Living the Paschal Mystery in the Atrium: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

On Easter morning, the women approach the tomb. They come bearing spices that they have prepared to anoint Jesus’ body. Though he has died, though he has turned out to be human, as vulnerable to death as any other, they wish to be near him. When they arrive at the tomb, they find the stone rolled away and the body of Jesus is nowhere to be seen. Two men in “dazzling clothes” stand before them and ask a question, Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. (Luke 24:5).

And everything changed.

Sofia Cavalletti, a Hebrew scripture scholar who developed the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd with her Montessori collaborator, Gianna Gobbi, tells us, “The Resurrection is the bedrock of our Christian faith.”

As we journey through the Lenten season, leading up to Holy Week, where as a people we once again live the Paschal Mystery; Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, a question emerges, how do we present this most important, but at times troubling and dark, events to our youngest parishioners? Are children really able to penetrate the depth of the Paschal Mystery?

The answer is yes. The children’s entry into this mystery and their presence at the Triduum celebrations of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil require us to know how to invite them into this mystery in a way that will offer children the fullness of Easter joy. Cavalletti instructs,“the proclamation of the death of Christ should never be disjoined from the announcement of His resurrection.” Simply put, we never say, “Christ has died,” without saying, “Christ is risen,” in the same breath. She continues, “Second, we must live the passion of Good Friday, within the context of Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday. In the events of the Last Supper, the Passion, Death and Resurrection, we are actually living one moment, and only when we recognize this unity, we begin to interpret the Paschal Mystery.”

In the Last Supper, Jesus anticipates the events of the coming day for his disciples. He tells them, This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me… This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:19-20) In these words Jesus explains that “what will happen on Good Friday will be the gift of his whole self; Jesus will give himself completely as an offering to the Father and to us and in this way, Calvary is transformed. Cavalletti call this the scandal of the Crucifixion; “not a brutal, violent act; above all else, it is a tremendous act of love. A tremendous act of violence becomes a tremendous act of love.”

A colleague shared this story about a boy who has been in the atrium since he was three years old. He had been struggling with the brutality of the crucifixion. An over-zealous adult in his life had shared graphic details of Jesus’ passion. The catechists witnessed first hand, Cavalletti’s caution about sharing the detailed accounts of the passion with very young children: “At times these passages go into details that arouse horror, such as we could not bear in relation to anyone dear to us; why then should we dwell on them with respect to Jesus? We risk inciting sentiments that should not be aroused.”

The catechists accompanied this child as he wrestled with the darkness of the Passion, continuing to remind him of the light of the Resurrection. Eventually, one day, working with the city of Jerusalem, this boy told his catechist, “Do you know why the stone was rolled away? It’s because Jesus’ love was so great, it blew the stone off.” The child took hold of the stone and carefully held it over the city, “it covered everything, even Herod’s house” at this point the child stood up and approached the globe sitting on a nearby shelf. Tracing the stone in an arc over it he announced, “it was so great, it covered the whole world!”

Each time we participate in the Eucharist, our proclamation of “the Mystery of Faith” is a powerful reminder of the Christian vision of reality. As a parish, our greatest gift to our children can be to initiate them into this mystery, the mystery of life stronger than death, of light stronger than darkness. We, along with the child. affirm that the love evidenced in Christ’s passion and death, is the love that brought about the resurrection—the love that continues to cover the whole world.

Anna Hurdle, Director of Children’s Formation

Commemorating the Life and Legacy of Absalom Jones, 1746-1818

Set us free, heavenly Father, from every bond of prejudice and fear: that, honoring the steadfast courage of your servants Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, we may show forth in our lives the reconciling love and true freedom of the children of God, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.   ­– Collect for the Feast of Absalom Jones, Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 2006.

The Episcopal Church Calendar of Saints Lesser Feasts and Fasts, contains the following biographical information for The Reverend Absalom Jones, first African American Episcopal priest (1746-1818): In 1786 members of St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia decided that black members of the parish should sit only in the balcony. Two African American Sunday worshippers, Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, whose enthusiasm for the Church had brought many African Americans into the congregation, learned of the decision only when ushers tapped them on the shoulder during the opening prayers, and demanded that they move to the balcony. Jones and Allen walked out, followed by many others.

Absalom Jones conferred with William White, Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania, who agreed to accept the group as an Episcopal parish. Jones founded St. Thomas African Episcopal Church in Philadelphia as lay reader, and, after a period of study, was ordained a deacon and priest to serve the parish as rector. Richard Allen went on to found the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first predominately African American denomination in the United States.

The legacy of Absalom Jones is profound. Known for his speaking skills, he galvanized the Episcopal Church toward equality long before emancipation. The Feast of Absalom Jones is February 13, and there are several opportunities to celebrate his life at St. Peter’s.  The first opportunity is a Diocesan celebration at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Greensboro on Saturday, February 10 at 10:30 a.m. The second opportunity is the Sunday Parish Hall Forum at St. Peter’s at 9:30 a.m. The clergy will lead a presentation on the life of Absalom Jones, and the implications for us today.

The final opportunity this weekend is the God’s Tapestry Potluck and Conversation. Following the 10:45 a.m. Holy Eucharist, members of the community are invited to gather in the Parish Hall for lunch and conversation. Please bring a dish you would serve at a family holiday. If you are unable to bring a dish, join us anyway. We will engage in conversation using the Diocesan “Go Speak: Reconciliation” cards, which will invite us to reflect on the beautifully diverse tapestry of our community at St. Peter’s.

Whether you are able to engage in one or all three opportunities, please join me in giving thanks to Almighty God for raising up faithful witnesses and prophets like Blessed Absalom Jones.

God’s Peace,

Jacob+
The Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, Associate Rector

Among Those Who Care for Others

When I came to the church, late in life, it was because there was a hunger in me whose source I didn’t yet know or understand. It took many moments of encountering God in the most unexpected ways that opened my eyes to things that were always present but I was blind to them.

One of those sign-post encounters was the result of caring for people with AIDS. When I joined that ministry, it was a time when having AIDS meant a death sentence. What could I possibly bring to people who were so seriously ill, when I didn’t know what I could do that would make any difference in my own life? When I walked in that first room to visit a person who was a beyond anything medical science could do, I understood that we were not alone: because God was present. That experience revealed to me the source of my hunger. That source is a God who transforms hopelessness into hope.

The very person I encountered, who had every reason to be without hope, was sustained by the love of a God who makes himself known in the darkest times of our lives. It happens when we care for each other when most needed. It happened for me when I reached out to care for someone I didn’t even know. That person turned out to be a messenger of God… as it turned out I was for him. It was in that encounter that my fears and doubts were healed. That is the gift of caring for others that one is bring the kingdom of God into being. In doing so we heal the world.

The Reverend Keith C. Lane, Assisting Priest

Being Mindful of our Space

While reflecting on the health and well-being of the building and grounds of St. Peter’s, we should be conscious that this place is not only a religious space, but also a social and cultural landmark. A historic dwelling, which is rich in architectural heritage and craftsmanship. Based on these roles the buildings play, daily upkeep and structural maintenance are a key role in the continuation of an appealing and safe environment. We are mindful that the building continues to adapt to generational needs, which helps maintain a benevolent atmosphere for those who enter our doors.

I say “we,” as these actions and decisions happen with the support from facilities assistants, staff, and parishioners, to collaborate on repairs to the building and grounds, as well as the installation of modern amenities. From the repair of doors and lighting, to the installation of new kitchen equipment, we are constantly working to maintain, as well as to create a space that is conducive to fulfilling the needs of those that use St. Peter’s facilities. We accomplish this by respecting the past, understanding the present, and looking toward the future regarding the utilization of the overall space. Frankly, it can be difficult sometimes to know when it’s the right time to evolve, but with quality support it is achievable.

The joy received from my work stems from successfully accomplishing tasks that provide substance and growth to the building and occupants. It’s nice to step back, look at finished projects, and see the impact. Sometimes it’s large projects, sometimes it’s simply small projects. It reminds me of a quote by Albert Einstein: ”I wish to do something great and wonderful, but I must start by doing the little things like they were great and wonderful.” So, if you have any insight into issues regarding building and grounds that need attending to at St. Peter’s, please feel free to contact me.

Brian Whitley, Facilities Manager

Reflections on MLK Weekend Events

1 Samuel 3:1-10: “Here I am, for you called me.” Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

During the past 15 years in my ministry with the youth at St. Peter’s, I have come to cherish the long weekend when this country celebrates and commemorates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year, it seems more important than ever to focus on his life and legacy: to continue more vigorously the civil rights work he started 50+ years ago. Many parishioners heeded the call from our Social Justice committee to represent St. Peter’s in the Martin Luther King Day Parade on Saturday. We walked with 2000+ Charlotteans from 100 organizations to remind ourselves and others that our work to eliminate systemic injustice is more important than ever. St. Peter’s also provided hospitality to the very cold parade marchers and viewers!

The readings appointed for this 2nd Sunday in Epiphany and Fr. Jacob’s sermon made me mindful that God’s call to be his hands and feet in the world has never been more important. Monday’s Center City Concert featuring the Charlotte Contemporary Ensemble, followed by Holy Eucharist, was a beautiful and hopeful way to complete the long weekend. I am more aware that the work we are doing here at St. Peter’s, in our oasis of love and diversity, is what God is calling us to do.

I am very excited that our youth are embracing this call as well. This summer we will continue the work we began in the summer of 2016 in Ferguson, Missouri: learning about and fighting against inequality and injustice, as we lead four other Charlotte Episcopal churches on a second Racial Reconciliation mission trip to Detroit in June. It gladdens my heart that our youth are focused on keeping Jesus’s call to work for justice, equality, and peace in their hearts and minds and are becoming beacons of hope for the generations who follow them. Stay tuned for a presentation of this continuing mission work from our outstanding youth.

Lyn Holt, Director of Youth Formation

A Challenge to Capture and Cultivate Growth

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

One year ago, I accepted Father Ollie’s invitation to serve St. Peter’s as your associate rector. I look back on this year with gratitude for all St. Peter’s has given me, for our community, for our worship and music, for our formation, for our diversity, and for our commitments to social justice and outreach. It continues to be a deep honor and privilege to serve as one of your priests.

At the Vestry Retreat last weekend the parish leaders reflected on our growth and deepening engagement as a community. In 2017 St. Peter’s welcomed nearly 90 new members of all ages, a growth of nearly 10% in active membership. While these numbers are very good, the challenge remains how our parish will capture and cultivate this growth, how we will deepen our commitments to this place, and how we will foster a community to form disciples of Jesus Christ.

Last Sunday, Senior Warden Bert Miano read the above quotation from Saint Teresa of Avila. He highlighted the vestry’s commitment to St. Peter’s, and the need for our entire community to imagine how each of us will commit to St. Peter’s. We are a growing and vibrant parish and our shared future will be determined by how we capture and cultivate that growth. Christ has no body now but yours. No one can support St. Peter’s but you!

As the New Year dawns and as each of us reflect on resolutions and opportunities for 2018, I hope you will consider how you might give of your time, your talent, and your treasure to support this vibrant corner of God’s Kingdom. Christ has no body now on earth, but yours.

Gratefully,

The Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, Associate Rector

With thanks, embrace another year of grace

The gift of the 2018th year of our Lord presents us an opportunity to begin again, renew, and with thanks, embrace another year of grace. The awesome place that is St. Peter’s embarks on a new year with hosting Room in the Inn, the Vestry Leadership Retreat, a Saturday Epiphany Retreat, and the host of worship, formation, and fellowship offerings which begin on January 7. Our part of the body of Christ is given a new year to respond to God’s love and abundance by a far-reaching offering of time, talent, and treasures, including money, all in celebration of the birth of Hope at Christmas and the Light of the Epiphany.

Together, as we work daily for the kingdom and dream of God, may we find a source of encouragement from a hymn text appointed for the feast of the Holy Name, January 1:

Now greet the swiftly changing year with joy and penitence sincere; rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.
For Jesus came to wage sin’s war; this Name of names for us he bore; rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.
His love abundant for exceeds the volume of a whole year’s needs; rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.
With such a Lord to lead our way in hazard and prosperity, what need we fear in earth or space in this new year of grace?
“All glory be to God on high and peace on earth,” the angels cry; rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.

– Now greet the swiftly changing year, Sixth Night, 250, The Hymnal 1982

Blessings on the Jesus Movement that calls us,

  • The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

St. Peter’s Parish Vision is to become a community of bold followers of Jesus, a crowd that effects good change for the world, a place known for radical love and welcome, and a beacon of hope in Center City Charlotte.

Christmas: Keep It Moving and Growing

The season of the Twelve Days of Christmas gives time to ponder the mysterious birth and reason for our Lord. While things and life may be slower, more still, or less committed, let us not forget the Christ-consciousness to which we are called: bring Christ to the forefront of our thoughts, words, and deeds, because the world changed forever at the Incarnation.

Christmastide prompts changes we might make, and changes we might inform for a better world. In this holy season, we celebrate and embrace that the light of Christ has come into the world, and that same light lives within each child of God. On the Twelfth Night: The Eve of the Epiphany of Our Lord, January 5, we will have even more to tell.

Eileen Caddy offers a meditation for December 25 in her book, Opening Doors Within. May we find wisdom in her words for our deeper journeys into Christ:

Day by day you become more and more infilled and infused with the Christ consciousness. You are able to walk in the light and become one with the light until there is no darkness in you, and as the process takes place you bring more light into the world. You must realise that it all starts in you. You have to put your own house in order first, and you must have the faith and confidence that you can do so and then do it. It is what is within you that is reflected without. It is not something to be striven for; it is something that just happens only if you will let it, and fill you heart and mind with love and understanding. This raised state of consciousness is in the very air you breathe. Breathe it in deeply and let your whole being be infilled with it. It is so great that you cannot contain it; therefore breathe it out, and so keep it moving and growing.”

Christmastide blessings and peace,

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

A Christmas Message from The Rector

We Shall Be Changed. Recently, I joined the Charlotte Symphony Chorus in singing Handel’s Messiah. This marvelous work includes the haunting melodious recitative, Behold, I tell you a mystery and triumphal aria, The trumpet shall sound. “Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall be all changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” It was a spiritual revival to sing with the chorus and humbling to be reminded by the baritone soloist that we shall be changed by Christmas.

The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the birth of God with us, marked a historical point in time when Love came down to heal a broken world and to make it both whole and new. Now, as we celebrate Christmas, specifically its hope for the world, the faith that was planted within us at baptism suggests that we shall be changed. Whether we reflect generally or specifically on the state of the world, each of us would agree that the world needs hope. The world needs a certain hope—and change—that comes through Christ the Savior who came to show us how to be agents of God’s love and justice. Fully divine and fully human, our Lord was born in a mystery that would change people and prompt the sounding trumpets with their lives.

I believe that we shall be changed through faithful commitments to engage and support life at St. Peter’s. Our Parish Vision to become a community of bold followers of Jesus, a crowd that effects good change for the world, a place known for radical love and welcome, and a beacon of hope in Center City Charlotte. The world needs the Church to fulfill its mission to restore all people to unity God and each other in Christ. Together, we can do much to celebrate the birth of Hope.

Christmas blessings as we change and bring change,

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

From St. Peter’s Ministry Associate

On October 11, 2017, it was my great pleasure to join the Administrative Staff of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church as the Ministry Associate. Though I will be working only part-time hours for the remainder of this year, 2018 will bring me into the office on a full-time basis. With the New Year on the horizon, I am closing the doors on my administrative consulting business as my daughter, Rachel, continues her first year of middle school at Northwest School of the Arts. This is truly a year of transition and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of St. Peter’s!

I have had an array of experience including freelance administrative consulting, marketing and business development, church membership coordination and a host of other things that lend, now, to my peaceful settlement into this distinguished parish. Though I begin a new journey at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, I am filled with an immediate sense of comfort and belonging that I never believed to be possible in a professional environment (without several years of acclimation, at the very least).

Though, I must admit that St. Peter’s is not entirely “new” to me. Rachel has been attending The Choir School at St. Peter’s since 2013 and is now in the Girls Tour Choir. As parents and dedicated volunteers within this amazingly comprehensive musical program, my husband, Dave, and I have witnessed extraordinary talent and a sense of belonging that far exceeded our expectations for Rachel in this program. Indeed, it is a fulfilling community that we are content to call our own.

As Ministry Associate, I have been warmly welcomed and feel as though, somehow, each member of the parish, Clergy, Staff, and Vestry knows of my dedicated commitment to the individuals and highly focused groups; it is my personal mission to help us become more connected with one another. During these seasons of deep prayer and gratitude, I feel humbled by the competence, compassion and overall warmth of my new professional family. Just as in 2013 with The Choir School, I find myself immensely grateful for the extensive loving community at St. Peter’s that allows me to feel as though I am truly COMING HOME.

In gratitude and peace,

Kristie Lauderbaugh, Ministry Associate