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  • Rev. Barbara Ballenger

Rector's Note: A Whirl-Wind Year - 6.1.23

Updated: Jun 8, 2023

As we live into our first week after Pentecost, many of our programs are finishing up for the year. It’s a little strange to put things to bed right as we ask the Holy Spirit to ramp things up, but that is what happens when the church calendar and the cultural calendar don’t talk to each other.

Still it is a good time to rejoice in all the work that the third person of the Trinity has been doing around St Peter’s this past program year, between September and June. And it’s a good opportunity to breathe in some gratitude for all who have welcomed this Spirit of renewal into our ministries. After all, the Holy Spirit is not someone you can contain in a calendar page marked Pentecost. She’ll blow the lid off that as soon as she can.

So here are many of the places where I have seen the Holy Spirit doing her Pentecost thing over the past nine months, which has been a bit of whirl-wind when you stop to think about it. If I included the names of all the people involved, this little note would become a novel, so dear members and volunteers please know that your faces are before me as I write this.

The joy of liturgy –New faces joined our Eucharistic Ministers and our acolytes, and we adjusted to some new patterns of liturgical movement this year. Our circle around the altar returned, as did soft rounds of Communion bread. Toddlers, parents and the occasional elementary-aged shepherd graced our new soft space. We launched Come 4th Sunday with a wonderful crew of young readers and prayer leaders, and used the opportunity to welcome 35 people of all ages to our parish.

The folk group came back bigger than ever. We experienced again our lovely Taizé service during Lent.

And special thanks to Kathy and Tim Flaherty, who continue to serve us as interim organist and choir director as we seek a settled music director, and to our spirited and committed choir who will get a well-deserved summer break. Shout outs as well to our tech team, altar guild and ushers for managing the details that make it possible for those near and far to experience the joy of worship together.

Fellowship and forums – Our Sunday forum hour relaunched in a new 11:30 time slot this year, and we had lectionary Bible Study in Advent and on Sundays after Easter. A wonderful crew of fellowship hour volunteers has made our coffee hours really special, and quite delicious, Sunday after Sunday.

Godly Play and Children’s Chapel – We broke new ground with our Children’s Chapel team who offered lectionary-based lessons for our elementary-aged children during worship. And Godly Play returned to provide stories and hands-on activities to our littlest members. Thanks to all who taught and assisted this year!

Tending the grounds -- Speaking of breaking ground, so many people this year have helped to weed it and seed and tend it, as well as paint walls, lay carpet and tile, arrange for big repairs and manage a steady stream of beautifications and alterations. Special thanks to sexton Tim Valera, who manages our set ups, our emergencies and all the things that happen at odd hours, and to Property chair Dave Kipphut who is here several times a week overseeing projects and doing odd jobs.

Tending the Finances –The finance committee was expanded this year, adding to our dedicated crew of money counters and planners. We invited everyone to put “All Hands on Deck” in a new Stewardship process of pledging and support. And we’ve embarked on our Warm Regards fundraising campaign to retire Frank and Ernest, our old boilers, and to usher in the new. We are still looking to fill our Accounting Warden position, so if the Holy Spirit is prompting you toward that, please contact me!

Tending the office – Charlese Freeman joined our staff this year as the full-time Associate for Communications and Administration, working with volunteers to manage the web page and tend to our computers, prepare mailings, and answer the phones when needed. Before that Jeanné Hannum had staffed the office for over a year as our interim secretary, and we continue to appreciate her support this past program year.

Vibrant weekday fellowship – Our monthly Lunch Club found new feet this year, with Karen Sayer cooking and Sue Gordon organizing and volunteers getting the word out and taking reservations. LIFT (Living in Faith Together) formed as a monthly reading and discussion gathering based on a home-church group started by former St. Philip’s members. And every Wednesday a dedicated worship community has met to share Eucharist and to lift up our entire prayer list, name by name.

Reaching out and Reaching in –We became known as the Toothpaste Church this year thanks to our Community Partnerships Team, who kept us focused on the needs of our wider community with scarf making, blanket tying, support of St James School, layette offering and volunteering at Beds for Kids. They also stewarded our financial contributions and managed our partnerships with groups with a wide reach of service and justice.

A little red wagon filled with food for our Food Pantry has made its way down the center aisle each Sunday as a reminder of how important this ministry is to food insecure neighbors.

Our cadre of volunteers from near and far continued our rummage sale tradition, as well as year-round online options, which engage the community and encourage sustainability.

Our women’s group relaunched with dinners and breakfasts and an in-house retreat. In a lovely gesture of inclusion it changed its name to St. Peter’s Peeps, to acknowledge that people identify many different ways and that all are invited to party and play with this group of amazing folks.

Our Guatemala Partnership continues to tend our friendship with the faith communities that we have long been in relationship with there. The beautiful hand-made book stand on our altar each Sunday is a reminder of our life of faith together, and the gifts that abide in these dear partners.

Our Listening Circles continue to invite intimate conversations and compassionate listening and supportive care. Sue Gordon and her fellow volunteers ensure that loving greetings cards make their way to members and parish friends on birthdays and anniversaries and at times when comfort or congratulation are in order.

Exploring our identity – We looked at our charisms this year, based on the great insights in our Parish Profile, and we noticed that welcome, caring connection and inviting worship were top on our list. You can see how the Holy Spirit has breathed life into these gifts this year. Our welcoming efforts relaunched in recent months, and fresh photographs of new and long-time faces are gracing our photo wall.

And these are just the highlights. But all is to say that the Holy Spirit has danced among us in amazing ways this year. It got us through COV ID and losses and change, and it has breathed new energy into us. This season after Pentecost, which will take us through summer and on into the new program year, is our time to inhale deeply of all she has in store for us.

On Saturday June 17 parish leaders will gather to plan the next program year, with hearts open to what the Spirit is prompting us to do and be. And if you are feeling the Spirit’s tug to explore faith and ministry in new ways, please contact me and let’s talk about what the Holy Spirit seems to have in mind.

Meanwhile, enjoy the gifts of rest and recreation that the summer season offers. Things will continue to hop around here as we plan and dream our way into another year of the Spirit. And don’t worry, the staff will schedule some downtime as well, so that we are all refreshed for whatever the Spirit has in mind in the coming year.


Rev. Barb

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