Praying for Holy Trinity School, Haiti with special intentions at this time

St. Alban’s has financially supported Holy Trinity School, Haiti since the early 1960’s, when school founder, Sister Anne Marie Bickerstaff, was a frequent speaker at St. Alban’s.  (To find out more about Holy Trinity School, please click here.)  According to Steve Lusk’s history of St. Alban’s, Called to be Saints, the financial support, and visits by Sr. Bickerstaff, were the birth of a continuing parish tradition. Each Sunday, young people who had celebrated a birthday during the week were asked to come to the front of the church to receive a blessing and present their birthday thank offerings. The recommended gift was a penny for each year of age.  The offerings were sent “to help other children at Holy Trinity School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.” In 1970 the vestry extended the gift opportunity to adults, at a recommended rate of ten cents per year. St. Alban’s continues to support Holy Trinity School through our Outreach budget.

When news of the recent assassination of Haiti’s president was announced, Deacon Theresa reached out to Holy Trinity School to let the director know that the school is in our prayers every Sunday and at other times. You can read the director’s response here (English) (French).

Meet our Seminarian!

If you participate in the Sunday morning chat session during our 10:00 am worship service premier on YouTube, perhaps you’ve seen the name, Luis Enrique Hernández Rivas and wondered who that was.  Well wonder no more!  Luis is our seminarian who will start with us this Fall.  Luis very kindly made a brief video to introduce himself to us, so I won’t say anymore about him except that he is a deeply spiritual man, passionate about ministry, the Church and his relationship with Jesus.

A Prayer For Our Nation

Lord God Almighty, who has made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

It is a Christian obligation to vote…

Our Presiding Bishop, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, reminds us that, as Christians, we have an obligation to vote.  Bishop Curry goes on to say that we must cast our vote, not on a partisan basis, not based on our biases, but based on our values – the values of human dignity and equality.

Vote the values of the rock on which this country was built. Vote.

With the ever-looming threat of COVID-19 hanging over everything we do, please begin thinking now about how you will vote this year.  If you are concerned about being in a crowd, or don’t want to stand in line, I encourage you to vote absentee, either in person or by mail.  You no longer need a reason to vote absentee in Virginia.  Please note these important dates for absentee voting for the 2020 General Election:

  • September 18: First absentee ballot mailout
  • September 18: Early voting/absentee in-person voting begins at the Office of Elections, 12000 Government Center Pkwy., Fairfax, VA
  • October 13: Voter Registration Deadline (In Person/By Mail) 5:00 p.m.; online: 11:59 p.m.
  • October 23: Deadline to apply to receive an Absentee Ballot by mail, fax and online: 5:00 p.m.
  • October 31: Final day to vote absentee early/in-person, 5:00 pm
  • November 6: Deadline to return your absentee ballot to the Office of Elections: 12:00 noon. Ballot must be postmarked by November 3

Other times and locations in Fairfax County for in-person absentee voting have yet to be announced.

Helpful links:

Loving God, we give thanks for the right to vote. Help us to hold this privilege and responsibility with the care and awareness it merits, realizing that our vote matters and that it is an act of faith.  Amen.

An update from Second Story

St. Alban’s is a long-time supporter of Second Story, a youth services organization based in Northern Virginia that offers children, youth, and families hope for brighter futures by providing counseling, shelter and neighborhood-based support. Check out some of the work they are doing in the midst of COVID-19 through the eyes of one of their volunteers and donors here:

An update from the Music Search Committee

The music search committee has been meeting online since the stay-at-home order began. Our most recent work has involved the paring down of candidates based on their resumes and, in some cases, based on sample video clips they have submitted. The resumes we received from many of the candidates were very impressive, which made the “paring down” process challenging, but our search committee has reduced the pool to ten candidates. For the search committee, the most important part of our search process will be the in-person audition, where our finalists in the search will demonstrate their qualifications. In addition to keyboard skills, we also plan for each of the finalists to spend time with our choir in a rehearsal session to get a sense of how they work with people.

It was my intent to move forward with hiring our Minister of Music/Organist until the recent release of a report by a joint commission of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) and the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). In this report, the commission outlined the heightened risk of the spread of COVID-19 infection by singers. Apparently, singing has become risky business in this environment.

Hopefully you all are aware that for the foreseeable future, sacred music as part of our gathered worship will be dramatically different than what we are accustomed to, and the pandemic will certainly sideline most choral groups for some time. Because we don’t have clarity about when or how choral music can return as part of our worship together, I do not believe we can protect St. Alban’s staff, volunteer singers, and our parish family from COVID-19 infection. Because of the current environment, I have reluctantly decided to suspend our search for a full-time choirmaster/organist.

I am determined to move forward with this process when there is a clear path to doing so safely and long-term. I have reached out to each of the remaining candidates to assure them that my intent is to resume the search process at such time as hiring a full-time musician becomes feasible. Of course, I will keep our parish family up to date on the activities of the music search committee when we are reactivated and are able to continue our work.

St. Alban’s response to the COVID-19 virus pandemic

Dear St. Alban’s Family,

Join us on Sundays at 10am as we livestream Morning Prayer via YouTube. Access the livestream and archived video recordings here.
Weekdays at 8am we offer Morning Prayer via Zoom online conferencing. Click here for access details and link.
Check your email! We are sending regular updates and messages, including scheduled Zoom social events for our church family. If you’re not on our email list, please contact us and request to be added.

I hope you have seen the pastoral letter recently sent out from Bishop Goff in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In the letter, Bishop Goff relates that she met online with the clergy of the Diocese of Virginia and, as the Ecclesiastical Authority, directed that there will be no public worship at churches in the Diocese of Virginia through March 25. If you are aware of someone who might not have received her email, please pass it on to them.

Bishop Goff made it very clear that churches are, at the moment, not closing, and staff will be reporting for work. What does that mean for our parish family?

While Bishop Goff mentions “physically gathering for public worship,” I take her directive to mean that, in addition to our Sunday worship, there will be no church sponsored, or church-sanctioned, gatherings. This includes choir rehearsals, Lenten programming, Education for Ministry (EfM) sessions, Tuesday Eucharist and Bible Study, Chatting Fingers, Sunday School, Youth Group gatherings, Vestry and any of the other varied ways we gather.

While the doors will be closed for public gatherings and worship, we plan to continue live-streaming our daily office of Morning Prayer from the downstairs chapel, and are making plans to provide some kind of livestream of worship (either Morning Prayer or Eucharist) on the two Sundays we are apart. We will be reaching out to those we are aware of who live alone, to check in and make sure everyone is OK.

I hope you will take advantage of the technology with which God has enriched our lives to stay connected through our online worship and to stay connected with each other – checking on friends, neighbors, fellow parishioners and the most vulnerable among us.

I am grateful for Bishop Susan and Bishop Jennifer’s leadership in this difficult and challenging time. While we might be inconvenienced in the short term, not gathering in numbers helps to mitigate the spread for the community-at-large. In our conference call it was clear that this was a tough decision for them to make, but it was the right decision to make.

During this two week period, please do not hesitate to reach out to your parish staff and clergy if you are in any need, are feeling anxious, frightened or need someone to talk to. As Bishop Goff said in her pastoral letter, “do not be afraid. God is good.” Hold each other up in prayer. Now, as always, God is with us.

Faithfully,

Fr. Jeff

The 255th Diocesan convention

Today and tomorrow (November 15 & 16) your clergy and three delegates are seated on the convention floor at our annual convention, representing you as our St. Alban’s delegation.  It’s awe-inspiring to think that we are part of a tradition that has continued for over 250 years.

Fr. Paul and Maddy at Convention
Fr. Paul and lay delegate, Maddy, engaged in the business of the Church

Our convention is an annual gathering of clergy and lay representatives from all 180+ parishes in the Diocese of Virginia.  So, what happens at our annual convention? It begins with an inspiring pastoral address by our bishop, this year by our suffragan bishop in the absence of a diocesan bishop.  Typically there are addresses by guest speakers, too.  This year we heard from Mr. Brian Sellers-Petersen, Agrarian Missioner from the Diocese of Olympia in Washington, who spoke about care of creation.

An interesting part of convention is hearing “stories of the diocese,” inspiring stories of how parishes, big and small, are engaging with their community, reaching out, bringing new life to their congregation by carrying out Jesus’ Gospel imperatives to serve others.

At Convention we elect representatives to Standing Committee, a 12-member elected council of advice to the bishop who also can serve as the Ecclesiastical Authority in the absence of the Bishop.  We elect delegates to our triennial national General Convention and hear reports from different diocesan committees and task forces. Essentially , we conduct the business of the church as an assembled council.

For me, the highlight of Convention is the Eucharist – where we all gather in worship, sing the praises of God, and share in the Body and Blood of Christ.

Convention is a great opportunity to see the Church in a new way and in a new light, and it looks very different than Sunday morning at St. Alban’s.  Every March we call for nominations for lay delegate to Convention.  Delegates are elected by the Vestry, and must be pledging members in good standing of our parish.  If you are interested in serving, you don’t need to be nominated by someone else… let your clergy or a member of the Vestry know.

Celebrating the Communion of Saints

One foggy evening, when I was stationed in West Germany, I was driving through a fairly rural part of the countryside, when I noticed a rather eerie glow off to the right side of the road. As I got nearer, I realized that I was approaching a cemetery, and each grave was marked by a burning candle. I had passed that cemetery any number of times, but I had never seen it so beautifully illuminated. I later discovered that a local tradition was to place a lighted candle at the grave of loved ones on November 2nd – The Feast of All Souls’, or as we Episcopalians now call it, “The Commemoration of All Faithful Departed.”

Two venerable and beloved Church feast days happen this week – The Feast of All Saints’ and The Feast of All Souls’. All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows’ Day, is one of the principle feasts of the Church Year, and is set aside as the day when the Church remembers the saints of God – known and unknown. It is one of the few Feast Days that, when falling on a day Monday through Saturday, can be moved to Sunday (and, incidentally, it is one of the four Sundays especially appropriate for baptism.)

While the origins of All Saints’ Day aren’t known, its roots probably go back to the 4th Century, when a feast for all the martyrs was observed in May. It wasn’t until around 735 that Pope Gregory III declared a Feast of All Saints on November 1. While the Feast of All Saints’ celebrates the saints of God, known and unknown, who have died, All Souls’ Day celebrates relatives and loved ones (the “rest of us” faithful whose lives do not merit a day on the Church Calendar) who have died. All Saints’ and All Souls’ became inextricably connected – sometimes being called Allhallowtide or Hallowmas season, being observed on November 1 and November 2, respectively.

The Western Church began their observance of All Saints’ with a service of Vespers on the evening before, which would be All Saints’ Eve, or All Hallows’ Eve. It isn’t much of a stretch to see how simple, superstitious and pagan folk might embellish a commemoration of the departed with stories of tormented souls of the dead, demons and other evil spirits – becoming the festive day of Hallowe’en we’ve come to know and love.

The Feast of All Saints’ is especially important in the Episcopal Church. We often speak of “the Communion of Saints,” and All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day remind us of our belief that all Christians that ever lived, are living, and will ever be, are bound together in one Communion – the Body of Christ. All Saints’ and All Souls’ celebrates this bond as we continue the ancient practice of praying for the saints who have gone on before us and acknowledge that those saints in heaven are praying for us.

Please join us for our observance of The Feast of All Saints’ on Sunday morning, November 3rd, at 8:15 and 10:15. We will be observing The Feast of All Souls’ with a solemn Evensong on the evening of November 3rd at 7:00 pm. All are invited to attend this beautiful sung service, and to bring photos of loved ones who have departed this life and light a candle as a silent and visible prayer for them.

Would Jesus give to a panhandler?

A few Sundays ago, a gentleman came into the church seeking a ride and some financial assistance. In this specific case, this gentleman is well-known to your clergy, and has been using the same story for as long as I have been here, and perhaps even longer.  (Without going into details, his story is demonstrably untrue.)  He may have real needs (I truly don’t know), but his method is dishonest. Fortunately, he only got a ride out of our parishioners, and no cash.

What should you do when a panhandler comes to Church?Read More