Evensong at St. Peter’s

In my short time at St. Peter’s, I have been most impressed by the sheer scope of programming our parish offers. As the new season begins, I am personally looking forward to Evensong. Evensong was the first Episcopal service I attended, about 5 years ago. I walked out of that service with an overwhelming sense of peace and quietness. I also walked out with a bulletin which included remarks from an article by Steven Hough entitled “‘Do Not Touch Me’: The Wisdom of Anglican Thresholds.”

Evensong hangs on the wall of English life like a old, familiar cloak passed through the generations. Rich with prayer and Scripture, it is nevertheless totally nonthreatening. It is a service into which all can stumble without censure – a rambling old house where everyone can find some corner to sit and think, to listen with half-attention, trailing a few absentminded fingers of faith or doubt in its passing stream. Most religious celebrations gather us around a table of some sort. They hand us a book, or a plate, or speak a word demanding a response. They want to ‘touch’ us. Choral Evensong is a liturgical expression of Christ’s Nolle me tangere – ‘Do not touch me. I have not yet ascended to my Father’ (John 20:17). It reminds us that thresholds can be powerful places of contemplation; and that leaving someone alone with their thoughts is not always denying them hospitality or welcome.

Evensong at St. Peter’s is typically offered on the second and fourth Sunday at 5:00 p.m. Choral offerings are sung by the St. Peter’s Choir, the Choir School at St. Peter’s, and the Burli Singers, directed by parishioner Rob Burlington. The 2018–2019 season is especially important for the MasterSingers as they prepare for a choral residency in July 2019, at Durham Cathedral, England. During this residency the MasterSingers will sing Evensong every day for a week, as well as Matins and Holy Eucharist on Sunday. As we delve into a new season of formation, I kindly invite you to experience Evensong for yourself. The first three opportunities are September 23, September 30, and October 14 at 5:00 p.m.

Garrett Law
Assistant Organist and Choirmaster

“A season and a time…”

“For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

All around us are signs of summer ending and fall on its way: back-to-school sales and football schedules, a slower commute, a longing for sweater weather. And here at St. Peter’s, as in many churches, we kick-off fall with our return to the regular rhythm of formation classes, choir rehearsals, and Holy Chow. It’s a time of beginning again, making commitments, and adjusting our sails.

This time of year reminds me of New Year’s Day, when we traditionally make resolutions for changing ourselves in the days ahead. In fact, I look at five times a year as days of resolution and commitment. Besides New Year’s Day, there’s my birthday when I consider the year stretched out ahead and set plans for being a better me. There’s Advent, the beginning of the church year, and Easter Day, the ultimate new beginning. And finally, fall – back to school, back to church – a time to set new goals, try new schedules, commit to new ways of being family, community and disciples.

I’ve recently returned to St. Peter’s after many years in other churches. As fall approaches I look forward to engaging more deeply with this community: giving thanks that I can live into my ministry here and praying about ways I can offer comfort, challenge, hope and assurance of God’s grace and love. What about you? How does Fall Kick Off speak to you about ministry and discipleship and entering a new season of living your faith? Browse the Sunday leaflet. Study the Life at St. Peter’s schedule. Re-engage in something you used to do. Try something new. There is a need and a ministry with your name on it and others waiting for you to join them. The next season of your faith starts now.

The Reverend Sally Johnston
Assisting Priest

God is Love. Love is the Way.

At St. Peter’s, “We uphold the full inclusion and belonging of all people in the life and ministry of our parish church. We affirm that our baptismal covenant vows to ‘seek and serve Christ in all persons,’ to ‘love our neighbor as ourselves,’ and to ‘respect the dignity of every human being’ apply equally to all people, regardless of race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Without apology or condition, we believe that all people literally means all people” (from our Parish statement on Welcome, Inclusion, and Belonging).

For many LGBTQ people, the Church is responsible for and represents oppression and hostility. The faith communities that raised them, baptized them, first taught them about Jesus of Nazareth were not prepared to love them fully. On Saturday and Sunday, St. Peter’s has the unique opportunity show our neighbors that our life in Christ is life in a Loving, Liberating, and Life-giving God. We have the opportunity to share that God is Love, and Love is the Way. We preach with our presence on the parade route that we are all children of God, made in God’s image, and God loves us unapologetically and unconditionally.

St. Peter’s will have a booth in the festival on Saturday and Sunday. This will be an opportunity to welcome and connect with our neighbors. If you would like to be an ambassador for St. Peter’s at the booth, march in the parade, or help provide hospitality, please sign up using this form.

The Pride at St. Peter’s planning team has been hard at work making arrangements for this weekend and we hope you will volunteer to help out and spend some time on the lawn during the parade.
God is Love. Love is the Way.

The Pride at St. Peter’s Social Justice Planning Team

The Choir School Begins A New Season

After a brief respite following our tour in June to Washington, D.C., the Choir School at St. Peter’s is gearing up for another season of singing. Some of our returning choristers will continue in the same choir in which they were singing last year. Some will be embarking on their first year in a new choir – Town Choir choristers moving to Tour Choir, Tour Choir choristers becoming MasterSingers – and we will welcome many new young singers into the Choir School program.

Each season begins with two intensive singing experiences. This year, the first will be the MasterSingers retreat in Valle Crucis. We carpool up to the mountains on August 10 and spend three days at the Valle Crucis conference center. We spend our time learning the music that we will be singing throughout the fall. As any of the teenagers will tell you, we spend a great deal of time rehearsing! We also find time for fun – for group activities, games, and many opportunities to get to know each and grow as a community. The weekend ends with our singing the morning service at the Church of the Holy Cross.

On August 13, the Town and Tour Choirs will arrive at St. Peter’s for Choir Camp. This five-day camp is designed to take choristers all the way through the process of learning a program of music for both an Evensong and a short concert. We rehearse throughout the day – learning both sacred and secular songs. The children also receive instruction in music theory and play handbells. In the afternoon, various group activities are scheduled. Choristers will do crafts, go bowling and to the park, among other fun activities.

Choir Camp culminates in Evensong and a concert on Friday afternoon. It is always extraordinary how much our young singers can accomplish in the space of a single week. I invite you to come and experience the final performance of camp on August 17 at 4:30 p.m. in the Parish Hall.

Elizabeth Lenti, Director of Music and Organist, Artistic Director of the Choir School at St. Peter’s

Our Christian Responsibilities include Ensuring Voting Rights for All Eligible Voters

By Jim Dudley, St. Peter’s parishioner

Pastor Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners and an evangelical Christian minister, reminds us of the scandal of voter suppression that has occurred in our past and that is likely to happen again in the upcoming November election. Voter suppression is evident in any efforts to make voting more difficult for people who are poor, people of color, and other vulnerable groups. Also, to make sure that everyone’s vote counts equally. Specific efforts to suppress their vote in the past especially in the 2016 election include a long list of intrusions into every citizen’s right to vote. This problem all largely began in 2013 with the elimination of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was considered by many as the heart of this Act. A Supreme Court decision, in that case, freed nine states, including North Carolina, from changing their election laws without advanced federal approval. At the core of the disagreement was whether or not racial minorities could continue to face barriers to voting in states with a history of discrimination.

As a result of this Supreme Court decision, voter suppression efforts are more openly allowed including gerrymandering voting districts that end up favoring one political party over the other, and other efforts set up closer to elections. N.C. legislative districts currently have significant gerrymandering built into them and they are not likely to change before the November 2018 Election. Other suppression efforts include eliminating polling places in poorer areas, reducing polling hours and early voting days, excluding Sunday voting which is a traditional time of many African Americans who vote after their church services, and tightening voter ID requirements that exclude the only IDs that most poor people are likely to have.

Jim Wallis reminds us that such efforts are contrary to what we believe as Christians. Among the passages opposing such efforts in the New Testament is a familiar one in Matthew 25. “Jesus said, ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ Jesus responded, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

The November election will soon be upon us and some of these obstacles to voting are resurfacing and others can still be added. Every county in N.C. has a local Board of Elections and almost all of them including Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, and Gaston, have submitted an Early Voting plan to the State Board of Election. They are currently waiting for its approval. Mecklenburg’s proposed plan so far seems reasonable if no changes are made to it (although the details are not yet available to the public), but very recent state initiatives can still make it more difficult for poor people and people of color to vote and to be informed about the complicated ballot that will be used. Time will tell.

We can become involved in many ways to ensure that the upcoming election is fair and accessible to all. Here are some of the ways we can help. We can register people to vote if they are not registered. The deadline for registering for the fall election is October 12. More broadly we can volunteer to educate people who are less likely to vote for numerous reasons including some of the voter suppression obstacles mentioned above. We can initiate or assist others in conducting educational campaigns to help people who are less likely to vote, including poor folks, people of color, and young people. These efforts should emphasize why both voting generally and voting in this important fall election are so important. Another possible effort is to volunteer at the polls during Early Voting beginning October 18 until November 3 and on Election Day, November 6, to help monitor for any possible wrong doing that interferes with election laws and the right of all citizens to vote. The Social Justice Committee will informally serve as a church resource to help St. Peter’s members and others find the best way for each of us to become more involved.  Above all, we urge everyone to become well informed and vote.

To learn more about voter protection issues and ways you can help, please plan to attend the Social Justice Film, “Answering the Call” on September 26 at St. Peter’s, at 6:00p.m. Our next article will list some of the local non-partisan organizations that volunteers can join to help address voter suppression and protection. In the meantime, please feel free to contact members of the Social Justice Committee for more information.

Opportunities to Serve as a Worship Volunteer

At St. Peter’s we welcome many visitors throughout the year. When visitors are known to us, clergy and staff welcome them directly and through the work of the Congregational Development Team. When I speak with newcomers about their experience at St. Peter’s, almost all remark on the beauty of our worship.

We are blessed with a fabulous music ministry, under the direction of Elizabeth Lenti and Garrett Law, and talented singers who fill the choir stalls each Sunday. Their dedicated talent immeasurably enhances our worship. Similarly, we are blessed with committed teams of ushers, lectors, alar guild members, healing ministers, welcome hosts, and eucharistic ministers. We simply could not produce the caliber of worship at St. Peter’s without the many volunteers who help create beautiful liturgy to the glory of God.

On Saturday, August 11 welcome hosts, ushers, Eucharistic ministers, and lectors will gather in the Parish Hall for a seasonal training at the twice-yearly Liturgical Ministries Retreat. This 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. gathering is an opportunity for various Sunday volunteers to assemble for renewed training and to welcome parishioners who might wish to volunteer in one of these ministries. If you sense that God is calling you to serve as a worship volunteer in healing/intercessory prayer ministry, as an usher, lector, welcome host, or Eucharistic minister, please come to this retreat and training day. There is no need to register, simply come for coffee and fellowship at 9:00 a.m., stay for a liturgical plenary at 9:30 a.m., and attend a breakout group of your choosing at 10:30 a.m. There is more information about this event in the weekly eNews and in the Sunday leaflet.

Often heard in the vesting room before the liturgy, the celebrant prays: “Be present, be present, O Jesus, our great High Priest, as you were present with your disciples, and be known to us in the breaking of bread…” Our worship is an act of thanksgiving by which the entire community encounters the risen Christ in the gifts of bread and wine. We do this together, not in our various roles but as one body, receiving one bread and one cup. I give thanks for the many volunteers who make possible our beautiful worship each week. I hope each of us will consider how we might assist in this ministry of thanksgiving.

The Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, Associate Rector

Opportunities for fellowship, rest, and retreat

“Jesus said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”

The gospel appointed for this Sunday contains an important reminder for followers of Jesus: the importance of fellowship, rest, and retreat. This fall at St. Peter’s there are many opportunities to enjoy this important and necessary component of discipleship. On Sunday, August 26, for our celebration and kick-off Sunday for all formation and programs, the Fellowship Team is organizing a potluck for those for those interested in participating in St. Peter’s Dinner Groups.

Several seasons ago, members of St. Peter’s gathered in homes throughout Charlotte to share in a meal, deepen relationships, and enjoy fellowship and conversation. This fall, the St. Peter’s Fellowship Team is excited to reintroduce the St. Peter’s Dinner Groups. In coming weeks there will be opportunities to hear from the team and to sign up. I hope you will consider this low-stress but very rewarding fellowship opportunity. Stay tuned to the weekly eNews, the Sunday leaflet, and Parish House lobby tables for more information.

On the weekend of September 14-17, many parishioners will travel to Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville for our annual Parish Weekend. The Kanuga retreat offers many opportunities for rest, formation, and fellowship. The Kanuga Planning Team is working hard to offer a wonderful program for adults and children. Parishioners of all ages are sure to enjoy this opportunity to learn and deepen relationships in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina. Do not let cost prohibit your participation. There are confidential scholarships available for this event. If you would like to attend but require financial assistance, please contact me directly. Look for more information in the weekly eNews, Sunday leaflet, and upcoming notices.

Our 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.” The hard work of following Jesus, effecting change, and being a place of radical love, welcome, and hope, cannot be possible without the gift of community. This fall let us nurture our community by being together to “rest for a while,” to learn from one another, and to fellowship more deeply. May our times of fellowship and rest renew and strengthen us for the work of the gospel.

Faithfully,

Father Jacob
The Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, Associate Rector

The Power of Retreat

“Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, Jesus said to the apostles, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”

Thus, in Mark’s gospel, Jesus provides the rationale and even the theology of retreating for his disciples–and, by extension, to all of us whose lives are punctuated by meals eaten in cars, at desks, or skipped entirely. Moving apart and resting is as ancient, fundamental, and as much a part of God’s order as creation itself, when rest was, arguably, the final creation of God.

Rest seems like a paradoxical activity for God, whom Dante describes as where the thought and the accomplishment are the same. How can God rest? Why would God rest? The first question might be a mystery, but the second seems clear: admiration of creation is something that even God likes to do. Likewise, to return to Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ invitation came after the runaway success of the first apostles’ mission.

So, God invites us by example to take a moment, look up, and contemplate how very good all creation is. Jesus commands us to come with him after doing well through his strength and join him in getting some rest. And God knows, we need it.

As a Roman Catholic writer (anonymous, so known only to Google and God) points out, a retreat for a parish is a Eucharist writ large: brought apart from the world’s clamor–from chyrons, breaking news alerts, push notifications, updates, and tweets–brought together in joy by the love of Christ and one another, we allow our hearts and minds to be filled with God’s praise, to listen for God’s voice, to reflect on how we can better serve Christ’s kingdom, and we reunite ourselves to the body of Christ.

And then we come back, one hopes, better equipped to confront with God’s love the barrage of a broken world’s spam, texts, notifications, alerts, messages marked urgent, and all the rest. In fact, our focus for this year is on keeping spiritually healthy while surrounded by screens flashing messages of anger, envy, avarice, and despair.

So, Come to Kanuga September 14–16!

Chris Cudabac, Kanuga Committee Member

Carry each other’s burdens…

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

St. Peter’s youth live the Gospel daily, especially during the summer. More than half of our high schoolers signed on for a plunge into the history of racism in a northern city, after having begun a racial reconciliation quest in the summer of 2016 in Ferguson, Missouri. For this summer, we chose a large city with a difficult past: Detroit, Michigan.

Our teens, their leaders, and teens from three other area Episcopal churches travelled 650 miles to the Motor City and participated in four very full days of intense and diverse learning, a good deal of fun, a little mission work, great experiences, interesting people, and much worship, including a 7:00 a.m. service of Holy Eucharist in the beautiful Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul, our home for five nights. We learned much about both the hope and resiliency of Detroiters and the problems that remain to be solved. We came away feeling that Detroit is in a better place than at most times in its history, with many people committed to solving the problems that divide them and make their city less livable. It was an eye-opening, interesting, eclectic, and challenging experience.

We are excited about making a presentation to the parish on September 23, at the adult forum. We will also report on next week’s 30th annual HUGS Camp, a Diocesan offering. St. Peter’s is sending one HUGS camper, ten Helper Campers (high school teens who buddy up with a camper with special needs), four college kids (Counselors), and five adult staff members. It is a remarkable week that we want to share with you. Finally, the youth asked for the opportunity to serve last summer’s hurricane victims. We will spend a week in August in Florida helping with the clean-up. Please keep us in your prayers and come hear all about our summer mission work on September 23.

Thanks so much,

Lyn Holt, Director of Youth Formation

A time to remember our purpose and mission

In the gospel appointed for Sunday, Jesus is repeatedly interrupted as he makes his way across Galilee. First, he is interrupted by Jarius, a synagogue leader with a sick daughter. He agrees to follow Jarius but along the way Jesus is interrupted again. A woman suffering from hemorrhages reaches out to touch Jesus. He stops to seek out who touched him, and he takes time to speak with the woman who reached out in faith. With each interruption Jesus is patiently attentive to those around him.

From reading Mark’s story, I get the sense that the disciples weren’t nearly as patient as our Lord. When Jesus stops to ask who touched him, his disciples reply, “You see the crowds pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” Reading between the lines, I hear the disciples saying, “We don’t have time for this. Let’s keep moving.” In stopping to care for those around him, Jesus redirects his disciples to the essence of his ministry: to bring healing, to resurrect the dead, to proclaim God’s glory and love.

Anyone who has worked on a church staff knows the frustration and the gift of interruption. During staff meetings we learn that someone is in crisis. On our way to coffee hour we hear about an unexpected death. Preparing to begin our Sunday morning class we learn that a member of our community is desperately in need. Each interruption is not a distraction, but an opportunity to refocus, to remember our purpose and mission as the Church.

In this transition season it’s tempting to lose our patience, to want to “get on” with the work ahead. But it’s important for us view this season not as an interruption, but as an interlude, as a between-time that presents us with opportunities to reflect on our deepest values as a community. This season of transition will allow us to discover who we are as St. Peter’s and how we are going to continue to be a beacon of hope in Center City Charlotte in years to come.

The Book of Common Prayer states that the mission of the Church is to “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” That is our mission: the work of healing, resurrection, reconciliation, and love.

As we give thanks for the ministry of Father Ollie and take time to say goodbye, we have a chance to see this new season not as a distraction from our mission, but as an opportunity to dig deep and to remember the essence of our ministry as the Body of Christ for the world.

The Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, Associate Rector