Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
I have been talking a lot about prayer as we navigate the waters of COVID unrest, and I have been asked about the practice of “unthinking” as an act of prayer.
When we use the word “unthinking,” more than likely what we are alluding to is apophatic practice - apophatic from the Greek apophemi which means “to deny.” We understand apophatic in the context of prayer in two ways: First, the process of denying oneself the comfort of the familiar images and practices, and second, denying (or unlearning) our understanding of God. In practice it looks like this:
We approach God in prayer aware we know God in certain ways and are comforted by that familiarity. Our prayer time begins with the conscious process of unknowing or negating that familiarity by appealing to God conscious of our prayer habit. We then ask God to help us “unknow” God’s self from the perspective of our comfort or our distress and approach God in prayer as a neophyte - a beginner, willing and anticipating the revelation of God in wonderous and miraculous ways!
Those who begin to study “the Way of negation” often find it confusing or even silly, but it is, in fact, a powerful method through which a deeper and more profound relationship with God will be possible.
Try this during your prayer time: be very observant of how you pray, what you say and how you say it, and by extension, how your prayer method draws a picture of God. Now try to unthink or un-practice that image by expanding the God of your picture to be bigger. The mistake often made when learning apophatic prayer processes is thinking we are making God smaller and less personal, but it is quite the opposite.
Don’t be discouraged if you have a hard time trying this; just laugh it off, thank God for being patient and try again. There is growth in the effort as well as the achievement, and new images and a greater understanding of God will follow.
…be transformed by the renewal of your mind!
Good Day, Creator Family,
In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul encourages his listeners to “rejoice in the Lord always!” Rejoice literally means to “show joy”-- and for people of faith, showing joy is offering up praise to God in Christ Jesus.
There are good times and bad times, but unlike us, God is not curtailed or discouraged by the fleeting “chances and changes” of this world. God’s presence is eternal and changeless, and God invites us into God’s own changelessness through the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Though it’s not always easy, we need not be wearied, but rather filled with joy as we praise God in Christ Jesus for all that we are and all that we have been given through the promise of salvation!
The pandemic has certainly been an upheaval to our lives and a disruption to our regular routine, even now after six months. Remember the “code” word in the early days of the virus—“unprecedented.” I think it’s safe to say the new code words are “life changing.” Those of us still yearning to return, to go back to our “normal” ways are realizing that that possibility is gone. But our hope for a new creation, a NEW way of living and being, must not go with it! This is why we need, all the more, to embrace the presence of God in our lives and allow the Joy of Christ Jesus to fill us! Yes, we will stumble and falter, but God’s faithfulness and belief in us is abiding and constant. God remains to hold us and reignite our joy and peace in believing.
In our parish, our movement towards God has never stopped or faltered. We are grateful and praise God as we strive to witness and build an awareness of the presence of God in our community and throughout the world! We have responded to COVID-19 by energetically pursuing an on-line presence through ZOOM and YouTube. We have broadcasted every Sunday service and weekday event since the lockdown began, and we are constantly innovating to stay ahead of the curve and ensure a seamless presence no matter what. God is at work here, friends; at work in the effort and the energy in our fellowship, our weekly study, our worship—be it virtual or in person. The actual, visible work on our parish in the form of painting and repair (Have you seen it? It’s certainly “something new”!) for me, is an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible yet abiding fire of the Holy Spirit.
There are a couple of other “unseen” or less seen witnesses to our efforts to grow in our weekly worship life. To this Ministry of Presence we have added the position of Audio Visual Specialist, and are pleased to recognize Will Burk for his hard work and dedication. Will has been instrumental in the development process as well as a tireless worker fabricating and tuning the electronic pieces of a very complicated A/V puzzle. We are blessed every Sunday as we worship the Lord by Will’s dedication to Christ and his desire to serve the Lord in this ministry.
Mary Ford, our Parish Secretary, has also gone “above and beyond” in her service and dedication. Mary has been available every Sunday to address any issues that have come up and is a joyful companion as we strive to overcome difficulties that would otherwise sideline our plans.
Your faithful Vestry has continued to pray, meet and call on members to knit our Body, and we are entering into a time of outwardly voiced stewardship. In this “Harvest” time of year, each year, we give thanks to God by offering our tithes in the form of financial support of our parish and ministries. To that end, you will find a newly developed Stewardship page. This is basically an on-line Stewardship Card with the exact wording of the physical card you are used to receiving in past years. While the spiritual, emotional and financial aspects of making a pledge to our parish is a multi-layered and time-worthy process between your and our faithful God, the logistical process of pledging is simple, and the information secure and protected. The report is delivered straight to our Pledge Secretary and is password protected for you protection. CLICK HERE for our new secure online Pledge Card.
As always, if you would prefer a physical card, simply email or call the Office and Mary will send you one in the mail or you may pick it up when you came to Church on Sunday!
We are connected through the indwelling Holy Spirit and as we strive to deepen our connection with each other and our God, we are privileged to have the tools to stay connected even in unusual times.
Faithfully in Christ,
A Message from Bishop +Francis C. Gray
Once upon a time, a young man with a troubled heart came to Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “what must I do to inherit the kingdom?” “Follow the commandments,” Jesus told him. The young man had done this, and told Jesus so. Jesus looked at this well dressed, yet troubled young man and liked what he saw. The man was respectful and well mannered, and his eyes showed a deep questing for truth, but the man seemed to be missing something. “One thing you lack,” Jesus said, “Go, sell what you have, give to the poor, and come and follow me.” The young man could not do this, and went away. This saddened Jesus, for he loved the young man.
There are resources in our congregation to do anything we choose to do, yet there are people who go away from us sorrowing, angry, or frustrated, because they cannot, or will not, give. I have seen parishioners spend hundreds of hours working at bazaars and fairs, trying to coax money from the community, when their own tithes would garner much more money than a bake sale ever could, and would do so with much less effort. The fact that it seems easier to let someone else pay to keep our congregation going leads me to believe that we, like the rich young ruler in the gospel, suffer from a spiritual disease.
Until we can deal with our possessions, we never can reach out to others. Evangelism and stewardship are intimately joined. We must be willing to share our faith with others, and it is our privilege to work, pray, and give for the spread of the kingdom of God. But, perhaps we should work on stewardship first, for until we can understand ourselves and our relationship with God, we will have nothing to share with others.
I define stewardship as everything we do after we have said yes to God. Three concepts are key to stewardship: creation, mystery, and redemption.
Stewardship and creation-
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the caverns of the earth
and the heights of the hills are his also.
The sea is his for he made it,
and his hands have molded the dry land.
Stewardship must be seen first in terms of creation. God made all things, holds all things in being at all moments in time, and God will call for the return of all things. We are the caretakers of matter, which belongs to God. The paper on which I write, the pen I use, the money I spend, the children who live with my wife and me, all come from God, belong to God, and return to God. I need to be very careful with my use of the possessive pronoun. All things, all people, and indeed, the air we breathe is on loan from God.
I am a steward of the air I breathe, and of the space I occupy on this planet. Therefore, my judicious use of the resources at my disposal is the act of a caretaker. The molecules of air I breathe will continue to be recycled and rearranged long after I am dead. I have not created a speck of air; all of it has been loaned to me. I am a steward, and God is the giver of all that I have.
Stewardship is a mystery.
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God ~I Cor. 4:1
All of life is a mystery. It is mysterious that someone could love me and commit herself to me in marriage for life. It is a mystery that genes and chromosomes are reproduced and passed from generation to generation. It is a mystery that God became a human in Jesus, and is represented to us continually in bread and wine, in word and sacrament. It is a mystery that people continue to find comfort in tired liturgies, ill prepared sermons, half-hearted sung music. It is a tragic mystery that people kill each other; that people persist in the use of drugs; that we persist in thinking that more money, clothes, gadgets, and weapons will bring us inner peace.
Mystery is a reality which is inexhaustible and unpredictable. A culture of utility, which seeks to define, measure, use and manipulate matter will find mystery difficult to live with. Our culture thinks in terms of problems to be solved, tasks to be accomplished, not relationships to be nurtured. “If the Church needs money, then let’s have a bake sale. It is easier than exploring the sacramental relationship between myself and my checkbook.”
Stewardship is redemptive.
Only a fool would not give away that which he cannot keep in order to gain something he cannot lose.
~Nate Saint, martyr
God promises me life eternal. That promise was pledged at my baptism and is lived out by God’s grace given each day. The life of grace which I am called to live is my response to God’s gift. I cannot pay God back, nor can I bribe God to give me more of what was given. God’s gift is full and complete. I return my gifts to God not because God needs them, but because I need to give. As a child gives unneeded dandelions to a parent, I give my tithes to God; not out of duty, but out of love. It is the least I can do, because God has given me all things.
At the very heart of my redemptive offering to God is money, for my heart and treasure are in the same place. Most people will offer time and talent gladly, because bake sales, rummage sales, raffles, and the like don’t get to the heart of the matter. With these activities, I see a return on my investment. But when I give money without strings attached, I lose control. It is a mystery beyond my control.
As with every mystery, God gives an outward sign to help us appropriate the inward grace. As bread and wine signify the reality of the presence of the risen Christ in our midst, the tithe is an outward sign of the mystery of giving. The mystery is that God continues to love me no matter what I give back or keep to myself. The mystery is that I keep on struggling with this love affair I have with God even though I know the stakes are high and the worldly advantages are not the best.
Tithing puts flesh on my commitment. It shows that I attempt to believe that all things are owned by God. It shows that I attempt to live into the mystery of my relationship with God. And tithing shows that I will not allow others to pay for my faith through their purchase of my leftover junk at the garage sale. To pay for missionaries in Honduras, to keep the lights on in the parish, or to make sure that the rector gets a living wage, I have to tithe. This I must do, because our Lord had me in mind when he said, “Where your treasure is, there will be your heart be also.” I have been purchased with a price, the price of Calvary, and nothing I give can increase the value of that gift. But I do know that my sacrificial gift to God is a sign that God has gotten to my heart.
Peace to you in your prayers and reflection on the bounty the Lord has showered upon you,
The Rt. Rev. +Francis C. Gray
Assisting Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia (retired)
Dear Creator Family,
This is a very busy week at the Church. The paint crews have started their preparation of the portico and the repair work is well under way. We think the repairs and painting will be finished sometime next week.
Our restroom is in the final stage of completion and we are hoping to complete that remodel next week as well.
The entire Parish Hall is in various stages of clean up and rearranging after our Yard Sale shut down, which will continue for next month.
Our new Creator Church sign has been approved and we are looking to set that up in the next two weeks. The small direction signs and the monument sign update will follow soon after.
We are currently working on cleaning up the parking lot area and the play yard. These are both big jobs and will be an on-going effort through next spring. Those jobs in particular, could use added help.
I am in ready communication with the County Planning Office about the widening of Route 360, and in preparation for that, the utility marking of our property has already taken place.
I said there was a lot going on, and in fact, I have only listed the BIG things here. We have a lot of maintenance and deferred maintenance items that we are tackling. Even so, as busy as it sounds, we are just as invested and as connected with each other as we seek to praise the Lord! Our Sunday services continue on ZOOM and YouTube as we meet in person on the portico and receive Communion in one kind. This gathering is a balm and a joy as we are able to worship together. To make this a better experience, I have recently changed our ZOOM sound system and added a PA system to the Church Portico. All of our efforts are dedicated to our Lord, honoring the stewardship of past generations, and looking for the exciting things to come!
In addition, we have moved the Annual Meeting to the first quarter of 2021 for fiduciary purposes and we are making changes to streamline this process. Our Stewardship Sunday will be held November 1st, All Saints Sunday, and our Vestry elections will follow on November 22nd, Christ the King Sunday. We continue to pray for God’s blessings as we listen for the call to serve.
Peace in Christ,
Father Bill Burk†