Friday, December 19, 2014

Bishop Hollerith's 2014 Christmas message

Dear Episcopal Church Family in Southern Virginia,

The crèche is surely one of the most enduring traditions of the Christmas season.  During the holidays many churches manage to display one somewhere on their property.  Crèches really vary in size – from a small display set on a table in the back of the church or parish hall, to a life-size, elaborately lighted one in the church yard.  And there are a few industrious congregations that even perform an outdoor living crèche, replete with live animals and costumed congregants.

Likewise, crèches are popular in homes.  I grew up watching my mother set one up each year with delicate precision on the dining room sideboard.  The figurines were made of china.  I can still remember the “negative feedback” my baby brother and I received one Christmas when we “borrowed” Joseph to lead our army of plastic toy soldiers into battle.

Lizzie and I have a crèche that was given to us years ago as a wedding present.  Rather than made of china, ours is made from olive wood from the Holy Land.  It appears to be indestructible – which is a good thing after raising three children.  Each Christmas Lizzie still sets it up on our dining room sideboard – just as my mother did – just as her mother did.

Regardless of size or location, all crèches have a couple of common attributes.  The first and most obvious are the characters – Mary, Joseph, barn animals, wise men, sometimes shepherds, maybe an angel or two, and, of course always, the baby Jesus.

A second and less obvious attribute is that crèches are opened depictions.  The barn scene is always displayed outwardly toward the observer – not unlike a stage play is displayed outwardly toward an audience.  Each crèche means to tell a story – the story of Jesus birth.  Yet, this telling is about more than the mere conveyance of historical fact.   The crèche is an attempt to dramatize something holy, to elicit in an observer a first-hand experience of the abiding peace, tranquility and joy that so characterize the essence of the miracle of the Incarnation.  Also, the crèche dramatizes the startling news that God has opened his home to the whole world.  In the birth event God literally invites the whole world in to his inner sanctuary to meet his newborn son.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sharron Kitchen Miller names to Jackson-Feild Homes Board

Jackson-Feild Homes is pleased to announce that Sharron Kitchen Miller of Newport News has been elected to the Board of Trustees. She currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the state agency that appropriates General Assembly funds for non-profit arts organizations throughout Virginia.

A retired Pediatric Administrator, Ms. Kitchen Miller has a strong history of community involvement and charity work on the Virginia Peninsula including service to the Hampton Roads Chapter of the American Red Cross and a recent three-year term on the Board of the Virginia Living Museum. She has also served on the Newport News Public Works Advisory Committee, the Deer Run Golf Course Citizens Advisory Committee and as a Liaison Board Member to the USS Newport News.
Ms. Kitchen Miller and her husband, John, are the proud parents of two adult children and a grandson, Isaac.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Presiding Bishop's Christmas Message 2014

The altar hanging at an English Advent service was made of midnight blue, with these words across its top:  "We thank you that darkness reminds us of light."  Facing all who gathered there to give thanks were images of night creatures - a large moth, an owl, a badger, and a bat - cryptic and somewhat mysterious creatures that can only be encountered in the darkness.

As light ebbs from the days and the skies of fall, many in the Northern Hemisphere associate dark with the spooks and skeletons of secular Hallowe'en celebrations.  That English church has reclaimed the connection between creator, creation, and the potential holiness of all that is.  It is a fitting reorientation toward the coming of One who has altered those relationships toward new possibilities for healing and redemption.

Advent leads us into darkness and decreasing light.  Our bodies slow imperceptibly with shorter days and longer nights, and the merriness and frantic activity around us are often merely signs of eager hunger for light and healing and wholeness.  

The Incarnation, the coming of God among us in human flesh, happened in such a quiet and out of the way place that few noticed at first.  Yet the impact on human existence has been like a bolt of lightning that continues to grow and generate new life and fire in all who share that hunger.
Jesus is among us like a flitting moth - will we notice his presence in the street-sleeper?  He pierces the dark like a silent, streaking owl seeking food for hungry and defenseless nestlings.  He will overturn this world's unjust foundations like badgers undermining a crooked wall.  Like the bat's sonar, his call comes to each one uniquely - have we heard his urgent "come and follow"?  

God is among us, and within us, and around us, encountering, nudging, loving, transforming the world and its creatures toward the glorious dream the shepherds announced so many years ago, toward the beloved community of prophetic dreams, and the nightwatch that proclaims "all is well, fear not, the Lord is here."  

May Christ be born anew in you this Christmastide.  May his light burn in you, and may you labor to spread it in the darkness.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, and it is the harbinger of peace for all creation.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Monday, December 1, 2014

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is December 1. Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have issued a joint statement for World AIDS Day 2014. Click here to read the statement.

News from Mission of the Holy Spirit

By Keith A. Josey, Lay Pastor, Mission of the Holy Spirit 

I would like to take a moment to thank each of you for your continued prayers and support for the Mission of the Holy Spirit and the families we serve.

As we prepare for another holiday season, I encourage each of you to continue to be seed planters through your gifts and giving to a ministry that impacts so many lives.

Since September, we have been fortunate to have nine of God’s children baptized, with the help of Rev. David Davenport. We have reconnected with ODU Nursing School, and have a core of interns to work alongside our families for the next year. We have also seen many of our young children take positive strides towards academic success and developing their gifts.

This could not be possible without people like you, who care enough to partner with us and help change lives. Often the changes needed take some time to become evident, and require patience and a strong belief that we all play an important role in creating a community where spiritual, educational and psycho-social needs can be nurtured through the great works you assist us in providing.

Please remember us in your steward-ship, pledges and gifts because all of our young people are counting on you.  
Click here to learn more about the Mission and how you can help. 

Meet Mission volunteer Shari Parker

In 1993 at the age of 10, Shari Parker first came to the Mission with her sister LaToya-- so she has grown up as a Mission member. Asked why she has continued to stay with the Mission, she said, “The Mission has helped me figure out life and go in a positive direction. I found out for myself who God is. Now that I have my own family, I feel it is important to bring children up in that same environment so they can learn to make good decisions.” She has many friends in the Mission, and has brought a number of friends and family members to join the church. Shari feels that the Mission has helped nourish her gift in music. She was also able to find a job that she loves with the help of the Mission.

When asked how the Mission has impacted the lives of other members, she replied, “The Mission gives them a strong foundation to make better decisions, and helps guide them when bad things happen in their lives.”

Shari also has a strong sense of “giving back.” She has helped with many fundraisers, including car washes, yard sales, book sales, etc. She has taught Sunday school, helped with the Food Pantry and Angel Trees, and facilitated the Dare2Dream Abstinence program. She has been a member of the choir for years, and is now the choir leader and drummer. She is also a member of the Board of Directors, and helps as needed with Bible study. She provides a positive role model for Mission girls, and often serves as their mentor.

In the future, Shari would like to see the choir grow in numbers as well as in the variety of musical instruments included. She would also like to take the choir to other churches and organizations so more people will hear the Mission message. Her personal life’s dream: “To record spiritual music for the world to hear.”

When asked if she had anything else special to share with others about her life in the Mission, she said, “I was the first person to get married at the Mission. Rev. Bev Tucker performed the ceremony & his wife Julia was there, as well as Mr. Keith and all the people I looked up to. Getting married and having a proper family is so much better because I grew up without that. God has blessed us.” And clearly God has blessed the Mission with an amazing young woman, Shari Parker!