Dec 13 - Cookies, Cookies & More Cookies!
Dec 5 - Praying for our College Students
Dec 5 - A Christmas Carol Performance
Dec 1 - Making Advent Wreaths
Nov 21 - Christ the King Sunday Milestones
Nov 14 - Pack 'n Wrap at Redeemer
Oct 29 - Celebrating Reformation Sunday
Oct 16 - Harvest Home Sunday
Oct 9 - Crop Walk 2016
Oct 2 - Photos from Consecration Sunday
Sep 12 - CELEBration!
Aug 24 - Locked-in at St. Mark's
Aug 12 - St. Mark's 2016 Fishing Derby
Jul 23 - Helping Hands Day
Jul 6 - St. Mark's July 4 Hospitality
Jun 29 - “La frontera: Where Jesus Meets Us”
May 17 - 2016 Annual Congregation Assembly
May 9 - Youth Conduct Service
May 9 - 2016 Annual Report
Apr 24 - Applegate Baptism Celebrated
Apr 6 - Food Packaging Event
Mar 26 - The Vigil of Easter
Mar 25 - 2016 Confirmation Trip
Mar 19 - Making Palm Crosses
Mar 5 - Tubing
Feb 8 - Join the Bell Choir!
Jan 31 - Lenten Services Scheduled
How do we summarize 20+years of life together in St. Mark's? Let's use the image of “milestones.” On some sections of the Camino Santiago there are stone markers every few kilometers that list where we are on the journey, how much further it is to Santiago, and point the direction for the next portion of the trip. They are there for information and for encouragement to keep going despite the aches and pains of the pilgrimage. The “Milestones” that we celebrate in the congregation function in the same way. We mark the beginning of the journey with a gift of a receiving blanket for newborns, and the subsequent Sacrament of Holy Baptism. We encourage growth in the faith with the Prayer Pillow, All the Gifts of Good News, participate in Sunday School and First Communion instruction, engage in Catechetical instruction and work with parents and mentors, mark progress with Confirmation, expand relationships with Marriage, celebrate anniversaries and other accomplishments, come again and again to celebrate the Holy Communion until our birthday into heaven in the funeral service, and at various times remember all the saints and especially those near and dear to us. So many milestones, so many different ways of encouraging one another in trust of the Lord Jesus and his promises to us! We have lived together using all of these and more; what a blessing it has been. May the patterns that we have established continue, and expand in new directions as well, to the glory of God the Father.
One of my walking companions on the Camino this fall was a person who has significant heartaches, beginning with an alcoholic father and a painful divorce of parents, a disastrous marriage of her own with a domineering spouse, difficult and deadly illnesses of close relatives, and several coworkers with inappropriate expectations. As we talked through all these things in many kilometers together, we noted that life is filled with “goodbyes” and grieving for all of the imperfections of human community.
That is simply the way it is. But we also noted that what makes it bearable is that God gives us even more “hellos” along the way, fresh presents of his grace and enduring mercy through those whom he sends to us in his name and bearing his promise. These are our special gifts to each other, the things that we have experienced together in the congregation of St. Mark's in the name of Jesus.
Some of these gifts of God's grace have been mediated through several different approaches in St. Mark's. One is The Way, our process of encouraging and mentoring new and renewing members. Information is shared, but more importantly, personal relationships are nurtured as we gently explore the Good News together over a period of nine months each year.. It has been a blessing to so many in the congregation. I hope that this process is now woven deeply into the fabric of the identity of the congregation. Another is Stephen Ministry, our process of one to one caring and listening ministry. Nearly twenty persons have trained and served as Stephen Ministers, and dozens of persons have personally benefited from their ministry. Further, the Stephen Ministers have discovered that the skills they acquire are applicable in many other relationships as well: at home, at work, and in other social settings. What a profound effect it has on countless lives!
The chief milestone is the one that occurs with weekly regularity, our gathering around Word and Sacrament Sunday after Sunday. It was painfully difficult for me to be in worship in Spain this fall and not be able to participate fully in the event; to be an observer is not the same as being a participant. May St. Mark's congregation recognize what a powerful tradition has been established among us and guard it, rejoice in it, and continue to warmly invite others to be a part of it.
To accomplish all that we can, we have been blessed with a number of beautiful and useful tools, the things we call “property.” Even before meeting the people, the minute I stepped into the nave I knew that this would be a wonderful place to work and worship. Over the years we have made improvements to the nave so that it can point ever more clearly to the Word of God, and we have completely renovated the chapel so that it can function in a variety of appropriate ways for worship, visitation, meetings, and devotions. All of the buildings and grounds get regular and detailed care and attention to the end that they can all serve as tools to invite others to Jesus. As long as they do that, they are good things; may they never become ends in themselves, a museum to a dead faith, but rather remain a living laboratory for a vibrant, living faith.
There are so many things that could be said, but perhaps this is enough for the moment. There will be many twists and turns in the process which now faces the congregation. You must discern what is vital, what is the center of congregational life, and search for leadership that will eagerly grasp that core and lead you to fresh expressions of the faith once delivered to the saints. May you be blessed by the continuing gifts of the Father, for the sake of the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Farewell, dear friends.
The Rev. Kenneth R. Elkin, STS, Pastor