Thanksgiving for Our Common Ministry at St. Peter’s

My favorite poem associated with seasons in life is “Time” by Henry Van Dyke. “Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” Indeed, because together, we love Jesus, time is eternity.

Forever, I shall give thanks for our common participation in God’s ministry, made possible through life at St. Peter’s. It has been a humbling privilege and unspeakable joy to serve as the thirty-third Rector of this awesome place since September 1, 2012. Our parish community has engaged God and one another, grown spiritually and in people, and deepened in faith through intentional worship, formation, in-reach, outreach, justice-seeking initiatives, and fellowship. Together, we have offered the collective stewardship of time, talents, and treasure for the good of God’s Church and all who might benefit from its mission for this community and beyond.

We have prayed unceasingly and shared innumerable holy moments: joys and sorrows, tears and laughter, hopes and dreams, work, play, music making and offerings, baptisms, marriages, burials, and the Holy Eucharist. We have celebrated accomplishments, apologized for wrongs, learned from mistakes, and engaged new ways forward, in the name of our love for Jesus. Now, as I prepare for new ministry with Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Memphis, Tennessee, I am able to leave in peace and gratitude – for our time.

St. Peter’s is healthy, flourishing, and its next season is in the exceptional care of the Vestry, our Bishop Diocesan, the Right Reverend Samuel Sewall Rodman, III, and each parishioner who is committed to leaning in and sustaining the vibrancy of the parish. Our Clergy-Staff Team is the “finest of fine” and continually seeks ways to improve its support of all parishioners, the Vestry, and everything offered by ways of worship, programs, and events.

Life at St. Peter’s is a reminder that God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good. Our common ministry has been to the glory of God and in keeping with 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. Thanks for the opportunity to share in this stretch of time on our earthly journey with Christ.

God’s blessings and peace as we live and walk in love,

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Participating in Our Lives

“There is no excuse to not participate in your own life, to let the opportunity to do good pass you by.” This line, from what I received as an excellent, convicting homily offered by Josh Meloy on Youth Sunday, June 10, gives much to consider about how we might approach our lives. The Latin expression “Carpe diem” (seize the day) came to mind and keeps ringing.

Indeed, because God is life and God is good, we are called to participate in our lives with God at beginning and ending of our days. As a people called to be bold followers of Jesus, each day presents openings to do good and bless others both with and through our lives. To help with participating in our lives, St. Peter’s upholds the observance of weekly worship as one of the single most important gestures that able-bodied adults, youth, and children can do. Each is called to participate in God by remembering the Sabbath day and keeping holy by worship, intentionally gathering with fellow members of the body of Christ around God’s Altar.

Life at St. Peter’s intentionally offers numerous worship opportunities on Sundays and beyond to provide congregants with God’s Word and Sacrament, nourishment for life: Sunday, Holy Eucharist, 8:00 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. plus every third, and most second and fourth at 5:00 p.m.; Tuesday, Holy Eucharist, Noon; Monday–Friday, Morning Prayer, 8:00 a.m. For parents with young children, the Infant and Toddler Center is staff Sundays, 7:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Josh Meloy also expressed that “rushing through life always wanting more and more and never appreciating what we have can rob us of happiness and a true connection with God.” May we strive, in faith, to do those things that will help us to participate in our lives – gifts from God.

God’s blessings and peace as we try,

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

The Choir School Sings Sunday!

Early on the morning of June 14, the Boys Tour Choir, Girls Tour Choir, and the MasterSingers of The Choir School at St. Peter’s will gather in front of St. Peter’s, ready to embark on their annual summer tour. The staff and chaperones will quickly put everyone to work, loading the buses with suitcases, choir robes, risers, snacks, and all the many things that we will need for a week on the road.

With the bus packed and everyone onboard, we will be on our way. This year, we will sing concerts in Richmond, Falls Church, and Alexandria, Va. We will sing for Sunday worship at St. Andrew’s Episcopal in Burke, Va., where Aaron Goen, my predecessor here in the Assistant position, is now Director of Music. And we will even have the opportunity to sing for Evensong at St. Paul’s K Street in Washington, D.C.

Summer tour is one of the most valuable aspects of the Choir School program. Tour teaches our choristers what they can be at their very best. It is a transformative experience. I’ve seen choristers come back after their first tour with a confidence and maturity that only comes from the experience that tour provides. They’ve accomplished something extraordinary and they know it.

It’s our hope at the Choir School that these experiences are not just something that will serve them in their time in the Choir School. We hope that it is something they will carry with them throughout their lives, that as opportunities and challenges present themselves, they will meet them with the confidence and courage they learn through their experience here.

You can learn more about the Choir School at St. Peter’s and about our summer tour here: thechoirschool.org.

Elizabeth Lenti, Director of Music and Organist

The Richness of Life at St. Peter’s is a Blessing

The richness of life at St. Peters is a blessing.

In just the past few weeks, depending on your interests and energy level, you might have chosen from among the following bounty of options: two rousing Spring Concerts by the Choir School at St. Peter’s, an offering of pub theology, a Festive Parish Potluck celebrating Pentecost, a Center City Concert by the A.W.Duo, and an all-day Pentecost Retreat offering a silent, meditative journey through the Daily Office.

These opportunities were in addition to our routine offerings every week: formation classes for children, youth, and adults; Holy Chow every Sunday morning; the simple beauty of our 8:00 a.m. Rite I service, as well as our 10:45 a.m. liturgy; along with baptisms, pastoral visits, and small group fellowship.

The many chances to meet, greet, eat, learn, and worship together are so plentiful at St. Peter’s that it is easy to take them for granted. In the days and weeks ahead, as we prepare for this season of change, I urge you to find ways to offer thanks to the clergy, staff, and lay leaders who weave our lives together into this strong, vibrant tapestry that we all love so much.

Summer is nearly here, and our schedules will change. Our routines will change. And, in this particular summer, our rector will change. As we meet this significant moment of transition, our engagement with St. Peter’s must not change.
Now is the time for each of us to lean in even more, to be present for one another, and to celebrate our shared love of St. Peter’s together in new and old ways. Our deep gratitude for our life at St. Peter’s, along with hope for the future, will light the path.

Bert J. Miano, Senior Warden

The Love that Binds

Last weekend, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry offered a rousing and inspiring sermon at the Royal Wedding in Windsor. If you have not had a chance to listen, I recommend you do so. In perfect Bishop Curry fashion, God’s love was the theme of the day. As we celebrate this Trinity Sunday, we have an opportunity to reflect on the words offered by our Presiding Bishop and the love of God which binds all of humanity.

The first Sunday after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday, the day the Church celebrates the doctrine of God in Three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Church has long believed the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to be co-equal, co-eternal, and of the same nature: “one God in three divine persons.”

Throughout the centuries theologians have debated the Church’s understanding of the Trinity. Personally, I have yet to hear a simple illustration that fully describes what we believe about the nature of God. Most attempts to succinctly explain the Trinity are full of accidental pitfalls, and so the best explanation is sacred mystery.

The nature of God is indeed a mystery and once we set aside our attempts at understanding this, we are able to grasp the most sacred mystery of what the Trinity offers: Love.

Love does not exist in a vacuum and it does not belong in a silo. Love is always directed towards another.  St. Bernard of Clairvaux described the Trinity in just this way: The Father is the one who loves, the Son is the beloved, and the Spirit is the love which binds all three. Through their perfect relationship of love, they pour out God’s love on the face of the earth. The relationship, the communion, and the unity which exists within the Trinity is a model for humanity: perfect unity, just harmony, right relationship, mutual welfare, and sacrificial love.

At St. Peter’s we strive to be “a community of bold followers…a place of radical love and welcome…” This is who I believe we are and who we are becoming. Like the Holy Trinity, it can be difficult to articulate what it is about this place that keeps us coming back, that taps into the depths of our souls; but like the Holy Trinity, we are not required to fully understand it, we are simply invited to embrace it.

Through our regular fellowship offerings, such as the St. Peter’s Dinner Groups beginning this fall and the upcoming Parish Picnic on Sunday, June 3, we have many opportunities to practice our embrace of God’s love in this community. I hope you will join us for the Parish Picnic if you are able, and I pray this Trinity Sunday and every day, we will be inspired by the sacred mystery of God’s eternal love.

The Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, Associate Rector

Celebrating Our Birthday

Every year at the end of the Great Fifty Days of Easter, the body of Christ, the Church celebrates its birthday with the extraordinary occasion of the Day of Pentecost: Whitsunday. This feast both reminds and teaches how the people of God, across lines of all sorts, conditions, and languages, actually can be united in One God – through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the Gospel according to St. John the Divine (15:26-27; 16:4b-15), Jesus reminds his followers of what this coming and power of the Holy Spirit, the Wisdom of God, means: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

On the Day of Pentecost, the faithful were filled with burning hearts that would change history by celebrating the unifying and reconciling love of God. They were filled with new ways of being that would effect good change for the world. The God within and around each individual marked new beginnings and transformed lives, making each believer a missionary of the truth set forth by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Birthdays strike me as a picture-perfect chance to begin again one’s appreciation for and commitment to life. For Christians, our common birthday, Pentecost, suggests that we might embrace the Spirit within, and let it freely burn in order to inform and motivate how we live. May our Pentecost prayer become something like the words of the hymn, “Come down, O Love divine,” and may our lives become this song.

Come down, O Love divine” seek thou this soul of mine, and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear, and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.
O let it freely burn, till earthly passions turn to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light shine ever on my sight, and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.
And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long, shall far outpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace, till Love create a place wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.

God’s blessings and peace as we try,

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Defining Stewardship at St. Peter’s

Stewardship is the act of responding to God’s abundance by offering time, talent and treasures for the present and future welfare of the parish; engaging initiatives associated with the life and sustainability of parish ministries, and efforts focused on care and environmental sustainability of parish buildings and grounds.

Carolyn Carlburg and Ellison Clary are the Vestry members charged with leading our stewardship ministries alongside several others. As Vestry Coordinator for Stewardship and Strategic Visioning, Carolyn is supervising a strategic visioning process, with expert advice from Jeanette McDonald of the Episcopal Church Foundation. The Strategic Visioning Team gathered for a retreat on May 5 to begin work that will involve the entire parish from 2018 into 2019. As Vestry Coordinator for Stewardship and the Annual Fund, Ellison is working with Annual Fund Co-Team Leaders, John Buric and Amanda Wommack. This team held its organizational meeting on May 7.

Smart spending of monies raised during annual fund campaigns is a priority for St. Peter’s Vestry. Throughout the year, you will be reading and hearing a great deal about fundraising to support initiatives that make our parish what it is as well as deliberate planning for what we want to be in years ahead.

The Episcopal Church says stewardship “is reaching out to build relationships from a perspective of abundance instead of scarcity.” This feels like the right approach for St. Peter’s in our annual fund canvass. Amanda and John want to enlist the support of all members. Our goal is for every household to offer a pledge that, joined with other pledges, will guarantee that we raise a minimum of $1 million to support the parish operating budget.

You will hear much more about these and other stewardship programs throughout the year. Communications will be coupled with updates on progress of those working on annual fund-raising and the strategic visioning process. With your help, they will set priorities and develop strategies for the most effective use of our money.

Empowering our Youth on their Journeys

One of the most important things a parent can do for their teens is engage them as regular, active members of their church’s youth program. After over twenty years of experience and study of youth ministry I am convinced that parents who engage their children in faithful worship attendance, formation classes, and outreach ministry, provide their teens with a strong foundation for navigating the teen years, college, and adult lives.  

Most of the 80+ youth who have “graduated” from the youth program remain in touch in some way. All have become successful young adults. The youth leaders and I believe an essential part of their success comes from their relationships with God and J2A friends; from knowing that St. Peter’s and their J2A leaders continue to pray for and remain available to them; and from the lessons of our curriculum. Those lessons include knowing and understanding God, how prayer helps in times of ease and stress, the importance of serving others, how to love and care for themselves without being self-centered, and how to see their own sexuality as a gift from God and to cherish that gift and use it wisely.  

I recently received a text from one of our college sophomores, Callan Ghareeb. With her permission, I share her text with you: “I recently Googled myself and discovered a recording of my sermon from Youth Sunday. Listening to it made me tear up a bit because I still love you and Erin (McGillicuddy, her best friend, met through Episcopal Outreach Camp) so much and I’m so thankful for all the opportunities being a member of St. Peter’s youth group gave me. You, Harris (Holt), Jim (DiMartino) and Elsie (Erneston) truly shaped me to become who I am today and I could not be more grateful for you all.” Callan is studying to become a human rights lawyer. She asserts that her experiences in the youth group cemented her desire to work with marginalized people. St. Peter’s has many such stories of our former young people practicing radical love and effecting good change for the world. Please email me to hear stories of other youth, and/or to discuss involving your teen today! 

Lyn Holt, Director of Youth Formation

Strategic Visioning to Sustain St. Peter’s

Eastertide, a period of new life, presents the perfect season for our parish community to embark on the practice of strategic visioning. Congregational development professionals suggest that such planning usually has two purposes: the activity of seeking God’s Will for a ministry or church, and the decision to act in faith on what has been discerned. To this end, the Vestry has commissioned a Strategic Visioning Team to lead us in reflecting on the past and present, and envisioning what effects will be required to sustain our ministry and sacred space in Center City Charlotte.

In this endeavor, Vestry Coordinator for Stewardship (Strategic Planning), Carolyn Carlburg will collaborate with a team of approximately twenty members, including Vestry Coordinator for Stewardship (Annual Fund), Ellison Clary, Senior Warden, Bert Miano, the Clergy-Staff Team, and all who are committed to life at St. Peter’s. Through the generosity of St. Peter’s Endowment, funds have been approved to engage the services of the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) and one of its staff consultants to guide us through this significant process.

ECF helps Episcopal communities of faith develop strategic, leadership, and financial resources for ministry. On Saturday, May 5, ECF Consultant, Jeannette McDonald will facilitate a retreat with the Strategic Visioning Team before all are invited to the Sunday, May 6 Parish Hall Forum: 2018 Strategic Visioning Process Introduction at 9:30 a.m. This event will focus on a process overview, timeline, expectations, and underscore listening as a key component to success.

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. I hope that you will make every effort and encourage others to share in all things necessary to sustain St. Peter’s and fulfill our Vision – with God’s help.

Eastertide blessings,

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Good Shepherd Sunday

This Fourth Sunday of the Easter Season is lovingly referred to as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” It is a “feast day” of sorts for the children and adults who participate in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd approach, with some of our favorite readings and hymns. During worship on Sunday some of our children will be celebrating Eucharist together, culminating a sacramental retreat held Saturday.

One of our primary aims of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is for the children to fall in love with Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and to see the Kingdom of God as a place they want to be, developing a relationship grounded in love, not in fear. The parable of the Good Shepherd is the central theme for the 3-6 year-old child, revealing the personal love and protective presence of Christ who calls us by name, knows us intimately, and to whom we learn to listen and follow. According to Dr. Sofia Cavalletti, “Through this parable the child’s silent request to be loved and so to be able to love finds response and gratification.”

Often the youngest child equates the image of the Good Shepherd to that of a parent who cares for the child. As Fr. Louis Leon reminded us in his sermon on this date last year, in the parable, Jesus never promised that nothing bad will ever happen or that we will be shielded from all trouble. Instead, the good news is that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will be with us, beside us, always. One of the greatest religious capacities is the need for relationship and celebration is that relationship, illustrated in this parable.

For the older child this image is integrated with that of Jesus as the True Vine (John 15) which introduces the covenant relationship between the Father, Jesus, and us, drawing the child into the mystery of a life-giving union with Christ which bears fruit for the world and inviting us to “abide” in this love. Jesus the Good Shepherd calls us to follow, Jesus the True Vine invites us to stay, to remain. The children who have been participating in sacramental preparation have explored these images of Jesus and our inextricable relationship with him. They are celebrating that relationship today in the Holy Eucharist.