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

How awesome is this place!

Every year at Advent, the start of the Church New Year, the Annual Meeting of the Parish is held to gather as many adults and youth who are able to attend. While this year’s December 10 gathering will undertake business matters, including the election of new Vestry members and sharing of key reports, it will also be a vital time simply to celebrate the awesomeness of St. Peter’s. Indeed, we are blessed by who we are, what we have, and who are called to become through our parish vision.

This awesomeness I know from having had the privilege to experience my first-ever sabbatical, earlier this year. Between worship and engagement opportunities in Charlotte, Cape Town, the United Kingdom, Manhattan, Atlanta, Memphis, and the Society of St. John the Evangelist Monastery in Cambridge, Mass., my enthusiastic perspective about our common life, and just how good we have it, was reaffirmed.

North Carolina composer, Dan Locklair crafted the commissioned-anthem, St. Peter’s Rock (1999), whose text includes, “How awesome is this place!” As we move through this Church calendar season of waiting to meet God in Christ, yet again, I call us to reflect on the complete text of St. Peter’s Rock:

Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversum eam. (You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.) Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock. How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’

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 beacon of hope in Center City Charlotte. May God give us strength for the journey, and the patience to slow down just enough to reflect on and respond to “How awesome is this place!”

Advent blessings and peace as we grow in faith,

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

People Look East

Each year on the weekend just before Thanksgiving, St. Peter’s Choir travels to Valle Crucis for our annual choir retreat. It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year. Choir members arrive at the inn on Friday afternoon. The table in the common area quickly fills up with all the delicious food everyone has brought to share. There’s plenty of time for fun and fellowship. There are games of ping-pong and a card game for which I can never recall the rules year-to-year, or sometimes even hand-to-hand. And there’s a fireplace we can all gather around to chat at the end of the day.
 
But mostly, we spend our time rehearsing. The timing of our choir retreat is not accidental, falling just before the start of Advent. Our time in Valle Crucis is a time of preparation as we head into one of the busiest times of the church year. The amount of music St. Peter’s Choir will offer in worship, between Lessons and Carols this Sunday and the two Choral Eucharists on Christmas Eve, would feel overwhelming if not for our time together in the mountains.
 
A non-choir member asked me recently if we really need to hold this retreat in Valle Crucis. Why not just have extra rehearsal time at St. Peter’s? Wouldn’t that be far more convenient? And it’s true, for many of us, finding space in our busy lives to be away for that weekend can be a challenge. But finding that space is important – stepping away from our daily routine is precisely what makes choir retreat such a special experience. And in this season of Advent we are called to do just that: to find space in the midst of our busy lives to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. 
 
People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.
Elizabeth Lenti, Director of Music and Organist

Diocesan Convention Reflection

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  —from Evensong at Diocesan Convention, November 17, 2017

This year, I had the honor of serving as a delegate to the convention of the Diocese of North Carolina, joining the other parishes and ministries of our diocese to fellowship, worship, discuss and prioritize the way forward together. I’d like to share some snapshots of this year’s convention, entitled “Becoming Beloved Community.”

Thursday evening, our diocesan historiographer, the Reverend Dr. Brooks Graebner, and the Reverend Jemonde Taylor from St. Ambrose, Raleigh, presented “One Great Fellowship of Love?” which outlined the history of black people in our diocese. While our diocese appeared progressive in writings and speeches of the time, the reality of how they were treated was much less progressive.

On Friday, the Right Reverend Sam Rodman preached about “Becoming Beloved Community” in four steps: Tell the truth; Repair the breach; Proclaim the dream; Practice the way of love. Then, our own rector, the Reverend Ollie Rencher, moderated a panel of five (including Tony Craghead, also from St. Peter’s) who addressed questions about how prejudice touched their lives and how they responded in faith.

On Saturday, Bishop Rodman began his pastoral address by reminding us that “unity is very, very, very, very hard.” and then suggested five priorities to “Become Beloved Community.” 1) Engage in truth-telling; understanding that truth is messy. 2) Support vulnerable congregations. 3) Collaborate in mission—like our Galilee Ministries in East Charlotte. 4) Lifelong formation—intergenerational, relationship-based. 5) Reconnect to the land.

If you would like to read a more robust summary of this year’s convention, including videos, please go to the website of the Diocese of NC, by clicking here. You will also find details regarding resolutions passed by the body and committee members elected for various diocesan positions.

Thank you for honoring me with the privilege to represent St. Peter’s Episcopal Church this year.

Amy Dillon King, Convention Delegate

Confronting Compassion Fatigue with Prayer and Action

In his sermon last Sunday, Father Ollie spoke of the need for followers of Jesus to be prepared to face the challenges of our world. It seems as if every week we witness another mass shooting, another devastating storm, or more scenes of senseless violence. If you’re like me, at some point it all blends together, and it becomes difficult to recall and distinguish one tragic event from another.

On the afternoon of Sunday, November 5, I read the first reports of the massacre at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. I found myself simply acknowledging the sadness of the event, but going on with my day, unsurprised by the news. There have been 307 mass shootings so far in 2017, and many other tragic shootings since Sandy Hook in 2012.

The Right Reverend Matthew Gunter, Bishop of the Diocese of Fond du lac, recently wrote how Christians can love their neighbors in this “age of compassion fatigue.” Gunter wrote, “It takes a toll. I wonder if our whole society isn’t experiencing a mild (or not so mild) form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Or more accurately, perhaps, the related condition of ‘compassion fatigue’. Compassion fatigue has traditionally been associated with people in the helping professions – doctors, nurses, therapists, police officers, social workers, etc. But, with the increased connectivity and access to images and information, I think it has become more generalized. And yet, as Christians, we must resist this tendency even as we acknowledge its reality and power. In his summary of the Law, Jesus enjoins us to, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ That is a call to compassion, a call to care. How might we respond to that call while avoiding compassion fatigue?” Bishop Gunter goes on to note that through prayer, through practicing vulnerability, through keeping Sabbath, through worshipping in community, and through acting for the welfare of others, we can avoid the temptation to be complacent, to be worn down, and to be fatigued by the evil in our world.

Recently, there have been conversations about how the Church is to respond to violence. Should we respond with prayer, with action, or both? Two “hashtags” appeared on social media after the shooting in Texas: #PrayersForSutherlandSprings and #ThoughtsAndPrayersAreNotEnough. The Episcopal group “Bishops United Against Gun Violence” released a statement on this very topic. The Bishops wrote: “Prayer is not an offering of vague good wishes. It is not a spiritual exercise that successfully completed exempts one from focusing on urgent issues of common concern. Prayer is not a dodge. In prayer we examine our own hearts and our own deeds to determine whether we are complicit in the evils we deplore. And if we are, we resolve to take action; we resolve to amend our lives…One does not offer prayers in lieu of demonstrating political courage, but rather in preparation.”

As Episcopalians, we have the gift of the Baptismal Covenant in the Book of Common Prayer, and when faced with “compassion fatigue,” when faced with the question of whether to act or pray, when we can simply look to our baptism for the answer. The answer is both. In the Baptismal Covenant, we promise to continue in worship, fellowship, and the sacraments; to resist evil and repent when we fall into sin; to proclaim the Good News of Jesus; to seek and serve Christ in all persons; and to strive for justice and peace among all people. The answer is “all of the above.” When we follow Jesus in baptism, and seek daily to live out our baptismal promises, we will find that God is with us, holding us in the fatigue of the world, and granting us courage and strength to confront evil with Love.

The Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, Associate Rector