Giving With Gratitude: Support Life at St. Peter’s

One of my earliest memories from church was the Doxology, singing “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” to the tune of the Old 100th.  I remember the ushers approaching the altar, holding the highly polished collection plates as the nave filled with the sound of reverberating voices. This was also the first piece of church music I learned to play on the piano, and one I played dozens of times at church services when I grew older.  I have since forgotten how to play it, but I will never forget the feeling.

These memories and emotions quickly returned to me as the Stewardship Committee discussed the annual fund campaign, reflecting on the writings of Episcopal priest, writer, and poet, the Reverend Renée Miller:

Gratitude practice is beneficial for every spiritual personality. It is both an internal practice and a practice of ministry. We find our own soul expanding every time we feel and express gratitude, and when we’re grateful, we find that our lives expand as well. Those who are grateful bring grace into the lives of others. Gratitude builds on itself and when we grow in gratitude others grow in theirs. One moment of gratitude leads to another and in the end, we have hearts filled with joy.

This passage transformed my thoughts and feelings about how and why my family will be pledging this year and will continue to share our financial gifts with St. Peter’s. To me, pledges and donations are outward expressions of gratitude for the blessings we receive from God. My family and I feel blessed to belong to the community of St. Peter’s, as I hope you do too. Our response to God’s love and abundance in the form of a financial commitment will help us uphold and realize our Parish Vision.

Please join me, the Vestry and the Stewardship Committee in pledging for this year’s annual fund by Commitment Sunday, November 5.

In faith and with gratitude for life at St. Peter’s,

Jay Norton, Annual Fund Chairman

Give Thanks For What God Gives

Welcome to the new program year! This is always an exciting time, gearing up for Adult and Children’s Formation, Holy Chow, and preparing for the Annual Fund. The St. Peter’s staff has worked diligently over the summer to get the building and grounds ready and to plan the Fall 2017 schedule.

I walked through the Church at 7:15 a.m. last Friday on my way to open the front door in preparation for Morning Prayer. It was peaceful and still, so I decided to sit. Memories came flooding back from when I was a little girl sitting on the second row in between my Mom and Dad during the service at Midway United Methodist Church. The preacher, Joe Warner, was a big man and at times it was though I could feel his breath on me when he stood in front of us. He liked to step down from the pulpit to get close to the pews and take long pauses while looking intently at us, or maybe placing his hand on someone’s shoulder. As a little girl, I didn’t always know what he was talking about but I knew it was important and that the space was sacred to all who came through the doors.

As an adult, I still look forward to Sundays of because of what they represent to me and my life. It’s a time to slow down, spend time together, and give thanks for what God has given me.

One way to make the most of this program year is to sign up for Realm, www.onrealm.org, the new program that will help you communicate with your groups, RSVP for events, manage your giving, update your profile information, view the Church directory, “Holy Faces,” and more.

Please contact me if you need assistance (ldixon@st-peters.org, 704-749-6142).

Leigh Dixon, Parish Administrator

A Parochial Playground

It is hard for me to believe that my time as the Parish intern at St. Peter’s will come to a close at the end of October. Seeing school supplies on the shelves in the stores reminds me that summer is coming to an end and we are rounding the corner of yet another season.

I, too, am coming into another season on a personal level as I reflect on what it has meant to be part of the St. Peter’s parish community for the last nine months.

When Fr. Ollie and I met before I came to St. Peter’s, we decided to view my time as a “parochial playground.” I would have the opportunity to spend time on different pieces of the playground equipment (different areas of parish life) to see how that played into my growth within the church. As the season starts to change, I encourage everyone to think about what new part of the St. Peter’s playground you may like to explore. You never know who you may meet there or what opportunities for growth you may discover!

My heart is full thinking of the times I have spent working, serving, and just talking with many of you. St. Peter’s truly is living into its commitment to hospitality, love, and welcome. I have seen firsthand your work in the community both inside and outside the walls of the parish church. I am proud to tell folks that I am part of the St. Peter’s family.

My mantra during this internship has been to “Look in, look out, and look up.” As a parish community, you have richly blessed me with opportunities to do all of those things. I also think that as a parish, it is one of the things that St. Peter’s does very well. As my discernment process to become a Vocational Deacon continues beyond my time at St. Peter’s, I ask your prayers for me and will forever hold you in mine.  I have been honored to be in your presence and have learned a great deal about what it means to be a bold, faithful follower of Christ.

Robin Sands, Parish Intern

Ministry Engagement

St. Peter’s recently hosted a Ministry Fair on two Sundays, August 20 and 27 in the parish hall. Different leaders for each ministry area were there to talk to other members of the parish to let them know the good and varied work in which members of St. Peter’s participate. So why do we do this?  Why are we called to help others, even strangers? We are called by Christ to be His representatives on earth. Jesus instructs his disciples many times that they are to minister to each other and to demonstrate their love of Christ and each other by serving others (Matthew 25:31-46 and Luke 9:1-27 as two examples). It is the very cornerstone of the church.

Our Vision Statement sets out this very notion of ministry:

The Vision of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church 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
  • a beacon of hope in Center City Charlotte

These aren’t just words. As the ministry fair demonstrates, parish members are committed to putting actions to words because that is what we are called to do. Whether we are helping feed and house our homeless neighbors, comforting a friend in times of trouble, or serving at our worship service, we are all ministers in Christ.

I urge you to prayerfully consider how you might use your talents to minister to others. Talk to fellow members who are serving in various ministries and find out what they do. You might be surprised to find a ministry that plays into your strengths. Or, perhaps, you would like to stretch outside your comfort zone and chose a ministry that brings you in contact with others you might not have previously thought about. There are so many possibilities for you to find your ministry. A part of my role on the staff is to assist you with engaging ministry opportunities, so please contact me either by email ewood@st.peters.org or at 704-749-6141. I am here to help.

– Elaine Wood, Ministry Associate

Connections: Parish Retreat at Kanuga

In the Fall of 2013, several parishioners approached me with a request to resume offering a parish retreat at Kanuga Episcopal Conference Center in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Why? To make connections away from Charlotte and our familiar space at the corner of West Seventh and North Tryon streets. For a host of reasons, after taking place for several decades, the retreat had been suspended. It was the energy and commitment of several organizers that made the request a reality, and in September of 2013, we returned to Kanuga for what has become an annual getaway.

This year, it has been impressive and humbling to observe the leadership, creativity, diligence, and energy of the Parish Retreat Design Team, a committee of Congregational Development, in preparation for September 15-17. Significant among their duties has been the offering of two-tier pricing and generous scholarships to ensure that even more parishioners might attend this connection-making opportunity.

“Unopened Gifts” is this year’s retreat theme. In addition to making new connections or maybe reconnecting, participants will gather in a unique (and cooler) setting to share and explore the things that bring joy in their lives; what gifts has God given that make days and weeks brighter; and how one’s gifts might be used to serve others. The retreat registration deadline is nigh, and organizers don’t want interested persons to miss out.

The making and deepening of connections is vital in life at St. Peter’s, and I give thanks for what will be offered at Kanuga for those who are able to attend. Before Kanuga, parish life will be loaded with other connection-making opportunities beginning on Sunday, August 27, when Christian formation classes and “Holy Chow” breakfast resume.

I look forward to making connections with and hearing from you as we share in the mission, ministry, and vision of St. Peter’s.

God’s peace and blessings as we grow in faith,

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Commemorating Saint Peter the Apostle

“You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.”
Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam

It was my privilege to accompany the St. Peter’s Choir on the August 4-14 Pilgrimage and Residency at St. Alban’s Cathedral in the U.K. Not only was I able to journey and become better acquainted with such a fine ensemble of dedicated music ministers, they allowed me the opportunity to sing with them throughout the week. It was one of the best experiences of my life, because music and liturgy were what brought me to the Episcopal tradition by way of United Methodism and Roman Catholicism. Among many ministry aspects of life at St. Peter’s, the extraordinary music that is offered to enhance our celebrations of the Holy Eucharist is one of our bedrocks.

Today, the worship, programs, and events of our thriving common life are on my mind as we commemorate the Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle on Sunday, August 20. Indeed, we have been blessed with a strong rock on which this parish community has been built and on which even more building awaits us all. There will be opportunities to learn more about how to engage music, formation, outreach, and fellowship at even deeper levels during the 9:30 a.m. Ministry Fair to which all ages are invited.

I look forward to celebrating the faith that has been imparted to us and imagining how we might become even better stewards of the foundation that has been laid.

God’s peace and blessings as we try,

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Care for One Another

If I have discovered anything, since getting involved with the Chronic Care Group at St. Peter’s, it would be that people are not defined by the worst things that can happen to them. One way in which this is accomplished would be through the companionship of others and the understanding that you are not alone. When encountering a life changing or long-term illness, it can feel like the body you’ve always depended on is betraying you. That what you used to be is no longer who you are. This kind of situation can cause one to feel isolated and less of the person you have always been.

What has come from The Chronic Care Connection is the ability to know that you’re not alone. And that the wounds that we carry are as much a part of what makes us human as the breaths we take. Because our shared human condition is part and parcel of what defines us as human beings, we are inter-dependent in everything we do. Because of this inter-dependency, the group has been expanded to include caregivers and is being offered to the wider community beyond that of St. Peter’s. With this growing dynamic, the group has decided the change its name to live out that truth. We will be changing the name to not be defined by the worst, but rather to be a guild of our parish in the pantheon of the name of the saints whose name will become our calling card. Stay tuned for our new name.

The Reverend Keith C. Lane, Assisting Priest

No Greater Gift

This past week, high school members from St. Peter’s and St. Martin’s had the opportunity to seek and see God through helping those who had lost their belongings and the use of their homes due to Hurricane Matthew, which devastated a large part of the population of eastern North Carolina. These unfortunate people, who lost so much, had no flood insurance. We helped two retired homeowners: one who did not have enough insurance, and one who was widowed right before the hurricane and had no insurance on her mobile home. Throughout our five-day trip, we installed insulation underneath two houses, as well as painting the walls, ceilings, and trim of two more houses.

Even with the hard work and dedication that went into this mission trip, the most prominent idea to surface was the love and positivity which brightened the lives of those around us throughout our time there. With each house, we put a smile on the face of someone who had been saddened by the loss of their home and possessions.

There is no greater gift than the happiness of the people around you, and as we achieved this, each of us felt the presence God in our own way. God stood beside us as we suited up for crawling underneath a house. God lifted a hand as we painted the houses, and gave us the strength to see through to the other side. God entrusted us with God’s love, which we were lucky enough to go out into the world and share with others. This has been a time we will all surely keep in our hearts.

Lena Miano

Sharing in the Faith of Jesus

In his July 20th Daily Meditation, theologian Richard Rohr writes about the difference between faith and belief. He notes that modern scholars have more accurately translated Paul’s letters from “faith in Christ” to “the faith of Christ.” This is not simply about a change in prepositions, Rohr notes, but about a change in how we understand our journeys of faith. Our shared Christian life is not so much about believing in Jesus but about participating with Jesus, sharing in the faith journey that Jesus has already walked.

In his sermon last Sunday, Father Ollie spoke about the many opportunities to engage our faith at St. Peter’s, from outreach and social justice, to formation, worship, and stewardship. We encounter the faith of Jesus by experiencing Christ in our worship, in the sacraments, in music and in our singing. We share in the faith of Jesus in our care for the stranger and the needy in our community, and for each other. We share in the faith of Jesus when we address issues of social justice and when we walk with Christ into the challenges of our society. We share in the faith of Jesus when we give generously of our time, talent, and treasure. And we do all of this together, in community, as a witness of what Christ is doing in and through St. Peter’s.

Sharing in the faith of Christ does not require assenting to a set of intellectual statements. Sharing in the faith of Christ simply requires that we show up and allow our souls to be transformed by Jesus. In the varied changes and chances of life, intellectual statements won’t be able to sustain us through hardship, but if we dig deep we will discover that we are abiding in the faith and love of Christ that surrounds us at every turn.

The Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, Associate Rector

With Gratitude

Dear St. Peter’s Community,

In the fall of 2014, I moved to Charlotte to become the Assistant Organist and Choirmaster at St. Peter’s. From the very beginning, I felt the welcome of this congregation. This place was home to me from the very start.

As I began my work at the parish and at the Choir School, I experienced and enjoyed the beautiful liturgy and music at St. Peter’s. I found my place alongside Ben Outen, and with the choir and congregation of this wonderful community. I bought a house and made a home here in Charlotte.

The news of Ben’s departure caught me off guard, as I know it did many of you. My work with Ben has been a great gift to my life, and, with all of you, I am both saddened by his departure and glad for his new chapter.

After learning of Ben’s decision, Fr. Ollie and I began conversations around what was the best path forward for St. Peter’s and for me. I am delighted that our mutual discernment led to his offer and my enthusiastic acceptance of the position of Director of Music at St. Peter’s. It has been a pleasure and an honor to be part of the beautiful worship at St. Peter’s for the past three years as the assistant. It is a great joy and challenge to know that I will now continue here in a new role.

I am ever grateful for the welcoming community I’ve found here at St. Peter’s: on the staff, in the choir, and amongst the congregation as a whole. So many of you have reached out in the past few weeks to check in on me, to offer words of encouragement, and to assure me of your support moving forward. I am deeply grateful to all of you and for this community. With your support, I am confident in our ability to continue and grow the wonderful tradition of great music and liturgy that has already been so firmly established.

With gratitude,

Elizabeth Lenti, Director of Music and Organist