Dearest St. Mark’s Family,

I hope that this week finds you healthy, happy, and connected to those who show you God’s love.  Under usual circumstances, our church community would be leaning into planning a fall “semester” of formation, learning, worship, and gatherings. Still, in these unusual times, we are learning how to take it “one day at a time” and make plans loosely.  The end of July usually marks a shift for us around here because we begin to think about back to school events and how to rally together for that first gathering that will bring us “back” from summer.  Well, in some ways, we are still doing that; it just looks different than anything we could have imagined!

I believe this to be a good thing.

Now, don’t misread me.  I grieve the massive effect this pandemic has had on us as a community, a nation, and a world.  I am deeply saddened at the loss of life the virus has caused, and how this virus has highlighted our deep divisions in the country we love.  I’ve been emotional and hopeful all at the same time, and like many of us, I want this stuff just to go away.

But the virus isn’t going away this week, and the pandemic is causing us to plan differently, which is what I believe to be a good thing.

Planning differently for me means that I’m not as attached to the outcomes.  If this particular time has taught me anything, it is to hold on loosely to the reins of our plans.  As soon as I get set in the concrete of my assuredness, something new comes along!  Thanks be to God! (?)

There are a few things the St. Mark’s family is paying attention to that I think are exciting for us right now.  First, our adult formation group is working so hard to provide some great online options for learning in the fall.  Stay tuned for more about that or check out the website for some useful info.  

Second, our preschool is making plans that meet the needs of our families in new and exciting ways.  We’ve always been on the front edge of learning at St. Mark’s (in my biased opinion), and these two ministries highlight that practice.  Fr. Mike is working to develop some new connections with our college students, and Ms. Kris is finding new ways to bring faith formation into our homes.  Planning differently for us has been a wildly exciting (albeit challenging) new frontier for the St. Mark’s family in the fields of discipleship and formation!

As we plan differently, we want you to know that our primary goal is to keep the people of St. Mark’s connected as much as humanly possible.  From Back Porch Blessings to Zoom Compline, we are continuing to keep St. Mark’s weird (in the best possible sense). It helps me to know that we are working with a connection in mind even when we can’t be together.

Finally, earlier this week, I had a conversation with two beloved friends about updating our website, and an idea came to me that I want to share with you.  The differently planned concept centered around the notion that building our connection online (homepages, Facebook, etc…) is really like building a new campus that we inhabit together and bring into our most sacred spaces- our homes.  

Ten years ago, we moved from campus to our current location at 3039 RR 12. Since the late 1800s, Episcopalians in San Marcos have found a home at least four places, circumstances have caused us to plan differently before, and they will continue to do so for the life of this church family.  For almost 150 years, we have sought connection as the body of Christ, and we have always found new ways to do it together.  Since the earliest days, we have been the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement in San Marcos and beyond, and we have faithfully answered God’s call to see Christ and be Christ in our connection to one another and this community.

As we approach the next 150 years, I wonder if our different plans might hold something amazing for us that we couldn’t possibly imagine?  Programs change, and churches move, but God remains constant through it all.  I’m grateful that through pandemic and plans that go awry, we are brought together in that steadfast Love, Hope, and Peace.  Plan well, my friends, and know that God is doing something powerful in our midst, even when our plans get changed.

Oh, and never forget you are loved!
Peace,
Ben+
From the Director of Youth and Family Ministries
For where two are or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. 
- Matthew 18:20 -

Hmm, well what about when we cannot gather?! 

The point is to be in community. We were created to gather and not live in isolation. Let's remember that the Church (big C meaning the Church as people rather than fancy building) didn't start out gathering in fancy church buildings at all. 

"The first Christians ... were followers of the Way, trying to live as Jesus did. They gathered in homes, shared a common meal, read scripture, told the stories that Jesus told, took care of each other, shared their resources with those among them who were in need. The community measured faithfulness by how well its members practiced loving God and neighbor. Not offering hospitality was a much greater failing than not believing Jesus was 'truly God' and 'truly human". There was no church yet, no beautiful building with soaring arches and glowing stained glass, or whatever you picture when you hear that word. The community was the Church." -  Faith at Home - Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents  by Wendy Claire Barrie p. 33-34. Morehouse Publishing; New York, NY. 2016.* 

Jesus gathered people from all walks of life together including people the current church leaders found uncomfortable. The human Jesus draws us all together - no strings attached. As much as we were created for community, we were created to worship and that worship happens both in set aside and everyday moments. Now we have been made to go back to basics without all of the "stuff and things" that come with programming and our often over-busy schedules. Now, we can hit the reset button and be more intentional about setting time aside to remember how God has shown His love over time and in our own lives. If living with others, we can gather our own household or our own family with a mix of ages. All ages, even the youngest of children, are full participants in the life of the church. This is a family affair. We can live out our faith within our own household or nearby and now in this age, online! 

I want to say something specifically to families with little children. If you are able to gather your children to worship online together, this is a great time to talk "in church"! Ask open-ended questions. What do you notice? Narrate what is happening. If you cannot worship online together for now, that's okay! Notice the moments throughout the week where you see God at work. Going for walks, singing, and so often playing are acts of worship just as so many little everyday moments can be. Children are typically more tuned in to God's present that we first realize since they are learning to express themselves. 

Let's all keep reaching out to each other as able! We are all in this crazy time together! 
Kris Spilker
Director of Children and Family Ministries
New Communication Schedule
This summer, we are shifting to a new communication schedule here at St. Mark's. In an effort to remain connected with the broader St. Mark's community, we are shifting a few of the days which content will be made available! Most content will be primarily available on our St. Mark's Facebook page. If you have not liked the page, please do so. It will help you stay up to date with current information and details as we move forward in our life together. Here is our new communication schedule for the foreseeable future:


Worship
Sunday Morning Worship - Live On FB page @ 8am & 11am

Reflection
Back Porch Blessings - Live On FB page Monday - Friday

Discipleship
Children's Chapel - Live on FB page @10:30am - every Wednesday

Prayer
Morning Prayer - Live On FB page @ 9am every Tuesday
Noonday Prayer - Live on FB page @ 12pm every Wednesday
Compline - Live on FB page @ 7pm every Thursday

Communication
St. Mark's eNews - Sent out through email each week and made available on the St. Mark's Facebook page

If you are interested in participating by reading one of the three Prayer Offices, please contact Fr. Mike: mike.woods@sanmarcosepiscopal.org for availability.