Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Southern Virginia author featured in Forward Day by Day in January

Ken Woodley, a member of St. Anne's, Appomattox, is the author of the Forward Day by Day meditations for January 2018. If you are not a regular reader of Forward Day by Day, this is a wonderful opportunity that you don't want to miss. You can read the daily devotions online here. You can also subscribe to the print version of the devotions here or probably pick up a copy at your church. 
Ken Woodley spent thirty-six years as a journalist in Prince Edward County, Virginia, and his book, Gather Your Light, will be forthcoming from NewSouth Books. He and his wife, Kim, are licensed lay preachers at St. Anne's, Appomattox. You can follow Ken's wonderful blog, Gleaning in the Fields of Light, at

Bishop Hollerith's Christmas message 2017

Just a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of making a Sunday visitation to St. Paul's Church in Newport News. For those who have never visited the church building, St. Paul's is situated in the remains of what once was a grand downtown neighborhood in the center of the city. All that remains in that neighborhood now are municipal government buildings, a few businesses, structures belonging to the Newport News shipyard, and bits and pieces of low income housing. There is no longer any true neighborhood there like most of our parishes enjoy. In a real sense, St. Paul's is a parish in an urban wasteland.  
And yet, the membership of St. Paul's is very clear about their parish's role in the community - why they are there and what they believe God is calling them to do. While a portion of the congregation is made up of dedicated people who live in more desirable parts of town, the largest portion is comprised of people who are homeless, or very near homeless.
During my visit I was asked to lead a bible study and hold a general discussion with the community. Most who gathered for the conversation had come both to talk and to receive the free breakfast served after the class. For some the meal would be their only meal of the day - possibly the best of the week.
Needless to say, leading an adult class made up predominately of street people is not at all like leading any other adult class in our diocese. The attendees are not the least bit interested in talking about the diocesan budget, Talbot Hall, the bishop's vision for congregational development, or this summer's General Convention. In our discussion, other than some interesting initial questions about why bishops wear "pointy hats" (a question for which, I must confess, I did not have an adequate answer), the real topic of interest was the shooting in the Baptist church in Texas. It was clear that although the news was a few weeks old, many in attendance were still struggling to understand the tragedy. After several minutes of conversation, I became deeply impressed by the level of passion being expressed. People were genuinely perplexed and outraged that such a thing could ever happen in a church. And they wanted to talk about it!
But, it wasn't until later that afternoon while driving home that I figured out the meaning of what I had witnessed during the class. I had not witnessed an abstracted intellectual discussion on the need for gun control, or on politics, or on the psychology or sociology of mass murder. Rather, I had witnessed the passionate concerns of those who literally depend on their church to be their "safe space," their sanctuary, from the dangers of the world. The people of St. Paul's - at least those who are its street clientele - attend church to escape the day-to-day violence of the streets. Church is where they go to escape being shot. The notion that church could be otherwise invokes in those challenged people a sense of injustice and a level of anxiety that most of us fortunate types will never comprehend.
I am not at all sure what it means to live in a world where innocent people are murdered in church. I don't know how to live with that reality yet. But, I do know - have been reminded by the good people of St. Paul's - the incredible power of grace that the Church conveys when it takes the risk of offering itself to the world as a true sanctuary of God. The Church is always at its best when it seeks to find ways of un-protecting itself, of being more vulnerable and more risk-taking. And its witness to the love of God is never as powerful as when it opens its doors to the world when all other doors are shut and locked down on Main Street. After all, such action is our way of saying to those suffering, or fearful, or in need, that there is room in the inn, by God! There is room in the inn!
Note: Many of our churches in Southern Virginia are actively engaged in various forms of ministry to the homeless. I hope all of us will find some way to both financially and physically support the unique ministry of St. Paul's, Newport News, as well as our local ministries during the holiday season and throughout the coming year.
Merry Christmas,
Click here for a PDF of this reflection you can download or print.   
The Bishop's reflection can also be found at

ECW Grapevine newsletter available

The Winter 2017 issue of the Diocesan ECW newsletter, The Grapevine, is now available here. You can also download this, and other ECW resources from the ECW pages of our website,  

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Diocesan Connection newsletter available

The October-December 2017 issue of the Diocesan Connection newsletter is now available. The newsletter offers a digest of stories from our weekly Parish News and Diocesan eNews. Please print and share a copy with church members who do not have email, and post a copy on a bulletin board or in your narthex.  
You can also find the Diocesan Connection on the News & Publications page of our website. 

Plan to take part in Cursillo #164, April 18-22

Plan now to take part in the co-ed Cursillo #164 weekend to be held at Chanco on the James April 18-22. The rector of this weekend will be Tina Sinclair.
Cursillo is Spanish for "short course" - a short course in Christianity. On the three day weekend, candidates learn how to grow as leaders in their communities and in their own personal journey with Jesus. Cursillo is a living expression of Christ's love for us. It is filled with color, and joy, music and a new life of friendship in the church. It may be just what you are thirsting for.
For more information and application forms, go to

Santa's elves come to Jackson-Feild

On December 13, members of two different groups traveled far and wide to Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services' main campus in Jarratt, VA to wrap all the children's Christmas presents
The volunteers included members from the PEO Chapter C-D-Littleton, N.C. and the Lake Gaston Ladies Club. They both have been actively involved with Jackson-Feild in a variety of ways over the years. This will be the 12th Christmas they served as Santa's helpers wrapping the presents for the boys and girls.
The day began when the women arrived bright and early in the morning and got right to work. By the end of the day over 250 presents were carefully wrapped with loving by these special ladies. They made sure no presents went unwrapped and each ribbon curled to perfection.
The children are very grateful to these special elves for their wonderful efforts to make Christmas special for children who have never experienced a "real" Christmas.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Presiding Bishop's Christmas message

Video of the Presiding Bishop's message is here. The text is available in Spanish here.  
In 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul says, "If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new is come." At a point in that passage, St. Paul says, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself," and he also says at another point in the same passage, "and we have been given the ministry of reconciliation."  
Have you ever gone to the movies or read a story or a novel, and the novel starts with the end, so you know where the story ends, but then the rest of the story or the novel is actually the story behind the story. We know about Christmas. We know about Mary.  We know about Joseph. We know about the angels singing Gloria in excelsis deo. We know from our childhood the animals in the stable. We know of the magi who come from afar, arriving around Epiphany, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. We know of the angels singing in the heavens, and the star that shown above them.  Therein is the story.  
But the story behind the story is what St. Paul was talking about. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and Jesus has now given us that same ministry of reconciliation. God was reconciling the world to himself by becoming one of us. The divine became human. God entered history. Eternity became part of time. God was reconciling the world to himself by actually living it himself. In Jesus, God came among us to show us the way, to be reconciled with the God who has created us all and everything that is. And God has likewise come in the person of Jesus, to show us how to be reconciled with each other, as children of the one God who is the Creator of us all.  That's the story behind Christmas.
God is showing us the Way to become God's children, and as God's children, brothers and sisters of each other. God is showing us in Jesus how to become God's family and how to change, and build, and make a world where everybody is a part of that family. Where children don't go to bed hungry. Where no one has to be lonely. Where justice is real for all and where love is the ultimate law. Know there is a story behind the story, and it's a story worth singing about, and giving thanks for, and then living.
One of my favorite writers, the late Howard Thurman, composed a poem many years ago about Christmas, and he says it probably better than I:
     When the song of the angels is stilled,
     When the star in the sky is gone,
     When the kings and the princes are home,
     When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
     Then the work of Christmas begins:
     To find the lost,
     To heal the broken,
     To feed the hungry,
     To release the prisoner,
     To rebuild the nations,
     To bring peace to others,
     And alas, to make music in the heart.
The story behind the story is that God so loved the world, and so loves you, and so loves me.
Have a blessed Christmas, a wonderful New Year, and go out and make music in the heart of the world.
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate