Senior Warden Reflections, February 2023 – June 2023

A Note from the Senior Warden – June 28
“The tender mercy of God”

Sometimes, a word or phrase in a sermon really resonates, has real impact.  You remember the phrase long after leaving church.

This happened to me last week, listening to a sermon. The feast being celebrated that day was the birth of John the Baptist. Fr. Tim was preaching on the readings from Luke 1:76-79.

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace

As he spoke, he stopped to repeat “. . . the tender mercy of our God. . . “.  Then he was silent for a few moments, to let the phrase sink in. Then he repeated it, more quietly this time. He challenged us not only to think about what this phrase meant to us, but how it made us feel.

I was almost moved to tears.  The noise in my head stopped.  I felt like I was there with Zacharias as God spoke to him.  I had the physical feeling of being wrapped in the arms of God.  I don’t remember ever having felt like this, of being so drawn into the words in a sermon with such a strong physical and emotional pull. To be honest, the phrase has stayed with me all week.

This experience has caused me to think about my relationship with God in a different way, a more personal way.  And it’s made me recall what I wrote last week about the God of Surprises.  The experience I had listening to this sermon was surely one of those surprises!

A Note from the Senior Warden – June 21

“God reveals Himself through surprises”. A quote from Pope Francis

I was blessed a couple of days ago with the most unexpected, heartwarming, and delightful surprise.  I was offered a gift of 10 days at a dear friend’s condo on a lake in the Adirondacks.  My jaw dropped.  This was the year I was resigned to not spending much time, “up north”.  Even more, this was a gift in the truest sense of the word, with no expectation of anything in return.  Just go and enjoy.  I’m still pinching myself.

This gift caused me to think about the role of God in this surprise, and in surprises in general.  I really have not given much thought to this up until now.  I tend to be more of a skeptic in these matters.  Does God really do these things?  Did He really know how much I need these 10 days?  When I get right down to it, do I truly understand what I’m saying when I say, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of Heaven and earth”.  I know I believe in God.  I may not be as deeply certain about the “Almighty” part.  And I often question the “. . . creator of Heaven and earth” part”.

Oh my!  Am I an “auto-pilot” Christian?  Going to church, saying the prayers, listening to the sermons – all of it – on auto-pilot?  The question this brings up for me is not only what I believe, but how well do I understand it, how well do I internalize that belief?  I have a hunch I may not be alone in this quandary.

What I’m noticing is that this gift from my friend has awakened my sense of who I really am as a Christian.  It has given me pause to think. That’s the good news.  The not-so-good news is that I don’t have a clue as to how to explore this.  So I guess I will resort to my typical method, which is to talk to others, to pray and to read.  So be aware, I may be having this conversation with one of you very soon!

A Note from the Senior Warden – June 14

Joshua: 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Have you heard the term VUCA?  It’s been around in the business world for a while. VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. It makes me think of the world in which St. Andrew’s exists. Changes in the world around us are happening faster, and in unpredictable ways. It’s harder to anticipate what will happen when. All of this makes planning difficult if not impossible. Now add complexity and ambiguity and you have a formula for anxiety and fear.

Ahhhh, but not necessarily! As we listen to what Jesus tells us, as we breathe into His calmness, we become re-centered. As it says in Joshua, God is calling to not be discouraged, but be strong, courageous, and not afraid because He is with us wherever we go.

This Sunday, June 18th, the Rector Search Committee will hold a parish wide forum to help us deal with our VUCA environment. While we certainly don’t have all the answers (who does?), it is our hope that by sharing what we do know, we will be able to allay some of your anxieties and fears about our search process.

However, it’s not enough to allay our fears. It’s important to not just survive, but to thrive. There are signs of thriving everywhere as we live out our mission of being the loving and inclusive presence of Christ. I believe we already are a thriving congregation. Evidence abounds. Just look at the pictures of St. Andrew’s parishioners at the Pride Festival! Or our EFM graduate, Virginia Bartos. Or Todd Sisley and our choice representing us at the Choral Evensong at St. Paul’s, supported by several of our members. Or our Pastoral Visitors who offer special care to those who cannot be with us in person.

Whether we thrive by using our hands and feet or by prayer doesn’t matter. What matters is our belief in what God is calling us to do here on the corner of N. Main and Madison.

So while the VUCA world may be out there and appear to be threatening, we know better. We stand strong, courageous and without fear. We know that God is with us always.
PS – if you would like more information about VUCA, ask me and I can point you to on-line links.

A Note from the Senior Warden – May 31

Legacy.  A word I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately. When you hear the word, what comes up for you? What does it make you think of? Does it prompt you to reflect? Upon reflection, does it prompt you to act?

It makes me think of what I want to be known for, what I want to be remembered for, what I stand for. The word Legacy helps me to remember what is important to me (my values) and giving thought to how well I am living them. Does my day-to-day life reflect what I want my Legacy to be?

Within the last few weeks, three of our very dear and close friends have died, so Legacy has been very much in the front of my mind. Our recent trip to Buffalo was to attend the funeral of one of these beautiful souls. His Legacy was fully evident in the newspaper and on-line articles about him, full of accolades and mentions of many awards. His Legacy was evident in his wife and children, learning about how they “saw” him, how they experienced him. His Legacy was evident in the packed St. Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday. There were people from every part of his life – his golf buddies, his clergy friends from across the US, his former students and faculty colleagues. Oh, and the Wisnoms. It was heartwarming and profound to witness how others saw his legacy. I believe he lived his life “on purpose” and was intentional about what he wanted his Legacy to be.

Sadly, because of timing, we were not able to take part in services for our other two friends. Yet each of their Legacies is well known to me and others. They were crystal clear about what was important to them, what they stood for, and acted every day as best they could to ensure that their lives would make a difference on others.

As we wrap up St. Andrew’s 125th Anniversary year this Sunday, we will be recognizing the Charter members of St. Andrew’s 1897 Legacy Society. Through a simple remembering of St. Andrew’s in their estate planning, these people are honoring the Legacy our forefathers and foremothers left to us as they courageously and faithfully planted a new church. We are a part of their Legacy, we stand on their shoulder, and we are called to carry on this Legacy.

What does Legacy mean to you? How do you see your Legacy playing out in your personal life? What part do you want to play in St. Andrew’s Legacy.

During this time without a rector, I believe it is particularly critical that we be intentional about what we want the Legacy of St. Andrew’s to be. Our thoughts around this will influence our choice of a rector. Our clarity around what we see as our Legacy as a church will help us continue to be optimistic about our future.

I challenge each of you to think about your own Legacy and to be courageous about starting a conversation with a fellow parishioner about this topic.

A Note from the Senior Warden – May 24

One day, I’m going to write a book and call it “There is No ‘There’ There”.  I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many times I have found myself saying “. . . when I get there, I will . . . (fill in the blank).” Then one day I had an epiphany.  What was I waiting for? What was holding me back from whatever was in that blank space? I figured out there are at least two answers.

One is the human answer. “I’ll start walking more when the weather gets better.”  “I’ll read xyz book once I’ve finished with the six others in the pile, even though I really want to read xyz book.” “I’d start reading ‘Forward Day by Day’ if I didn’t have so much to do.” I think many of us find ourselves in this situation. We forget about living in the present time, to savor each day, each hour. In spite of our good intentions, the days fly by, sometimes blending one into the other. I worry sometimes that when my time comes I’ll say to St. Peter, “. . . can you wait just a second?”

The other answer is spiritual, centered on God. I recently read something that resonated with me, “God invites us to trust in his goodness today and his faithfulness tomorrow.”. While I’m scurrying around trying to “get there” God is with me. My problem is that in my own wish to be “there”, I forget that God is always here, in the beauty of this moment.  Not a “wait-till-later” moment. He’s here now!  I forget that I need Him to help me find “there”, or maybe help me discern that “there” is not really where I need to be right now.

What I need to do is stop, pause and take deep breaths more often. I can give myself permission to go for that walk, regardless of the weather because “there is now”. If ‘Forward Day by Day’ seems too overwhelming, then maybe I can simply say “thank you God for this beautiful day” as my spiritual practice for now.

So I’m giving up the book idea and instead committing to slowing down to smell the roses. “There” can wait until God is ready to reveal it.

A Note from the Senior Warden – May 3

“The Lord acts in mysterious ways . . .”
How often have we heard? A better question is how many times have we actually experienced the mysterious ways of the Lord? I was blessed to experience His mysterious ways twice within the span of a few days.

Yesterday, Dennis & I learned that a very dear and old friend died after living for 3 years with pancreatic cancer. We knew it was coming, yet we were deeply saddened. I have known Al since shortly after meeting my husband, way back in 1979. When Bill & I were married, Al served at our wedding. He was on the altar and stood at the Font the day of Dennis’ Baptism. He was the consummate churchman, having served on pretty much every committee in the Episcopal Church many times over, including being a deputy to General Convention ten times! He was also funny, sometimes irreverent, saw the world as it was and was determined to change it. In the 1970, the then Bishop of Western NY asked his parents to move from their “Black” church to “desegregate” Church of the Ascension in Buffalo. And in the department of “. . . isn’t it a small world?”, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry taught Al in Sunday School while the family were still members of the “Black” church. He often shared with us a promise he and my husband made to each other. Each agreed to watch over the other’s son when one of them died first. And so Al became Dennis’ surrogate father. I can only say he performed his duties in a superior way.

So yesterday was a sad day for us.

Last night when checking my calendar for today, I was reminded that today St. Andrew’s is hosting 31 children and their chaperones from the Matsiko World Children’s Orphan Choir. It was as though the sun came out! It felt like God was reminding me that sadness and joy can exist in the same space. I don’t have to put my memories of Al on the back burner to enjoy these wonderful children today. I can imagine sharing their story with Al and watch his face light up. My whole being will light up when I see these beautiful children, all from Liberia, and all orphaned. Yet they are loved and cared for by dedicated volunteers, who, like Al are committed to making our world a better place. I am grateful to God for both my sadness and joy!  Mysterious ways, indeed!

A Note from the Senior Warden – April 26

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28–30

I’m tired! Not tired like I want to quit. But tired like I wish I could sleep in or take a nap.

As I was noticing my state, the lyrics of the song “Be Not Afraid” kept running through my brain (or what’s left of it some days). Thanks to the internet, I was able to find the lyrics, which then led me to various Bible verses. There are many – way more than I would have expected. Matthew 11:28-30 resonated with me the most.

What is it I need to hand over to God? Why is it I forget to do that and try to “do-it-all” on my own? No wonder I’m tired! I’m very conscious of not letting others do things alone. So, I offer my help to them. Why don’t I follow my own advice?

This notion of doing things alone struck me hard recently. A friend’s spouse was having a particularly challenging medical issue and I was worried about her being alone. In fact, I sent her a text telling her I was praying for the two of them and hoping she wasn’t shouldering the burden of being his caregiver by herself. I offered to be with her, even though she lived out of state and I had no idea at the time what chaos would ensue with my calendar if she accepted my offer. Phew! She didn’t.

Although some days I think I’m just hard-wired this way, I also know I need to work on asking for help from others and more importantly help from God. I find this takes vulnerability, humility, courage and practice. I promise to keep practicing. Will you help me?

Thoughts from the Senior Warden – April 19

1 Corinthians Chapter 13, verse 13 – “and now faith, hope, and love remain, these three, and the greatest of these is love.”

I’ve been praying for inspiration about what to write this week, yet my mind kept getting in the way.  “Faith, hope and love” kept trying to get through the chatter.  Why, I wondered?  Well, I don’t know for sure, but my intuition is saying somehow these three words have a connection to where we are today as we await the calling of a new Rector.

For me, my faith is what keeps me grounded when I’m surrounded by doubt.  It keeps me from being swept up in worry about where we are in our search process.  “Will it ever end? Will it ever yield a Rector to serve all of us?”  Faith is like a familiar blanket I pull around me when I need comfort.

Hope is what keeps me moving forward, in spite of doubts, fears, or worries.  It’s a constant that helps me to know that someday we will have a Rector.  Will he or she be perfect? No!  But what I believe (my faith) and what I hope is that God will send us the person He believes will be the best for us as we move into the next chapter of our faith journey.

Love?  I struggle a bit to see where this fits in.  I only know this is what God calls us to do – to love Him with all our heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Maybe this means I need to remember to love those around me who are tired of waiting for a new Rector and sometimes complain out loud.  Or those who worry that somehow the Diocese may interfere with our choice.  I want to offer them hope AND love.  To keep love in my heart, I have to remember none of us are perfect, none of us gets it all right every day and that God loves us anyway.  In all of our messiness, imperfection, fears, doubts, He’s there.  So when it’s hard for me to love (and trust me, sometimes it’s really hard), I ask God to love me so I can love others.

Please keep praying as we search for a Rector.  And while you are at it, keep faith, hope & love in your heart.

Thoughts from the Senior Warden – April 12

Thank you, God for . . . . .!!

Where to start? So many things to be thankful for. What if I leave something out? Is it possible to be grateful for too many things? How do I know I’m being grateful enough? How do I know God hears me? How do I know that God really “gets” how grateful I am?

These are some things I wonder about when I think about being grateful. Then I have to remind myself – one more time – that I am NOT perfect. That God does not expect me to be perfect. And believe that God accepts whatever gratitude I offer.

I don’t believe that we intentionally forget to be grateful. It’s just that our lives are busy, full of complexity and multiple demands on our time. Without realizing it time has flown and we might forget to say “thanks, God”.

We have all read about tips and tricks that will help us remember to be grateful. Say ten things you are grateful for before you go to sleep. Adopt an “attitude of gratitude”. Keep a gratitude journal. Use “grateful” language. Words such as gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortunate and abundance are a few examples. If you catch yourself thinking about what you don’t have, turn it around and be grateful for what you do have. Pay It Forward.

Scripture teaches us that all we have comes from God. Making the connection between what we have and its source is something we practice as Christians.

What is important is to simply be grateful. Don’t worry about how or when, or is it good enough. It’s OK to challenge yourself to be more mindful about gratitude.

Know in your heart that God hears you – hears us.

I am grateful for all of YOU! For the incredible people of St. Andrew’s who show their gratitude in myriad ways, who say and do things openly or in private. I feel God has richly blessed us here at St. Andrew’s. And I am grateful to my God.

A Note from the Senior Warden – March 29

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about values and how they relate to rights and responsibilities. In particular, how we as Christians, as Episcopalians, view values, rights and responsibilities. Are they connected? How? In what way do they impact our daily life?

Most of us would probably say that our responsibilities as Christians are laid out for us in our Baptismal Covenant (BCP p.302). These are promises we make, or are made for us, when we are baptized.

Other responsibilities arise from what our parents have taught us (pick up your room, be nice to your brother, do something to help others). Still others come from external sources such as the government (stop at a red light, pay your taxes, recycle).

Then there are our rights. We talk a lot about rights in this country. The “Bill of Rights” has been around since 1791 and allows for the free expression of religion, the right to assemble peaceably, to speak freely, and even to own a gun.

Values are unique to each of us. They are our guiding stars. We strive to live by them, and wrap them around our rights and responsibilities. When these are in sync life can almost can feel fulfilling.  When out of sync, we may find that life isn’t so great.

Commonly held values may include integrity, trust & respect. Some are more personal, such as family. Others are more unique to the person. Making a difference, fun and nature are three of my most important values. For others, it might be adventure and challenge.

When our values, rights and responsibilities are aligned life is pretty good! And when they are not, there is tension, frustration & maybe even anger. Suppose worshipping God is one of your most dearly held values. Another is family. Your 1st granddaughter’s graduation is out of state on a Sunday morning. Responsibility also comes in if you are on the Altar Guild. You may also think “I have a right to be with my family to celebrate my granddaughter’s milestone”. How would this make you feel?  You are faced with choosing between at least two dearly held values, and a conflict between a right and a responsibility. And you can’t be in two places at once.

Our lives are filled with choices such as these every day. Granted, some are not as tough as the example above. In our head, we know there are no perfect answers. Our heart tells us a different story. So, when misalignment occurs, it’s the conflict between our values, responsibilities and rights.

Back to the original question. How do we handle this as Christians? One answer is prayer. Asking for guidance on how best to handle a very difficult situation. “This is above my pay grade, Jesus. Help me out please.” Another answer lies in two of our Baptismal promises.  “Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior? Do you put your whole trust in His grace and love?”

Praying and asking for God’s help doesn’t change the situation. What it does, though, is help us to find comfort in our choice.

What are some of the tough choices you have made? What did you decide? How did you come to terms with your choice? Did you find prayer to be helpful?

A Note from the Senior Warden – March 13

Please raise your hand if you like change! If you raised your hand, you may go to the head of the class.

Change is all around us. Scripture is full of examples. Imagine what the disciples must have felt after Jesus’ death. Their world was completely flipped upside down. The disciple Thomas felt changed when he saw the wounds in Jesus’ body. Jesus’ very life had such an impact that it changed the world.

You don’t have to look very far to experience change in our world and even in our own lives. At St. Andrew’s we are experiencing a collective change as we transition from our time with Mtr. Jane, to meeting new priests almost weekly, to wondering what will be next.

Did you know that the feelings you experience during times of change are normal? Did you know others feel these feelings too? When I first learned about this my first thought was “Oh, good! I’m not crazy!”  My second thought was how comforting it was to have words to name what I was going through.

Since we seem to be in a collective state of change at St. Andrew’s, I thought it might be helpful to name what we are experiencing. A couple of things are important to note first. The stages we experience aren’t good or bad. They just “are”. The other thing to know is that these changes aren’t linear. Meaning we don’t “check-the-box” when we go through one stage & then cleanly and move on to the next. Depending on the situation, it’s likely we’ll go back and forth through the changes many times. See if you recognize of these. Which stage are you in now?

  • Denial – this is the “head in the sandbox” stage. “This can’t be/isn’t happening.”
  • Resistance – you might be angry or act divisively. You might blame others. “If they hadn’t decided to do ‘X’, things would have stayed the same.” Or blame yourself. Feeling lost and uncertain in this stage is common. It’s hard to focus on getting needed work accomplished.
  • Exploration – we start to plan for what will happen, to solve problems along the way, and to visualize how we can be a part of creating the best outcome.
  • Commitment – this is when we commit to the “new” future. “This is the way things are now.” We become committed to work toward the best outcome.
  • Growth – at this stage, we start to flourish in our “new” world.

At each of these stages, prayer is critical. We can’t navigate this on our own. Being without a Rector, getting to know the Supply Priest, being unsure when we may find a new Rector all involve us experiencing the various stages of change. And while we can develop a greater sense of self-awareness and call upon our resilience, we still need God’s help.

So remember, what you are feeling is normal. Remember too, to always be in prayer.

A Note from the Senior Warden – March 8

It’s a gray day today. And chilly. Typical March weather. It is causing me to reflect on how I’m seeing the world today. Am I “gray”? Do I feel “chilly?” As I thought about it I realized that, yes, I was feeling gray & chilly. And I wondered if that is what I feel like during Lent. Maybe not so much chilly, but definitely gray. I need to shift. But to what? Believe it or not, I looked to the sky outside my window and could see blue sky. For me a sign of hope and promise woven into the gray. I remembered that this season of Lent is one of hope as we look forward to Easter. So I choose to be hopeful today, not gray. As for chilly, I’ll just don a heavier sweater.

Which brings me to where we are in the rector search process. Sometimes it feels like a protracted sense of gray with little or no blue sky. Sometimes we wonder where God is in all of this. Is He guiding us? Opening up the hearts of prospective candidates to St. Andrew’s? In our prayers we ask for guidance and for God to give us a sense of hope. And that is what we need to choose as we walk this part of our journey.

The Rector Search Committee has hopeful news to share. We are in the process of interviewing and checking references for a candidate. The Search Committee, having completed the Profile, will continue to do our due diligence by sending our Profile to Episcopal seminaries in the US. We have also decided to use May 1st as a decision point. Our intention is to have a candidate identified by that time. We are obligated to keep a great deal of what we are doing confidential and therefore limited in what we can share. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask us questions. In fact, we welcome them. So ask away! Most of all, thought, stay hopeful and continue to pray that God already knows who the best candidate is for St. Andrew’s. We just have to open our eyes to see who it is!

A Message from the Senior Warden – February 15

It is a joy to know that the work of St. Andrew’s continues to go on quietly and behind the scenes.  There are many things to be grateful for and almost too many people to thank.  Being without a Rector may at times seem as though we are rudderless.  And while a part of that may be true in the sense that there is not a “person” holding that space, the strong foundation that has been nurtured by Mtr. Jane, Rev. Mary, Fr. Hammersley and others is still there.

Our Worship Committee ensures that our Sunday services are sacred and spiritual. The Choir uplifts us with their magnificent song. The beautiful altar coverings and flowers are there every week because of the commitment of the people on the Altar and Flower Guilds.

The Buildings and Grounds Committee makes sure that the roof over our heads doesn’t leak, that the sidewalks aren’t slippery and that all the lights work.

Our Eucharistic Visitors are there to visit our parishioners who are not able to join us on Sunday.

Walk by the Focus Food Pantries baskets on the side aisle and you see evidence of the work of the Outreach Committee.  Or, volunteer at an upcoming Love Thy Neighborhood Dinner to witness Outreach in action.

The bills get paid because of your generous contributions through your pledge and other ways.

And coffee and goodies show up every Sunday because a few volunteers feel that having fellowship after services is an important part of our common life.

You get the idea. We are a strong, dedicated and innovative community of faith. Collectively, we are making sure that St. Andrew’s is here to bring Christ’s message to all.

So thank a volunteer today.  Better yet, BE a volunteer and experience the rewards it brings.

A Note from the Senior Warden – February 8

This past Sunday was remarkable in many ways. We welcomed Fr. John Scott with classic St. Andrew’s warmth and humor. Did anyone notice DJ whispering in Fr. Scott’s ear to move back so he would be in camera range?

The choice of music was inspired and inspiring. “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” brought tears to my eyes. I could almost hear the slaves as they sang it in the hot evenings near the fields where they labored. And we helped Norma celebrate a milestone birthday.

It felt good to be with you and to feel a part of this special community, called St. Andrew’s.

While we may be without a rector for a time, we are still a community that cares deeply for one another, that is clear about what we stand for and is committed to be witnesses for Christ on the corner of N. Main and Madison.

I want you to know that the Wardens and Vestry are committed to do everything we can to ensure that St. Andrew’s “stays the course” until we call a new rector. If you haven’t had the chance to read the Annual Meeting reports, I encourage you to do so. In there you will see how blessed we are to have so many capable and dedicated people watching over and managing the business of St. Andrew’s.  From Finance to Buildings and Grounds, from the Worship Committee and Altar & Flower Guilds, and more we are strong and in good hands.

Sometimes, in the absence of a rector, there can be uncertainty and rumors may proliferate. Gossip may undermine the work of the dedicated people keeping the ship afloat. As Senior Warden, I commit to you that I will be honest and transparent about where we are in the Rector Search process, where we are financially, pastorally or in how we are holding each other up. While I can’t change how people feel, I do hope that you all will feel free to come to me, to Duane Wilcox, our Junior Warden or anyone on the Vestry with your questions and concerns. We will do what we can to provide you with an answer or tell you we don’t know but will try to find out.

Remember we aren’t alone ever because of our belief in a loving God.
Please continue to pray for the Wardens, the Vestry and the Rector Search Committee.




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