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

 

A Holy Pilgrimage

Following intense preparation, 17 youth pilgrims embarked on a long-awaited Pilgrimage with five dedicated adult leaders. After riding in vans, planes, subways, and buses, our group arrived in Rome at the first of four convents, where our rooms overlooked St. Peter’s Square and Vatican City. The group immediately set out, armed with paper maps, internet maps, and shared navigation duties and settled into a rhythm for the next seven days. We soaked up the beauty and awe of majestic cathedrals, we experienced the beauty and the rawness of the cities we explored (Rome and Milan). We were awed by the San Callista Catacombs, the Quo Vadis chapel, the Scala Santa (Holy Stairs), St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican Museums. We climbed to the top of St. Peter’s to see all of Rome laid out at our feet. We all fell in love with Assisi, and reveled in the beauty of the San Damiano church that St. Francis rebuilt. We cherished The Hermitage, where St. Francis spent many days speaking with animals and reflecting on God’s creation.

Our beautiful Sunday Eucharist in the undercroft chapel of our Assisi convent fed us spiritually as we continued our journey. We prayed in the church where St. Francis prayed as a young boy. We prayerd at the basilica of St. Francis built in his honor, and at the Cathedral where St. Clare still rests. We learned much from our wonderful Assisi guide, Marco. We experienced the magnificent Duomo in Milan (the interior and rooftop), we marveled at the church dedicated to St. Ambrose, whose body has been in view in the crypt since 397 CE. We prayed in the chapel (San Sebastian alla Ossa) built with the bones of people who died from the Black Plague. We were all moved by the prayers we offered for our friends and family back home at the chapel of San Damiano, during our Eucharist, and in the magnificent Duomo in Milan.

The entire St. Peter’s community was with us as we carried you in our prayers. This was a Holy Pilgrimage, where many hardships were presented and dealt with. We walked a total of 68.9 miles, we struggled with disengaging from technology and the internet, we faced disappointments in scheduling problems, we supported each other when fatigued or injured, we got lost and retraced steps, we learned to love each other through all adversity, and to practice our Baptismal vows of treating each other with dignity and respect. We cried, we laughed, and we prayed. As the days rolled on, and we reflected on what we experienced and learned during our late night prayers, the discussions were incredibly rich and full of budding wisdom and spirituality.

After visiting the church of St. John the Lateran in Rome, one of our youth pilgrims remarked, “I have never before so clearly experienced God’s majesty and mystery.” Paradigm shifts were made in the core of these teens (and the adults, too) that will inform their lives forever. That is true grace and love. That is Christianity. Your generous financial support, your prayers, and your love made this Pilgrimage possible. The impact you have made on all the Pilgrims will not be forgotten. Thank you!

– Lyn Holt, Director of Youth Formation

Because We Believe In Freedom

On July 4, 1776, when the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence, the legal institution and sin of the enslavement of native Africans was in full effect as what could be deemed the sure foundation of the economic development and prosperity of America. It was not until June 19, 1865, eighty-nine years later and two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863), that slavery officially ended in the United States. It is literally on the backs of fellow members of the human family that we have evolved into a great nation. Because of this history, we must change.

Admittedly, we have come a long way from being a country whose founders won liberty for themselves and only certain people. Conversely, the brokenness, divisions, and violence about our city, country, and the world make it clear that we must live even more deeply into our human family call. For a whole host of reasons, most people do not see others as their equal, and perhaps not made in the image of God, the Creator of all things holy, good, and perfect. Yet, the mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. Because of this reality, we must change.

Today, I celebrate that we live in a nation where we have the essential human right of religious freedom. Let us not take for granted our baptismal vows to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. Because of these vows, we must change.

Our freedom call to discipleship, which comes with a cost, challenges us to consider the words of our brother, Howard Thurman (1899–1981). “You must lay your lives on the altar of social change so that wherever you are there the Kingdom of God is at hand!” (from A Strange Freedom.)

God’s peace and blessings as we try,

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

A True Beacon of Hope

Last month, Father Jacob reminded us all of a question that is central to our faith journey–to what is the Spirit calling each of us? Though the answer to that question might vary from pew to pew, some of the many generous hearts and hands that surround all of us here at St. Peter’s have provided one inspirational response. From June 4-11, our beautiful Parish Hall became a beacon of hope here in Center City Charlotte for a dozen women without a safe place to sleep due to an overflowing Salvation Army women’s shelter. For that full week, a robust team of volunteers numbering more than 40 transformed the Parish Hall each night into a place of radical love and welcome, truly. As the members of this Parish have done so many times before, St. Peter’s opened its doors, welcomed strangers into our midst, shared our bounty, and yielded to the call of the Spirit.

Our temporary shelter did not solve the intractable problems that many of our guests face every day. But for one inspired week, our temporary shelter did create a new community where none existed, between this Parish and the women we came to know. For one week, they did not have to worry that they would not have a safe place to spend the night. For one week, they were able to count on a warm bed, a great meal, and – most importantly–spending time with friends every single night. It was a blessing, indeed.

It is not possible to thank all those who contributed to the overflow shelter ministry here in this space. There are simply too many to name. In a very real sense, every member of this Parish made the shelter possible by routinely, eagerly, and joyously giving so much of themselves that the idea of not providing this shelter in the face of the great need seemed unthinkable.

So unthinkable, in fact, that we are doing it a second time.

During the week of July 16-23, the St. Peter’s Parish Hall will once again become a sanctuary in every sense of the word. We will invite 12 women in need of some generosity into our church home and into our hearts. They may arrive as strangers, but they will leave as friends. Of course, we will once again need your time and giving spirit, so watch this space for details about getting involved in meal planning, transportation, laundry, or overnight duty. As always, reach out to me if you have questions or suggestions.

I am so proud to be a part of this crowd that lives out its vision to effect good change in the world.

Peace,

Bert J. Miano, Senior Warden

Summer Sunday “Conversations with the Clergy”

This summer, beginning June 25, all adults, youth, and children are invited to join my Associate Rector, the Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, and me for a four-week, inter-generational formation series. “Conversations with the Clergy” is designed to seize the rare season in life at St. Peter’s when all ages have the gift of time to gather on Sundays, simply to learn together, make connections, and foster Christian relationships after the 8:00 a.m. or before the 10:45 am liturgy. Light breakfast refreshments will be available.

Mindful of what appears to be a cultural custom for some to take a summer break from worship and formation, this special 45-minute offering and all that occurs every Sunday and weekday at St. Peter’s are to the glory of God who gives us life and blesses us, daily. Indeed, we are better, stronger, and more equipped to navigate this sinful, broken, and violent world when each week of our lives includes the practice of engaging God’s Word and Sacrament with others from our parish community or wherever summer travels might take us. The Holy Scriptures (1 Thessalonians 5:11) recalls the importance of “encouraging one and another and building each other up,” which is done primarily by being together and sharing faith journeys.

“Conversations with the Clergy” will cover topics, such as Unpacking the Theology, Purpose, and Ministry of Reconciliation; Practicing Reconciliation in a Violent World; The Holy Eucharist: A Response to Violence; and Music: A Source for Healing of the Heart. Each session will be facilitated in a way that should be easily accessible for adults, youth, and children alike. It will be a sacred time for individuals and households to benefit from our sacred space beyond the pews. More details and childcare information is provided under “Worship and Formation” in the parish news.

It will be a delight to gather with you in the coming weeks, as we focus together on 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.

God’s peace and blessings as we try,

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Music in the Air

Life at St. Peter’s, among many wonderful things, includes the extraordinary gift of music. Across centuries and genres, the art of music continues to be a blessing that can unite the human family and help one to connect to the God within. Indeed, music is in the air at St. Peter’s and all around, offered with admirable devotion by adults, youth, and children alike. Music is such a vital part of our existence in this world that “Music: A Source for Healing of the Heart” will be the topic of our parish’s July 16 Conversation with the Clergy at 9:30 a.m. in the Parish Hall.

Music is in the air: when parishioner Edith Johnson listens to a myriad of classical pieces while preparing a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium for Sunday use; during a Holy Eucharist when the finest of organ playing and superb singing by the St. Peter’s Choir is offered; at a weekday concert, like the May 22 Center City Concert by Gemini Winds (oboe, flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn); when The Choir School at St. Peter’s amazes area audiences and blesses the souls of congregants through talents aligned with its mission to enrich and strengthen young lives through excellent, rigorous music education and choral performance; and throughout religious and community spaces in South Africa, the UK, and the USA, where I immersed myself in the sounds of jazz, classical-choral, blues, gospel, and Taizé during my recent sabbatical. Thanks be to God, music is in the air.

On June 11, before their June 15–20 summer tour, the Tour Choirs and MasterSingers of The Choir School dismissed 10:45 a.m. worshippers with “Music Down In My Soul,” inspired by the spiritual “Over My Head.” Over my head, I hear music in the air. There must be a God somewhere…I got this music down in my soul, and it fills my heart with the joy of the Lord. Let us give thanks for music, which can help us to connect to the God within–and even fill our hearts with joy.

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Summertime: A Season of Worship and Formation

In anticipation of the Church calendar’s new season of Pentecost beginning on June 4, our Associate Rector, the Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, recounted a point of significance for Christians in 2017. “Gathered together on the fiftieth day since the Lord’s resurrection, the disciples were amazed as God poured out the Holy Spirit upon them…Saint Peter interpreted this event for those gathered and the church was born. What a perfect occasion for a celebration!”

Indeed, you and I are called to celebrate the birth of God’s Church and a corporate faith that mysteriously binds all Christians. Through intentional commitments to worship and formation, we offer our selves, souls, and sacred bodies before our Creator, alongside others, in thanksgiving for life and blessings, known and unknown.

Summertime at St. Peter’s provides weekly opportunities to assist adults, youth, and children in upholding the vows and promises made to God through baptism, especially to worship and be formed in faith. Even though curriculum-based classes, such as Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, Journey to Adulthood, and the Parish Hall Forum, are suspended during summertime to give devoted facilitators (Catechists) a break, the worship of God and faith formation continues in keeping with the Fourth Commandment, “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.”

Over the years, I have found, often hear, and appreciate that summertime at a vibrant parish like St. Peter’s creates a rare season and welcome space in often packed lives for making connections and building relationships. These benefits are major aspects of faith formation and important results of simply being present for worship according to our Sunday and weekday schedule.

It is a joy to return to St. Peter’s after an incredible three-month sabbatical leave–a gift for which I am most grateful. The parish community was always in my prayers. I am well rested, restored, and recharged for what God has for us to do as bold followers of Jesus.

Summertime presents a perfect and slower season for our intergenerational celebration of the birth of the Church through radical commitments to worship and formation. I look forward to gathering and growing together at St. Peter’s.

God’s blessings as we pray and try,

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector