Read the latest church newsletter: The Epistle, Friday, April 30
By the Rev. Nicholas Beasley
Getting ready for a new class on the Psalms, I was reminded how helpful these ancient praise poems are for modern lives and certainly for the days we are living. The Bible study guide explains that the book of Psalms is “actually dominated by prayers that complain to God about a specific dire situation of an individual or group.” The words jumped off the page! We have all done a little whining this last month, even those of us with relatively little to complain about. For some, these days have been dire, leading to profound questions about God and human life, questions that may sound like complaints.
Several of the early Psalms open with questions, big questions, that the singers in the Temple and current readers of Scripture are led to offer to God, particularly in dire situations. Psalm 2 asks “Why do the heathens rage?” causing suffering for others. Psalm 10 wants to know why God stands so far off and is hidden in time of trouble and why the wicked should then be allowed to revile the Lord. Psalm 15 asks who is holy enough to approach the Lord. Nearest to our present concern is Psalm 13, which asks “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? “ The Psalm never offers a simple answer to its question. The answer is not, “until you humans start doing right” or “until I, the Lord, am done being angry.” Instead, having asked the question, the Psalm writer resolves to put his “trust in your mercy” and to “sing praise to the Lord, for he has dealt with me richly.” It seems that asking the complaining question opens the door to reassurance from God, to a renewed sense of what the gifts of God have been. We all know that spiritual cycle, don’t we? When frustration or low feeling or spiritual aridity have gone on too long, and we finally turn to the Lord about it, something happens, some gift is given. God acts, and raises our eyes to the gifts and the goodness of God.
“How long?” is also the refrain to U2’s rock psalm 40, which Selah led us in singing not many months ago at St. John’s. Bono lifted the song’s lyrics from the first two verses of Psalm 40, in a last minute song-writing session as a recording studio was about to kick the band out. He added the plaintive cry how long, seemingly from Psalm 13. Psalm 40 offers a key to reading all the Psalms of complaint and question: “I waited patiently upon the Lord; he stooped to hear my cry…lifted me out of the desolate pit…set my feet upon a high cliff…made my footing sure…[and] put a new song in my mouth.” God heard, God lifted, God gave a new song. That new song of praise is the one Bono asks about the duration of; how long will I sing this song of joy in the Lord? That is a wonderful inversion of Psalm 13’s “How long,” asking not how long God will hide but how long we should sing the song of joy God gives to those who turn to him, even (especially?) those who turn to him in prayer of complaint. We should sing that song forever.
These psalms (and even Bono’s synthesis of them) together teach us that God hears the cries of his people, that God responds in many ways, including movements within us, prompted by the Holy Spirit. Our cries of complaint matter to God, and God transforms them into confessions of faith and thanksgiving, for the mercy of God we have received. We lose track of and are reacquainted with the mercy of God in our days. That dynamic is not forever; we are being moved toward a serenity, toward wisdom, toward the fullness of God’s presence and love. This season of pandemic is itself a spiritual experience and season, a time to ask “How long?” and to hear God’s answer in the faith and hope he renews in us. The pandemic won’t last forever; the love and glory of God in Christ will!
Prayers for Healthcare Professionals
Blessed Savior, at this hour you hung upon the hard wood of the cross, stretching out your loving arms that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may serve all those in need of your healing and wholeness; for the honor of your Name. Amen.
Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Give your power of healing to all doctors and nurses; protect all healthcare professionals against infection; comfort them when discouraged or sorrowful; and strengthen them by your life-giving Spirit, that by their ministries the health of the community may be promoted; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Doctors: William Rambo, Rachel & Alex Pertile, Tim Close, Stuart Smith, Michael Barker, Bill Robinson, Greg Black, Eric Horst, Ted Belsches, Stephanie Paolini, Ted Law, and Andrew Mastanduono.
Nurses: Katie Gibson, Heather Overdyke, Norman & Sicily Loranger, Anna Rock Kirkland, Betsy Williamson, Sara Williamson, and Brenda Martinez.
Pharmacists: Julian Horst, Lisa Sherrer Fisher, Joan Law, and Madelon Kneece.
Therapists: Rebecca Coleman
Administrators: Davis Bourne, Diane Clarkson, Caroline Mulof, Eileen Schell, Sara Sterne, Bobby Hurst, and Rebecca Dillard.
The City of Columbia has issued a stay at home ordinance closing non-essential city business and directing citizens to stay home except for the purposes of working at or conducting business with an essential service business provider. St. John’s is following this ordinance to protect the welfare of our clergy, staff, parish members and vendors by closing the office. Clergy and staff are working from home. Our finance team and sextons will continue to physically be onsite twice a week, briefly, to collect mail, make deposits, clean, and work with facility contractors. Clergy and staff can be reached by email or by calling the office at 803.799.4767 + their phone extension. Your voicemails are delivered to staff via email – so we’ll never miss your call – even though we are working remotely. Connect with Staff
A Message from the Wardens and Rector
The ways that St. John’s continues to be a people of generosity
Dear People of St. John’s,
Grace and peace to you at a challenging time. We wanted you to know about some of the ways that St. John’s continues to be a people of generosity:
- We are doing some of our annual Servant Ministry giving this week, distributing funds to the mission partners who will feed, house, and care for God’s people during this crisis. We often wait until the end of the year to do so but are acting now, since the need is now. We’ll be giving $2000 to Family Promise, $2000 to Harvest Hope, and $1000 to Senior Resources.
- We are continuing to pay our hourly staff members (our sexton and nursery caregivers) their average monthly compensation, though their hours have been eliminated or greatly reduced. Those who care for our children and our beloved church need our care, as long as we can offer it.
- We can assist St. John’s people and our neighbors from the clergy discretionary funds, as financial difficulties become more pressing. We have some new guidance in place to ensure that these funds are equitably shared among those in need. Please be in touch with Fr. Nicholas or Fr. Scott if you are facing difficult circumstances. The generous people of our church have given us resources to share.
- Our staff has been working to find creative ways to share the gifts of our life and ministry in dramatically changed circumstances. Sharing sermons, prayer, and worship online has actually given us the opportunity to share the good and comforting news of Christ with more people in recent days.
St. John’s Church is able to do these things because the people of St. John’s have been so generous. We have reserve funds to meet the pressing needs of the months ahead. We will be able to do so both for our corporate need as a church organization and for the needs we can meet for church members and our community, for some time.
Of course, our reserves are far from unlimited. We still very much need your help, and God’s call to give is not abated. Since we are not gathering for worship, at least until the end of April, your giving will require some extra effort on your part. Below are some ways to keep giving to the mission of our church:
Click HERE for the church online Giving website page or use your ShelbyNext App on your phone(If you would like credentials or instructions for downloading the App, contact mwj@stjohnscolumbia.
GIVE BY DIGITAL OR ONLINE BANKING
Digital or online banking platforms are available at your own financial institution. Enrolling in Bill Pay with your bank will allow you to continue to give regularly to St. John’s. Using your bank is free of charge to both you and St. John’s.
DONATING FROM A RETIREMENT OR OTHER INVESTMENT ACCOUNT
GIVE IN PERSON (practicing social distancing)
Drop off your envelope using our mailbox located at the main entrance of Heyward Hall.
GIVE BY MAIL
St. John’s Episcopal Church
2827 Wheat Street
Columbia, South Carolina 29205
NEED HELP? CONTACT ST. JOHN'S
Rhonda Gardner, Finance Administrator: rsg@
Michelle Rabon, Director of Parish Operations: mwj@
We are thankful, as always, for your faithfulness to the Gospel and each other in the life of our church. Let us remember the prayer of Psalm 126: “Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses of the Negev,” and its promise “Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy.” We pray to reap, when the season comes, a harvest of healing and righteousness.
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Nicholas Beasley, Rector
Michael Burkett, Senior Warden
Julian Horst, Junior Warden
The Middle School Sunday School class will continue their lessons online with leaders Bobby and Barbara Jones.
Sunday, March 29: 2 Peter. Peter calls for faithfulness and confronts corrupt teachers who distorted the message about Jesus and lead others astray. To prepare, view the lesson here on 2 Peter and watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWLv_ITyKYc.
A Note from the Rector
Jesus said “Do not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1). I am sure we have all been troubled in the last week. The wardens and I were troubled about the decision to suspend worship and all other gatherings, as I am sure many of you have been. Isabella Fleischer and her team were troubled by the postponing of Happening after so many hours of loving care in preparation. We are troubled by financial losses and economic uncertainty. Above all, we feel disquiet about illness and the prospect of death coming near.
We know the worldly antidotes to such fears; preparation without panic, focus on needs in a shorter term, awareness of the best public information, and the washing of hands. In the longer run (the longest run really), the eternal life of God, into which we have been invited by Christ, is what our troubled hearts need. Come what may, we are well in God by the work of Christ, his saving death, his loving Resurrection. Believing in God and Jesus, who he sent, gives us strength for these days.
Let us be, as much as we can, untroubled by these things. A faith-filled response will be better for our souls, for our relationships, and for our neighbors, who we are still called to love. Remember this week what Jesus said: Do not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me.
In God’s love, so abundant in our church, Nicholas
Our Sunday Worship is Online March 22 and 29
This Sunday's lessons take up the theme of vision, in Jesus' healing of the man born blind and in the calling of David, by the God who sees not as others sees but who looks to the heart. We see much happening around us in this strange season. Let us pray for eyes to see what matters most, those hidden realities and unexpected graces that lead us to perceive the action of the Spirit and the opportunities we have to cooperate with the will of God.
Our first Sunday of streaming worship was a success; we hope to improve the experience this week. We are making several improvements to our audio and video capacity, will share a bulletin in advance (by email and via Facebook), and will also offer a service at 8:00 am.
Sunday Services for The Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 22
8:00 am Morning Prayer (spoken) and Sermon
10:30 am Morning Prayer and Sermon, with the St. John's Choral Scholar.
Worship and Pray Online During the Week
Noonday Prayer Offered Online Monday - Friday... at Noon
Begins today at 12 Noon
Join your clergy and others for prayer, for our church, our city, and the world, each weekday at 12 Noon. This brief service will be offered via our Facebook page. You don't need a Facebook account to join us. That service is found on p.103 in the Book of Common Prayer. https://www.facebook.com/
Evening Prayers and Devotion Wednesdays at 6 pm
In place of our in-person gatherings on Wednesdays, let's come together for a time of evening prayer and devotion on Wednesdays at 6 PM. One of the clergy will lead the prayers on Facebook and offer a message appropriate to the season. You don't need a Facebook account to join us. https://www.facebook.com/
St. John’s Youth Lead Compline Prayer at 7 pm on Instagram
Compline will be at 7 pm on Instagram, co-led by the youth of the church. We will gather virtually Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday of each week. Come with prayer requests and calm your minds! All are welcome. https://instagram.com/
Help in Time of Need
Separately, Fr. Scott is developing a plan for a telephone calling ministry, to check-in with our more vulnerable church members. Please let the clergy know about your needs for prayer and pastoral conversation.
And don’t forget to reach out to each other. Call your pew neighbors, members of your guild, those who share in your committee work. We can do much to maintain the bonds in the Body of Christ and care for one another with personal caring and initiative.
Church Office Hours
St. John’s office will be open from 10 am to 3 pm, Monday through Friday during this extraordinary time. During that time and out of it, staff will be available by email and telephone. Voicemail messages left at the church are automatically emailed to staff members, including the clergy. These reduced hours will allow the staff to work from home when that is prudent. Your visits for pastoral conversation with the clergy are welcome, but always consider the telephone or a videoconference as a fitting substitute.
Dear People of St. John’s,
Friday’s coronavirus news has included the declaration of national and South Carolina states of emergency, preceded by the cancelation of almost all public gatherings of any size. Friday, our bishop also offered guidance that all meetings and church social events should be suspended. Happening at Camp Gravatt was canceled. Many argue that all reasonable steps should be taken to slow the spread of the virus, so that our medical resources are not overburdened.
Thus, it seems prudent to pause the life of St. John’s for two Sundays, as have other congregations in Columbia and across the country. We will not gather in person for worship on Sunday, March 15 or Sunday, March 22. The 10:30 service will be streamed live via our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/StJohnsEpiscopalChurchShandon/) this Sunday. There will be Scripture, a sermon, prayers, and intercession for our neighbors and the world at this troubling time. Words of hope, assurance, and a call to courage will be there, too.
This means all church classes, youth ministry, Wednesday night, guild gatherings, and meetings at St. John’s will be suspended for the same period. This will be a good time for all of us to stay home, if not out of a sense of risk to self, then out of a commitment to the common good. Accepting these restrictions is a way to love our neighbors, as the Lord commanded.
With hope and in Christ,
The Rev. Nicholas M. Beasley
Out of an abundance of caution in light of COVID-19, the Men of St. John's are postponing the annual Oyster Roast & Auction scheduled for March 27, 2020. We look forward to hosting a larger and even more festive gathering later this year, so please stay tuned for details in the future!
In the meantime, we invite you to join us in supporting some of the outstanding charitable organizations and ministries to which the proceeds of our events are distributed. Financial contributions to these groups can have a significant impact, especially during this time when the needs of those they serve may be increasing.
Below please find a list of organizations that support potentially vulnerable populations and links to make a direct contribution if you so desire:
- Hand Middle School Backpack Program, which provides backpacks of food each week during the school year to needy Hand Middle School students. This is considered St. John’s signature project and donations may be made via the church website by selecting "Helping Hands Backpack Program" from the drop-down menu
- Harvest Hope Food Bank, which feeds the hungry across 20 South Carolina counties, distributing over 22.9 million meals last year and feeding approximately 40,425 people a week
- Family Promise of the Midlands, which supports families experiencing homelessness by providing shelter, food, and hope for a better future through volunteers in local faith-based congregations, like St. John’s, who provide radical hospitality to guest families
- The FriendShip, a Columbia-based nonprofit dedicated to helping older adults lead healthy, independent, and active lives in their own homes and communities through programs and services like transportation, home maintenance assistance, and social engagement opportunities
Thank you, as always, for your support of MOSJ and the worthy charities and ministries with whom we are proud to partner.
Men of St. John's Episcopal Church, Shandon
Stay Tuned to the Oyster Roast & Auction event page on FaceBook for more information as it becomes available: https://www.facebook.com/
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