Greetings, Creator family, and Peace
What a premium we place on “peace.” We talk about achieving it, we expend large amounts of energy to possess it, and we cherish it when we have it. But how often do we really…have it?
Liturgically speaking, perhaps our longtime Episcopalians will recall the controversy that overshadowed the change in 1979 BCP. The addition of the “peace” to the middle of the service drew no small amount of attention as an interruption to the normal flow, and a distraction to the real purpose of being in church. I remember the strained effort to integrate this practice into the service and the delicate attempts to teach the importance of the “peace” as a part of our liturgical history. I also remember the extra effort that was required to trust that this was a good thing and to move on. Many years have passed since this “innovation” was introduced (really it was a resurrected tradition from the earliest days of the church) and I have seen the “peace” grow and then lose meaning as a witness to the larger reality that it is actually quite difficult to grasp “peace” at all.
In relationships, especially marriages, we fool ourselves into believing that we have peace when there is no conflict, but this is a lie. Peace is not the absence of conflict -not in the Christian sense; peace is the actual presence of the Holy, the presence of God in our midst. You see, Jesus doesn’t promise us the peace we understand - that is the lie. He promises us the peace beyond our understanding -that is the gift. When we substitute the peace of “mediocre acceptance” for the palpable peace of Christ, we have settled for far less than we have been promised and live our lives disquieted and unsettled.
Sadly, over time, as we grow to accept the “the lack of conflict is peace” lie, the whole of our lives must compensate. This acceptance demands a dumbing down of all the words of Christ to the point they become meaningless. This infection of distrust and disbelief dominates our spiritual life and soon, without realizing it, we are saying to ourselves (and others) that the Gospel is all metaphor or that it simply does not apply to us.
The truth of the matter is that Jesus promised us miraculous gifts and they are ours for the taking, but we must be able to recognize them to receive them; to be able to read the directions in order to comprehend them; to be willing to follow in trust, not to forge ahead on our own. The dumbing down of Jesus - His life and His words - must be fought with everything we have, and accepting His peace is a great place to make our stand.
To accept His peace, we must stop trying to dictate the way we will receive it. The truth is, we want it on our terms and in a manner that pleases us with as little effort as possible, but that is not how God has chosen to give His gifts. If we put as much effort into our life in Christ as we do into our avoidance techniques, if we expend as much energy in our search for greater depth in God as we do suppress our emotions during those periods of “lack of conflict,” then we would have all that we so desire—and more; more than we can understand.
The “Peace” in the middle of our Sunday services provides us with a divine opportunity, more than a time to share recipes or to tell fish stories; it is a time of reflection, hope, and prayer. In those few moments we are given the opportunity to embrace the reality of the peace of Christ as beyond our comprehension and we are bathed in the presence of the Holy Spirit as we pray that peace to be present in the lives of those we greet in Christ’s name.
C.S. Lewis was fond of saying that if we live a certain way, we will soon be the way we live. That’s pretty telling. Perhaps, as we live the peace of Christ in the midst of our services, we will embrace the peace of Christ in the midst of our lives. Once this true peace (His peace) is known to us, the days of settling will be a part of the disquieted past and the rest of His words, no longer regarded as metaphor, will ring with divine truth.
Jesus told us, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27) This is his gift to us as we grow in our understanding and devotion to him. St. Paul brings us home to Christ when he said,
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your heart and mind in the knowledge and love of God,and our Lord Jesus Christ. (John 4:4-7)
In the peace of Christ,
For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. Matt. 18:20
As we pulled into Shrine Mont we were greeted by that “old familiar feeling,” that sense of sameness and almost friendship from a place we know so well. The routine was just as familiar: park, unpack, visit, explore. In a matter of minutes, the road seemed far behind us and away–barely a memory, subsumed in by beauty, hope, and peace. Our Parish Retreat had begun and we were ready for the change.
Every year we are blessed by God to gather and visit, renew old ties, and create new bonds of love and friendship. Each year we are blessed by beautiful weather (no matter what it’s like) and this year, we all gave thanks for the incredible blue skies and cool nights. A trek to the Cross along the Via Dolorosa (the Way of the Cross) on Saturday morning was a spiritual journey of exploring the depth of God’s love through the sacrifice of the Son. Saturday afternoon was open to any one of many opportunities which fed and uplifted each of us: fishing, strolling, reading, “porching,” napping–in a word, being. I was blessed by a hike to North Mountain alone with William, truly a gift I will never forget.
Saturday evening brought the “s’mores roast,” croquet, and frisbee on the upper field, trading stories of life and laughing as we re-lived moments of past Shrine Mont gatherings. As we retired, with bellies full of marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers, we were greeted by the music of our traditional porch guitar circle, where we gathered to sing together.
Sunday worship was beautiful and unhurried, blessed by the presence of God and adorned by the hearts and spirits of our Creator Family. Then that familiar routine was back: pack and prepare for the not-so-long drive off the mountain. Then lunch which, as with all the Shrine Mont meals, was filled with good food, the sounds of love, laughter, and happy companionship.
There’s a wooden archway across the entrance/exit to the Shrine Mont Circle, and it is only upon leaving from the weekend that you can read its message: “Depart in Peace.” As we pulled away and headed for home, filled with the Holy Spirit, we were grateful for that “old familiar feeling” of having been in the presence of our Lord and that sense of sameness and absolute friendship from a place we know so well.
“then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.” Deut. 30:3
Until next year… grace and peace in Christ,
Good Afternoon, Creator Family -
After a delightful lunch and fellowship together this past Sunday, I’m ready for a trip to the mountains! How about you? I know many are registered to attend this year’s parish retreat at Shrine Mont, but perhaps you are still on the fence or have dismissed the opportunity. I just want you to know it’s not too late to join us.
Our diocese is fond of calling this beautiful and historic camp and conference center the site of its only “Cathedral,” which I guess it truly is. Without walls or roof–the only “vaulted ceiling” the tree canopy and blue skies above–the shrine there is a magnificent place. It’s a holy place, but a place of life and true living, including a bit of ‘tongue-in-cheek’ ecclesial humor. For instance, on the way up the hill to the Shrine, you can stop by and sit in a small stone seat, affectionately referred to as the “bishop’s seat,” or the “cathedra.” It is the cathedra that officially makes a church location into a cathedral. That is, as we know, a cathedral is the central church of a diocese and the seat of the diocesan bishop. It is specifically the church in which the ‘seat’–cathedra–of the bishop is located. No cathedra, no cathedral! So, in the Latin tradition, a basilica is not a cathedral because there is no cathedra. This is why in every parish church there is a “bishop’s chair” (at Creator it is the high-backed chair on the left with the bishop’s miter (hat) carved on it) so that when the bishop comes and sits in it, the host parish is officially the Cathedral of the Diocese at that moment! Pretty cool, huh?
Now that we have our historical interest piqued, perhaps you would like a little more on the place. Old-comers and newcomers alike will appreciate the rich history and significance of all the pilgrimage and prayer Shrine Mont has seen over the years. The large historic hotel, also called the “Virginia House,” is the largest wooden structure in Virginia and is on the National Historic Register. It was built in 1870 and it houses a memorabilia room along with several books and pamphlets on the history. The wonderful book and gift shop has a few more. It is also a conference center open to the public, as the web site describes: “Shrine Mont is a conference and retreat center located in Orkney Springs, a community in western Shenandoah County, Virginia. With accommodations for up to 550 people, we offer groups as well as individuals fun things to do, beautiful places to explore and abundant hospitality.” But there is so much more!
The current structure is the renovated original building, the famous Orkney Spring Hotel of the Victorian era and early 20th C. Long before that, Orkney Springs was an area once populated by the Senedo tribe, the indigenous people who vanished mysteriously six centuries before Europeans landed in the new world. Gradually the area was populated by white settlers in the mid-1700s. Once discovered and well regarded for the “medicinal waters” of the mountain springs, Orkney and the area around it grew rapidly. By the mid-1800s several hotels were built, including the Orkney Springs Hotel, which was started in the 1850s. In the late 1800s, Episcopal Church services were held in the hotel, often by the Sixth Bishop of Virginia, Robert Atkinson +Gibson.
The transition from a secular “society” spa at the final stop on rail lines out of DC and Baltimore to a sanctified holy site came with a few early “church fathers” of our diocese–along with their wives and families. In the 1920s The Rev. Edmund Lee Woodward+, a priest of the Diocese, with his wife purchased land at Orkney Springs and built a log cabin (named Gibson Cottage located just above the Shrine) and took up permanent residence. The Woodwards went on to clear much of the land and, stone by stone, personally to build the Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration. At the consecration of the Shrine in 1925, Rev. Woodward+ presented Bishop Henry St. George +Tucker with a deed of donation to the Shrine and surrounding land, and the Diocesan Cathedral was born. The Woodwards went on to build many other buildings at “Shrine Mont” where Rev. Woodward+ served as Rector until his death in 1948.
In 1979, the Diocese of Virginia purchased the Orkney Springs Hotel including the Maryland and Virginia houses as well as 1000 acres of land, completing the “Shrine Mont” as we know it today. And our Creator Family has quite a history there as well, as we have attended many, many years, enjoying fellowship with Creator folk and extended family–hosting reunions, celebrating anniversaries and Father’s Day, introducing new friends and new babies to the wonder and magic of our “holy hill” as we pass on our treasure to the next generation. It is a secret and a blessing that is simply too wonderful not to share. So much history is held by those stones; so much hope grows in the wood and flowers surrounding the Shrine; so much faith and prayer flow as the mountain springs–Shrine Mont is truly a place apart.
Still, it is not the simple beauty of the mountain or the radical change of place which enlightens our hearts and elevates our minds; it is the labor and devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ that made and makes Shrine Mont possible. I pray you can be with us this Sunday on the Holy Mountain. But if not, consider the devotion of Rev. Woodward+ and all those who dedicated their lives and efforts to Christ, and pray for us all to be so empowered by God.
Peace in Christ,
Dear Creator Family,
What a joyful time this has been, from Easter to Trinity Sunday our worship and spiritual life have been rich and full. It is true that our parish has been hit with many physical setbacks this past year (septic system failure, water main break, boiler destruction, parish hall damage), but the Holy Spirit is strong and so is our resolve as we have faced whatever has come before us.
Now, as summer brings staycations and vacations alike, Creator remains our home where we have many opportunities for worship, fellowship, education, service, and spiritual growth waiting for each of us.
Mark your calendar:
Wednesday Video Study - Starting THIS Wednesday night, June 7th at 7 pm, via Zoom: The Chosen Season 3. We will gather to continue our viewing and reflection on The Chosen series. Having completed a wonderful session last year exploring seasons 1 and 2, we will embark on season 3 anticipating the same blessed insights and revelations.
Thursday Bible Study - We are finishing up the Book of Revelation and starting a new Book of the Bible. NOW is the time to come on board. Join your brothers and sisters as we grow in our knowledge and love of the Lord! Gather at 7:00; Bible Study at 7:30. All on Zoom.
2nd Sunday Potluck - Starting This Sunday- June 11, after the 10:30 service. Mark your calendars for the same on July 9 and August 13 (after the 10:00 service) - a summer gathering to look forward to! Please join us for a yummy "potluck" and fun fellowship with your Creator family.
Summer Sunday Fellowship - Coming June 25 through Labor Day Weekend: Drinks and light refreshments on the portico after the 10:00 service (except for the 2nd Sunday, when we will make a meal of it in the Parish Hall).
To-Do List for You - As always with any home, there are many varied Chores of Love to do around the Church and Parish Hall. We have our beloved “To-Do” list available for you to peruse and attend to. Also, please contact Sharon Warren if your green thumb or clearing jones need to be excised!
Ministry Opportunities: Chalice Bearer and Reader, Altar Guild, Usher, and Vestry - You are lovingly invited to serve as God has called you. To serve in worship is a humble and blessed gift from God, a gift God freely gives. Please give me a call to explore God’s call to you!
Creator remains our home where we have many opportunities for worship, fellowship, education, service, and spiritual growth waiting for each of us!
Peace in Christ,
Father Bill Burk†