount as the Gospel of Matthew offers his version of Jesus’ Beatitudes. Words of comfort and restoration to a people seeking both as they spill out of the lower land and come to the hills.

Mountains are places of refuge and retreat. In last Sunday’s gospel after Jesus has been
surrounded by those seeking healing in the little town of Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee, he seems overwhelmed and exhausted. That evening he goes out to “a deserted place’ into those hills that ring the northern Galilee around the sea of Galilee. There Jesus found peace; also clarity on the way forward for him, his next steps in his beginning ministry. People have always sought the calm of hills and the “high places” to reach out to God and to be reached by God – to hear the voice of God.

“I lift my eyes up to the hills, from where will my help come?” The Psalmist’s answers his own question: “My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

It is so natural to seek out special places in creation when we are desperate for help, for clarity, for discerning a way forward, or a way through tough times. For when we need comfort and assurance. In my life, I admit that places with water (the ocean, the river) have been essential “go to” places for refuge, for calm, for peace, for when times are confusing, and for times when I have needed comfort and sought even some degree of serenity of spirit. However, the mountains have also offered something unique when I have needed some or all of the above. As a child remembering vacation times in the mountains, summer camp times in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, later as a young adult finding strength in hiking mountain trails deep in mountain forests or following a mountain stream carving its own path around boulders in its way, enriching the soil beneath and beside it. The mountain has its own song, the wind in the trees,
the rushing streams – a song that doesn’t lull, but that seems to offer a deep and powerful energy that lifts the spirit. And I have learned lessons from the hawks that rest on powerful and unseen wind currents that weave through the open spaces so high above the valleys. Mountains are landscapes that reach up to the heavens as if to seek the face of God.

I now spend time, from time to time, in the mountain landscape around Boone, N. C. where some of my family live. It offers respite and I find my energy refreshed and renewed. There is something about feeling very embraced, safe, and protected when I am among mountains. They seem immovable, timeless, protective, comforting, like perhaps what at times in my life, I have needed from God.

Recently, I spent a week in those mountains, because that’s where I could finally get my COVID shot. It was a time of reflection, back over this past year. A year in which we could not make sense of it all – all the upsetting of life, the dis-ease taking it over, the stress and anxiety over the health and safety of those we hold dear, wondering where and when our help would come. Wondering how and when life as we need to live it in abundant and healthy ways would be restored. During my time there Psalm 121 slipped softly, gently, simply into my consciousness, my heart, my prayers, as I watched light, snow, sleet, wind, night, day move around the mountain outside the windows of the place in which I was sheltering. A mountain which neither slumbered nor slept but watched over and through it all.

In a couple of weeks we will begin a study time with the Psalms and prayer. I offer below the words of Psalm 121. Offered for your prayer and reflection. May its words, its message sustain you, nourish you, calm you, comfort you, grace your life right now and in the days to come. As you pray it may it bring you peace, as it has me.

By God’s Amazing Grace, may it be so. 
Psalm 121

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
  from where will my help come?

2 My help comes from the Lord,
  who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved;
  he who keeps you will not slumber.

4 He who keeps Israel
  will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
  the Lord is your shade at your right

6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
  nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
  he will keep your life.

8 The Lord will keep
  your going out and your coming in
  from this time on and for evermore.
In the Mountains - "A Place Apart" 

Shrine Mont the beautiful Diocesan Retreat Center in the western mountains of Virginia has been welcoming folks for decades. Our Diocese of Virginia "cathedral" is located there, The Shrine of the Transfiguration, which was consecrated on Transfiguration Sunday almost 95 years ago. Some of you remember the wonderful fall parish weekend we celebrated together (St. John's, Farnham and Cople Parish) two years ago. I am sharing two offerings of information, linked here, one about 2021 upcoming special events at Shrine Mont, the other with information about availability of lodgings there for individual, family,and group gatherings that are open, now. Consider the possibility of a mountain experience as 2021 unfolds with your comfort, safety and enjoyment as Shrine Mont's greatest hope for you. Also, please be aware that I will be working towards another fall parish weekend for our parishes there in 2021 Details will follow in the next couple of months.

We thank Shrine Mont for permission to the use their picture as the background for this E-pistle.
A big "Thank You" to outgoing Vestry members, Kim Calvert & Ed Elliott from Farnham and Arline Hinkson & Brother Mark Jenkins from St. John's and Congratulations to Brenda Harhai & Stan Terhune at Farnham and Barbara Jean LeFon & Anne Neuman at St. John's for being elected to the 2021 Vestries!

The new officers at St. John's are:
  • Sr. Warden - Courtenay Altaffer
  • Jr. Warden - Priscilla Wellford
  • Treasurers: Disbursements - Anne Neuman
  • Receiving: - David Gallagher
  • Endowments: - Barbara Jean LeFon
  • Register: - Paula Milsted

The new officers at Farnham will be elected at next week's meeting of the new vestry.
Drop by and drop in

The office may be closed at this time, but the office mail slot is not.
Thanks to Carter and Priscilla Wellford for installing the office's wonderful, big new mail slot.
Isn't it beautiful. And it is just waiting to have you stop by and drop in whatever you have to offer.
A great suggestion is any 2021 pledge payments, placed in a sealed envelop with the envelope notation "Pledge Keeper" then "St. John's" or "N. Farnham"

Just think - you'll save the price of a stamp.
Dropped in mail will be collected a couple of times a week and we'll make sure whatever you deliver gets to the appropriate "addressee."
Ash Wednesday Services

Please note that there will be two zoom services on Ash Wednesday, February 17th: One at noon and one at 7 p.m. Attend whichever one suits your schedule!
Mark your Calendars for the Upcoming Lenten Series:
"Prayer Works: Praying with the Psalms"
Tuesdays, February 23, March 2, 9, 16, 23

A blend of bible study, prayer, reflection, conversation

Two options: A morning 10 a.m. session; an evening 7 p.m. session
By Zoom
More details to follow
Services & Sermons
The Zoom links for meetings and services will be e-mailed to the congregations. The link for this Sunday's service has been posted to our web-site, farnhamwithstjohns.org. It will be updated next Tuesday to the links for the two Ash Wednesday services. Zoom links are the third item in the dropdown menu on the left hand side of the page.
Sunday, February 14th  

10 am Combined Service of Morning Prayer
by Zoom

including homily

Diocesan Sermon by
the Rt. Rev. Susan Goff

Wed., February 17th  

Ash Wednesday
services via Zoom

12:00 noon
7:00 p.m.

Sunday, February 21st  

10 am Combined Service of Morning Prayer
by Zoom

including homily

Diocesan Sermon by
The Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton, Bishop of Maryland
Sunday, February 28th  

10 am Combined Service of Morning Prayer
by Zoom

including homily

Diocesan Sermon by
Rt. Rev. Phoebe Roaf, Bishop of West Tennessee
The Parish Prayer List
for those in need of God's comfort and healing:
Courtenay Altaffer
Martha Berger
Randall Bone
Sue Bowie
Nancy Allin Bush
Pat Damion
Constance Edwards
Bob File
David Gallagher
Regina Griggs
Barbara Grander
The Rev. Howard Hanchey
Weir Harman
Billy Hooper
Rebecca Hubert
Marcia Jenkins
Stephanie, Nick & Donovan Kaywork
Jim & Sharon Krider
Mary Douglas Lawton
The Rt. Rev. Peter Lee
Barbara Leiter
Susan Lewis
Rich Lyman
Frank Lynch
Susannah Marais
Pat Merkel
Tommy Neuman
Judi Newman
Kirsten Palubinski
James Rynd
Marsha Rynd
Debbie Belfield Stacks
Scott Strickler
Waldy Sulik
Billy Tennyson
Roclyn Tennyson
John Welch, II
Matthew Yates
Rose Mary Zellner and
all the victims of COVID 19
and for those serving in our armed forces:
Royce Baker
David Berger
Ryan Berger
Allen Crocker
Randy Crocker
Court Garretson
Cameron Heidenreich
Dan Heidenreich
Charles Jones
Daniel Kirk
Mark Lawton
Scott Longar
Luis Loya
Christopher Strickler
Gavin Wade McClung
and Travis Pullen
We also pray for those who have died:
Dr. John Clark Barber
John Livingstone Packett
Upcoming Birthdays & Anniversaries
Feb. 8th – Steve Foster
Feb. 15th – Brenda & G.W. Goddin
Feb. 15th – Eva Milsted
Feb. 17th - Barbara Jean LeFon
The Episcopal Church Welcomes You!

Our services at Farnham & St. John's this coming Sunday have been replaced by annual congregational Zoom meetings. The link for these meetings is on our website farnhamwithstjohns.org
North Farnham Church
St. John's Church