As I write this column I have been back in the office for exactly one week, having returned from my trip to the mainland. It was an excellent trip. For the first week I was in Toronto, Canada, for the Society of Catholic Priests conference, and for the second week I spent time with family in Chicago. It is always good to take a break from the day-to-day operations of the parish. I am grateful to several of our parishioners who went beyond the call of duty to help with various items while I was away. As St. Mark's cannot afford a parish administrator, certain jobs which I routinely do have to be done by others when I am away. I am grateful for everyone's dedication. Everything seemed to operate smoothly in my absence.
And even though vacations can be wonderful, it is always good to come back to work at St. Mark's. As we have begun our stewardship season, I am especially thankful for the gifts of our parish. The daily rota of worship is a real blessing; no other church in the diocese offers such a robust offering of prayer services and masses, and this is a great form of outreach that we do together. Worship at St. Mark's possesses a dignity which is lacking in many other churches as well. We have the gift of intentionality, and this is evident in our prayers. Even during our interim period of music-making, the music has been stellar and uplifting, devotional and appropriate.
I am also grateful for how our parish is willing to gather to discuss important issues. For example, this Sunday we welcome the Hawaii Chapter of the Institute for the Healing of Memories for a rector's forum after high mass. Last month we had a rector's forum on peace in the Holy Land, and prior to that we did some soul searching about our own efforts to be welcoming as a parish. If you attend the Adult Bible Study, you also know that we regularly challenge ourselves with how our faith can inform the world. Many churches do not welcome such open dialogue, so we are quite fortunate.
As a worshipping community of approximately 100 people only, St. Mark's is dedicated to outreach. Our Queen Emma Outreach Guild may be small, but their work is mighty. This group is the best functioning ministry team of the parish. They faithfully meet every month, and they are always accomplishing another one of their goals.
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of All Saints, and next Wednesday we commemorate All Souls. (The fact that we have separate celebrations for these days is a gift in itself.) On All Saints we give thanks for the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in the faith - wonderful people like Mary, Peter, Queen Emma, Julian of Norwich, Father Damien and more. On All Souls we pray for the departed as they make their pilgrimage into Christ aided by our prayers. Both of these observances are opportunities for gratitude, and we are reminded why St. Mark's exists.
In our very own community we are here to lead those around us on their pilgrimage into Christ. We are here to call our neighbors to join the saints of God - to become a part of the school that is called Christ's one, holy catholic, and apostolic Church. We exist to facilitate the entrance of our families and friends into this journey. This is a vocation of gratitude, and we need St. Mark's as one of the ways that people might discover Jesus Christ.
Last week Jayson and I turned in our pledge card for 2015. I encourage you to do so soon as well. Frankly there is no other better way to show you are serious about leading others into the pilgrimage of Christ than by committing yourself to support the church in your part of the world. Jayson and I give over ten percent of our earnings to St. Mark's and other Episcopal charities, with most of it going to St. Mark's. This is not always easy being a one-income household, but nevertheless it is a commitment we have made. Truthfully, pledging is an act of gratitude, and we pledge because we are so thankful for the worship, outreach, and people of St. Mark's. I hope you take the step to pledge as well, and please come on November 23 to the Stewardship Celebration Barbecue. Together we shall celebrate the gift that is Jesus Christ as expressed at St. Mark's.
Father Paul Lillie+