This Sunday we will celebrate the First Sunday of Advent. We will have the opportunity to make Advent wreaths at 9 a.m. and enjoy the fellowship of a combined service at 10 a.m. There will be a tent in the front yard for the month as we still await the completion of Gosnell Hall. The kitchen is open, so breakfast casseroles will be available as we make our wreaths! The nursery is reopening! So new life is brought into being as we start a new liturgical year.
Our COVID-19 protocol group met recently, and we are encouraged by the improving numbers and look forward to revisiting our masking policy in worship after the first of the year. This allows ample time for children who are now eligible to be vaccinated to do so, to assess what the impact of the holidays might be, and to allow for the increased attendance in our historic space during the Advent and Christmas season without having to revert to social distancing or reservations like we did last year. It is encouraging progress, and I’m thankful for your patience.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow and there is much to be grateful for in this community. Your ongoing generosity and love for one another is a testament to your love for God and our neighbors. I hope amidst the resuming patterns of our lives, you make time for St. Mark’s. Come to the intergenerational events, enjoy Christmas Pops and our service of Lessons and Carols. Whether you are looking for reflective space or joyful celebration, we have something for you. I’ll close with a prayer I wrote for the interfaith service in San Antonio a number of years ago.
We gather together today in a spirit of thanksgiving, hope, and peace,
Grateful that you alone sustain us,
Giving us the gift of each moment, each breath
Promising to be present even in the darkest of places.
In times when we realize anew that we cannot bear your light alone.
We acknowledge our fatigue,
our deep sadness
at so many events that seem beyond our control.
Yet despite this tiredness,
we thank you for the awareness it brings,
the reminder that our illusions of power and control,
only distance ourselves from you
and one another.
We give thanks for the opportunity to remember our connectedness,
For the special calling that comes to us through community,
In the patterning of our civic and religious lives.
We give thanks for our differences
that yield a strength,
that is only found only in our unity and a deeper reliance on one another.
We give thanks for the challenges of these turbulent times,
that force us to engage in ways that stretch us beyond what is comfortable.
Encourage us God,
Make us united — in our common love for you and one another.
Make us courageous — willing to speak out against evil and the powers of darkness.
Make us wise—so that our actions might further your purposes in this time.
Knit us together so deeply in your love that we find ourselves strengthened
Newly aware of our identity as your beloved children
So we might serve you with a passion that goes beyond our own abilities
and seeks the common purpose only you can see.
We ask this in the confidence of your Holy Spirit, trusting its guidance and power.