St. Thomas the Apostle Newsletter
May 1, 2020 (SS. Philip and James, Apostles and Martyrs)
Psalm 127 provides an excellent philosophy for parish ministry…
It begins “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”
Effective parish ministry must begin with the Lord’s favor. If what we do (in parish life and in our own) does not have our Lord’s blessing upon it, it will fail.
How do we obtain the Lord’s favor? By faithful obedience to our Lord’s Word. We can plan and execute great strategies, but without up-front and all-throughout faithfulness in our personal and corporate lives, it will amount to little.
The bricks that build a parish are corporate faithfulness to Scripture and Tradition (2 Thessalonians 2:15), and the mortar that keeps those bricks in place is individual faithfulness to Christ in thought, word and deed. Faithfulness is being willing to lose in order to gain. We must lose ourselves in Christ in order to gain the blessing of everlasting life (Philippians 3:7, 8). This is a process we must work out daily (Philippians 2:12-15).
Faithfulness is an inside out process. We do what we love, and if we love Christ with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind and with all of our strength, then we will be working out our faith with faithfulness that is visible and tangible (1 Peter 2:11, 12).
You’ve heard the adage, “Give a child a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a child to fish and he will be fed forever.” Here is an adage that can be related to parish life… “If you want to build a boat, you can teach people to gather the wood and other materials, and the tools, and give them a construction plan. Or, you can teach them to love the sea.”
Parishes are built up when men and women are taught to love Jesus Christ and His body, the Church, and to submit themselves to one another in that love (1 John 4:10, 11). No human generated growth strategy can do this. We are committed to and do what we love, and when we love Christ and His Church, and see our parish as a means for expressing that love, it will be evident in who we are and what we do, and we will share that love with others.
The rest we trust to the Lord to build. He decides the numbers (Acts 2:47).
We should not think the current circumstance of not being able to gather corporately has hurt our ability to build up our parish. It has not! If we (you and I, each of us) are growing in faithful submission to Jesus Christ, then our parish is growing! And growing in the most important way.
And as these circumstances change and we are able to worship together, and then study together and then reach out to the public to join with us, we will be all the more ready to share our growing faithfulness to Christ with those the Holy Spirit leads us to and with those whom He leads to us.
But, if we are not faithfully submitting ourselves to Christ it won’t really matter what happens once the restrictions are fully lifted. For unless the Lord builds the house…
On Wednesday the APA House of Bishops issued a directive stating we may resume in-person worship services as of this Sunday, May 3, along with prudent guidance for conducting them.
Please note the way we will be implementing their instructions:
1. Please sanitize your hands before entering the nave. Hand sanitizer has been placed in the narthex for this purpose.
2. Seating in the nave is staggered in an aisle side to window side pattern. The Prayer Books and Hymnals from the section of each row closed to seating have been removed. There are twelve sections open to seating, six on each side of the aisle. Please sit only one person or family in each section open to seating.
3. Four communicants will come to the altar rail at a time for the reception of the Holy Eucharist. The celebrant will direct people to their place at the rail. The Eucharist will be received in one kind and on the hand only.
4. There will not be an usher. Bulletins will be available in the narthex. The offering plate will not be passed. Please place your offering in the plate on the small table in the rear of the nave. At the offertory, the server will pick it up and bring it to the celebrant.
5. There will not be a processional or recessional. The celebrant and server (if one is available) will enter and leave from the sacristy.
6. Anyone in attendance may wear a covering over their mouth and / or gloves if they desire.
7. The hard edge surfaces of the pews will be wiped down before and after each mass, along with the entry door handles.
8. Anyone who believes they are in a high risk category should not feel (nor will be) compelled to attend! Please do what you are comfortable doing.
9. Anyone experiencing symptoms of any type of illness is asked to refrain from attending until it subsides. If in doubt, please remain home. I will be pleased to bring the Eucharist to your home.
10. Please do not socialize in the nave or narthex. Hand shaking and other close contact interaction is discouraged.
11. There will be no Sunday school or after mass fellowship at this time.
I thank you for your understanding and patience as we worship together during these unprecedented circumstances.
I will be driving back to Virginia on Monday, May 4, to see my family. I plan to return by Saturday afternoon, May 9. I will be available to you by phone and e-mail through the week, so don’t hesitate to reach out. I ask your prayers for traveling mercies.
Some of you have noticed I now have a Facebook account and have sent me a “friend” request. I’ve not accepted them because my page will not be active. Having a personal account was the easiest way for me to become an administrator (along with Lou Evans) on the parish’s page.
The Wisdom of the Prayer Book Rite: The Decalogue or Summary of the Law, Kyrie and Summary Collect (BCP pgs. 68-70), initiate the penitential tone of the Prayer Book liturgy.
As we rehearse the Decalogue (Deuteronomy 5:6-21) or hear the Summary (St. Luke 10:27), God’s standard for moral conduct rings out. It is God that spoke these words and said: It is our Lord Jesus Christ we are to hear!
But we are unable, of our own ability and strength, to uphold this standard so we respond “Lord have mercy upon us, incline our hearts, Christ have mercy upon us, write them on our hearts…we beseech thee!”
The “Summary Collect” on pg. 70 concisely pulls together this portion of the liturgy and connects the Summary of the Law to the Decalogue when the latter is not rehearsed.
By it we pray to be kept in body and soul by the protection of our Lord. This is the only way we can uphold the moral standard Jesus sets forth for the Church in His Sermon on the Mount.
In St. Matthew 5:48 Jesus says “Be ye therefore perfect (Greek teleios, English complete), even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Our hope for Christian perfection rests in the mercy of Christ Jesus our Lord, writing His Word on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We acknowledge this great truth, and plead our Lord’s help, as we enter into the earthly Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).
Please send me your prayer requests! Email email@example.com or text / phone 540-588-2766