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.


I am currently on a clergy retreat with the Diocese of the Rio Grande. So I thought it would be a nice change of pace to hear from someone else. I found this piece by Cameron Trimble to be very interesting. Enjoy!

A Word for the Day...

In Iroquois mythology, they have a beautiful story of how humans came to help form the world:

The geese, turtles, otters, swans, ducks, fish of all kinds were living on the earth. One night they looked into the sky, and, much to their surprise, they saw a woman falling from the sky with a small bundle clutched in her hands.

The geese took flight, knowing the woman was not made for the sea, and caught her in their wings before she fell too far. But the geese could not carry her long, so an old turtle offered to let her rest on his shell. The animals understood that she needed land for her home, and so they called a council to discuss what could be done. 

The deep divers among them knew that there was mud at the bottom of the water. One by one, they dove deep into the water in search of the mud. But the water was too deep, and they returned empty-handed. Some did not return at all. Finally, it was only the little muskrat left. He was the weakest diver of them all, but he bravely volunteered to go. He swam into the depths and was gone a very long time. Then, his limp body floated to the surface, but in his hand was a clump of mud. He gave his life to help this human. 

The old turtle said, "Put it on my back, and I will hold it." 

The Skywoman took the mud and spread it on the old turtle's back. So moved by this act of kindness of these animals, she began to dance in gratitude and thanksgiving. The mud began to grow and spread far beyond the shell, building an island and then the lands of the earth. It was the alchemy of the animals' gifts and the woman's gratitude that created the beautiful world we have today. 

Of course, like any good guest, she did not come to earth empty-handed. In the bundle she brought was a small rooting of a tree - the Tree of Life. She planted the tree and in time scattered the seeds of grass, fruits, herbs and trees. In this way, all living creatures had plenty to eat, and life was good. 

I first read this story in the beautiful book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmer. 

Consider as you read this beautiful creation story how different it is from the Story of Eve and the Garden of Eden. In the story of Skywoman, she creates a garden for the well-being of all. In the Story of Eve, she finds herself in an exclusive garden, banished to a world of pain and suffering when she seeks to taste its fruit. 

As Kimmer notes, "Same species, same earth, different stories." 

Stories are powerful shapers of how we understand ourselves in relationship to the world. As we watch California and Oregon burn, as we grieve the 925,284 people worldwide who have died from COVID, as we watch the extinction of thousands of plants and animals, I pray we find a new story of how we live in relationship to our world. 

May Skywoman fall on us and awaken us in this age. 

We are in this together.



The Big Bend Blanket Ministry (created by our own Kerie van Zeÿst), based in Far West Texas, comes together to provide blankets to people in rural areas along the Borderland.  If you would like to donate a blanket to those in need they are $20 each for thick cotton blend blankets.  Our first 2020 distribution will be in October. With the COVID-19 pandemic and high unemployment our shelters are full and it is more important than ever to get as many blankets out those in need as possible this winter. If you know of anyone in need of a blanket or would like to donate a blanket please let us know! To contribute, put cash in an envelope marked "Blanket" at leave it the collection plate at St. Paul's or write a check to St. Paul's with 'Blanket' in the memo section or go to and put "Blanket" in the note. THANK YOU!

St. Paul's Bishop's Committee Minutes for August
Click Here

A Weekly Bible Study
Caregivers Support Group
Discussion Group about History and Racism in the Big Bend Region
Confirmation Classes for All Ages 

If any of these groups tickle your curiosity or you have questions or would like to participate,
send an Email to



Coming TODAY at 4:00....

Book Study Group on Zoom
The Book of Joy led by Tricia Seifert
Contact Fr. Mike or Tricia Seifert for Zoom information

or click here


Saturday, September 26
Noon - 1:00
Check here next week for more information


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 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.orgGo to the bottom and find the "Donate" --click on it and fill in the blanks.... OR go to 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. Keep bringing food donations...our doors are open 24 hours and you will find a basket at the back of the church.


The Sixtteenth Sunday after Pentecost - Proper 20
September 20, 2020

Jonah 3:10 - 4:11
Psalm 145: 1-8
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16


Philippians 1.21-30: Suffering
(Art and Faith Matters)

For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well--since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:29-30) It may be hard for us to reason our way to suffering as a privilege, even suffering for Jesus. So what happens if we turn the equation. If someone is suffering for Jesus, is Jesus not suffering with them? And if you are the cause of someone's suffering, then as sure as you make someone else suffer, you are making Jesus suffer. 

That was the reminder in the stained glass window called the Wales Window, given to the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, in 1965. Following the 1963 bombing of the church and the deaths of Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Denise McNair and Carole Robertson, stained glass artist John Petts felt called to respond.

John PettsWales Window of Alabama. 1964. 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL.

His work shows a Black Christ figure, arms outstretched, superimposed over a cross. Above his head is a rainbow representing racial equality. At the bottom of the window is a paraphrase of Matthew 25:40 saying that what you did for the "least of these" you did it for Christ. The change in voice here reminds those who see the window that the bombing and killing were done not just to the building and congregation of 16th Street Baptist Church, the bombing and killing were also done to Jesus. The text on the window says "You do it to me." 

The window was the gift of the people of Wales to the congregation. Small donations were collected from across Wales so that the window would truly be a gift from the whole of the Welsh people. 


Matthew 20.1-16: Vineyard Work
(Art and Faith Matters)

Is it propaganda? Absolutely. Which doesn't make it a necessarily wrong interpretation. Just an advantageous one. The gospel reading for Proper 20(25)A/Pentecost 16A is Matthew 20:1-16. In that text Jesus tells the story of a vineyard owner who pays wages by the person rather than by the hour.

In the parable, four different groups of workers are hired, and the group hired last - just before quitting time - is paid the same wages as the group that started work at sunup. Is that fair? No, according to the early bird workers.

The early workers, the older brother from the prodigal son story...probably most of us can understand how it feels to have given everything you had, done everything you thought was right only to find yourself on what you perceive as the unfair end of the deal. However, most of us have also probably been the recipient of some grace along the way.

That's what Lucas Cranach the Younger was painting in his work "The Vineyard of the Lord": grace. Or folks who had received some of it anyway. The parable is transported to 16th-century Germany in this interpretation of the story. The vineyard is planted on a hill; the workers are industrious. But the workers on the left, Roman Catholic clergy and religious, are exhausting the ground and proving to be poor caretakers of the vineyard. At the conclusion of their day, they march out of the vineyard, following the Pope. In contrast, on the right, leaders of the Protestant Reformation - including Martin Luther - provide loving care for the vineyard. Below them, at bottom right, is Paul Eber and his family (including thirteen children, those who died as infants are dressed in white). Eber was a theology professor, hymn writer, and Bible translator. At his death in 1569, his children commissioned the painting as a memorial. The artist chose the theme.

At the left lower corner, the Lord of the vineyard comes to pay the wages to the workers. First paid are the Pope and his workers. The Pope holds a coin in his hand and appears to be asking for more. The Lord of the vineyard holds up his hand, rejecting the demand for additional wages

The painting is propaganda. Martin Luther clears the ground with a rake in the center of the composition. Other Reformers (all identifiable) work beside him. They are the ones who came late to work but were given the same pay as those who worked a full day. They are portrayed as humble, continuing to work rather than demanding their pay from the Lord.

What the painting may fail to show, though, is that all the workers were unworthy of their Lord's generosity. Those who came late in the day were unworthy because they really didn't earn their pay. Those who worked all day are unworthy because they were dissatisfied with what God gave them. At the heart of the story is the truth that both sets of workers are dependent on the goodness and generosity of the Lord.

And so are we.


It Was a Good Day for God

Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?
- Matthew 20:15 
Before the sundown sip of three-cubed Irish whiskey
and the pondering of the universe and counterpoint
and the choice to give time its particular flow
it tickled the Almighty to place that random
twenty dollar bill on the floor next to the chair 
where the college student studied empty-walleted
it gave goose bumps to the Lord’s arms to let 
the wind loosen the church door latch and the 
misplaced woman on the stoop came in for the night
it was a holy thrill to speak absolution to a man who
figured out how to purge all his needle-stick guilt
and put himself in a place of pleading and let it go
a long day for a researcher in communicable disease
ended with a novel idea from nowhere on how
a vaccine might be tweaked for double effectiveness
by dinner the Great One enjoyed inspiring a stuck poet
with the words bounteousness and exultation
and fingers eager to put fearless words on the page
it was a good day to be God when generosity
was seen as the goodness of God and this
goodness was praised as the Godness of God

every moment (Matthew 20:1-16)

early in the morning,
at the corners
where we stand
with our hands stuffed
in pockets full of pride,
     you come looking for us.

at the coffee shops
where we sit grumbling
about how different
our jobs, our relationships, our dreams
would be 'if only . . .'
     you come to engage us
     in the only Person
     we will ever need;

in the late afternoon,
when our eyelids droop
from acedia
and our energy follows us
about being overwhelmed,
     you come to give us
     a jolt of unfettered grace;

in the evening,
just as we are about to nod off,
you re-run the day for us,
so we can know
(and whisper),
'it was you -
     in every moment,
          in every place,
     in every person -

who got us through
this day.'

(c) Thom M. Shuman



The way of Heaven,
Is it not like stretching a bow?
What is high up is pressed down,
What is low down is lifted up;
What has surplus is reduced,
What is deficient is supplemented.
The way of Heaven,
It reduces those who have surpluses,
To supplement those who are deficient.
The way of man is just not so:
It reduces those who are deficient,
To offer to those who have surpluses.
Who can offer his surpluses to the world?
Only a person of Tao.

-Tao Te Ching 77

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

-Isaiah 55:8-9


Receiving and Giving

A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other people, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the full measure I have received and am still receiving.

-Albert Einstein 1879-1955

We have learned a bit too late in the day that action springs not from thought but from a readiness for responsibility.

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945
Letters from Prison

Thankfulness and Celebration
and News

Thank you to the Bishop's Committee who has worked hard to develop and carry out our protocol to be able to allow us to return to worship in person.

Thank you to Shere who comes in faithfully every week to set up the altar.

Thank you to Tricia who leads our Book Study with wisdom, compassion and joy.

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.

Thank you to everyone who continues to bring food supplies and masks to the church. It is greatly appreciated by the Marfa Food Pantry.








  • Ask yourself whether you currently have any of the following symptoms. If your answer is “yes,” please stay home and watch the service at
    • Fever (99°F or higher)
    • Chills
    • Muscle aches
    • Cough (new)
    • Shortness of breath (new)
    • Unexpected fatigue
    • Sore throat
    • Loss of taste or smell
    • Headache
    • Diarrhea
    • Vomiting
    • Nausea
    • Other cold symptoms
  • Have a mask ready. Everyone must wear a mask in order to enter the building. If you arrive at church without a mask, one will be provided. 
  • Seating in the sanctuary will be limited. Overflow seating will be offered in our hall.


  • Be mindful of physical distancing. Follow posted instructions regarding traffic flow.
  • Enter through the main sanctuary entrance on Highland Avenue.
  • Ushers provide you with a mask if necessary.
  • Ushers will seat you. In order to maintain physical distancing, congregants will be seated six feet apart as the pews are marked, from the front of the sanctuary to the back, and will be dismissed from the back of the sanctuary to the front. Members of the same household will be seated together.
  • Expect changes to the service. 
    • Hymns will be sung by our organist only (Beth has a beautiful voice); there will be no congregational singing although quiet humming would be acceptable.
    • Communion will be brought to you. Instead of the chalice we will have individual communion cups
  • There will be no coffee hour.

As we have done since our pandemic responses have been in place, please let me know if you wish to receive communion at home or wish for a pastoral visit in person or by Zoom. I will look forward to seeing you, one way or another, on Sunday.


The Rev. Michael Wallens
Vicar - Saint Paul's Episcopal Church
P.O. Box 175, Marfa, Texas 79843
Office - 915.239.7409  |  Cell - 214-862-7292

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St. Paul's Episcopal Church · P.O. Box 175 · 101 E. Washington street · Marfa, TX 79843 · USA

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