Our Core Values

No, we cannot compromise the core values of what we believe, and we believe every human being deserves to live and die in dignity. We believe all human beings are worthy of respect. We believe peace is not an option, but the only way forward for all of us to find what we pray for. We believe poverty and hunger are not inevitable but can be eradicated. We believe the Earth is alive and must be treated as a living being with whom we are in a profound relationship. We are open-minded, but we cannot compromise the core values of what we believe.

Bishop Steven Charleston ~ October 10, 2023

Gardens of the Heart

Gardens are important to our understanding of God and our experience of Christian faith. As you enjoy the created beauty of the world, take a moment to reflect on our relationships with the whole of creation. Below are some reflections on those relationships by others.

Psalm 1

Blessed are the man and the woman
who have grown beyond their greed
and have put an end to their hatred
and no longer nourish illusions.
But they delight in the way things are
and keep their hearts open, day and night.
They are like trees planted near flowing rivers,
which bear fruit when they are ready.
Their leaves will not fall or wither.
Everything they do will succeed.

Translation by Stephen Mitchell

Gardens have been much on my heart and in my mind of late.  Perhaps this is because of the vibrancy of the colors of the late summer flowers; perhaps because of the lushness of the fruits and vegetables of the summer harvest.  Whatever the reason, I know that gardens are important to our understanding of God and our experience of Christian faith.  Human existence begins in a garden.  Jesus prayed in a garden the night before his crucifixion.  The empty tomb of the Resurrection was in a garden.

Like a garden, our souls need tending and nurturing.  Prayer, meditation, the Sacraments and the word of God in Scripture all nourish our souls.  We are created beings who are more closely linked with creation than we often realize.

We are fortunate at St. Mary’s to be in the midst of magnificent gardens and amazing natural beauty.  The historic Afton Town Square Park, Carpenter Nature Center, Afton State Park, St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park and even our own Memorial Garden offer beautiful trees, flowers and landscaping to reconnect us to God and creation.  And I know that many of you have attractive yards and gardens at your own homes.

Take some time this summer to “stop and smell the roses.”  Explore the gardens and landscapes of the St. Croix Valley, or the natural beauty of the state and regional park system.  Turn off the air conditioner and open the windows of your home or automobile to let in the sounds and smells of creation.  Tend your soul so it too may grow and flourish in the love of God and the glory of God’s creation.  Store up the energy of the sun for the fallow season of winter that is all too close at hand.

As you enjoy the created beauty of the world, take a moment to reflect on our relationships with the whole of creation.  Below are some reflections on those relationships by others.  Perhaps you will be able to add your own experience of nature to the list.  Enjoy, and God bless you.

“The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden.”

— Thomas Moore

“There is a little plant called reverence in the corner of my soul’s garden, which I love to have watered once a week.”

— Oliver Wendell Holmes

Grant me the ability to be alone,
May it be my custom to go outdoors each day
among the trees and grasses
among all growing things
and there may I be alone,
and enter into prayer
to talk with the one
that I belong to.

Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav

“I thank You God for this most amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.”

— e.e. cummings

The Holy Trinity: Unity in Diversity

The Rt. Rev. Craig Loya

To confess God as Trinity reminds us that the heart of the universe is a relationship, a loving unity in the midst of diversity. As I’ve said many times, the Trinity reminds us that God’s essence is unity without uniformity and difference without division. That’s an amazing thing to claim about the nature of reality.

The wild diversity of humanity, and indeed the whole creation, is part of how we bear the image of God. To confess God as Trinity means that we can know and experience something closer to God’s very heart when we are forming kinship across lines of difference, when we are loving one another across all our diversity without the need to resolve or eliminate how we are different. We are called to build Beloved Community not because it is a nice thing to do, but because it is how we draw nearer to God.

The Rt. Rev. Craig Loya, X Bishop of Minnesota

Remembering My Friend, Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Fr. Scott Monson with “The Arch” – 2002

I have many fond memories of serving as Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s personal assistant in 2002 when he was in residence at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA. Sure, it was fun to meet and work with many world leaders and international journalists, but those experiences did not reveal the depth of Father’s intense and abiding faith in God that I came to cherish.

The most precious moments came during our daily celebrations of the Holy Eucharist, often with just the two of us present. We shared an intimate, holy connection with each other and with the Divine. Father spoke often of the “messy relationship” between the humanity and divinity of Christ: We are always trying to pull Jesus down into the mud even as he is lifting us up toward the glories of heaven. Together we prayed for an end to endemic disease, selfish violence and loveless cruelty. And we prayed that Christ would lift us up along with the poor and hungry and lonely and forgotten—all of us so profoundly in need of God’s grace and mercy.

It is fitting that Father should leave this temporal realm as we celebrate God’s most wonderful gift of the Word made flesh—eternal Love Incarnate. Perhaps that “messy relationship” is what binds him and us so closely to the heart of God.

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Desmond. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. May the angels rise to greet him and dance with him in joyful bliss. Amen.

Jesus does not prefer political parties; Jesus does choose sides

Recently, we were appalled to learn that the former chair of the Hastings school board and her family were forced to move to another city following vicious social media attacks--attacks originated by adults--against one of her children. The attacks were launched in an attempt to unseat the mother from the school board.

When Bishop Craig Loya learned of this story, he was moved to respond with a powerful and compassionate op-ed letter to the Hastings Star Gazette. We commend his letter to you as a witness to the power of Christ's unremitting love in the face of unwarranted abuse and cruelty against one of God's beloved children.
Opinion letter published December 10, 2021 in the Hastings Star Gazette

I was saddened to hear recently from the Episcopal congregations in your community, St. Luke’s on Vermillion Street and St. Mary’s in Afton, that Hastings has recently become the latest flashpoint in the painful and highly charged division that characterizes so much of our public life these days.

I was heartbroken to learn that at the center of the controversy was a child and that child’s treatment at the hands of adults in the community.

I have the honor of serving as the 10th bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. In that role I am called, first and foremost, to follow and emulate the One who came not to be served but to serve; to, with God’s help, reflect and embody the love of Jesus in a world that is starving for it.

I know that many in our country believe, with good reason, that those who call themselves Christian are aligned first and foremost with the powerful, with white nationalism, with anti-democratic movements in our midst, with intolerance, and with violence.

The Episcopal Church has its own sinful history of perpetuating oppression. However, as a follower of Jesus, my allegiance is always to those whom Jesus came to love and to serve. Make no mistake: while Jesus does not prefer political parties, Jesus does choose sides.

The politics of Jesus are about embracing the poor, loving our enemies, feeding the hungry, lifting up the oppressed, reforming the unjust structures in society, seeking good for the other instead of insisting on our own way, disregarding the boundaries of social exclusion, calling out our own self-interested hypocrisy and that of our religious and civic leaders, making room at the center for those who have been pushed to the margins. Those are the things that Jesus actually did. These are the marks of what it means to be his followers in the world.

The Episcopal way of following Jesus is unequivocal in affirming that all of God’s children, including our trans siblings and including those with whom we ardently disagree, are beloved, accepted, worthy of dignity and welcome to fully participate in the life of the church.

We as a people are better when our churches, and all our public spaces, both affirm and reflect the wonderful diversity of humanity, which together more fully reflects the very image of God.

The Rt. Rev. Craig W. Loya, X Bishop, Episcopal Church in Minnesota

The Lenten Spring Is Our Season of Renewal

Lent is not a season for mourning; it is a season for renewal. Open yourselves to the new venues God has prepared for you, and with renewed commitment, ask Jesus to give you the courage to follow where he leads you.

Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

Lent is not a season for mourning; it is a season for renewal.  Look at the land around you at this time of year.  It is resting under a blanket of snow, but just beneath the snow are powerful stirrings of life—renewed life—making ready to burst into a glorious and fruitful spring.  Indeed, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, this season is known as the Lenten Spring.

Lent is a fallow season.  It is a time when we look inward to the state of our soul.  Even our souls need renewal, and the season of Lent calls us to introspection and self-examination so that we may see the work that needs to be done to make us again whole, complete and fruitful in our faith.  It is a season to open ourselves to the powerful, healing love of God through Christ Jesus.

Lent is a season to repent—literally to “turn around”—to see where we have been that we may better know where we are headed.  It is a season to turn to Jesus and offer up all that weighs us down: our grief, anger, isolation, self-pity, dissatisfaction, envy, un-forgiveness and resentment.  Jesus invites us to give him these burdens to bear so that we are freed to take on his burden—the burden of a discipleship filled with love, faith and hope.

Lent is a season for letting go, that is, of letting go of what stands between the way we have been going and the way Jesus bids us to go.  This Lent, start to let go of the concerns and burdens that we have taken upon ourselves.  Turn off the TV or get off the web for a little while, and in those quiet, fallow moments, think about what is truly important to you.  Think about where you have been going, and think about where you would like to be going. Then pray that the Spirit will guide you to new paths and new ways of living.

Look in your hearts and souls for those first stirrings of new life.  Then, nurture those stirrings and give them the time, space and food that new life needs to become vibrant, strong and fruitful.  Nourish your rested souls with the renewing waters of baptism and the life-giving food of the Lord’s Supper.  Be regular in prayer, and be regular in silence.  Open yourselves to the new venues God has prepared for you, and with renewed commitment, ask Jesus to give you the courage to follow where he leads you.

Then renewed, forgiven, healed, offer your very best to God in the glory of Eastertide.  Resurrect your spirit and your soul to new life in him who rose on Easter that we might live forever in his loving grace.  Set aside your old self and embrace the new life you have received through your baptism into Christ’s death and mighty resurrection.  Be reborn into the Baptismal Covenant and renew your promises to love and serve God as we love and serve others.  Let us go forth into the world in the power of the Spirit!

Almighty and everliving God, who in the Paschal Mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, page 223

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