At a recent meeting with clergy in charge of parishes, Bishop Loya gave us discretion to begin limited outdoor worship as of July 1. It is my intention to hold “Lawn Chair Liturgies” in the Memorial Garden at St. Mary’s beginning at 9:30 on Sunday morning, July 5th, weather permitting.
Our order of worship will be quite abbreviated, and there will be no celebration of the Holy Eucharist at this time. Worshipers will be expected to comply with all current disease transmission prevention guidelines including:
Stay home if you feel sick
Wear an appropriate face covering/face mask
Observe a minimum of six feet of physical distancing between household groups
We recommend you bring lawn chairs or a blanket to sit on — no chairs will be provided. Remember that the Memorial Garden lawn is a bit uneven and the grass may be quite wet from dew or overnight rain. Worship materials will be provided for one-time use each week.
For now, we will encourage everyone to depart immediately following the worship service. We may be able to stay for some form of a BYO coffee and fellowship time later in the summer if disease transmission levels continue to decrease.
The church building and Guild Hall remain closed pending authorization to reopen from Bishop Loya.
I have mixed feelings about gathering again, even outdoors. While I long to be together with all of you, I have an even greater longing to keep everyone safe and healthy. Most of us fall into the “at increased risk” category for Covid-19 infection. We are relying on you to follow our safety and health guidelines to protect yourself and others.
The danger of infection has not passed, and we must all be diligent in adhering to the disease transmission prevention guidelines. We may need to suspend outdoor worship if there is an increase in the Covid-19 infection rate in the future.
We know that some of you may choose to stay safe at home for a while longer, and we will continue to provide worship resources and pastoral support by email and telephone for the foreseeable future.
Stay safe, stay well, and I look forward to seeing you again soon!
The Holy Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper or even the Mass, is at the heart of our Sunday worship life at St. Mary’s as it is in most Episcopal parishes.
The Covid-19 outbreak has forced us to suspend our regular celebrations of the Eucharist, and that is leaving a lot of us – including me – feeling very pretty disconnected and disoriented.
Oh sure, absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that is fine. But I miss that feeling of intimacy with Jesus in the Eucharist that is an important part – maybe the most important part – of my Christian faith. So, what do we do?
Well, when in doubt (it is 2020 after all), we can start with an internet search. It turns out that this isn’t the first time Christians have been cut off from regular celebrations of the Eucharist. And then as now, the faithful have turned to a practice known as “Spiritual Communion.” Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
Spiritual Communion is a Christian practice of desiring union with Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. It is used as a preparation for Holy Mass and by individuals who cannot receive Holy Communion.
This practice is well established in the Lutheran Churches, Anglican Communion, Methodist Churches, as well as in the Catholic Church, where it has been highly recommended by many saints, according to Pope John Paul II. He explained that practicing this constant desire for Jesus in the Eucharist is rooted in the ultimate perfection of Eucharistic communion, which is the ultimate goal of every human desire.
The practice of Spiritual Communion has been especially used by Christians in times of persecution, such as during the era of state atheism in the Eastern Bloc, as well as in times of plagues, such as during the current COVID-19 pandemic, when many Christians are unable to attend Mass, and therefore not able to receive the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day.
Turning to more reliable and respected authority than the interwebs, here are some thoughts from a few well-known liturgists and theologians. Here’s what Thomas Cranmer had to say in the first Book of Common Prayer (1549):
But yf any man eyther by reason of extremitie of sickenesse, or for lacke of warnyng geven in due tyme, to the curate, or by any other just impedimente, doe not receyne the sacramente of Christes bodye and bloud then the curate shall instruct hym, that yf he doe truely repent hym of his sinnes and stedfastly beleve that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the cosse for hym, and shed his bloud for his redempcion, earnestly remembring the benefites he hath therby, and geving hym hertie thankes therfore; he doeth eate and drynke spiritually the bodye and bloud of our savioure Christe, profitably to his soules helth, although he doe not receyve the sacrament with his mouth.
It’s a bit difficult to read, as the language is 16th century English, but here’s a similar paragraph in the 1979 Prayer Book:
If a person desires to receive the Sacrament, but, by reason of extreme sickness or physical disability, is unable to eat and drink the Bread and Wine, the Celebrant is to assure that person that all the benefits of Communion are received, even though the Sacrament is not received with the mouth. (BCP 457)
A nation-wide shut down due to a pandemic fits, I’m sure we’ll agree, with the words “by any other impediment” listed in the first Prayer Book. Jesus will not cut us off from his grace. If we truly desire him, he will come to us, even if we cannot receive the Sacraments he has instituted so that we may receive his grace. This is not a new idea. St Thomas Aquinas, writing nearly 800 years ago, said:
before receiving a sacrament, the reality of the sacrament can be had through the very desire of receiving the sacrament. Accordingly, before actual reception of this sacrament, a man can obtain salvation through the desire of receiving it, just as he can before Baptism through the desire of Baptism, as stated above (Summa, III.73.iii)
St. Thomas Aquinas defined a Spiritual Communion as “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament [Communion] and lovingly embracing Him as if we had actually received Him.” In a Spiritual Communion, with a contrite heart, we ask Jesus to come to us in the same way he would if we were able to receive the consecrated bread and wine.
One thing is clear: our liturgy assures us of the ability of God’s grace to reach us through every distance and disturbance. It asks us to take the eucharistic gifts “in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.” In times like this, it is Jesus himself who inhabits our poor, fragile faith—so often wafer-thin—and feeds us with the True Bread that comes down from heaven.
Here’s one form of the Prayer for Spiritual Communion:
My Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. I desire to offer you praise and thanksgiving; as I proclaim your resurrection. I love you above all things, and long for you in my soul.
Since I cannot receive you in the Sacrament of your Body and Blood, come spiritually into my heart. Cleanse and strengthen me with your grace, Lord Jesus, and let me never be separated from you. May I live in you, and you in me in this life and in the life to come. Amen.
You do not do this with bread and wine at home. This is not home communion or virtual communion – a modern practice that is unknown to the Church. This prayer is said with a sense of sincere desire and longing to be spiritually present with Jesus.
O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
BCP pages 280, 291, 515, 528 and 540
The great collect of renewal, one of the most beautiful and powerful Anglican prayers, appears more often in the Book of Common Prayer than any other. We hear it on Good Friday, at the Easter Vigil, and at the ordinations of bishops, priests and deacons. It proclaims the mighty power of God to transform weakness, brokenness and age into perfection—holy perfection.
Its frequent repetition supports the concept that this transformation and renewal is not something locked at a certain point in time but is continuous and ongoing. Indeed, each day God calls us to transformation and renewal. It is said that the great scholar and reformer, Martin Luther, ran from his bed to wash in the baptismal font of his church each morning as a sacramental act of continuous transformation and renewal in each of God’s children.
The Church uses many sacramental signs to remind us of our continuing call to renewal and transformation. The water in the baptismal font at the door of the church, the sprinkling (or aspurging) of all the people with the holy waters of baptism, and the sacramental cycles of the Church Year all remind us that we are ever beginning again; never complete in this world.
Another sacramental symbol of renewal and transformation is the butterfly. From the earliest days of Christianity, the butterfly was associated with the celebration of Easter. The symbolism is clear enough really. Jesus was born and lived among us (the caterpillar stage), he died and was buried (the chrysalis stage), and he rose in a new and transformed state at Easter (the butterfly stage).
The butterfly is not only symbolic of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, but also of our own. We too are born, will die, and are assured of resurrection to eternal life. The butterfly is a symbol of hope in Jesus’ everlasting promise of salvation. It is also a reminder that we are called to renew and transform ourselves; always seeking to more fully live into God’s call to us as sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ.
At this time of year, there are many symbols of renewal and transformation all around us. Trees that appeared dead spring forth with leaves and newness of life. Flower bulbs long buried under the snow and frozen ground astonish us with their sudden profusion of brilliant flowers. And before long, the butterflies will be adorning the trees, bushes and flowers as well.
In these Great Fifty Days of Easter, open yourselves to experience the power of God’s renewing and transforming Spirit. Seek out ways to continue to mature and flower as a beloved child of God. Let the healing power of the Risen Christ empower you to stretch and grow in newness of life.
As Paul writes to the Church in Rome, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Our Annual Harvest Festival Potluck Dinner and Dance is Saturday, November 2. Music by the Back Porch Band begins at 5:00 pm with dinner at 6:00. Bring your friends, neighbors, family and a favorite dish to share. Suggested donation is $10 per adult.
All proceeds benefit area food programs through Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank.
First Nations Kitchen is a ministry of All Saints’ Episcopal Indian Mission in Minneapolis and has been serving healthy, organic, traditional indigenous food in a welcoming, family environment every Sunday evening since 2008.
In the First Nations Kitchen model, volunteers prepare different entrées each week. Guests choose which entrée they would like. Those volunteers who prepare and serve the meal are welcome to eat with the guests. In this way, participation becomes interaction and relationships can begin to develop.
Dinner prep starts at 1:30 pm and clean-up usually ends before 7:30 pm. We will share the various duties with St. Luke’s – Minneapolis congregation, splitting either prep time (1:30 – 3:30 pm) or serving time (5 – 7:30 pm) with members from St. Luke’s.
St. Mary’s is signed up for either a food-prep shift or a serving shift at FirstNations Kitchen on the following dates in 2020:
February 23 — Prep: starts at 1:30 pm
April 19, — Serve: starts at 4 pm
August 23 — Prep: starts at 1:30
October 25 — Serve: starts at 4 pm
Let Deacon Maureen know if you are interested in participating in this ministry. Add the dates to your calendar now. She’ll send out reminders as well.
How are we, as people of faith, called to care for the “least of these” in our community?
Join us for our Second Saturday Study Group to learn how we are called to serve the “least of these” who suffer from hunger, homelessness and addiction. This series of discussions will be held on the second Saturdays of October, November and December. We will learn how hunger, homelessness and addiction impact our community and society at large, and we will begin to discern how we are called to respond. “Just as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to me.”
A memorial service for Gordon “Gordy” Herman will be held at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 8435 St. Croix Trail S, Hastings, MN (1.5 miles south of Afton State Park) at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 3, the Rev. Scott Monson officiating. A reception with homegrown sweetcorn will follow the service at Gordy’s farm.
We are blessed to have a beautiful worship space at St. Mary’s,
and preserving and maintaining our historic church building is an ongoing priority
for your parish leaders. Recently we have had two unexpected expenses. Our
furnace fan motor failed (during Holy Week) and we have two broken or failing
windows to replace in the Narthex (entry area). These two projects resulted in
$2,500 of unbudgeted costs to the parish. We hope you will join our parish leaders
in contributing financially to offset these unexpected expenditures. Every gift—large
or small—will help us preserve our beautiful church building for another 150
years. Please mark your gift as “Building Fund” so we can properly credit your
donation. Thank you for your continuing support of St. Mary’s!