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“Have you pledged yet?” For both the clergy and the parishioner alike, that question is one that strikes an uncomfortable tone. We don’t like to talk about money, and in the Episcopal Church we are particularly uncomfortable talking about our faith so if you put the two topics together, well, all bets are off!!
Most often when I talk to people about whether they are going to pledge to their church’s annual financial drive the answer I get is something like, “I really don’t pledge, I prefer to give to the really important things when they come up.” I get that. All of us like to give to the glitzy and glammy things, the ones that have great before and after pictures, the ones that leave us with that really big feeling of accomplishment. Those “gives” are really important for us and for the people for whom our money makes a great deal of difference. But giving to your church’s, Holy Trinity’s, annual financial campaign is about something different, something deeper. It is about the ministry of presence, Christ’s presence here in this neighborhood.
I want to share a story with you, a true story, about keeping the lights on. I was up here on the hill working late a few days before Christmas. It was cold and the sun was quickly sinking from the sky, and the only lights on up here on the hill were the ones that chased away the dark outside my office windows. I watched as a car slowly eased its way up our driveway. Odd, I thought, school was closed, and I was not expecting anyone. Certain that whoever this was would just drive in and out, I returned to my work until I heard the gravel on the front drive. Leaving my office, I turned on the hallway lights and the light on the front porch and headed to the door. There I was met by a young man probably in his late 20s and a young, very pregnant woman. I asked if they were lost. I could see their car was loaded. No, they told me they were not lost, but they were looking for a place to park for the night. They had seen my light and thought that I might let them park in the church parking lot and sleep just for one night. I invited them in to sit down and I learned the story of how they were making their way to Texas, where a job and family waited and that they had just enough money to make the trip if they only stayed in hotels twice. I jumped on the computer and found them a room for the night and gave them a gift card to buy some food and some gas and ushered them back out and on their way. But before they left I heard him say, “Thank God, your lights were on.”
Thank God your lights were on. This is where the ministry of the church, this church, all churches, begins, with our presence in the world as the hands and feet, eyes and ears, the body of Christ to all who come in need. If we cannot pay the bills, the boring ones, like the light bill and the water bill, the electric bill and the trash collections, if we don’t have anyone to answer the phone or to sit with those who may have lost their way, then Christ is not present. Since 1712 Holy Trinity has been the light shining forth from this Holy hill, a beacon to illuminate the presence of Christ. We need your pledge to continue that work. If you have already pledged for 2017, thank you! If you have not I urge you to make a financial commitment today. It is only through your generous donations that we can keep the lights on.
Rev. Leslie M. St. Louis
Join us this Sunday after the 8AM and 10AM services in parish hall to make sandwiches for Martha's Table.
Please join us on March 26th for our annual meeting. We will only have one service that Sunday at 9AM. The annual meeting will start after the service in parish hall.
We will only have one service on Jan 1, 2017 at 10AM. See you there!
Please join us for Christmas services. On Christmas Eve we will hold two services--7pm and 10pm. On Christmas we will gather at 10am. All are welcomed!
When Holy Trinity, Bowie junior warden Thomas Sykes first read an article about church gardens, he knew right away this ministry would be a good fit for his parish.
“I just thought ‘wow, our parish already has land and a kitchen—two things other parishes would almost die for,’” says Sykes, who envisioned the parish garden as a way to reach out to the community and as a bridge between the parish and the Holy Trinity Episcopal Day School.
“Over the years, the school and the church communities have become distanced,” Sykes explains. “It’s a common story—there are no longer many parishioners who have kids enrolled at the school, and many students’ families don’t realize there is a connection—that the school is our parish’s largest mission.”
Sykes got to work immediately. “I talked to the rector and senior warden about the feasibility of doing this, and they were both on board,” he recalls. “Then, I did a lot of homework. I researched materials and costs, and more importantly, I started thinking about the reasons for building this garden.”
In February, Sykes presented the idea to the vestry. Bishop Mariann Budde happened to be present for the meeting, and heard the presentation as well. “I look at that as a Holy Spirit moment,” Sykes says. “Bishop Mariann came up with the tagline ‘Come grow our church as we grow our garden.’” The parish had a sign made up with Bishop Budde’s tagline that now sits in the garden.
The next step was forming a steering committee to get started on the work of realizing the vision. “I was hoping to get four volunteers, but we got ten right away,” Sykes says. “Once again, the Holy Spirit was saying, ‘it’s just a fit.’”
The outpouring of volunteers from the parish has continued through the planning, building and maintaining of the garden. “It’s not always the same volunteers,” Sykes says, “but collectively we always have people eager to help.” The parish reached out to businesses around the area, receiving discounts and donations of many of the necessary materials.
Holy Trinity’s rector, the Rev. Leslie M. St. Louis, credits strong lay leadership with the successful garden project. “Holy Trinity is a parish that is deeply in transition,” St. Louis says. “It's a 305-year-old parish that is really facing the reality that the way we’ve been doing things—five, 10, 15, 20 years ago—no longer works and hasn’t been working for a long time. Our lay leadership is really taking hold of the question of how we connect to the world the way we are now, and is willing to experiment with a lot of different things, and I think the garden is an expression of that.”
The completed garden is 20 feet by 25 feet with eight raised beds and a four-foot path down the middle. “It was important the garden be accessible to any visitor in a wheelchair,” Sykes says. “We made sure these guests can get through the gate and into the garden.”
In its first season, the parish crops included peppers, cantaloupes, watermelon, honeydew, squash, and eggplant as well as sunflowers and gladiolas. Volunteers bring fresh produce from the garden to the narthex where community members can help themselves. The parish also makes clear that members and neighbors are welcome to harvest food for themselves. The remaining crops are brought to the local foodbank, the Bowie Interfaith Pantry and Emergency Aid Fund. Between its own garden and the donations from Holy Trinity, the foodbank was able to keep two eight-foot tables filled with fresh produce all summer long.
The opportunity to volunteer in the garden has helped to foster relationships between the parish and its neighbors. “We have one woman who attended a funeral of a family member who had been a member of the parish 20 years ago,” Sykes says. “And I was talking to her about the garden, and now she shows up regularly.” While volunteers describe working in the garden as therapeutic, others “simply sit in the garden and watch what’s going on,” Sykes says. “That’s therapeutic as well. It really is.”
“The garden is a way to reach out into the community and be active with the community in a way that's really healthy,” St. Louis says. “It's brought another avenue to authentically talk to people about God, that isn’t just, ‘hello I'm going to talk to you about Jesus Christ.’”
The garden is also playing the role Sykes had hoped in strengthening the connection between the parish and its school by becoming an outdoor classroom for students in grades one through four.
“Last Friday we spent the morning in the garden with three science classes—they came out one class after another,” Sykes says. “That’s when all the hard work of building that garden just goes away. They come out with questions and clipboards. They ask questions like, ‘Why did you decide to build a garden?’ One class was learning about bacteria, so wanted to know all about bacteria in the garden. It is really higher level learning.”
When students asked how tall the tallest sunflower is, Sykes simply pulled it out, roots and all (it was the end of the season) to show not only the height that was visible above ground, but the 8-inch root system below. “That all started from one little seed,” Sykes explained to the students. “Nurturing little things is so important in a garden. And then, they become big things.”
The garden has become a way for students to learn about science, math, food and nutrition, and the importance of creation care. Students have participated in planning, planting, harvesting, and composting. Later this year, students will bring worms they have been watching grow and learning about in their science classroom out to the garden.
“Every time we have a class, the time runs out before questions stop,” Sykes says. “It has fulfilled and exceeded our expectations. It’s so rewarding when the teacher emails to say, ‘They are so looking forward to spending a day with you in the garden.’ And when the new crops start coming in, those students will be able to say, ‘I did that.’
Note: This article first appeared on EDOW's website under the News and Features tab on October 27, 2016.
We are once again collecting groceries for Thanksgiving Meals, which we will donate to the Bowie Interfaith Food Pantry. See the list below for a complete "meal." We will donate a frozen turkey and pumpkin pie to match each meal. Please place your groceries in a large bag and drop it off at the church or church office by November 13. We will then deliver the food to the pantry the next day. Questions? Contact Julie Jones. Thanks in advance!
-Large box of instant potatoes
-Large can of sweet potatoes
-1 can of cranberry sauce
-2 large cans of vegetables
-1 large stuffing mix
-1 large gravy
-1 large can of fruit
-1 half-gallon of fruit juice
Check out the Thursday Lectionary Tease from Rev. Leslie.
The Blessing of the Animals at Holy Trinity has been rescheduled for Sunday, October 23 at 4pm due to the weather. All animals (and their humans!) are welcomed.
Please consider donating any gardening hand tools that you no longer use to the church garden for young hands to use as the students at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Day School learn about growing vegetables and flowers. We are looking for trowels, hand rakes, hand forks and bulb planting trowels. If you have questions please contact Tom Sykes at firstname.lastname@example.org