Read the latest church newsletter: The Epistle - Thursday, May 21
Dear St. John’s Family,
The more things change, the more they stay the same, it seems. Both change and continuity seem to be before us right now. Some parts of life are moving back toward normal right now, with restaurants, hair salons, and retail stores get back to business. Some Christians are gathering for worship again, particularly our Roman Catholic neighbors. Plexiglass shields will be between their priests and people at Communion, and all will be wearing masks as they gather in gyms and halls, six feet apart. There are hints in their practice as to what we may have to be content with when our time to gather comes.
As it stands now, our bishop has suspended in-person worship through May 31 and will consider options for enlarging in-person worship when DHEC has posted 15 consecutive days of declining numbers of positive COVID-19 tests. We have had some days of consecutive declines, always followed by a day or more of increase, for some time. It is hard to speculate when that point may be reached. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
Our worship life continues online, as do Bible studies and opportunities for fellowship. We’ll do what we can by these means as long as we have to. Please stay involved in the Body of Christ in these ways, trying as they may be. And experiment with them as you need to. I was with my family instead of at church last Sunday, when Fr. Scott was preaching. When all had been rustled from their beds and fed at 9 am, we worshiped using parts of the 8 am service recording. I had the boys read the lessons and then we listened to Fr. Scott’s good sermon. Then we prayed for the church and for the world, and I was pleased to hear my sons pray from their hearts. Think about what you might do to nurture your own spirituality and that of your household with the resources St. John’s is providing. One size doesn’t have to fit all.
We may need a measure of your understanding in the days ahead, as Michelle Rabon completes her long and faithful service as our Director of Parish Operations. We will post the position for applications this week but will be without a lead administrator for a while. The restrictions on our ministry make this a better time than some to be short-handed, but we will miss Michelle’s steady hand in the days ahead. I know you will be understanding of any bumps we experience. If you haven’t, please let Michelle know how much her work has benefited our ministry. I look forward to seeing the difference she will make at Still Hopes.
Most of St. Paul’s letters to young churches conclude with a section of exhortation, in which he encourages them to fight the good fight, to run with endurance, to discipline the will and the body. Philippians 4 says, “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” We are in such time, a time of keeping on keeping on and remembering what was and what can be again, in the great goodness and love of God.
Think on these things and keep on doing the things you have learned and received in Christ. Nicholas+
Come plant flowers, prune, weed, and mulch garden beds during 12 Days of Beautiful. Presented by the Property Committee, work in different areas of the church grounds practicing social distancing. Choose one of three times - morning, afternoon or evening - from Monday, May 4 through Friday, May 15. Sign up your family (ex: The Bell Family) friends (ex: G. Bell & Friends) or yourself (ex: Gene Bell). Bring your garden gloves, gardening tools and protective gear. Flowers, mulch and water provided. Sign Up Here
Graduating? Email Maggie today!
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.