It’s that time of year again, Lent is knocking on our door,and the old inner conversation begins:
“What am I going to do this year?” Please remember it’s not what are you going to do, but how are you
going to be? The readings for Ash Wednesday remind us that it’s not outer appearances that
ever make a difference but inner orientation.
Our prayer series during Lent will challenge us to investigate that, and hopefully your Lenten reading
might be a stimulus too.
Self denial was the hallmark of my childhood Lenten season and my response usually was to equivocate.
Now I advise others and myself too, to simply tune up your inner life; pay attention. The hot phrase going
around is “mindfulness.” That doesn’t mean fill your mind with lots of distraction, but instead do some mind and spiritual housekeeping. Simplify your attentiveness to the basics. Be open to the music of the natural world. Have a dialogue with yourself about what’s important, really important to you. I know, that’s a struggle.
Most of us don’t want to learn anything about ourselves that’s new.
Reflection on these matters is important. As the season folds into Easter
and the bloom of spring, we can till the fertile ground of our own spirituality and discover that there’s
gardening to be done. Just as the results of tending our own home gardens increases its beauty, our inner one
will also show results. Pare down, turn over, cast out negativity, open ourselves to the world around us, greet
each day as a gift to be opened and enjoyed. Then Lent will be productive and enjoyable rather than doleful
and burdensome. But I’ll still try to avoid chocolate!
Faithfully, Fr. Paul
The Five Seasons of Prayer
This is the topic of our Lenten study series for 2019. We all pray, do it in
many locations and occasions. The most obvious one is when in church. We say prayers
together, we ask for ourselves and on behalf of others, we return thanks and pray for
those who have gone before us and have entered God’s closer presence.
How do we make sense of prayer? Are some prayers more effective, and by the way, when
we say prayers out loud where do they go anyway? For such a well-known part of our church
life, praying is a mystery. We’re going to gather on Wednesdays beginning March 12 at the
church for five sessions about prayer. We’ll study written, sung, silent and corporate prayer
and even write our own.
Come and join us at 12 noon for a 40 minute session. Bring a favorite book of prayers or
just a single prayer . Perhaps you might want to sing a prayer, draw one or just share a
prayer experience. Our session will be followed by lunch next door in the hospitality space
of the Baptist church.
Happy Birthday to You!
This rather time worn expression has been proclaimed for more over a century (I think) to
announce congratulations for achieving a certain age and the celebrations that follow. The phrase probably
goes back to the Roman Goddess Hera who was associated with child birth. It’s a song we have always known.
Sometimes, Christian Ed teachers co-opt the popular expression and sing it on Christmas day. After
all, Jesus had a birthday, didn’t he? And, he got presents, didn’t he? So there. The logic is incontrovertible,
at least for children.
Our Junior Warden mentioned to me that there is a significant birthday in the month of December
when this congregation or worship group had its first service at the Gettys residence and later down the street
at Bo Bo’s BBQ. It’s an interesting connection that The Episcopal Church on Edisto has a birthday just
before the Lord we follow has his birthday. Pretty cosmic isn’t it?
Well, so much for fun. Compare the two events. Each was created from struggle and rejection, each
found a humble place in which to begin. Most significantly, each is a light to a particular world, Jesus
beginning in the First Century and the Episcopal Church on Edisto in 2012. The light hasn’t faltered or
gone out. It shines to illuminate a direction to travel and the obstacles along the way. It’s been rocky,
bumpy, and there have been challenges to overcome, but we travel together with our Lord. We may only
be a miniscule glimmer of the light of Christ, but we are important to those who depend upon it. It will
continue to shine and cast away darkness for as long as we are here. Thanks be to God.
Prayer for the Mission of the Church
Everliving God, whose will it is that all should come to you through your Son Jesus Christ: Inspire our
witness to him, that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection; who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen
I know, it’s been done thousands of times: a thanksgiving message from your priest. The usual bromides are
be thankful, remember the less fortunate, and live mindfully not mindlessly. All that makes sense to me,
but I feel like there’s more to it. Without a shift in perspective, a refocus on priorities and a new vision of
how the earth, currently in danger, is a generous provider, nothing will change.
Thanksgiving gives voice to the urge and desire to count our blessings. There’s something about the shift
in the seasons that invites us to bring it in and store it for the cooler season ahead. We want to feast on what
we cannot save and preserve what can be saved. We do want to give thanks for all the blessings of our lives.
But what’s ahead?
When I was a child, the nuclear arms race combined with the space race cast a pall over the joyful part of
living. What followed didn’t do much better, more wars, more shortages, more natural disasters, more
financial ups and downs, political turmoil, civil conflict, and so on. It’s hard to push through that
and be thankful. However human beings are inherently optimistic. We are gifted with memory, reason and
skill intones Eucharistic Prayer C. I believe it.
I’m grateful for young people who are cleaning up the ocean, making political and social strides, asking
tough questions about how things are done and being willing to take risks in their careers. We haven’t
made it easy for them but most of us are cheering not complaining.
Slowly we are refocusing our priorities, we are becoming conservationists, we are guarding the earth and
caring for those who need it. Younger people are making scientific and medical discoveries, changing
our life styles, and are more accepting of change than many of us older types.
So, what’s to be thankful for? All things bright and beautiful, an elastic political process, diminishing pollution
of every form, resiliency in those who have suffered through disasters, and mostly for the Spirit of God,
who moved upon the waters of creation and now moves among us calling us to be good stewards, bearers of
the Good News, mercy and compassion.
A long time ago an entertainer by the name of Perry Como would introduce the solo part of his
TV show by singing “Dream along with me, I’m on the way to the stars…” Well, I want to thank everyone
who participated in the first steps in developing our Vision Statement and Mission Statement over
the last month. We all gave ourselves permission to dream a little about how our congregation might look
in ten years. I asked the questions: What do we want to be involved in? What would be a great new
direction? Notice I didn’t spend any time in our groups talking about how we were going to get there.
It was about giving yourself permission to imagine that absolutely most exciting, most life changing,
most spiritual hope or dream you can have.
The first step was remembering what brought you to the Church in the first place and then what
kept you there? The second step was detailing what you liked about our congregation now. With those
two discussions completed and your minds were ready to soar a little (and no psychedelic substances were
used) we began to dream together.
I’m working on extracting key words and phrases for use by a committee charged with
developing a Vision statement. We’ll share that and offer it for discussion and improvement in a month or
so. If you would like to serve on that committee, let me know.
For now, I’d like to share in paraphrase form, some of the really interesting comments. This
is some of what was said: we like being Episcopalians, we like the ritual, the flowers, music and colors
of the seasons. We like the social connections. We like our neighbors next door and we don’t want to lose
touch with them. We’re committed to outreach to the community. We take our role as care givers and
supporters of one another seriously. We like good preaching. Most of all, it’s about the welcome and the
feeling of belonging and safety that’s most important.
I could go on, but that’s the direction we’re wanting to head-not to lose any of the foregoing.
Of course, we don’t have to give any of that up, it’s part of our DNA as a worship community. It will
take more work to expand our membership in order to support our ambitions, but that’s possible too.
What it will take for sure it the work of everyone. As we have discovered, no one is expendable, no one
can be ignored, no one can be left out when you have the greatest gift of all, the love of Christ in your hearts.
It’s my second anniversary serving as your Priest-in-charge. Remember the phrase “time flies
when you’re having fun?” It doesn’t seem to have been two years since I came here. Truly, the time has
flown by. After a four-year hiatus from active parish ministry, spending those years as director of the
pre-school program at Grace, this was an opportunity to return to parish ministry. The strange and
surprising part was that I returned to an island ministry, having left something very similar in Maine in
1996, I found myself once again called to a small parish on an island only a little smaller that Mount
Desert Island, Maine where I served for 15 years.
While the summers here are twenty degrees hotter than Maine, the winters are much colder
and much longer than here. I was probably one of the few prepared for the snow fall last winter. To me
it was just a flurry!
The real gift that has been given to me while serving here is you. I’ll make that plural: you-all. Your
sense of commitment, dedication, generosity and support is deeply appreciated. They have allowed
me to function in a personal and joyful way in all that we have done. You have been patient with my
sense of humor, flexible with the way I’ve introduced some new things in learning and liturgy and giving
when it came to helping others. In those ways, this has been the most wonderful parish I’ve served.
Let’s admit it, no one has been through recent times anywhere else like this diocese. It hasn’t been
easy, but by remaining dignified and dedicated we will see a new day soon and focus our spirit with the
Holy Spirit for the benefit of the whole island.
It’s been my privilege to travel this road with all of you. I know I’ve grown in my faith and
sense of purpose because of it and I see that you have too. Thank you for the opportunity.
I think we can all agree that we live in unsettled times. Sure, those in every age probably considered
that the time in which they were living was unsettled, perhaps even world altering. I wouldn’t disagree that
those who lived during the Great War or World War Two would have said it. In early times whenever there
was revolution or strife this characterization would have been made. However, in modern times there has
been much more to lose than ever before.
Anxiety: what a way to begin a summer column when the beach beckons, the gardens are producing fruits
and vegetables and the shrimp and crab are delicious. That’s just the point. All of us are so easily distracted
that we’re willing to take a trip into denial. Well, there are some ways to integrate both situations so that we
can regain our creativity and even joy in our lives while also being realistic and dedicated to serious
engagement with the issues from which we retreat in our daily lives.
We are called to be joyful in our faith as well as recognizing that we fall short of God’s hopes for us; the
sweet and the bitter. I find myself vacillating between these two poles too, but I take great comfort that so
many have at least identified the problem. In the book One Man’s Meat, E. B. White writes
(in paraphrase), when I awake in the morning and gaze out the window seeing the beauty of my
surroundings, I am troubled by my urge to reform the world or enjoy it. This makes me nervous.
Can we live with any comfort between these two polarities? Actually, we are, more or less, already doing
it. To gain more comfort and composure I suggest these approaches. First, acknowledge that
current circumstances either political or church related can be managed by gaining more information.
Facts (not false news or polemics) can reassure us that we’re OK and doing the right thing. That
gives us confidence. Second, designate a certain time every day to take a walk, swim, or participate in
some activity that doesn’t expose you to these controversies and tempt you to respond. That quiet time will
help you regain some calm and actually open the door to refreshed thinking and release new ideas.
The Gospels show Jesus engaging the public and dealing with controversy but also withdrawing to a
“quiet place.” Sometimes it took all night of praying and listening for his father’s voice before returning
to the fray. Below is a formula that has brought peace and comfort, as well as action and commitment to
many. It’s been battle tested.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and
the wisdom to know the difference. --Reinhold Niebuhr, theologian and professor
In the middle of June, I had the great pleasure of attending a spiritual writer’s conference in Princeton, NJ. In a crowd of strangers, I navigated the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary which has an enrollment of over 400 students who head out into the world on wider pathways than an Episcopal seminary offers. Some become parish ministers, some musicians and writers, some land in other denominations.
I had a private room in the continuing education center and was on my own in terms of schedule for four days. I attended seminars on publishing your writing, marketing your writing, and the creative process. Worship in the chapel (which was not very inspirational) was interspersed among these classes. Each day was kicked off with an address by a well-known African American writer, Enuma Okora.
She talked about the things she had discovered in her life of which Christianity helped her make sense. Her remarks weren’t very inspirational either. I felt I had traveled a lot of her road of discovery a long time ago, after all I am twice her age and must have learned a few things over the years. But as you might suspect, there was an unexpected surprise in store. As the Buddhists say, “when the student is ready, the teacher arrives.”
I had dinner with a late arrival which after a few minutes I surmised was one of the presenters. He was an odd small man, with an artistic way of dressing and a very introverted personality. These are the things that distinguish interesting writers. I had a pleasant conversation with him but nothing particularly deep or spiritual. However, the next day we spent part of the afternoon together after his presentation.
He began his class by tapping a small temple bell with his pen and announced that he would share a truth of his every fifteen minutes by doing so. So, it began. He told of his childhood: strange but not too damaging. He spoke of his faith, gentle and nourishing. He confessed he was an Episcopalian. Imagine that at a Presbyterian conference! He concluded with a quote from another writer whom he admired who said the way to write was to put a piece of paper in the typewriter and then bleed. After the lecture we talked about writing. He opened his heart to me almost wordlessly and I felt he understood me and my journey a little and was willing to share that of his own. He seemed to me to be someone whom the world could damage easily. At least he saw that coming and writing was his best defense.
I was deeply touched and was able to buy one of his books titled Between the Dreaming and the Coming True. It was his story of personal faith emerging like a gentle small flower needing the sun to grow. I commend it to you. I’ll be reading and re-reading it because Robert Benson has a lot to teach me. In our current time of transition, you might find it a comforting book.
For a few short hours on a recent Saturday the world, or much of it anyway, held its breath while
two people passed from the old life to the new life. They traveled over a threshold as old as life itself
and in doing so proclaimed that a new one was possible. They held hands, they exchanged vows
and officiants proclaimed that what they did was honorable and true. The preacher, for now you know
of whom I write, spoke of the power that brought them together. It has a name, one we repeat often.
It is the only four-letter word worth saying: love. The two then walked together through a huge crowd
of well-wishers who themselves were witnesses not to just two people getting married, but who were
witnesses to a power greater than themselves swirling around, through and within those thousands
in attendance. The term has been studied, vaunted, written about, sung about, told about in stories
which have lasted thousands of years. It is unpredictable, uncontainable, inexhaustible, beautiful
and even sometimes horrifying, but love is what unites us all.
So, in one hand we hold this experience and gift and contemplate its loveliness. But in the other is a
very dark issue. It is one that stays silent for much of the time but without warning can rear up
and almost swallow love as it attempts to make it disappear. This is the violence that lurks in the
human heart and erupts as the destroyer of the beautiful and lovely. It erupted again in another school
shooting, another mass killing that will stain this year like no other, leaving grief and loss in its wake.
Broken hearts and anguish almost extinguish what love has built.
This is cognitive dissonance. Two events, feelings, experiences, that somehow touch the edges of our
lives but cannot merge. We cannot work out a relationship between them, but we know they are there,
always present in the human family. Our spirits disappear in a vacuum when we hear of these
disasters. Helplessness breaks our hearts, as we observe tears staining the cheeks of those who have
lost loved ones, while at a wedding ceremony, there is joy and celebration for a prince and his bride
who love one another without limit.
The preacher, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, made this point at the wedding. Instead of talking
about the agonies of life, he brought witness to the fact that love is greater, that love heals and
forgives and makes whole all our human brokenness. The darkness is replaced and succeeded by
light and will never be destroyed. The community of faith, the world over will put love into
action and the changes will be miraculous. While there still is that cognitive dissonance, the balance
is and will continue to shift towards the good because God wills it to be so.
Here’s a “Jeopardy” question for you under the Bible Feast Days category. Name the third most
important festival in Christianity? You have ten seconds. Time’s up. The answer is Pentecost.
Following Easter and then the Nativity (Christmas), this feast day for the Church celebrates the gift
of the Spirit. It follows Ascension Day ten days earlier on Thursday.
With Jesus bidding farewell to his faithful disciples, their gift of the Spirit follows. In Acts 2:1-11,
the event is narrated in detail, describing “tongues of fire resting on their heads” and those who were
there were given utterance in every language and understood what was being said.
The reading continues, but is not included in the Sunday reading, that “all were amazed,”
and some mocked the participants and said, “They are filled with new wine.” Well, exactly! It was a new
kind of wine; the gift of the Spirit.
This passage is rich with symbolism. The fire is a symbol of the “Spirit” as it is preceded by a
“mighty rush of wind” just like the wind that moved across the waters during creation. This is a
second creation, the creation of a new people, inspired by the events of Jesus and Resurrection.
The tongues of fire were adopted by the bishops of the early church as their head gear,
pointed flame shaped hats reminding all believers of their inspiration. We usually celebrate the
day as the birthday of the Church-as the Spirit is available to all people. Sometimes we use red balloons
or have a birthday cake as a coffee hour treat.
Once I picked up fifty helium filled balloons for a Sunday service and proceeded to drive
several miles to the church. I discovered that I couldn’t see out of the car! That was an exciting drive,
but I never did that again! Well, anyway, it’s a joyful day and hopefully filled with a Spirit of Love and blessings.
Fr. Paul Gilbert
Rev. Paul Gilbert
Church Phone - 843-631-5040
Mission Council phone numbers:
Betsy Daise, Senior Warden 202.222.5651
George Hayworth, Junior Warden 843.889.5678
Emilie Cox 803.682.2965
Harriet Gettys 843.869.1329
Brooks Goldsmith 803.320.1189
Taylor Skardon 843.754.4494
Michele Skripps 843.631.1389
Elizabeth Galaida - Music Director and Administrator - 843.631.1115
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