From the Rector: Preparing for a New Program Year

Summer vacations have largely ended, schools are back in session, and the program year is just about to begin. I was reading a fellow rector's column last week about the necessity of summer being a time of preparation for the program year's ministries. This is absolutely true. Summer is a time of relaxation and vacations, but it is also a time when churches must do a lot of preparation for the coming seasons. Liturgies must be prepared, calendars must be evaluated, and outreach projects need to be planned. Several of our ministries have been busy at St. Mark's these past months as we prepare another program year.

This September we commence Evensong and Benediction on Wednesday nights at 6:15 pm. Evensong is the sung version of Evening Prayer, and the services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are hallmarks of Anglican spirituality. Many people have discovered Jesus Christ for the first time by attending Evensong. Many people fall in love with Evensong, because the service affords the listener the chance to be still while scripture, chant, and prayer washes over them. Like many Anglo-Catholic churches, we follow Evensong with Benediction, a time set aside for adoring the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament. Last year we enjoyed Evensong and Benediction on Sunday evenings, but this year we are trying something a bit different and scheduling the service for Wednesday evenings. It is our hope that more people will take advantage of this beautiful service in the middle of the week. The first Evensong and Benediction service will be on September 7, the Eve of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and after the service we will gather in the Parish Hall for dinner along with one of our ever-popular parish trivia nights. The Evensong Choir will be singing for these Wednesday night services, and that will prove to be a big bonus.

The Choir had a work day this summer to prepare for the upcoming choral season.

This Sunday between the morning masses we will have a Bible Study on the Epistle to Philemon. This epistle is just one chapter long, but do not let that fool you, as the letter is full of discussion material. Historically the letter has been used to justify slavery, and it has also been used to justify slavery's abolition. The letter also provides insights into the Apostle Paul's view of what it means to be a citizen of the world that is to come.

And we also have Bible Studies continuing on Wednesday and Friday mornings. For many Wednesdays now, a small and faithful group has been gathering to read and discuss St. Paul's Epistles. For those who have stuck it out, we have studied Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians. When you add to this past Sunday Bible classes on Ephesians and Hebrews, we have exhausted a good portion of the New Testament. This coming Wednesday we begin to meet at 9:30 am weekly, and our study of the New Testament letters continues with the Pastoral Epistles. Newcomers are always welcome to join the group. In addition to Wednesdays, we have also begun to meet on Fridays at 10:15 am to discuss the upcoming Sunday's mass readings. Again, newcomers are always welcome to join this Bible Study.

On September 11 at 9:00 am between the morning masses we begin a new formation series based on the Collects of The Book of Common Prayer. How often do we speed right through the collects, neglecting them for the theological richness they contain? The reality is that each of the collects is a spiritual gem, and so we are going to take the time to discuss them more intentionally in these coming months. I think everyone will be surprised by how much theology we will be able to discuss by taking the time to read the collects more carefully.

In addition to everything mentioned above, we also have our daily round of worship including healing masses and the recitation of the rosary. We have two book study nights planned on C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. We have a high mass on Wednesday, September 28, at 6:15 pm for the Eve of Michaelmas, and we have our annual St. Francis Mass with Pet Blessing on Saturday, October 1 at 5:00 pm, the time of the regularly scheduled Vigil Mass. We have the Stewardship Ministry actively planning our annual giving campaign, and we have the outreach ministry exploring the possibilities of beach cleanups and other new outreach endeavors for the parish. Of all the ministries, perhaps the Music Ministry has been the busiest, having completed a work day this past summer to re-organize the choir loft. Be sure to mark your calendar for the special Aloha Hour the choir is hosting on September 18 after high mass for the purpose of raising funds for choir vestments.

So often I hear people say, "St. Mark's is doing so much." I have to admit that it makes me nervous when people say this, because in my mind, we are only doing what we are called to do. Sometimes I think that the bar has been put so low for churches, that if you do activities outside of Sunday morning you are somehow exceptional. We are not being exceptional at St. Mark's, but rather we are only doing was a church is supposed to do - live our faith to the fullest. Don't ever let the world make you think that St. Mark's does a lot as a parish, or that we are doing too much. If you really want to understand why I am saying this, read C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, and join us for the two theology book group nights.

Father Paul Lillie