Rector’s Messages

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Preparing for our Personal Lenten Journeys

Dear Friends,

Thank you all for the very warm welcome that has been extended to Phil and me since my start in December. We already feel like we are part of the family and have settled in very well. They say that time flies when you are having fun. I find it hard to believe that we are almost ready to enter our fourth season here – liturgical season that is!

This month we move from the season of Epiphany where Jesus is “made known” or “revealed” to us as divine, to the season of Lent. During the forty days that begin on February 14th, Ash Wednesday, we set aside time for self-examination, spiritual renewal and growth. For many this is a time for fasting and abstinence, for alms-giving and acts of mercy, for repentance and prayer.

Some of us will use this time to “give up” something for Lent. This may free us from something that distracts us from our relationship with God or a bad habit or it may simplify our lives, allowing for more time to pray and to study God’s Word. Others of us may use this time for fasting our bodies to cleanse it of impurities and to have the reminder that we are sustained by God. Some may choose to commit themselves to acts of service giving time and talent to others.

This season is also used to focus on a particular portion of scripture, prayer or book study that helps us journey with Christ to the cross. Please see the news story about The Good Book Club that we will be participating in at Manakin. We use this season for deeper reflection and preparation for the celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and death on Easter. We do this not because God needs us to, but because we need to.

I would like to encourage prayerful consideration of this excellent mediation on “True Lenten Disciplines,” as printed in The Anglican Digest (2001):

“True Lenten Disciplines”

Fast from judging others; Feast on Christ dwelling within them.
Fast from fear of illness; Feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; Feast on speech that purifies.
Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; Feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; Feast on optimism.
Fast from negatives; Feast on alternatives.
Fast from bitterness; Feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; Feast on compassion.
Fast on suspicion; Feast on truth.
Fast from gossip; Feast on a purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; Feast on prayer that sustains.
Fast from worry; Feast on faith.      

                                               – The Reverend Ann Bonner-Stewart

I pray that we will make the most of this Lenten season and that it will be a time of great self-examination, spiritual renewal and growth.

Blessings,

Gini+

We Welcome a New Rector and Prepare to Welcome a New Light and Hope for the Future

This month’s message comes from the Senior Warden, Roy McLeod.

My fellow Parishioners,

Days are growing short and leaves have begun to fall with profusion as we approach the end of this calendar year. In the church, we are also coming to the end of the liturgical year and are entering the season of Advent, the start a new liturgical year. In the dictionary, advent is cited as coming from the Latin “ad-venire” meaning to come. So, what is coming?

In our calendar year, we are moving to the shortest day of the year, the longest period of darkness on December 21st. In the natural world, plants and animals are going dormant, dropping leaves and hibernating as they await spring and a new burst of life. In the Christian year, we await the coming of the Light of the World-mildly, innocently and quietly on Christmas morn.

How do we prepare in Advent for this gift of eternal life? John the Baptist called for us to repent. As a former Rector said in a sermon years ago “our repentance is not so much a matter of being sorrowful as it is a matter of changing our minds”. We are asked to examine how we live our lives, how we deal with others, how we grow spiritually. The Rev. Peter Stimpson said several weeks ago that “faith is not something we get one day and our work is done. It is our growing awareness of God the Father and his Son Jesus.”

We at Manakin are entering our own Advent as we welcome a new rector and prepare to welcome a new light and hope for the future. And we are reminded, as the Rev. Tom Smith said in a sermon here during Advent 2003, that “Advent is a time of dreams and visions. It calls us to see visions and dream dreams of a new time and a new world.”

So we enter this new journey with Gini celebrating the wonderful loving community and tradition developed in this place over the past 317 years and moving hopefully into the future and whatever change it may bring. In closing, may the words written by John Rutter in his anthem “New Year” ring in our ears – “Turn your ears to the sound, turn your heart to the love. New life and love, and light, and hope this Good New Year”.

Sincerely,

Roy G. McLeod
Senior Warden

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Dear Parishioners,

As high school students, we all read this famous oxymoron from Shakespeare’s Romeo an Juliet without pausing to reflect on it, or perhaps—with some of us—a fleeting association with our own first experience of romantic love. But this phrase “sweet sorrow” describes exactly my feelings in parting from the Manakin family to which I have belonged for a year and a half.

There are feelings of sorrow because I will miss all of you and this wonderful spiritual place, even though we all remain together as God’s family in Christ no matter how far apart we are. I feel sorrow that I will not be present to see some of the work I have helped begin bear fruit. I will not witness to confirmation and adult classes presented to and confirmed by our bishop. I will not enjoy the growth and flowering of the new Christian Formation programs, and my collaboration with Julia and Becky. I will not see the church lit up at night presenting its charm and beauty to nighttime passerby who do not notice it during the day. I will not enjoy performing the marriage ceremony for our younger members and baptizing their children. I won’t be around to eat the hearty men’s breakfast or drink the altar guild’s tea. I could name other people and events I will miss, and the wonderful relationships I have formed with our staff members, (especially and Wendy and Rita), vestry members and others who have welcomed and worked with me so faithfully. I don’t know why Roy came all the way to Maryland to interview me, but I’m glad he did!

Now let me tell you some of the things that make the “sweet sorrow.” The church is described in the bible as the bride of Jesus Christ, and this image recalls the Old Testament analogy that Israel was the “wife” of Yahweh and even though she might be unfaithful, God would not forsake her. So in some ways, a priest’s relationship with his congregation is something like a marriage, with the same “period of adjustment” and “give and take” that a good marriage requires. Remember this when Gini is here as your new rector! Mutual respect, mutual effort, mutual support, in good times and in bad, are part of such a relationship, and I have enjoyed this with you. I am happy about our joint endeavors which will continue long after I am gone. The worship of choral evensong, the blessing of the animals Sunday, Founders’ Day 1662 worship, The Way of the Cross and other Holy Week traditions, all are things that I have either begun or renewed while being your rector, and will continue to evolve after I am gone. I will remember with joy my sharing them with you. And you will remember the verbal and pictorial items I taped to the balcony pillar which I named “Dr. Bauer’s bulletin board.” A poet wrote, “I am part of all that I have met,” and you will always to be part of me. Thank you for entrusting the interim leadership of your parish to an 80 year old Yankee with a limp!

Remember some of the things I have taught you or by which you have experienced spiritual growth or depth. The final thing I will say about parting being “sweet sorrow” is to share one commentator’s insight into Shakespeare’s words spoken by Juliet to Romeo.

“Saying goodbye to Romeo triggers deep sadness, but that sadness also reminds her of her love for him, and for this reason it is sweet. Saying goodbye also initiates her anticipation of seeing him again, which gives that emotion a pleasant tingle.”

So, we shall all ultimately meet again when the Church triumphant joins its heavenly Lord in eternal life, an eschaton which defies our understanding but inspires our hope and faith.

“And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and rose are one.”
T. S. Eliot “Little Gidding”

Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Dr. Tom Bauer

Sharing Our Gifts

This month’s message comes from Holly Walker, Junior Warden.

Dear Friends,

Scripture tells us, “To every thing there is a season.” I’ve been thinking about that phrase a lot lately as I watched the calendar transition from summer to fall. I wondered why these seven words kept coming into my mind at the most unusual times. The answer to my question emerged, when I slowed down, took a deep breath, opened my eyes and really looked. It was then that I noticed a hint of autumn gold highlighting the leaves in a tree. I realized that soon, the landscape would be a riot of color and that somehow all those different colors, created by a variety of trees and plants, would work together to form a beautiful and interesting scene. This is God at work – his visual reminder that He has blessed each of us with unique gifts, and when we bring those different talents together in service of Him, we weave a strong and vibrant faith community. This is what’s at the heart of Manakin.

Read the articles in this newsletter, the announcements in the Sunday bulletin and your Manakin e-mails. Visit the church’s web site or Facebook page. Take a look at the bulletin boards in Denny Hall. You’ll discover the wide range of talents and ideas that support the activities and work going on at Manakin. You’ll find Manakin’s children and youth raising money to purchase a goat that will provide life-changing gifts to a faraway village; our Stephen Ministers quietly providing care; food being prepared for those who are hungry; a blessing for the animals who bring joy to our lives; sacred music sung by a vocal ensemble visiting from half a world away; the Men of the Church busily planning their annual Brunswick stew sale, which raises money for church projects; Christian Formation leading faith-building activities for all ages; and so much more. This amazing variety of activities paints a vivid picture of the many areas of interest at Manakin, and at the same time, it shows the harmony within our Parish as we all work together to spread God’s word and love.

Blessings,
Holly Walker, Junior Warden

“Expectations”

Dear Parishioners,

As I was working on my doctoral dissertation, “Moral Development and the Community of Faith,” I had the opportunity to visit many Episcopal church schools, as well as other institutions. One of the schools I visited was St. Paul’s School, a boarding school near Concord, New Hampshire, which has an international reputation for excellence. It was founded in 1856 on property donated by Dr. George Cheyne Shattuck, Senior Warden of Boston’s Episcopal Church of the Advent. At many boarding schools the first thing that new students receive is a set of keys and locks to keep their belongings in secure lockers or dorm rooms. Not so, at St. Paul’s! They endeavor—with surprising success—to establish a “community of trust” among their students, not through a strict set of rules and punishments, but rather through the example of behavior set by senior student leaders. They have an “in confidence” system, whereby a student can share concerns about dorm misbehavior with faculty mentors without fear that they or another student will be punished, but that together they can work to resolve the problem before it gets out of hand. Finally they tell incoming students “we don’t have a list of rules here, we have a set of expectations!”

I like that word! Living up to a community’s “expectations” is so much better than feeling you are under the compulsion to live up to a strict set of rules and regulations. If expectations are internalized they become a much superior motivation for behavior than the eyes of Big Brother enforcing his rules. One meets expectations because one does not want to let the family, the school, the larger community down. One wants to meet the expectations of parents or loved ones in a way that differs from taking orders from a boss or a drill sergeant. In fact, there is a theological and scriptural basis for this approach to community life. St. Paul tells us that we are no longer living under “the law”, the Mosaic tablets of God’s commandments and their rabbinic derivatives. We now live by grace, knowing that a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ is what “saves” us, not our deeds or obedience to “the law” (which is impossible for us, as sinners, to achieve on our own.) As people set free by Christ, we act in accord with God’s “expectations” of his sons and daughters not in order to “earn” his favor. We act in thanksgiving for His free, undeserved gift of forgiveness and grace. We have the power and the will to meet Gods expectations much of the time because He is there to help us, not because we fear His anger or punishment. His “expectations” are another way of talking about His will for us. Trust in his mercy and forgiveness is another factor helping us to do His will as we pray “thy will be done.”

We belong to a Christian family community. What then are some of the expectations we have for those who become members of the community? Some Christian churches are very strict about their rules of membership. The Episcopal church may seem to be too lax about its expectations, but they are quite evident for those who care to look, and who take their baptismal promises seriously. These are our basic expectations: to turn away from following temptations of “the world, the flesh and the devil” and “to follow Jesus Christ” as our savior and leader; to “love on another as he has loved us.” In very practical terms we expect our members to make three basic commitments: regular participation in our worship of God, and on going commitment of financial support of the parish and God’s kingdom at large and the gift of our time and talent to serve the needs of our church family and minister, in Christ’s name, to the cause of justice and reconciliation in the wider world.

Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Dr. Tom Bauer