St. Peter’s New Vision

rencherAlmighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect for Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost)

As people of God who make up what is called the Church, the body of Christ, how might we “persevere with steadfast faith in the confession” of what we believe? I ask this question because I am reminded daily that each of us walks the journey of faith in a different way. Even as we share the common bond of the Baptismal Covenant and are steeped in a tradition that offers a common Cup from which to drink, our walks are quite different. From colorful, powerful and likely complicated histories, we gather regularly and as we are able indeed to share our paths with others, while seeking always to be steadfast in faith. Our call to discipleship is answered in a variety of ways and we look rightfully to life at St. Peter’s to assist us on the way. Moreover, the gift of each new day presents us with the opportunity to look ahead and explore how we might give thanks for God who blesses us abundantly and loves us unconditionally.

St. Peter’s new 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. Let us imagine, become foolish, and prayerfully consider how we – individually and collectively – might move forward as the Church, the body of Christ, with new vision, so that the world might know what we believe. The world needs you and me. It needs all that we are and that we might offer to the glory of God. Ours is a story that must be told by actions which speak louder than word – a story that can transform and bring about new life. I thank God for being the Church with you and anticipate going deeper together both in and beyond this incredible, sacred place.

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Six More Weeks of Ordinary Time

josIt’s hard to believe that we have only six more weeks of “ordinary time” before the church year starts anew with the first Sunday of Advent on December 1. It doesn’t seem like too long ago that I was celebrating Pentecost, which sort of kicks off ordinary time in our liturgical year. At that time my family was on the North Carolina coast, and we were eagerly preparing for our move to Charlotte and beginning to feel connected to the people of St. Peter’s.

A group of about ten of us just completed a four-week series as part of our Adult Formation programming. We gathered to talk about the challenges of the ever-elusive quest for “work–life balance,” which has everything to do with ordinary time. Although we didn’t discover a panacea for resolving the stresses of daily life or the perfect compromise for the competing demands on our time, we did find support in encouraging one another to be more mindful of how we shape our days—taking some time for God and for ourselves each day so that we can be more fully present for children, neighbors, friends, colleagues, and those in need.

We also reflected a bit on our theologies of time. I suggested three Christian assumptions about time for the group to “chew on”: that time is a gift, not a possession; that we encounter God in time, not beyond it; and that time as we know it is limited. I offer these assumptions for you, too, to contemplate, as together we soak up these final weeks of ordinary time and seek each day to live in the fullness of God’s dream for our lives as individuals and as the People of God gathered at the corner of Seventh and Tryon streets.

I wish you many blessings as you enjoy the limited, precious gift of time and pray that you will encounter God in small and surprising ways as you go through your “ordinary” days.

The Reverend Deacon Joslyn Ogden Schaefer, Associate Rector

St. Francis Returns to St. Peter’s

rencherSunday, October 6, marks an important day in our parish life that will include a focus on the life and ministry of St. Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) and thanksgiving for the restoration of his statue in the garden of our churchyard. (Check out the Francis-focused events of the day and attend any or all.)

Although the feast of St. Francis is observed on October 4, I offer that every day is a day to seek, pray for, and be all about peace. As one of the 20 pilgrims on the June 25–July 4 Journey to Adulthood (J2A) pilgrimage to Italy, it was a priceless moment to spend time in the hallowed and amazing places where our brother in the faith spent his holy life. Always seeking to live more like the person to whom God called him and calls us to be, I felt his presence and love for God throughout the city of Assisi; it is hard to explain. Without a doubt, I favored this town over Milan and Rome, and if I did not have commitments here at St. Peter’s, I would relocate there (of course, with my wife, Ellie) to grow old while serving God. For now, you’re stuck with us for a long time!

In all things and at all times, we are called to be about peace—to be instruments of the peace of God that passes all human understanding. As bold followers of Jesus, we are called to become people of peace. During worship, we exchange the Peace as a way to acknowledge that our fellow worshipper is created in the image of God; therefore, our offering of peace is in the name of Christ and not merely ourselves. As we journey daily into all that the day shall bring us—known and unknown, planned or unplanned, let us pray unceasingly the famous prayer (below) attributed to St. Francis and remember that we, too, can be all about peace—with God’s help.

frances-wideLord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

I look forward to co-creating peace with you through life at St. Peter’s and the gospel work we have been given to do. Yes, we are blessed in a myriad of ways, but our Lord reminds us in the Holy Scriptures, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

 

Prayers of the People

josEach week our liturgy includes the Prayers of the People, in which we are bidden to pray for “the Church and the world.” Generally, the prayers offered during this sacred time are intercessory because we are praying for someone or some situation outside ourselves. This past week I had the opportunity to join with our pastoral care ministry team in reflecting on intercessory prayer. We shared positive, negative, and disappointing experiences based on our work of intercession over the years.

While what ultimately happens in intercessory prayer is something mysterious, through reading and discussion our group made several observations about how this prayer deepens our spiritual journey:

  • We become more aware of the needs of the world, which in turn increases our compassion, generosity, and responses to injustice.
  • We cope with our feelings of anxiety and powerlessness.
  • In asking for intercession, we acknowledge periods of helplessness and fear in our own lives.
  • We discover the presence of Jesus abiding in the places of suffering.
  • We share in Christ’s work of intercession to God the Father.
  • We learn, at times, to join Mary at the foot of the cross, bearing witness to another’s suffering.
  • We connect those suffering with the broader Body of Christ in Christian community.

I invite you to be intentional about your practice of intercessory prayer; consider keeping a list and/or responding to spontaneous urges of the Spirit when the image of someone in need crosses your mind. I also encourage you to avail yourself of the opportunities for intercessory prayer here at St. Peter’s. At the 10:45 am Eucharist, healing ministers are available immediately after communion in the Healing Ministries Room adjacent to the Parlor. Wednesdays at 10:00 am in the same location, a small group meets to offer prayers of intercession.

Through our prayers and presence, we will continue to live in the vision of being “a beacon of hope in Center City Charlotte.”

The Reverend Deacon Joslyn Ogden Schaefer, Associate Rector

Being Unpopular—in the Name of Jesus

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Collect for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost)

The gospel appointed for August 18 (Luke 12:49–56) reminds us and other readers that in order to follow Jesus, one must understand that she or he will be (or be willing to become) unpopular at one time or another. To follow daily in the blessed steps of Jesus’s most holy life, unpopularity is inevitable. This holds true not only among coworkers, schoolmates, opponents, peers, and those who may not know us well, but also among family and other loved ones. Because we are called to partner with our Lord in his radical commitment to unconditional love, justice, reconciliation, and peace for all, there will be divisions. (“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!”)

Every day and in every opportunity, we are called to be like Christ to others. And when we do this, we undoubtedly will become unpopular and possibly even suffer. It strikes me that in our journey to becoming bold followers of Jesus, we should wrestle daily with the meaning of this and give it a try. Surely, life will become even more exciting and richer. In the name of Jesus, let’s become unpopular together and reflect along the way.

–The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

The Feast of the Transfiguration

The Feast of the Transfiguration, observed on August 6. “While he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white . . . [and the disciples] saw his glory.” –Luke 9:28, 32

As Episcopalians, we emphasize the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, that is, that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. Throughout the Synoptic Gospels especially, we see Jesus’s human nature: his need for food and water, his grief over losing his friend Lazarus, and even his fear in the Garden of Gethsemane as he anticipates dying on the cross. But there are also glimpses of Jesus’s divine nature—the nature he shares with God, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. The Transfiguration is one of the main stories in the Synoptic Gospels that clearly point to Jesus’s divine nature, as Jesus appeared, along with Moses and Elijah, “in glory.”

Sometimes I wonder what glory is. Near the beginning of our liturgy, we say or sing the “Glory to God in the highest.” During the Great Thanksgiving, we join our voices “with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven . . . to proclaim the glory of [God’s] Name,” and we “await [Jesus’s] coming in glory.” In each of these instances, glory seems to point to something beyond our wildest imagination. Early church theologians compared glory to light that is brighter than the sun.

Glory seems to be an attribute of divinity, something almost beyond our grasp—but not quite. I suspect we, too, can radiate something that approaches glory: Our faces reflect God’s light when we spend time with God. The Psalmist writes, “Look to the Lord and be radiant” (Psalm 34). And after Moses spends time with God on Mt. Sinai, he returns with a face so glistening that he has to wear a veil because others cannot look directly at him (Exodus 34:29–35). When we spend time with God, we, too, can radiate God’s glory.

As we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration, I encourage you to seek out that which makes you radiate God’s love. In doing so, I believe, you will reflect the glory of God.

–The Reverend Deacon Joslyn Ogden Schaefer, Associate Rector

God in All Things

“O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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 Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

As summertime in Charlotte or wherever we are continues to unfold and we go and come from St. Peter’s, we are invited to praise and seek God in all things. The Collect for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost reminds us well that without God nothing is strong and nothing is holy. These comfortable, encouraging, and powerful words are perfect, as I will travel from July 26 to August 2 with my wife, Ellie, to Kenya for a church-related conference that will focus on the important matter of human sexuality and justice. (More about this is found in today’s notices.) Gathering with a host of ordained and lay ministers from throughout the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, we will pray, listen, respond, and learn what it means to seek God in all things. More, we will learn explore what it means to put ourselves aside in the name of Love and the Other. It should be a rich time amid breathtaking scenery. In October 2011, I attended this same conference in South Africa and continue to reflect on the transformative nature of being with other Christians from diverse settings who are invited daily to praise and seek God in all things.

I invite you to join me in the praising and seeking of God in all things, as we make our spiritual home at St. Peter’s and are called by our ministries to bring about justice and peace and to live in love. Godspeed, blessings, and looking forward to our return.

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Praying for Our Country and God’s World

The Book of Common Prayer offers a prayer “for our country” in thanksgiving for Independence Day and the unique freedoms we are afforded in the United States of America: Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance; and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Before, during, and after July 4th, we are called to pray for our country as well as all nations of God’s world. If we read closely the prayer “for our country,” we find rich words and images of brokenness and hope that reflect a common humanity and creation. Even as we live freely on different soil and seek peace among the nations, our Baptismal Covenant calls us to be more like Jesus and to learn increasingly that all people are created equally in the image of the same God.

America and all the nations of the earth are blessed, will continue to be blessed, and become better as we reach out to one another in love and prayer. I ask your prayers.

–The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

June 30—A Day of Thanksgiving at St. Peter’s

Our common life at St. Peter’s is full of opportunities to give thanks to God from all whom all blessings flow. Even as we naturally are less aware of our countless blessings, we are called daily into mindfulness of, and gratitude for, people, places, and things that bless us.

June 30 is definitely a day of thanksgiving as our community of faith gives thanks for the 99th birthday of parishioner Edith Pearson. All are invited to gather after 10:45 a.m. worship for a festive birthday celebration. Amazingly, Edith was baptized at St. Peter’s and is able to attend 10:45 a.m. weekly worship preceded by regular presence at the 9:30 a.m. Rector’s Forum from September to May. (Learn more about this celebration in today’s news.)

On this day, we also give thanks for the June 29 ordination of the Reverend Joslyn Ogden Schaefer as Transitional Deacon approximately six months before her upcoming ordination as Priest at St. Peter’s. In addition to programmatic duties as Associate Rector for Formation and Pastoral Care, Joslyn will perform liturgical duties designated for the holy order of Deacons: proclaim the Gospel, bid the Confession, bid the Prayers of the People before the Intercessor offers intercessions, set the Table, and dismiss the people into the world. She also will preach, teach, and join me in leading the baptismal call for each of us to serve the poor, sick, and oppressed.

Although I will be away from June 25 to July 4 with fifteen youth and four adults for the Journey to Adulthood (J2A) pilgrimage to Italy, our pilgrimage crew will be in prayer and thanksgiving for the gift of St. Peter’s. Let us all hold one another in prayer wherever our daily pilgrimages take us and be thankful for our blessings.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Pilgrimage: The Daily Faith Walk

In hymn 209 in The Hymnal 1982, Henry Alford (1810-1871) offers perfect words about pilgrimage and the daily faith walk: We walk by faith, and not by sight; no gracious words we hear from him who spoke as none e’er spoke; but we believe him near. We may not touch his hands and side, nor follow where he trod; but in his promise we rejoice; and cry, “My Lord and God!” Help then, O Lord, our unbelief; and may our faith abound, to call on you when you are near, and seek where you are found: that, when our life of faith is done, in realms of clearer light we may behold you as you are, with full and endless sight.

A pilgrimage is an intentional journey into the sacred, an embrace of the holy ordinary of life. Often, I have heard and know I believe that life is a pilgrimage. It also is a deeper engagement of God through holy places that help us to know God better. Christian pilgrimages first were made to historical sites connected with the birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and to specific places where Christian foremothers and forefathers have walked by faith. Today, youth and adults through formation programs such as Journey to Adulthood (J2A) make pilgrimages primarily away from familiar cultural and national contexts after several years of togetherness in a parish church community.

I am privileged to be one of five adults to lead fifteen youth from St. Peter’s in Italy (Milan, Assisi, Rome) from June 25 until July 4. More, I am grateful to our parish church family for the prayers and provisions that will make possible our journey. Let us all hold one another in prayer wherever our daily pilgrimages take us and remember that God is present in all things, especially as we walk by faith.

Blessings and peace on the way….

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector