Vision Statement for St. Paul’s, Marfa, Texas
St. Paul’s is an open, loving community
growing in the experience and understanding of the love of God,
acting to share the visible presence and compassion of Christ.
Mission Statement for St. Paul’s, Marfa, Texas:
Our mission is to be a welcoming, prayerful, caring community
actively sharing the love of God.
Values Statement for St. Paul's Marfa, Texas
To accomplish our mission, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church bases its decisions and actions on the following core values:
Love of God and neighbor by honoring the worth and dignity of every human being including ourselves.
Daily relationship with God all through our lives through prayer and service.
The importance of giving and receiving forgiveness through the generosity of the Holy Spirit.
We value continual learning.
We value the Episcopal tradition of communal worship.
Practicing hospitality by welcoming all and serving and sharing with our communities.
The stewardship of God’s creation and all its inhabitants.
Speaking of the pandemic and vaccines, one of my favorite church historians, Diana Butler Bass has written a wonderful peace about the the Antonine Plague (also called the “Plague of Galen”) and looking at today and the future of faith. Enjoy!
Too many American Christians flunked the pandemic test
As vaccines roll out and people are aching for some semblance of their lives before the pandemic, I’m getting requests from groups wanting to talk about the impact of the last year on the future of religious practice — especially if people will return to physical church after all these months on Zoom.
Since my training is in history, when people ask me about the future, I turn to the past. For months, I’ve been thinking about how Christians responded to previous epidemics and pandemics. There’s one historical episode that I can’t seem to get out of mind — the Antonine Plague (also called the “Plague of Galen”), a great epidemic that began in 166 C.E. and lasted for 23 years.
Roman physician Galen (c. 129–199 C.E.), a skilled medical researcher, kept a record of the plague. His notes describe a disease with symptoms that resemble smallpox — and a possible mutant strain. Historians estimate that the plague killed 7–10% of the population; among armies and the densely populated cities, the mortality rate probably reached 13–15%. The robust Roman economy crashed, building projects across the empire ceased, and Rome’s enemies found it a good time to launch military attacks at the imperial frontiers.
Rich Romans fled to their countryside estates, quarantining themselves in relative safety away from crowded, stricken cities. Like our own time, the wealthy escaped the worst consequences of the disease, as millions of lower classes and the empire’s poor huddled in urban centers — fearful of illness, disfiguring disease, and painful death.
Sarah K. Yeomans, historian of religion and science, writes:
Aside from the practical consequences of the outbreak, such as the destabilization of the Roman military and economy, the psychological impact on the populations must have been substantial. It is easy to imagine the sense of fear and helplessness ancient Romans must have felt in the face of such a ruthless, painful, disfiguring and frequently fatal disease.
Despite the overall slowing of public works projects, Emperor Marcus Aurelius invested in building and restoring temples to Roman gods, displaying attentiveness toward deities who might heal the people and whose anger at the empire appeared to need assuaging. The plague sparked a bit of a religious revival.
Indeed, historians of Christianity have suggested that this plague — and the subsequent Plague of Cyprian in the next century — was the context for the rapid spread of the Christian faith in these centuries following Jesus’ death. Christians didn’t flee the plague. Of course, many of them were poor and couldn’t. But they demonstrated rare courage caring for the sick and risking their own lives for the sake of their neighbors.
At the time, Bishop Dionysius described how Christians, “Heedless of danger…took charge of the sick, attending to their every need.” This exceeds ecclesiastical exaggeration — contemporary sociologist Rodney Stark claims that death rates in cities with Christian communities may have been half that of other cities. Valor was prized in the ancient world and Christians modeled it in spades during these epidemics. It wasn’t the blood of the martyrs that grew the church — it was the heroic care practiced by regular Christians toward their pagan neighbors which convinced myriads of Romans to embrace the way of Jesus.
This history points in an optimistic direction if one is trying to discern the future of faith post-pandemic. Perhaps a religious revival of some sort lies just ahead. But the Romans had an advantage over us — those ancient Christians didn’t have to worry about their brethren on Facebook or Twitter spreading falsehoods regarding the disease. Instead of facing the pandemic squarely and doing the hard work of neighborly care (even in the simple act of wearing masks), a considerable portion of America’s Christian population has been in denial of the extent and danger of COVID, revealing a self-centered moral cowardice that is exactly the opposite reaction of their ancient ancestors when they faced the first pandemic following the birth of the church.
Indeed, because of their failure to attend to COVID realistically and ethically, Christianity may emerge from this pandemic in ever-greater decline. After all, who caused super-spreader events? Mega-churches. Sean Feucht in his national worship tour. An evangelical mass rally in Washington, D.C. The purveyors of conspiracy theories, anti-masking, and anti-vaxxers. Some of the worst actors in the pandemic — some of the people who demonstrated the most profound disregard for their neighbors — have been Christians. Functionally, these Christians “fled” the pandemic for their imagined country estates, leaving millions of their neighbors to suffer.
Of course, many will say: “Not all Christians.” And that’s equally true. Throughout the pandemic, thousands of clergy struggled to keep their congregations going via technology (and it has exhausted both pastors and congregants). People of good faith have fed hungry neighbors, provided masks for the poor, lobbied politicians and business leaders to maintain safe practices in their cities and towns, prayed for the sick, the dying, and the mourning, created alternatives for pastoral care, raised money to cover hospital bills, reached out to those suffering isolation, and honored the dead with online memorials and socially-distanced funerals.
But much of this good work has gone unnoticed — the hard, brave choices made by the quiet Christians who took Jesus’ mandate to love one’s neighbor more seriously and with more urgency than ever before.
If Christianity is to come through this with any credibility, the quiet Christians need to speak up and tell their stories of the pandemic. If effect, those who humbly followed the guidelines, who cared for others by doing things never imagined, need to counter the ethical malpractice committed by other Christians. As we reach toward an ending of this phase of the pandemic, we’ve a much tougher job than our ancient forebears — unlike them, we’ve got to fight both a pandemic and the moral malformation of large swaths of those Christians who failed the test of courage and compassion.
If only there was a vaccine against self-centeredness.
Stay safe and well.....Shalom,
BISHOP'S COMMITTEE MINUTES
for February Click Here
March hymn of the month...
King of glory, King of peace
Author: George Herbert
King of glory, King of peace,
I will love thee;
and that love may never cease,
I will move thee.
Thou hast granted my request,
thou hast heard me;
thou didst note my working breast,
thou hast spared me.
Wherefore with my utmost art
I will sing thee,
and the cream of all my heart
I will bring thee.
Though my sins against me cried,
thou didst clear me;
and alone, when they replied,
thou didst hear me.
Seven whole days, not one in seven,
I will praise thee;
in my heart, though not in heaven,
I can raise thee.
Small it is, in this poor sort
to enroll thee:
e'en eternity's too short
to extol thee.
George Herbert, author of the hymn text, (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633) was a Welsh-born poet, orator, and priest of the Church of England. His poetry is associated with the writings of the metaphysical poets, and he is recognized as "one of the foremost British devotional lyricists." He was born into an artistic and wealthy family and largely raised in England. He received a good education that led to his admission to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1609. He went there with the intention of becoming a priest, but he became the University's Public Orator and attracted the attention of King James I.
The hymn tune for this text is GENERAL SEMINARY, written by the Rev. David Charles Walker, who was a member of the 1973 class of the Episcopal General Seminary, — priest, chaplain, organist and composer — died Dec. 3, 2018. He served as chaplain and director of pastoral care at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles from 1991 – 2003 and previously served congregations in San Diego, Beverly Hills, and Brooklyn New York.
Walker also served General Seminary as Organist and Director of Music. He composed two hymn tunes included in Hymnal 1982: “General Seminary,” with the text “King of Glory, King of Peace” by George Herbert (Hymn 382), and “Point Loma,” with the text “Baptized in water” (Hymn 294).
Walker was born in Washington, D.C. on March 17, 1938. He majored in organ and harpsichord at Illinois’ Wesleyan College and earned his bachelor’s degree in music in 1960. He attended the Union Theological Seminary in New York, earning a Master of Sacred Music degree in 1965. After earning his Master of Divinity degree from General, he was ordained to the diaconate in June 1973 by Bishop Paul Moore, and to the priesthood in May 1974 by Bishop Ned Cole.
Book Study Today @ 4:00
Wednesday Nights @ 7 on Zoom
Bible Study #5: Give It All To Jesus
All of us have time, money, and talents. And all of us have something that could potentially cause us to walk away from Jesus and become deprived of a life that counts. The purpose of this study is to think about the danger of holding back our resources from Jesus. Jesus offers us a life that counts, now and forever; all we have to do is let go of what we want and put our resources in his hands.
A COMMUNITY ART FUNDRAISER PRESENTED BY
RIO GRANDE BORDERLAND MINISTRIES
In order to spread awareness and build our network of supporters, Rio Grande Borderland Ministries is hosting an online community art fundraiser titled Canvas of Hope. The event will feature artists passionate about migration, including musical performances, poetry readings, artists talks, and more.
Please join us for Canvas of Hope on Saturday, May 1, from 1:00 PM MDT to 2:30 PM MDT. Registration required. Questions? Reach out to Nellie Fagan, RGBM Project Coordinator, at email@example.com.
The needs of paying the the church bills, funding our ministries, and proclaiming the Good News continues during this Pandemic. Please consider making a monthly gift.
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!---to all of you who have contributed and continue to contribute to our virtual collection plate. Some of you have made it a monthly donation through our "Donate Button. Either way you have done it....it is greatly appreciated.
For those of you who have not checked out how easy it is to donate on line....Go to our website-http://stpaulsmarfa.org- Go to the bottom and find the "Donate" --click on it and fill in the blanks.... OR go to https://www.dioceserg.org/donate and continue to support our mission and ministry.
ALSO---Thank you, thank you, thank you for all who have mailed in pledges and donations.
Things to do to benefit the church and the community during the Coronavirus Restrictions
1. THE MARFA FOOD PANTRY IS EMPTY! - Keep bringing food donations...our doors are open 24 hours and you will find a basket at the back of the church.
2. Pray for Rudy and Allison.
3. Pray for our country.
4. Unaccompanied Children at our borders.
The Fifth Sunday in Lent March 21, 2021
I will put my law within them,
and I will write it on their hearts. —Jeremiah 31.33
Write your love on my heart,
God of love,
write it in your own hand.
Make your love my heartbeat,
my instinct, my brainwave, my breath.
Soften the stone of my heart;
and sculpt it with love.
Inscribe your ways
on my bones,
your love in my heart of hearts.
Write your love on my heart, Love,
and seal it with a kiss.
The Word on My Coffee Cup
The word that's on my coffee cup
On Southwest Air while flying up
Above, in letters large, says, "Lift,"
The smile that it evokes, a gift;
How clever, as it says that I
No coffee benefit up high
Can have until I raise my glass -
No matter what my flying class!
So, Jesus, till he's lifted high,
No benefit can me supply,
Because, by definition, he
Can only save when I'm set free
From fear of losing everything,
And love, and not to self still cling.
It seems to me his kind of style
Still lifts me up - and makes me smile.
Scott L. Barton
my hour (John 12:20-33)
i wish to see
in the panhandler
on the street:
the stained, tattered clothes,
the unkempt hair,
the acridness clustered
cloud my eyes;
i wish to hear
in the politicians
whose decisions i cannot
in the evangelist
mouthing platitudes to the
in the talk-show callers
spewing hateful bile,
but all these words
clog my ears;
i wish to meet
in the tattoed skateboarder
riding the rails
down at the school,
in the hip-hopper
jamming at the
in the goths
hanging outside the
but too quickly
i cross the street
searching for my
why would you wish
(c) Thom M. Shuman
Jeremiah 31.31-34: Gone to Seed (ART & Faith Matters)
The prophet Jeremiah tells of the day when God's people won't be keeping the covenant as an external set of laws, but rather as something that is an intrinsic part of each person (Jeremiah 31.31-34). Written on their hearts is the way Jeremiah says it. It's a poetic turn of phrase that is a bit more awkward to depict in art.
The concept is easily followed, though. Vincent van Gogh offers a parallel in one of his sunflower paintings. It isn't one of the paintings that has golden yellow flowers at the peak of blooming, standing in a vase against a light-colored background. Instead the artist shows the flowers at the end of life.
Gone to seed is a phrase usually meant to indicate something that is past its prime. A place that looks uncared for or shabby is said to have gone to seed. The root of the phrase is in agriculture. When plants finish flowering, the flowers fade and the leaves fall off the plant. At that stage the energy of the plant is devoted to making seeds, so the condition of the leaves, stems and flowers begin to deteriorate.
It is at this stage that the structure of the plant gives way, falling apart and allowing the seeds to move into the earth. And each of those seeds will grow into a new plant whose identity is programmed on the genetic material that provides the blueprint for what that plant will become. In other words, the laws of development are written internally on the plant's DNA. A sunflower seed will grow into a sunflower rather than a delphinium or a cabbage.
Vincent van Gogh. Four Sunflowers Gone to Seed. 1887. Otterlo, Netherlands: Kroller-Muller Museum.
Seeds are what make development and growth an internal process. A lab experiment can influence development of one generation, but it is genetic material that transfers characteristics from one generation to the next. If you want to make an abiding change that will be retained in future generations, the seeds will need to be changed. The genetic material writes the laws of development on the "heart" of the plant that grows from the seed. And if the plant doesn't go to seed, then there will be no next generation to inherit those traits.
Going to seed may mean being past one's prime, but the seeds are shaping the next generation. And that's important because the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant.
It's sort of the same thing that Jesus talked about when he said that unless a grain of wheat dies, it will just be a single grain (John 12:20-33). But if it does die, it can bear much fruit.
Hebrews 5.5-10: Melchizedek
(Art and Faith Matters)
You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:5-10)
So here's Melchizedek:
Peter Paul Rubens. The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek, c. 1626. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art.
Do you see Jesus somewhere in that?
The story - and "story" is a bit of a stretch - of Melchizedek is told in Genesis 14. In essentially three verses: And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything. That's it for Melchizedek in Genesis.
Melchizedek is named in Psalm 110:4 and then again eight times in the letter to the Hebrews. It is in Hebrews that Jesus is named a priest "after the order of Melchizedek."
In the painting above, Abraham (still Abram at that point) is on the left, still in armor from his encounter with the King of Sodom. Melchizedek, King of Salem ("king of justice" or "king of righteousness"), is handing bread to Abraham. These are two of the aspects where Christian theologians perceive Melchizedek as a precursor of Christ. Jesus, too, is the king of righteousness and brings bread to God's people.
It's an interesting take on the Genesis story. I wonder how many of the original hearers of Hebrews would have recognized the name of Melchizedek when they heard it. Would we know the name if we didn't have the Hebrews passage? Does the relationship between Melchizedek and Jesus hold water for you?
The Last Word
We know that all our mothers bear us for pain and for death. O, what is that? But our true Mother Jesus, he alone bears us for joy and for endless life, blessed may he be.
-Julian of Norwich c.1342-c.1416
Revelations of Divine Love (ch.60)
Thankfulness and Celebration and News
Thank you to John Bane who keeps making sure our technology needs are met. Thank you to Joni who is leading our Stewardship program during Lent.
Thank you to everyone who continues to bring food supplies and masks to the church. It is greatly appreciated by the Marfa Food Pantry.
Thank you to all who have gone on line to our virtual collection plate and to those who have kept up your pledges and donations through snail mail.
LOOKING FORWARD TO
The Rev. Michael Wallens
Vicar - Saint Paul's Episcopal Church
P.O. Box 175, Marfa, Texas 79843