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

Radical Welcome

Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other, and the Spirit of Transformation by the Reverend Stephanie Spellers is an extraordinary book for congregational engagement during Lent and beyond. Vestry members, non-Vestry members, and I gathered for the first weekly offering of a lively discussion about this gem on Monday, February 18, 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the 2nd Floor Community Room (formerly called the Multi-Purpose Room). You can order it today online via Amazon.com or check locally with Park Road Books who may have more copies available. If possible, join us Monday, February 24 and read through “Living with Arms Wide Open” before arrival.

Radical Welcome was recommended highly by the Episcopal priest and urban ministry consultant who facilitated our January Vestry Retreat. While we at St. Peter’s frequently speak about and celebrate our beautiful diversity, we respectfully and rightfully were invited to go beneath the surface of the word diversity to unpack its powerful meaning. Spellers offers a definition of radical welcome. “Welcome” says come in, sit down, stay a while; we are honored to have you…it indicates an openness of spirit, that what we do is a pleasure. “Radical,” in this instance, should not connote the unreasonable, undisciplined action some people associate with the term. Instead, radical amplifies the welcome, broadening and deepening and launching it to the next level. It also indicates a deep, fierce, urgent commitment to some core ideal. That’s not just any ideal, but one at the root of a tradition, a movement, and, in our case, a faith.

A holy Lent includes self-examination; may our engagement of radical welcome through reading and even more through action enrich our journey into Christ. I look forward to walking to Easter with you.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Reflections on Diocesan Convention

The Diocese of North Carolina is alive, well and on the move to do even greater things through diocesan programs, communities, and congregations, such as St. Peter’s Charlotte.  January 25-26, I had the privilege of joining our lay delegates John Arrrowood, Josephine Hicks, Doug Hutto, Des Keller and Dave Lavoie in Winston-Salem for the 197th Annual Diocesan Convention.  It was a wonderful combination of business, fellowship, ministry reflection and encouragement that will enhance life at St. Peter’s. Convention alternates Rosy Bellamy, Cameron Holtz and Kathie Knip stayed in Charlotte yet offered themselves to serve in the event a delegate might become unable to attend.  Our presence there and our fine delegation made me even prouder to serve this parish church.

One highlight of convention was the election of a Bishop Suffragan.  The Reverend Anne Hodges-Copple of St. Luke’s Durham was called to serve as permanent assistant to Bishop Diocesan, The Right Reverend Michael Curry.  Our parish knows well about this office because our former rector, The Right Reverend Hunt Williams of blessed memory (1/28/13) served as Bishop Suffragan from 1990 until 1996.  The Bishop Suffragan in this Diocese would have some responsibilities in the whole Diocese (e.g., Galilee ministry initiatives, young adult ministries, diaconate expansion, diocesan outreach ministries, and Sunday visitations) and some specifically related in the Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Charlotte convocations (e.g., convocation confirmations, bishop pastor for clergy, and deployment of deacons). The newly elected Bishop Suffragan will be based in Greensboro and the Diocese eagerly looks forward to her new ministry.

Mark your calendars for Sunday, February 3, 9:30-10:30 a.m. in the Parish Hall when our delegation will reflect at the Rector’s Forum on the convention experience.  This will be a perfect way to explore what makes us uniquely Episcopalian in that Episcopal means “of bishops” and that we are bound to other disciples of Christ far beyond St. Peter’s.  The discussion should be rich, so please bring a friend.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Outreach

Outreach is foundational to the Christian faith and St. Peter’s Church has been an incubator of servant ministries since 1834.  The great commandment reminds that we are to love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  World-renowned theologian Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourners magazine, unpacks the importance of going beyond ourselves through a resource curriculum called Justice for the Poor: Love God. Serve People. Change the World.  Soon after my arrival in September to serve with you, a parishioner shared this formation tool with me.  I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring it and look forward to sharing it with others.

On Sunday, January 27 in the morning and evening at St. Peter’s, you and I will have the opportunity to go deeper into the theological waters of outreach.  The 9:30-10:30 a.m. Rector’s Forum will focus on outreach, including excerpts from Justice for the Poor. The 6:00-7:30 p.m. January Parish Dinner and Outreach Revival following 5:00 Choral Evensong will feature several special guests from our citywide outreach partners.  (The favor of reply is requested to www.st-peters.org for final preparations.)  If you have wanted to get involved in this way but have not known where to begin or you simply need a recharge, one or both of these offerings should assist your journey.
St. Peter’s Outreach Commission members will be present as well to assist with your involvement.

It is exciting to share in God’s ministry with a community of faith like St. Peter’s that has been known for service to others.  The Spirit of God living within each of us challenges us to exercise our gifts in a variety of ways to build-up the kingdom of God in this place.  With God’s help, may we live more deeply into our calls to service through outreach or in other ways that will glorify God and bring us great reward.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Liturgy is Focus of Next Rector’s Forum

Liturgy (work of the people in worship) is core to Christian tradition and includes a variety of pieces that makes it what it is and definitely unique. Sunday, January 20, 9:30-10:30 a.m. during the Rector’s Forum, consider joining others for a detailed look into liturgy at St. Peter’s. This offering is ideal for those who may be new to St. Peter’s as well as a refresher for those who have been here for a long time. What happens from the entrance rite (procession) until the dismissal into the world (by a cleryperson) is tightly interwoven and crafted to equip worshippers not only for the rest of the day but for the week ahead.

In the liturgy, prayers, scripture lessons, hymns, anthems, and moments of silence surround us collectively with great intentions to bless worshippers. When our energies are engaged fully with each element of the experience and our whole purpose for gathering, something amazing can happen. This I continue to hear from countless others and to learn from my own focus whenever I serve as the presider (celebrant). It has been an unexpected gift to worship on Sundays and weekdays at St. Peter’s with those who gather in our space to praise God and receive God in the bread and wine of the Holy Eucharist.

If you would like to explore the Episcopal tradition more deeply, namely through its historical commitment to worship I hope you will make the Rector’s Forum part of your Sunday experience at St. Peter’s. We will explore the two distinct parts of the Eucharistic liturgy: Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Table. Come with questions about why we do what we do in worship at St. Peter’s and worldwide.

 

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Epiphany I

Formation is core to understanding the faith. Second-century church leader Tertullian offered that “Christians are made, not born.” The early days of 2013, especially Sundays before or after worship, strike me as a brilliant time to participate in the small or large group formation offerings at St. Peter’s. Life at St. Peter’s increasingly will offer a good variety of formation classes for adults to deepen their journeys. Children and youth formation offerings are both soaring and being improved. Formation advisory committees are being developed for all three areas (adults, youth, children) as part of a commitment to excellence in this important area of our common life.

Because we know that those who seek to learn more about God, Christianity, and spirituality are people of all sorts and conditions, our formation offerings are intended to provide something for everyone. Led by ordained and lay ministers, our current programs provide opportunities for personal spiritual exploration and growth, closer studies of the Holy Scriptures and teachings of the Gospel message, tools to equip followers of Jesus to serve others as they would want to be served, and ongoing understandings about traditions, customs and approaches of The Episcopal Church to the journey of faith.

If not already involved, join others weekly for the Sunday Scripture Reading Study in the Tower Room or the Rector’s Forum in the Parish Hall to listen, share, learn, and grow, all in the name of your formation as a disciple of Christ. More information about these and weekday offerings are available on this website, our weekly eNews, or by information available in the public spaces at St. Peter’s. I look forward to being formed with you as we enter this new year of Our Lord.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Advent / Christmas Pastoral Letter

An Advent Message from the Rector

Friday, December 21, 2012

Dear Households of St. Peter’s Church:

Greetings and peace to you and yours as we journey with great expectation from Advent into the profound hope of Christmas. The annual celebration of the birth of our Savior reminds us of the capacity that God has to do the impossible. It also encourages us to remember that not only do we share in the story of God-with-us, but that each of us holds a significant role in the story of hope. Our Christmas faith rings true especially as the world both grieves and hopes in the aftermath of deaths in Newtown (CT); as disparity, violence, disaster and war persists; and as all long for better lives and peace.

As this calendar year comes to a close and I reflect on life at St. Peter’s since my service began as thirty-third rector in September, I am most appreciative of you. More, I am excited about next year and the future of this faith community, particularly after our grand celebration of a new ministry (aka marriage) on November 8. My wife (Ellie) and I are enjoying Charlotte and anticipate fun, rewarding years ahead. Your combined and invaluable offerings of presence, talents and financial gifts to the health and welfare of this sacred place are humbling. It has been wonderful to become better acquainted with many throughout the parish, while always making new efforts to meet others; this will take some time. If, for any reason, you have been or feel disconnected from St. Peter’s, I welcome hearing from you to visit about how things might improve for your journey here. I hope that holy relationships throughout this parish church will increase and look forward to more fellowship opportunities to gather us in small and big ways. As well, several efforts are underway or being articulated to improve all aspects of our life together: pastoral care, outreach, worship, hospitality, communication, member involvement (discipleship), and formation (learning) for all ages. If you would like to join the Vestry, other staff and me in our “home improvement,” please call or e-mail me.

I am thrilled to share that the Vestry and I will gather January 11-12 for Vestry Retreat at Lake Logan Episcopal Center in Canton (NC). Joined by a well-respected Episcopal priest and urban ministry consultant, we creatively will focus on our approach to ministry, reflect on the past, clarify a vision, and develop a strategic plan to share with you in early February. Your prayers and commitments will be key for our movement into a new chapter. I look forward to sharing this faith journey with your household and to seeing you very soon.

In thanksgiving for Christmas,

 

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector 

First Sunday of Advent

Advent and the Christian New Year. The church season called Advent begins today as the appointed time for Christian households to mark the beginning of the Church Year. Just as parents await new life in the birth of a child, we prepare with great expectation for the anniversary birth of “God with us” at Christmas. Our prayers, lessons, hymns, anthems, formation, outreach opportunities and more focus on the rich meaning of this season. Each invites us to keep awake so that we might recognize the Messiah. Ultimately, this period on the Church calendar challenges us to slow down, while everything around us seems to speed up.

Advent reminds me of a poem located on the wall of an entrance into St. Peter’s Church, Oxford (Mississippi). May the words of author Wilfred A. Peterson bless our season:

Slow me down, Lord. Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind. Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal march of time. Give me amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the eternal hills. Break the tension of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory. Help me to know the magical restoring power of sleep. Teach me the art of taking minute vacations, of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines of a good book. Slow me down, Lord and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring values that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector