The Last Steps of Eastertide

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. (Collect for the Seventh Sunday of Easter: The Sunday after Ascension Day)

The Last Steps of Eastertide. As we journey from the Ascension (May 9) to the Day of Pentecost (May 19), our common prayer is that God will never leave us comfortless and that the Holy Spirit will be revealed as a source of strength. As an Easter people, a people who believe in new life, a people who believe God has the capacity to do the impossible, do we know that God lives within us?

You and I are called daily to go to God in prayer (conversation) so that the presence of God within us will make our paths clearer and the world might become better. Through weekly engagement of life at St. Peter’s and the various offerings for worship, formation, and fellowship in this incredible place, the God within will become increasingly known. Transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit is bound to happen within and all around us, especially when our hearts are open and we pray without ceasing. May the last steps of the Eastertide journey bless us “real good” and prepare us for even richer lives in Christ.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Rite-13: A Celebration of the Gift and Challenge of Manhood and Womanhood

St. Peter’s Journey to Adulthood (J2A) offering is a youth ministry program of spiritual formation for sixth through twelfth graders. It encourages relational ministry and uses Bible study, prayer, rites of passage, outreach ministries, theological reflection, and both serious and playful activities to underscore the two guiding principles of the program: manhood and womanhood are free gifts from God; and adulthood must be earned. Throughout the Episcopal Church and other Christian traditions, J2A is being offered as a brilliant and popular way to engage young people more deeply in their journeys with God in Christ.

Since my early twenties when I was a J2A mentor in Jackson, Mississippi, I have witnessed the powerful impact that J2A can make on the lives of those youth and families who engage the program at its fullest and unique degree. And on Sunday, April 28 at 10:45 worship, St. Peter’s will have an opportunity to share in one aspect of J2A called the Rite-13 Liturgy. Grades six and seven celebrate the individuality of each young teen and their creative potential, while exploring Biblical stories of God and God’s people. The Rite-13 liturgy is the community expression of this and serves as a rite of passage from childhood towards adulthood; it will occur during worship before we greet one another at the Peace.

On behalf of the Vestry, I give thanks for our youth, their families, and all who work with them, especially Lyn Holt (Director of Youth Formation) and the J2A mentors.  May our April 28th celebration be one way to meet and connect with our young people and to honor their invaluable gifts as faithful members of the body of Christ.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Eastertide: Listening To The Voice

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Easter)

Christ the Good Shepherd reminds us that God knows each of us by name. To name and to be known by name impress me as holy moments of honor throughout most cultures. Most people take great satisfaction in being known by name and how they received their name. We experience this example during the sacrament of baptism when the priest asks for the name of the child, youth, or adult to be baptized. I remember it well from recently at the Great Vigil of Easter when one adult and four children were named again at their initiation into God’s Church. It was a moment of pride, gratitude, and humility for each before they began their new life in Christ.

Indeed this is the case with the Good Shepherd whose voice we are invited to know intimately. Each of us is called by name to follow wherever he might lead us – journeys of trust and faith. Our simple yet courageous listening to his voice is bound to lead us rightly in thought, word and deed.

May Eastertide and life at St. Peter’s become a time for us to tune our ears to hear the voice of God amid the constant noise of life. God is trying to tell us something about love and hopes that we are listening.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Eastertide: Feasting On The Risen Lord

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Collect for the Third Sunday of Easter)

In celebration of the resurrection, followers of Jesus are called individually to journey deeper into Christ in both Word and Sacrament. The Word of the Lord revealed in the Holy Scriptures and the Blessed Sacrament revealed in the breaking of the bread create the perfect spread for feasting on the risen Lord.

Eastertide invites all who make their spiritual home at St. Peter’s, newcomers and all who seek to know more about God, to engage this feast on a weekly if not daily basis. On Sundays and weekdays, we offer formation classes and the Holy Eucharist so that disciples might equip themselves better with what is necessary to proclaim the good news of God in Christ. God’s food in the form of scripture, bread, and wine is sufficient to fill us with sustainable knowledge and nourishment.

If you are reading this and have not participated in a Sunday or weekday option for spiritual growth, such as the Sunday Scripture Study Class or Rector’s Forum, centering prayer, bible studies, and noonday Eucharist (Tuesday, Thursday), please start doing so and bring others. Any and all that we do will feed us and make us whole. The table is spread and I hope to join you and many others there.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Eastertide: New Life Awaits

“Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” (Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter)

For many, the resurrection of Our Lord is not a monumental or believable event, because the host of new things that God should have been doing—from an individual’s point of view—have not occurred. Sufferings, disparities, trials, and high hopes persist and the abilities of God remain in question.

The fifty-day season of Easter invites us to begin again, always. This season of the church year calendar challenges us to believe again or maybe for the first time that the God who mysteriously created us [through humans] has the capacity to make things new. It dares us to have faith that the God who mysteriously raised Jesus Christ from the dead is a God of miracles, big and small; that our waking up each day in and of itself is a miracle.

The new covenant of reconciliation made by the Redeemer of the whole world is a new covenant into which we too are called. New life awaits us as we learn to love God with whole heart, soul, and mind; to love neighbor as self; and to be truly sorry and humbly repent for wrongdoing. The capacity for God to raise Jesus from the dead is the same capacity to resurrect the faithfulness of followers of Jesus. Easter boldly calls us forth to experience and give new life. For what are we waiting?

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Engaging the Great 50 Days

“Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” (Collect for Easter Day)

The Day of Resurrection: Easter Day is a bold reminder of the unending power of God and God alone to do the impossible. This is not merely good news. It is extraordinary news for which we have been waiting throughout Lent and Passion Week and possibly for which we wait everyday. Beyond our limited human understanding, the resurrection is the extreme example of the capacity of God to make all things new, to begin life – again. It is the historical proclamation of the mystery of faith that we offer one way or another at celebrations of the Holy Eucharist: Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.

Our thanksgiving for and celebration of the resurrection essentially is what makes us Christian. Even as we join our foremothers, forefathers, biblical scholars, believers, and non-believers alike in trying to make sense of it, the resurrection of Jesus lives at the core of our heritage and faith. More than not, I am reminded that faith is a matter of the heart and not the head, and that followers of Jesus forever will be frustrated by natural attempts to make sense of the resurrection. Instead, each of us is dared to open ourselves fully to the mystery of faith, to trust God, to see where God the Spirit might take us.

Our collective and individual engagement of the great fifty days of Easter at St. Peter’s will help our efforts to become a community of bold followers of Jesus; a place known for radical love and welcome; and a beacon of hope in Center City Charlotte.

In thanksgiving for Easter, may our commitment to the good variety of worship, formation, fellowship and service opportunities of this sacred place give us new life and encourage others to join us. Life at St. Peter’s always is richer when we show up for any and everything associated with parish life. Our continuation of the Easter Day energy on High Sunday: April 7 and the incredible events scheduled for that big day are bound to take us far. Mark your calendar, spread the word, and please bring others for the excitement.

Easter is the extraordinary reminder that things be made new by the power and love of God. Life is all about engagement, which is the best way to know that we truly are alive. Our engagement in the ministries of St. Peter’s is bound to create a new world and to support wholeheartedly the annual opening acclamation for the Easter season (after forty days without it): Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

 

Praying Through Passion Week

“Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the
human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to
take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross,
giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant
that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share
in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.”

On the Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, we will join Episcopalians and other Christians worldwide in this commanding prayer (Collect of the Day) to begin the annual observance of the “holiest of weeks.” As we walk in love with Our Lord, not only are we invited to offer these extraordinary words on Palm Sunday. We are invited as people of faith to offer them or others on each day of the day of the week.  In the way of religious communities, who pause intentionally for prayer several times a day in chapels and elsewhere, we too are invited to engage God in prayer wherever we may be. Throughout our likely full days, as we move toward that next commitment, Passion Week reminds that we ought to be in prayer. For one minute, five minutes, or even ten minutes, followers of Jesus are called to pray unceasingly. When we do this, our practice makes perfect.  Our conversations with God (i.e. prayers) become natural, more integrated into daily living.

St. Peter’s “Journey with Jesus: 
Passion Week and Eastertide 2013” is offered intentionally to keep God in our thoughts, words and deeds and to call us together for communal prayer. Let us pray…– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Preparing for Passion Week and Easter Day

Preparing for Passion Week and Easter Day: March 24-31. It seems like yesterday that we were entering the season of Lent by way of the cold weather and richness of Ash Wednesday. Now we find ourselves on the Fifth Sunday in Lent inching closer to the annual “holiest of weeks” when Christians worldwide journey to and beyond the cross with Our Lord. It has been powerful to experience my first Lent with St. Peter’s in a variety of ways, including worship, formation, fellowship, and service in a variety of ways to our neighbors.

Even as the church year calendar invites followers of Jesus, like you and me, to do things differently and become more mindful of a particular season like Lent, we also know that life quite easily continues as is. This year, however, through rather creative planning, it would be incredible if everyone—of all ages—committed to participate in at least two weekday offerings of Passion Week. In addition to being present for the popular days of Palm Sunday and Easter Day, join the parish family and our guests for a host of rich events on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil of Easter. All offerings are appropriate for all ages and for some, childcare services will be available. Visit the schedule for more details.

Passion Week and Easter Day at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Center City Charlotte are offered to bless our souls in ways unimaginable. Daily food awaits and undoubtedly will nourish us for the Great 50 Days of Easter. I hope to share a deeper journey into Christ with you and encourage you to bring others to experience our life.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Regarding Prayer

Regarding Prayer.  Over the years, I have been approached with countless great questions about prayer: What is prayer? How does prayer shape our lives? Why should we pray? Both verbally and through journal writing, I reflect on prayer based on experience, study, and what I learn daily and weekly from individual and corporate engagement with it.

Prayer is no more and no less than a conversation with God, whereby both parties must listen in order to respond. Not only what we say but what we do is prayer. One writer offers that primary is our primary speech. On our own, in small groups, during worship at St. Peter’s or wherever, in times of want or need, in all sorts of ways, we pray. (At least, we are invited to pray.) The Ash Wednesday invitation to observe a holy Lent calls for us to pray by bringing God increasingly into our awareness in thought, word, and deed. The annual invitation of this season dares us to observe the God within and to have God imprinted on our minds and lips and actions. Thus, we always are in conversation with God. Amid the variety of our daily diverse lives, we are invited to prayer.  In work, study, play, reading, exercise, travel, relationships, challenges, and thanksgivings, we are invited to engage the God who created us equally beautiful – in prayer.

On Sunday, March 10th during the 9:30 a.m. Rector’s Forum, St. Peter’s Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Coordinator, Anna Hurdle will reflect on “Praying through Lent like a Child.”  I look forward to learning more about prayer from our little ones.  Surely their voice and approach to prayer will teach us and bless our Lent.

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Journey with Christ to Easter

The liturgy and music of Lent offer rich support for our journeys with Christ to Easter. From start to finish of our Sunday morning and even Tuesday and Thursday noon worship, the prayers, scripture readings, reflections, silences, and the Holy Eucharist invite worshippers to engage God–deeply. Christian history reminds that our praying shapes our believing (lex orandi, lex credendi) and that whenever we sing, we pray twice (St. Augustine). This I have learned firsthand and continue to hear from others is quite true.

During Lent, I invite us all to go below our natural surface levels into the powerful, intentional words that we pray when worshipping God. In this intentionally introspective season, let us listen closely to the scripture readings and homilies (shorter sermons); cherish the silences we rarely get outside of worship; remember our Episcopal tradition believes wholeheartedly in the “real presence” of Christ in the Bread and Wine; and sing (with our best abilities) the hymns, service music and responses from the hymnal and service leaflet.

Our worship invites us to use our God-given voice and to sing with a different voice than the voice used all week. It also invites us boldly to add new inflection to the words said so often and to breathe for inspiration from the Holy Spirit. As our exciting journey to Easter unfolds, may we find blessing and encouragement from a worship experience made even better by surrendering our all to God through liturgy (work of the people) and music.

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector