It is hard to believe that it’s been only a week since I wrote to you announcing that corporate worship gatherings were suspended through March 29 at St. James’ Church and throughout the Diocese of Maryland. It feels like it was a month ago, not one week. So much has happened in one week’s time. Suddenly we are being called to be the Church in a dramatically different world.
Today (Thursday, March 19th) our Bishop announced that through May 16 we will not hold public worship gatherings in the Diocese of Maryland. We are at a critical juncture with coronavirus, and it is important for us to not gather in large groups for the next 2 months. While we cannot gather for corporate worship in our church building, this means we will continue to be the Church in different ways.
Our current circumstance begs the question: what does it mean to be a church? When we can’t use our church building for corporate worship, can we still be a church? When our ability to gather together for worship is taken from us, can we still be a church? When we are unable to receive the Eucharistic sacrament, can we still be a church?
What is the essence of a church? The essence of a church is what happens when 2 or 3 are gathered together in the name of Christ, whether that gathering is in the same room or through a computer screen or over the phone. Jesus comes among us when we gather in his name. That’s when church happens, and in that ‘happening’ we are touched, transformed, loved, lifted up, strengthened, made one – we are the Church.
The Church has continued, unabated, through wars, and plagues, and storms of all kinds, and and will continue, even through coronavirus. OUR church – St. James’ Church – continues. Right now, St. James’ Church continues withCompline online; beginning next week, daily Noonday Prayer online; adult forum online; Sunday worship online; calls from the Rector; parishioners checking in on one another; prayers offered for ourselves and others; prayers offered for the world and our leaders; hymns that we sing out loud and in our hearts; prayers of thanksgiving and joy to our God. Yes indeed, the Church continues, St. James’ Church continues and will do so through coronavirus and beyond, praise be to God.
Information for Sunday worship services at St. James’ through Lent, Holy Week services, and Easter will be forthcoming. For this coming Sunday, March 22, rather than gathering online as the St. James’ community, we will join our Episcopal sisters and brothers of the Diocese of Maryland for worship online at 11 am. Here is the link: Worship Together
Friends, continue to worship in the beauty of holiness, continue caring for one another, continue calling one another, continue to say your prayers – in short, continue to be the Church. Our community and the world need us the Church, especially now in this challenging and difficult time.
Sadly, our church is CLOSED for regular worship services for the foreseeable future.
We are doing our part to curb the spread of COVID-19.
You are welcome to come in and pray. Our country and our world need your prayers right now.
Check our website for updates concerning the resumption of regular worship services at St. James and subscribe to our newsletter.
Peace and good health be with you.
LOCKDOWN: Brother Richard Hendrick, a Capuchin Franciscan living in Ireland, has penned a touching poem about coronavirus.
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples are preparing to welcome and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary.
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
By Irish Monk Richard Hendrick
March 13, 2020
The Mission of St. James is to become a thriving community of faith; loving God and our neighbors.
March 13, 2020
The rise of a public health crisis brought on by coronavirus is something new for me to behold.
I was talking with my mother last week about all of this, and she said that she could remember as a little girl, in her small town in Mississippi, strong measures taken in response to the spread of polio. She remembers the quarantines, the isolation, the separation, the fear. She also remembers the feeling of “we’re all in this together,” and the caring, and the looking out for neighbor, and the expressions of love. Difficulties and adversity, while none of us wishes for them, they nonetheless seem to always bring out the best in people. It’s what I call grace. God’s grace. Here’s an interesting article about some sociologists who studied this one time:
In Pre-K Chapel this week, one of the 4-year-old students knocked me on my heels with a couple of probing questions about God. His final question to me was, “why can’t we see God?” Still surprised by his insightful questions, I stammered, “well God is all around us, God is in the heavenly realms, God is right here with us.” And then I regained my footing and I said, “and God is in you, and in me. Where do I see God? I see God in YOU!”
Officials tell us we have likely not seen the worst of coronavirus in this country. But, as people of faith, we understand that we are not alone in this. We of course “are in this together,” with one another, and that is comforting. We are also “in this together” with God. And that is reassuring. God never leaves us. God never abandons us. And God has given us one another, to shoulder the holy work of love. And in this public health challenge, love will continue to abound. I encourage you to continue to reach out to others in love. Limit your face to face visits with people (as will I, Fr. Matt and Fr. Tom, except for those most necessary pastoral situations), but call them, email them, text them, check in on them, look out for them. Let them see God in you.
As Episcopalians, we are keenly aware that God made us with fantastic brains, able to think and reason, and we believe it is ok to use them. And our brains are telling us things we need to do to be safe (washing hands, wiping down surfaces, staying home if we’re sick, etc.). Our brains also tell us that, for the time being, we should not gather together in large groups. If we do, the virus will spread and our health care system will be overwhelmed. We Christians must do our part in helping to mitigate the spread of this virus.
Accordingly, our bishop has directed that we not gather for worship for the next 2 weeks. See the link to his letter explaining this action. This is a dramatic action and it pains our bishop to issue this directive. But, he understands that it is necessary, and that we must do our part in combating the spread of coronavirus.
This does not mean we cannot worship for the next 2 weeks! We Episcopalians are people of the book – The Book of Common Prayer. There are daily office services each of us can utilize alone and in our families. See the link to the online Book of Common Prayer and a link to a web page developed by Susan Robinson, our Parish Administrator, with resources for worship, including a link to the National Cathedral. Also, I will be offering various services on line in the coming days. Check your email often for notices of services and other information.
The parish office remains open. The Academy is not in session (see the Head of School’s letter closing school) but the sextons will be working diligently to clean the building. The church will be deep-cleaned on Monday, March 16th.
As always, I am available by email (email@example.com) and by cell phone (434-249-3868). Please reach out with any questions or concerns. Pray for one another, our leaders, health care providers, and all who are affected by coronavirus. And know that I hold you in prayer as we go forward together in love.
Joseph M. Cochran, Rector
PS Check the website later in the day March 13th for worship offerings.
Head of School Letter
March 12, 2020
Dear St. James Academy Families,
We continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and take the safety and well being of all members of the St. James community very seriously. This afternoon Governor Hogan and state officials announced that Maryland public schools will be closed March 16 through March 27. In accordance with the state’s decision as well as the recommendation from AIMS Executive Director, Peter Baily, SJA will also close for that time frame. Our COVID-19 Task Force team continues to meet and evaluate new information as it becomes available and will make a decision if we need to close for a longer period of time.
Tomorrow, our faculty will use the time to prepare and plan accordingly for the extended closure and ensure that our academic program will continue. Our goal is to have as little learning disruption as possible and continued education for your child. I am confident that our dedicated faculty and staff will maintain our high standard of learning for your child. For students in grades 5-8, we sent home laptops/Chromebooks, and students in grades PreK-4 took home packets prepared by their teachers. We will provide more specifics about our Distance Learning Plan in the coming days. Families should be prepared to access virtual learning as early as March 23.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me.
I wish you a healthy and safe Spring Break.
Charlotte S. Riggs
Head of School
The Rev. Dr. Tom Culbertson, Guest Preacher
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
The Rev. Joe Cochran, Rector
The Gospel of Matthew 4:1-11
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,
‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
The Rev. Matt Rogers, Priest Associate.
Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Lent Madness: a different version of March Madness: a fun way to learn about Saints in the Episcopal Church.
It began in 2010 as the brainchild of the Rev. Tim Schenck. In seeking a fun, engaging way for people to learn about the men and women comprising the Church’s Calendar of Saints, Tim came up with this unique Lenten devotion. The format is straightforward: 32 saints are placed into a tournament-like single elimination bracket. Each pairing remains open for a set period of time and people vote for their favorite saint. 16 saints make it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen; eight advance to the Round of the Elate Eight; four make it to the Faithful Four; two to the Championship; and the winner is awarded the coveted Golden Halo. The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get a bit more interesting in the subsequent rounds as we offer quotes and quirks, explore legends, and even move ino the area of saintly kitsch. If you’re not sure about terminology, check out our glossary. It’s free!
Learn more about Forward Movement at www.forwardmovement.org.
Last Sunday after Epiphany. The Rev. Joe Cochran.
The Gospel of Matthew 17:1-9
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”