Lord, teach us to pray. Put the thoughts into our minds, the desires into our hearts, and the very words into our lips, if it be your will, that so all through it may be praying in the Spirit and not in the flesh. C. H. Surgeon
“…pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” Ephesians 6:18.
Simple prayer is indispensable in the life of every Christian. Spiritual Prayer moves our prayer life from an effort of our own to a partnership of Divine Love. In order to make this jump to Spiritual Prayer, we must first embrace what St. Paul teaches us in his letter to the Romans, which like most things in our Christian walk, is about surrender. Giving God the time, the purity and sanctity of your being, to work in you. That involves, among other things, patience and trust. As Saint Paul urges us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Simple prayer is a response to the needs and concerns of our own lives. Our prayers are petitions and some praises, formed from our experiences and aimed at what we faithfully believe God desires. Through simple prayer we receive the consolation of the Holy Spirit and the assurance of God’s presence and fidelity.
Spiritual Prayer, or Prayer in the Spirit, evolves from the practice of relinquishment to God’s will during times of simple prayer, it is approaching the throne of grace in humble and devout intercession and supplication entirely on God’s terms, not ours. As you might imagine, submitting ourselves to God is harder than it seems, but easier than we think.
Prayer practice is the key to relinquishment. Habit is formed in doing and our habit of simple prayer is bolstered by the Holy Spirit’s presence and blessing. For now, simply starting a habit of prayer will be enough. Remember, 8:15 every morning is our Parish practice, but you can pick any time—just as long as you remain consistent. As Anglicans, we are blessed with several ready-made traditions, starting without very own Book of Common Prayer (BCP), and the lectionary I mentioned in last Sunday’s sermon. There is a very handy “office” of daily prayer at our fingertips, and I’ve known many to use it and benefit from the biblical core, the beautiful language, the universality of our common prayer traditions. There is also Forward Movement publications, offering a daily print or online prayer and devotional guide. Good stuff! Perhaps it’s not too late to add or improve on one other practice in quarantine—arguably the most important one of all!
As your practice evolves into habit your simple prayers are able to evolve into Divine Utterances. It all starts with the will to start, to give to God the time and attention God asks to work in your heart and mind. God is in your prayers with you and your habit of prayer will enable God to work in you that which is right and pleasing in His sight.
"God is (continually) working in you, (continually) giving you the desire to obey Him and (continually giving you) the power to do what pleases Him." Phillipians 2:13
We are back together (sort of) for our first Communion (kind of)!
Dear Creator Family,
It was wonderful to be with those of you who could gather this past Sunday. I know that we are all not able to gather yet; this is a sadness for me. But I hold you all in my prayers and look forward with great anticipation to the Sunday morning with all of our family together again. This past Sunday we were able to receive Holy Communion in one kind, the Bread, and it was joyful. I admit to being overcome by the experience of receiving the Communion of the Lord and I was consoled by your presence.
We will continue to pray for good Sunday morning weather in which to gather, but remember to check your email 30 minutes before the service and listen for a TEXT notification (if you have signed up), in the case of inclement or “iffy” weather. In the event that we have to cancel the in-person service, we will have the service via ZOOM at the regular time (8 and 10:30), so tune in! In addition, the portico and Church will be painted during the first week of October. If for some reason this construction work prevents our meeting, we will let you know via email.
In the “news from the Parish” basket, your Vestry met this past Sunday and voted to move the Annual Meeting for 2020 to the first quarter 2021. I am working with your Senior Warden, Lee Barron, to create a Vestry Election process which will take place prior to the new Annual Meeting. Our Vestry is a vibrant and loving fellowship that has done an amazing job of leading and caring for our Creator Family, especially during this strained, stressful and separated time. Please pray a special prayer for grace and wisdom for these willing leaders and advocates for parish life at Creator. The dedication of your Vestry during this strange time has been an inspiration for me and I have been deeply moved and blessed by their companionship along the Way.
While I’m on that note—let me put out a hearty invitation for prayer and discernment. This is a time like no other. Perhaps you can see or feel God guiding your life in ways that were less obvious before this global and very real life change. I for one, have been given a renewed faith that no one and nothing is in charge of anything other than God, and that there is no hope or salvation independent of God’s love and mercy. This truth has strengthened me and helped me in ways I am just beginning to find words to express. Perhaps God has led you to “take stock” or reflect on purpose or values or “the meaning of life” or relationships in new ways. If so, please think and pray on being part of leading Creator into 2021 and our future ministry. If you feel called to join this Fellowship in 2021, please contact Lee Barron, myself, or your Vestry person.
We stand at an exciting and strange time for ministry in a hurting world. I won’t use the “C” word (change), but we have all been changed by living in and not-quite-through COVID-19. None of us is unscathed, unchanged, and we pray for all who at every level cope with the effects of the pandemic. Yet we are a “changed” people anyway, and always, changed by God’s love coming into the world in the Person of Jesus Christ. That means God always used change, no matter how devastating, to be an agent of good. Please come discover how you can be a decided and deliberate agent in bringing the Good (News) to and with our parish in the next season of life.
Hold each other in your prayers and anticipate the wonderful things to come! All things are possible for God!
Peace in Christ,
Dear Creator Family,
“Welcome Back” Sunday has been a tradition and a calendar staple for many Episcopal churches this time of year. The half dozen parishes I’ve been associated with in my ministry have always had one. And Creator is no different, especially with our “end of summer” rite of changing the service time and resuming Christian formation. In the past, I’ve resisted the idea, as if announcing that we all took a vacation from faithful living and weekly worship and have thought the starting of school to be a good time to come back to Church. I’ve wondered at times how our denomination adopted this practice in the first place.
This year, however, I have reason to put aside those musings and rejoice heartily for we are able, this Sunday, to host possibly the most momentous and meaningful—and certainly the strangest—“Welcome Back” Sunday in Creator’s history. At long last, we have the option to re-gather for in-person worship! Following a process of prayer, discernment and ensuring that we can meet the state and Diocesan guidelines, and then petitioning our Bishop to do so, we can now come together (with some protocols and procedures, as detailed below) to worship our Lord. I wish I could tell you that we will be in our Church building receiving the Holy Eucharist rather than on the Portico with Morning Prayer, but there is still joy in being together!
That being the case, there is no mandate for you to gather if you are uncomfortable with this format right now. Please give the matter some earnest thought and prayer, and let the Spirit guide you. Going forward, we will be recording all Sunday services, just as we have been since March. We have met online for 25 Sundays—close to six months—and this format is now a permanent part of our Sunday worship. As in other arenas these days—classrooms, offices, etc.—the “hybrid” model, where some are physically present while others attend remotely, is the new Body–and it works. If anything, it makes us all more aware of the connections no pandemic or other catastrophe can destroy. We are One. We sing it, we pray it, we believe it. Jesus told us we would be, whenever and wherever we gather in His name, together or separately, we are one in the Spirit. It is the unbreakable bond he made when he gave us the Holy Spirit, and we can trust the Spirit to guide us through this new phase of potentially awkward and restrained style of worship.
For those planning to attend in person this Sunday, here are the guidelines stipulated by the Diocese and adapted for our congregation and facility. Obviously, any ushers, Vestry members or others with leadership positions and willing hands are asked to come early to assist in set up and simple cleaning and sanitizing. It is imperative that we take the precautions we have been taking individually throughout the pandemic, and I entreat your aid in doing so. If you can assist in preparing the worship space in any way, please call Mary at the church office (804-746-8765) or text me (804-572-9148) so I know we have it covered.
We will have chairs set up for you, but you are encouraged to bring you own folding lawn chairs. In addition
For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 2 Peter 1:16
As we began “ZOOM”-ing from our lonely but still beautiful sanctuary several months ago, I realized that the reredos (a screen or the wall behind the Altar) was in a bad state of disrepair. The wall was cracked about halfway up, the paint was faded and blotchy, and there was water damage indicating a leak somewhere in those side light windows. After some searching, I realized that the windowsills were actually rotted and that water was seeping into the wall where it would run and steak the paint. I spoke with the Vestry and several contractors and thus we began our journey to the repair and painting that begin this week.
Our needed repairs afforded us the opportunity to consider new colors for our parish that would invigorate the appearance of the property and proclaim the life of the Gospel lived here at Creator. We consulted a “color specialist” who spent hours at Creator matching colors to the brick, mortar, wood, windows, carpet, and heavily considered the beauty and reverence of our worship space. Creative Contracting, the contractor we used to repair and refurbish the entire inside of the Church building years ago and who has extensive experience working in churches, also helped us with examples from their repertoire. I am confident we are taking care of God’s house here at Creator in ways that will please and inspire worshipers for many years to come.
Your Vestry has met in small groups three times, for several hours, with the consultant and reflected on this opportunity to make wise choices. Many more hours have been spent by the Vestry discussing and fine tuning the proposed changes. I tell you, it has been a joyful experience for me to be a part of such a caring and concerted effort to honor God and our Parish Family in this project, especially in a time when our hearts are heavy and weary of being apart.
Here are some of the results of our designing and planning. You’ll have to use your “mind’s eye” to picture the transformation—subtle and updated and fresh as it is intended: the woodwork around the exterior of the Church and portico will be painted “Nantucket” (a burlap tan/taupe close in shade to the color of the brick mortar) and Dover white (a creamy and understated shade of white). This will lighten the outside and give a new and brighter witness along Route 360. The Dover white will flow into the Narthex and the Nave of the Church, thereby joining the outside to the inside in a consistent flow. As you enter the sanctuary, the rich colors of the windows will draw your eyes to the front of the Church where the Altar and brass candles will be the center point against a striking yet well-situated blue reredos. The shade we chose for the reredos is called “Honorable Blue” and is, I believe, a perfect complement to our beautiful windows and colorful match to our banners and liturgical dressings.
This is a big change for our parish and an exciting new chapter in our desire to honor God and witness to our community. I know that my descriptions may be hard to picture, but I want you to know that the efforts behind this undertaking were faithful and devout. Please pray for our work underway and our parish re-gathering, which will soon be possible. It will be very exciting as we regather, to experience our beautiful parish home in this new way.