“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46

By Vicki Knippvicki

I started going to Honduras on short-term missions in 2000. I’m still going. When I’m not there, I volunteer at a homeless shelter. I joined the Episcopal Church in 1982. I began to understand Christianity through the joy and tears I have been blessed to share when serving others. St. Francis said, “Remember that when we leave this Earth we can take with us nothing we have received…only what we have given.”

When I start reading the opening lines to Psalm 46, I find myself immediately hearing the melody to the familiar Cursillo song of that name. I also find myself picturing the people who minister to me in Honduras and on the streets of Austin; people who repeatedly remind me what Faith really means. They’re not hungry for the latest Christian topics that fill my iPad and soothe my doubts. Nor do they find it difficult to accept the words of the Beatitudes or what we might consider the more challenging parables. They get it because they live it. Many people in the world today are still living in biblical times.

Recently, I was on a Water Well Mission in Honduras. I took my backpack with me wherever I went. Some years ago, a rural Honduran had told me how funny they find us with our backpacks… it’s a missionary identifier to them. I was thinking about this as I was riding in the bus on our way to the work site. Our backpacks hold all the things we are afraid to be without. Some of these things we see as “needs”… but many are really “wants”. They are our umbilical cord to our stateside lives. Jesus wasn’t laying the groundwork for a new reality show when he sent the Disciples out with orders to take nothing. He was asking them to let their faith and trust in God sustain and feed them.

A few years ago, we were on a medical mission near the border of El Salvador and Honduras. We were in a very remote and poor rural area. A baby who was severely dehydrated was brought to us . We had no salt to prepare a rehydration solution. I grabbed a few lempira (the Honduran currency) and rushed down the dirt road to find the salt. I came to a typical house made from mud bricks with the open holes that serve as windows and a door. Partially clothed children were playing behind a fence of sticks. I asked the children if their mother was there, and she came out of her house, wiping her hands on her apron and smiling a big, loving, toothless smile. She invited me in to her humble home, and I explained that I needed some salt for a very sick baby at our clinic. She went to the only shelf on her wall and found a small crumpled paper bag. She handed it to me and I gave her the money. She immediately gave me the money back, saying, “No, no…this is for the sick baby.” I hugged her and thanked her. My eyes filled with tears as I walked back, having seen the face of Christ.

I am frequently guilty of carrying God around in my backpack. I sometimes see Her as that energy bar or duct tape I go to when other things fail. The people I meet in Honduras and on the streets of Austin remind me what it means to live and be “faith full”. God is our refuge and our strength… not just in times of trouble.

About the Photo: It’s one of my favorites. I call it “Honduran Madonna”. It was taken in the village of Las Crucitas, Honduras.

thank you,
vk

 

 

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A Letter of Thanks

By the Rev. David Boyd

Day by day, on Sundays and weekdays alike, St. David’s goes about its ministries and business. There are worship and events to plan, many, many meetings, classes to teach, souls to tend,  and deadlines to meet. As a leader in the community, St. David’s often joins with local businesses, churches, and leaders to do what we do best: being the face of Christ in downtown Austin, serving others, and spreading the message of God’s love. It’s simply what we do. Honestly, we do it so often that even I sometimes forget the impact we have on those around us. Frequently, though, I’m humbly reminded of the good we do and the ways in which we touch others. I’d like to share a recent thank-you letter we received from our neighbor, Central Presbyterian Church. It’s a nice reminder in our busy world that what we do, even simple things that just make sense, make a difference to others. In the season of giving thanks, I want to thank you for all the ways you support me, St. David’s, and our staff. Together, we will continue to serve in great ways, sharing God’s love, building God’s kingdom.

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Ben & I Play for Peace & the Veterans’ Guitar Project

By Kim PerlakBen & I

I met Ben in the summer of 2010 at a guitar retreat in Maui, HI. At age 12, Ben was by far the youngest participant, accompanied each day by his mom, Helen. As a former “youngest in the class” myself, I identified with Ben, and I really liked his guitar playing. So, on the rare days Helen couldn’t make it right on time to pick him up, I kept him company. One day, I asked him what he did for fun back at home in San Francisco. He said, “I play soccer and basketball. And I play guitar at this coffee shop to raise money for kids in Iraq who can’t walk.” I said, “Really?” He said, “Yeah!” I said, “How much money have you raised?” He said, “$18,560.23.” I said, “Okay…”

As we became friends over the following weeks, I learned his story. Helen had become emotional while reading an email detailing the work of Brad Blauser, a CNN Hero who had teamed up with soldiers to help disabled Iraqi children in a project called “Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids.” Ben noticed and wanted to help, so Helen asked him to think about how he could use his talents. By the time I met him, Ben had been playing guitar at a local coffee shop a few times a week for three years. He told me, “I think that one person may not be able to solve a problem, but everyone can help to help.”

When I got home to Austin, I couldn’t stop thinking about Ben and his idea. I was teaching a college course in American Popular Music and Culture to 75 students who seemed already cynical about their ability to make a difference. I had an army of guitar students and network of musicians. I thought, “What if I could get them to help me help Ben help Brad?”

And, long story short, that is what happened in those first two years. Friends and students listened to my idea and responded with an offer to help. As our work continued, we received national attention from the media and official recognition from the U.S. House of Representatives. By the end of the second year, our team of two had increased to well over 200 and included musicians, students, politicians, clergy, media professionals, community leaders, and veterans.

In our third year, we wanted the veterans on our team to play a central role. Over the years, several veterans had taken my guitar classes—some for love of music, some for help with combat injuries or aid in their transition back to civilian life. Ben and I realized that we could shift our concert focus to helping the soldiers who had courageously helped Brad and the Iraqi kids. I saw an opportunity to bring my individual students together in one class leading up to the concert. I sat down with my student Randy, a 17-year Army veteran, and asked for his input. We met often and talked about our dream class, wondering where we could run it.

And that’s where St. David’s came in.

I had been playing guitar at St. David’s for several years, and had become friends with David Boyd. He had been following our project and saw that St. David’s could be a home for us. In the mingling crowds of post-11:15 a.m. service, he introduced me to Lynn Smith-Henry, a 32-year veteran of the U.S. Army. Over breakfast tacos at Holy Grounds, we made a plan for what we hoped would be a long-term veterans’ guitar program.

Our first Veterans’ Guitar Class ran as a Journey Group in Rebecca Hall’s Adult Formation program. The effects of our meetings were profound. Class members found that guitar playing was helping with cognitive, physical, and emotional injuries, and their friendships in the group were helpful as they adjusted to being home.

At the concert, Randy gave a speech that brought everyone to tears. He said, “I would lay my life on the line for any of you any day. If I could go back into service, I would. Because I love my country, and I love the people that are in it. It’s people like Kim who brought the guitar to people like me, people who struggle with a traumatic brain injury or who are lost in society. She had the tolerance to put up with me and teach me to play that guitar, so that I can stand up here and talk to you.”

As I write this, plans are being made to continue this veterans’ guitar group through St. David’s. We also welcomed new friends at the VA, music therapist Jeremy Coleman, and blues slide guitarist Kirby Kelley to our eclectic team.

This project and its home at St. David’s taught me that the bonds of friendship and common purpose can transcend the barriers of distance, age, gender, race, and life experience. It reminds me that a complex endeavor can begin with one person’s idea and grow with another’s willingness to listen and contribute. Three years, hundreds of people involved, and $24,277 raised after that first conversation with Ben, our work continues to transform my life.

For updates on our project, please visit: www.benandiplayforpeace.com

Those interested in the next Veterans’ Guitar Class can contact Lynn Smith-Henry for more information. The class runs on the semester schedule and is free of charge for veterans.

To support the class through a donation, please give to St. David’s and label your donation: Veterans’ Guitar Project.

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They Pay It Foward- Let’s Keep It Going

By James A. Prenticeold church- cropped

I am awed when I think of our historic “beacon on the hill” sanctuary being built 160 years ago when Austin had only about 1,000 citizens–the 1850 U.S. Census records Austin at 629 people, and by 1860, the population had grown to 3,494.  The stewardship of so few parishioners to build for future generations a permanent and beautiful tribute to God’s beneficence testifies to the now trite phrase “pay it forward.”  But pay it forward they did, and that has been true of all subsequent generations who have worshipped in and loved their, and now our, historic church.

The monumental physical plant and the full array of programs didn’t just appear, but rather they were planned for, and the generosity of those stewards who came before us made sure the structure would grow to accommodate future congregations and the programs we enjoy today.

Running a physical plant that covers a city block and houses God’s programs and cares for the spiritual needs of His people and reaches out to its neighbors downtown requires us all to contribute regularly and as responsibly as we do for the maintenance of our own homes.  The needs of St. David’s Church reoccur as regularly as our own utility bills and property tax statements.  None of us would think of missing a year of supporting our own homes or of sporadically making a small payment, nor would we expect our neighbors to pay those obligations for us.

I ask every parishioner to assess honestly what St. David’s means to his or her family’s life and to consider how large their commitment must be to assure its operation for another year. Then I ask my fellow parishioners to pledge an amount commensurate with that evaluation to assure the continued operation of St. David’s in 2014.  But I ask more of us all.

PAY IT FORWARD!  St. David’s Episcopal Church is a senior citizen of Austin, and like other seniors, the physical plant we enjoy must be monitored and maintained so that there will still be our beautiful “beacon on the hill” in another 160 years.  I, therefore, ask each of us to be the same kind of stewards of God’s treasure as were those pioneers of 1853 and as were those who enlarged the sanctuary and added the pipe organ 100 years ago and as were those who built Sumners Hall and the education wing under it 50 years ago and as were those who built Bethell Hall, Crail Hall and Trinity Center 15 years ago.  Those who came before us “paid it forward,” and now so must we!

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All Saints

By David Stevens, Director of MusicDavid_Stevens

Many of us at St. David’s did not begin our spiritual journey in a liturgical church. As a music student, I began studying the history of music in the Western world which has been very much bound to the forms and practices of liturgies developed in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. I learned about saints and saint days, as well as many other facts about the shape of the Christian church year.

For a goodly time, the Feast of all Saints (always November 1) has had an important place in the Christian calendar. For centuries the feast commemorated those saints (in this case, those canonized as special in the history of the church by the church) who have lived extraordinarily in former times. The Feast of All Souls (always November 2) commemorates all the faithful departed. In these latter times our churches have begun erasing the distinction between these special “holy ones” and the rest of us “sinners” made whole in Christ. Some still retain this distinction between the feasts, but the Feast of All Saints seems to have become the remembrance of all who have gone before us- both known and unknown, and whether lauded for their great devotion and sacrifices or for a quiet modest witness that has enriched the people whom they touched.

The Parish Choirs, the Joyful Noise (our St. David’s Youth choir), and many singing friends from our community, are offering leadership in the year’s celebration. We are singing selections from many composers who have written requiems to aid our worship- a “pastiche” requiem, if you will. The pieces are simply wondrous.

We hope you will join us on Friday, November 1, at 7:30 p.m. for a special liturgy, joining us in remembering and thanking God for those who have moved into that nearer presence of our God and who have shown us a manner of living which is blessed.

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Why I Give

wheat_logo_friday_2By Ann Clarke

I give to make a difference; to help create a positive change in my community and throughout the world. I see it as “paying forward” for what I have received. I understand it as scripture. I do it out of habit; I have done it all my life. I get more than I give, always.

By Britton Gregory

Among other reasons, I give because it is freeing — because in giving, I’m reminding myself of what is really important, of Why I’m Here, and in doing so, I free myself from fear, anxiety, and worry.

By Frana Keith

I give to St. David’s because it is Christ’s Body on this earth, and because I have been given so much by this Church. I have been taken in and made a part of this congregation, and I give in gratitude. I also give to make this church shine with Christ’s eyes upon the part of the world in which we have been placed, a brighter beacon to downtown Austin and beyond.

 

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Transformation Is All About Choices

By Ann Cooper

Recently, our rector David Boyd asked us whether our lives were being transformed at St. David’s. That question intrigued me and became the focus for some reflection: how have I experienced transformation in my life at St. David’s? Now, I’m a Harry Potter fan, and the scene that popped into my mind was the one where Professor Dumbledore explains that Harry differs from the villain Voldemort not by his abilities, but by his choices. And it occurred to me that we can carry that idea further: our choices not only show what we are, but where we‘re headed, and how we are getting there. Transformation is all about choices.

I came to St. David’s in 1981 as a bride. As a young married couple, Eddie and I chose to belong, to be an active part of St. David’s. We invested our time, talent, and, yes, treasure in the body of Christ that is St. David’s. We chose to participate in groups, to serve in various capacities, and to give financial support. In return, we were supported spiritually and emotionally when we faced difficulties, especially during Eddie’s illness and death.

I am on my own now, but choices continue, some harder than others. Will I choose to step out of my introverted comfort zone to greet a stranger? Will I write a personal rule of life, and try to live by it? Will I meet regularly with my spiritual director, seeking as honestly as I can to examine my motives and choices, and move, with her gentle guidance, toward becoming the person God wants me to be? Will I choose to ground my life in scripture and prayer? And, since we are in the season of pledge-making, will I trust in God’s provision, so that my commitments to St. David’s, financial and otherwise, are made not out of fear and a sense of scarcity , but out of a sense of abundance? My answer to these questions is a trembling “yes,” and that in itself is a sign of transformation.

My prayer for St. David’s is that our choices will be informed and transformed by remembering that (to borrow from my friend Lori Gainer) “we are the beloved and cherished children of an awesome and amazing God.” May it be so.

 

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Because We Make a Difference in People’s Lives

By Janet Sawyer

I moved to Austin from Amarillo with my family in 1967. We had suffered severe financial setbacks in Amarillo and were thrilled to be able to start over here.

Lynette Giesecke was the Christian Education Director, having been called by God and Charles Sumners from Amarillo six months before. She had us teaching Sunday School within two weeks, and I never even visited another church here in town

Through these 46 years, this place has nurtured me through all the events that seem to happen in life… births, deaths, weddings, graduations, career changes. I have received inspiration, joy, and solace in this place through Gold’s presence and the people I have learned to know and love. I think the thousands and thousands of prayers said here ooze through the walls and lift me up.

I have been a participant in a lot of big and little events that have occurred in the life of this parish. I was on the committee to write our mission statement probably 30 years ago. I was on a strategic planning committee that envisioned the “new” building and the day school. It was one plan that didn’t get put in a drawer to be forgotten. I was on the Vestry at a time when money was really tight and tempers were very short.

And, just when I think that St. David’s can’t take on anything more or new or challenging, we do, and I get inspired all over again. So I give because we do things that matter and make a difference in the lives of so many, including mine.

 

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Small Acts of Kindness

By Ben Philpott

—-A monologue from St. Peter to Damian from the movie Millions—-

This kid comes up to us, about your size, His name was…no I have forgotten. I still see him sometimes. Anyway he comes up with these loaves and fishes. Sardines. And Jesus blesses them and passes the plate round.

Now the first person he passes it to, passes it on. He doesn’t take anything. He just passes it on. Do you know why?

Because he had a piece of lamb hidden in his pocket. And as he is passing the fish, he sneaks a bit of meat out and pretends he’s taken it off the plate.

Do you see what I’m saying? And the next person- exactly the same story. Every single one of them has their own food. And every one of them is keeping it quiet. Looking after number one.

But as that plate went round with the sardines on they all got their own food out and started to share. And then that plate went all the way round and back to Jesus and it still had the fish and the loaves on it.

I think Jesus was a bit taken aback.

He says, ‘What happened? ‘ And I just said ‘Miracle’.

And at first I thought I’d fooled him. But now I see it WAS a miracle, one of his best. This little kid had stood up… and everybody there just got bigger.

————————————–

I think there are some people who come to church, waiting for some kind of lightning bolt-voice-of-God-burning bush type of moment. They want to get that new job they’ve been praying about. They want the rains to come. They want the cancer to go away.

But I think what this little moment shows us is how wonderful and meaningful small acts of kindness can be. How they can become a miracle. Something small like being there to help a friend through a hard time. Or offering a smile and a handshake to someone new in the neighborhood.

Like when my older daughter told me she was upset that she missed Sunday school…because she didn’t want to miss out.

And when my younger daughter announced as I picked her up from school that she was going to tell everyone coming to her birthday to just bring a donation to Dell Children’s Hospital. I asked her if someone had been at her school talking about Dell. Nobody had. She just decided that she wanted to do it. And I hope she can make me bigger.

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“It was Mother’s Day, and she was weeping.”

By Amanda Wischkaemper
Director of Children’s Formation

St. David’s hums with activity. People move quickly and frequently through the hallways and worship spaces en route to their next ministry, meeting, or meal. On Sunday mornings, this flurry of movement usually requires repeated trips up and down the stairs and around the building—all the more so when one is new to the church and prone to getting lost!

In the midst of one of these many circuitous loops through St. David’s during my first weeks here, I experienced an unexpected and profound moment of stillness and Grace. Children’s Chapel had ended, and I was accompanying the kids back to their families in the 9 a.m. service in the Historic Church. As we filed through Grace Chapel, we passed a woman sitting alone in a pew. This is not an uncommon sight at St. David’s; whether it’s a worship space or a lobby, neighbors and friends often seek comfort and quiet at the church.

After returning the children to their families during the Peace, I slipped out the back of the Sanctuary and moved quickly—again!—through Grace Chapel so that I could prepare for Sunday school downstairs. The woman remained in the pew. Her posture sagged, and her head was down. I stopped, turned around, and asked if I could help.

It was Mother’s Day, and she was weeping. She told me her story, and I listened. She was wrestling with whether to get on a bus, leave town, and start fresh. She was ready to leave her pain and bad memories behind. I no longer remember her name, but I remember the names of her three sons. Through difficult circumstances and some wrenching decisions, she had given up her children for adoption decades ago. She felt strongly that she’d made the best choice for her boys, but she grieved her sacrifice every day. On Mother’s Day, she felt this loss all the more. She mourned the time she didn’t share with her sons. She mourned the absence of that unconditional love. She mourned for the mother she might have been and questioned whether she could even call herself a mother.

We prayed together. Her faith was humbling. We held hands and thanked God for our redemption through Christ’s sacrifice. We prayed for her three grown sons and for her new journey. We thanked God for His unconditional love and asked that God grant her Peace.

I needed to leave for Sunday school, and we said our goodbyes. I think I wished her a Happy Mother’s Day. She thanked me for sitting with her, and I thanked her for sharing her story.

I’ve wondered many times what happened to her. It’s been several months, but I’ve carried those moments with me. As I shared the Parable of the Lost Sheep with the Day School students in Children’s Chapel this week—complete with the sound effects of 50 toddlers baa-ing—I thought of my Mother’s Day friend and prayed that she’d been found.

 

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