Gratitude to God

Dear Friends,

The underlying theme of this September’s Genesis is gratitude - gratitude to God for bringing us all together … gratitude for the volunteers whose dedication to the common good adds so much vitality to this congregation … gratitude to the staff whose efforts support all that we do … gratitude for opportunities to do meaningful tasks by serving … gratitude for the beauty of this sacred space for which we are stewards … gratitude for challenges which arise from a greater vision … gratitude for prayers for our well-being that reflects God’s love for each of us.

September is a month for starting up or restarting activities, ministries, and programs after a summer pause. Starting is not instantaneous. Like an athlete or musician for whom warming up is necessary, we too are warming up as we regroup and make final plans for the fall. Please watch the weekly eGenesis especially in the coming weeks for additional information to welcome one and all to the startup for the year.

Of particular note is Sunday School, led by Melanie Hitchen and a dedicated group of teachers who continue what was begun last spring. The first classes are on September 15. The consensus of the teachers, who met to begin planning this year was that classes be held starting after Communion, at the end of the10:30 service and conclude at 12:15. Details will follow. The primary rationale for this timing was to allow families not to feel rushed to get to church by 9:15, to encourage everyone to participate in the primary activity of Sunday morning – the service of Holy Eucharist, and to take advantage of the coffee hour after the 10:30 service as a time for informal conversation. Coffee hours at Trinity Church work so well that I think this plan is well worth a try this fall. Trying new approaches and reviewing them as we go along is a benefit of an interim year. For now, please plan to bring your children and invite other children to participate.

We are also reviving the Adult Forums at 9:15, on most Sundays beginning on September 15. Vestry member Paul Coyer and I have been working on plans, and I have had numerous conversations with parishioners about possible topics. Watch eGenesis each week for details.

In the few months that remain of my Interim Ministry, I look forward to being with you for prayer, learning, and service.

We give thanks to God for the opportunity to be at Trinity Church in these exciting times.
Faithfully,
The Reverend Edward O. Miller, Jr.

Change of Pace

Dear Friends,

The months of July and August offer a distinct change of pace with the opportunity to be more relaxed.

At the same time, it is a season of considerable behind the scenes planning. So, the Discernment Committee might suggest that my reference to a more relaxed season might apply to others but not to them. In addition to keeping them in our prayers spoken at each Sunday service, I hope you with thank the committee members whenever you see them.

They are:
Matt Blunt, Chair, Jonathan Catherwood, Alix Coolidge, Ellen Hall, Ashley Hambrick, Margaret Moore and Laurie Volk .

One of my most important responsibilities during this interim is to do everything I can to work with the leaders of the parish to prepare for your next era with a new Rector. For my first six months with you, I have spent as much time learning about the parish, engaging in activities that are important to you, offering pastoral care, and leading worship. That will continue as we spend the next six months working to refine what we do and how we do it in ways that maximize the effectiveness of the ministries we share. We’ll be able to be more specific as time goes by.

In the meantime, I want to say again how much I enjoy being at Trinity and how much I appreciate getting to know as many of you as possible.

We give thanks to God for the opportunity to be at Trinity Church in these exciting times.

Faithfully,
The Reverend Edward O. Miller, Jr.

Welcome to Summer

Dear Friends,

After all the excitement of a wonderful Stable Tour weekend, we move to a new month. Although June often seems to mark the beginning of a slower pace for the summer, this month is also a time of important activity. Our primary goal for the year is to prepare you for the next era of ministry with a new Rector. The Discernment Committee is working deliberately and thoughtfully sustained by the prayer we all say together each Sunday. They will present an update on their process at a Forum on Sunday, June 23, between the 8:00 and 10:30 am services. I hope you will stay after the early service or come early for the later service to hear from the committee and to ask questions.

During the summer, the Vestry and I will be planning for the fall and exploring ways to refine our efforts to be as effective as possible in leading the lively collaboration of volunteers and staff. I notice enthusiasm and dedication every day, and we seek to translate that energy into opportunities for newcomers and long-standing members to be engaged more deeply in the congregation.

The Vestry voted at the May meeting to elect Melissa Neal as our Delegate to Diocesan Convention and our Region and Becky Hoecker as the Alternate Delegate. We are grateful to them for serving in these important roles.

The other day, I received Mission Vouchers for the young people who were Confirmed on May 12. These vouchers are to be used before their 19th birthday to support mission experiences. The vouchers represent the interest in the people of the entire Diocese in the activities of our youth.

I plan to be away on two Sundays in June for weddings. I’m grateful to Jim Hammond for leading worship in my absence, and I am thankful daily for his friendship and wise counsel. The two Sundays I expect to be here are important because they direct us to the foundation of so much that defines us.

June 9, is Pentecost with the celebration of the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is the custom here for you to wear red to match the red on the altar. It is also the custom of the church to view this day, one of the seven feast days of the church year, as a time to renew our commitment to the mission of the church.

June 16, is Trinity Sunday, the only one of the seven feast days devoted to a doctrine. It is our special privilege to focus on the meaning of the day in the context of the name of our congregation. It is a Sunday to renew our commitment to the mission of the church through this particular church.

I look forward to June with you.

Faithfully,
The Reverend Edward O. Miller, Jr.

Welcome the Right Reverend Edwin F. Gulick

Dear friends,

Join us on Sunday, May 12, at 10:30 to welcome the Right Reverend Edwin F. Gulick for a service of Baptism and Confirmation as we support those being baptized and confirmed. Bishop Gulick is well known to us through his role as Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia and through his long-time family ties to this area and to Trinity Church. Bishop Gulick’s great-grandfather lived across the street in what is now the church-owned Gulick House. His great-grandfather practiced medicine there, and his grandfather was raised there. Currently a Visiting Bishop, he assists Bishop Goff with visitations twice a month.

It is our good fortune that Trinity Church has been chosen for one of his visitations. While Confirmation has a long and varied history, the central actions of confirmation have always been the laying on of hands and a prayer said by the bishop. Princess Elizabeth, who would become Queen Elizabeth I, was baptized and confirmed when she was three days old. During Elizabeth’s lifetime, however, confirmation was separated from baptism because it was associated with the age of reason. Confirmation became a moment for strengthening for Christian service those Christians who had already been given new birth in Baptism. A number of scholars have developed the following rationale for the connection between baptism and confirmation: “In baptism the Holy Spirit operates from outside to convey pardon and new birth; in confirmation the gift of the indwelling Spirit is bestowed.”

From late 13th century through the 1970s, Communion was limited to those who were confirmed. In the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, that practice changed as the Church returned to its Christian roots by viewing baptism as the primary basis for entrance into the Christian life with all of its privileges and responsibilities. Confirmation, however, continues to be a central part of the regular renewal of faith.

Over the years, I have found the role of the congregation especially important for two reasons. The first is that those being baptized or confirmed value the support of the people who join with them in worship. The second is that the renewal of our own baptismal vows strengthens us for service in the world.

I hope you will come on May 12.

Faithfully,
The Reverend Edward O. Miller, Jr.

Holy Week Cornerstone

Dear People of Trinity Church,

The Holy Week story is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Each year in its retelling from Palm Sunday through Easter, we stand on the outskirts of Jerusalem as Jesus enters the city, observe his trial, share in the Last Supper, witness his crucifixion, and join the women three days later at the empty tomb. The closing days of the life of Jesus, his crucifixion, and his resurrection describe the sacred story of salvation in the unfolding of human life. Those who were part of the story of Jesus revealed some of the most despicable and some of the most courageous qualities of human relationships. Loyalty and betrayal, determination and indifference, honesty and deception all take root in the drama.

So much of Christian theology can seem abstract and devoid of connection with daily life. The Holy Week story reminds us, however, that there is nothing abstract about the life of Jesus. His story becomes in small and large ways our story as well. The services on Palm Sunday (also known as the Sunday of the Passion), Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter are designed to draw us into the story. Thankfully, the story is less about human weakness and more about divine strength. What had been proclaimed generation after generation is revealed in the God who acts as promised by being present in any and every place we find ourselves. Hope arises from real life and from God who makes life real. I hope you will dare to be in the story so that God’s story can truly be ours. Please join us for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter.

Faithfully,
The Reverend Edward O. Miller, Jr.

Emphasis on Seasons

Dear People of Trinity Church,

One of the great features of the church calendar is the emphasis on seasons which complement key days. The season of Lent builds toward Easter just as the season of Advent leads to Christmas. The seasons were developed less to serve the needs of the church and more to serve the needs of the people. For this reason, Lent is not so much a means of maintaining discipline among church members by insisting on “prayer, fasting, and self-denial,” in the words of the Book of Common Prayer. On the contrary, Lent is a seasonal chance for people, through “prayer, fasting, and self-denial,” to gather ourselves together both in community and individually. The purpose is to collect ourselves that we might find the center of life. We engage in activities that help us reflect on the daily responsibilities that consume our time, energy, and resources. The Gospel passages from Luke help. Each Sunday Jesus engages the people he encounters in refining how they live and what truly matters.

Among what matters at Trinity Church is the role children play in our congregation. Thanks to volunteers, we are able to offer Sunday school for ten Sundays beginning with the First Sunday in Lent, March 10. The program, from 9:30-10:15 will be in three groupings: Nursery, Pre-K through 2nd grade, and 3rd through 5th grades. More specific details will be available weekly in the eGenesis. In the meantime, I hope you will encourage any children in your families or among friends to come.

Finally, the process for seeking a new Rector matters. With the Discernment Committee now formed, we commission them this Sunday with prayers for them and for the parish at both services. The Committee is task oriented, but its success will ultimately base its grounding in prayer. Please join us this Sunday as our prayers for this process begins.

I look forward to Lent with you.

Faithfully,
The Reverend Edward O. Miller, Jr.

From The Interim Rector

Dear People of Trinity Church,

Someone asked me recently how the size of Trinity Church compared to the size of other churches I have served. As I thought later about the question, I realized that I have always thought more about possibilities than sizes. Each church has been different in many respects – size, type of location, demographics, age, and history. Two have been named Trinity. In the short time I have been Interim Rector, possibilities have already emerged, and your energy to explore possibilities is striking. I have heard of your interest in expanding visual arts in addition to the artistic beauty of the buildings and music. There is renewed interest in ministries for and among children and youth as well as adults. There is conversation about more outreach engagement. During this interim period, we will explore possibilities as we can while the search for a new Rector helps us discern the possibilities that are most important.

While it is important to develop programs and discern the qualities of a new Rector it is even more crucial to be attentive to God’s many ways of envisioning possibilities. Always ahead of the people by leading in the “pillar of cloud by day and fire by night” and always beside the people with Jesus calming those in the boat in a storm or encouraging them to put down their nets deeper, God’s active engagement never lets the status quo immobilize those who yearned for greater purpose. As the season of Epiphany continues, I hope we will continue to give thanks to God for bringing us this far and for staying ahead of us in a future filled with possibilities for discipleship and ministry.

To help us with the discernment process for possibilities for the future with a new rector, we welcome the Reverend Dr. Mary Thorpe, Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Virginia, on Sunday, February 10. She will be at both services to preach and will lead a discussion about the discernment process at a Forum between the services.

Faithfully,
The Reverend Edward O. Miller, Jr.

Christian Calendar New Year

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Welcome to a new year according to the Christian calendar. Welcome to the holy season of Advent. There are four Sundays in this season, each leading us closer to the great celebration of Christmas. It is a time during which we are to pay particular attention to Christ’s promise that he will return at an unexpected moment. One of the great spiritual disciplines encouraged in the life of every Christian is to live in readiness. Thus, Advent is a season of expectation marked by individual and communal acts befitting such preparation.

These preparatory acts include slowing down, waiting patiently, and living each day hopefully. Frankly, none of these practices are much honored in our world today. The lead-up to Christmas tends to be both frenetic and stressful. Waiting patiently for God is replaced by a seemingly unquenchable desire for instant gratification through material possessions wrapped in ribbon and foil. Furthermore, the fears and concerns we have about what is going on in our world today tend to overwhelm whatever hope we hold for Christ’s coming again. There is so much noise, worry, and distraction. It makes standing still and looking up into the night sky for that one bright sign of “God with us” almost impossible. But that is the reason why we need this season of Advent all the more.

This year, as I prepare to depart this wonderful congregation, I am particularly mindful of one of Advent’s great themes, the theme of light. While I remain excited about “the next chapter” and the possibilities that the new chapter holds, I will not deny both the sadness and anxiety of this time. Any departure contains an element of death and we often associate death with darkness. I have served as a parish priest for over thirty-three years now, the last eleven years as Rector of this congregation. I have had the privilege of working beside so many saints in the course of this journey. I have had the blessing of being with you in the moments of great joy, deep grief, and all the other states of heart and mind in between. This has been my life and my vocation and it is not easy to let go.

But this I know. The light of Christ has been with me my entire life. That light will remain with me and will guide me until the moment that Christ comes again, one way or another. I also know that that very same light is always present in each of your lives. As we move through this Advent season, we will light an additional candle on the Advent Wreath each Sunday until we get to that blaze of light revealed in the morning star of that holy night. Yes, this is the darkest time of year. It is into this time that God sends us His son, who is the light of the world. Darkness turns into morning. Death becomes the gateway to resurrection and eternal life. New life begins.

Many years ago, I played the part of Mortimer, “the man who dies”, in “The Fantasticks”. His colleague was Henry, “the old actor”. As Henry departs the stage for the last time, he turns to the audience and says, “Remember me…in light”. Please know that I will remember each of you, and pray for each of you, in the light that is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I hope that you will continue to hold Janie, Holland, Lee, Will, and yours truly in that same light as well as we all move into the next chapters of our lives.

Thank you, Trinity. Thank you, Staff. Thank you, the people of God who comprise this great congregation. It has indeed been the greatest of honors and blessings to serve as the Rector of this parish family.

Faithfully yours in Christ,
The Rev. Robert L. Banse, Jr.

Sermon Annual Meeting

I have received several requests to have my sermon before our Annual Meeting printed in the November Genesis. I hereby gladly honor that request:

Sermon Annual Meeting
October 21, 2018
The Rev. Robert L. Banse, Jr.

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

Again, Good Morning! Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. And welcome to the Annual Meeting of this congregation.

I am not sure how many of you are fully aware of our men’s group that gathers here on the third Saturday of each month. There are usually anywhere between twelve to twenty of us, including friends from the larger community, who come together, not only for a delicious breakfast, but also for lively conversation relating our faith to what is going on in the world around us. Gray Coyner serves as the convener of the group and he always gets things started by sharing with us some reflections and observations. Yesterday, he reported on a recent visit to his ancestral home in Waynesboro, Virginia. He came away with the distinct sense that, as time goes on, members of his extended family are growing less and less interested about the relationships and the stories that make for the foundations of the family’s history. He asked our group a challenging question: How many of you know where your grandparents, and as a bonus, your great-grandparents are actually buried? A number of hands went up around the table. He then asked, how many of you have ever visited their graves? The hands going up were fewer in number.

Gray’s questions raise one of the very important matters we are called to consider on this day of our Annual Meeting. Lest we ever forget, the life and ministry of this congregation is not just about those of us who presently call this our church home. The mission of this congregation is rooted in a history that goes all the way back to the 1840s. Our mission here and now stands on the shoulders of the many saints who have gone before us. I know that we are often referred to as “the Mellon Church” and there is no question that we would not presently be who we are without their incredibly generous vision and support. But this congregation existed well before the Mellons moved into this community. God has been at work in this place for many years and that is something we are called to celebrate today. The mission of this congregation extends back well before the 1950s, 1979, 1991, 2005, 2007, and this present moment. We don’t own this place. We are merely stewards passing on our way to the resurrected life that is to come.

My point is this: Tradition matters. Knowing about whence we came informs and guides us as to where the Holy Spirit is leading us next. We are Episcopalians, not Congregationalists. We have been formed by the worship laid out in our Book of Common Prayer. We ascribe to a belief in God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as defined in the Nicene and Apostles Creed. Our faith is not so much dogmatic as it is practical and expressed first and foremost in seeking to love God with all that we are and all that we have and embodying that in the ways we choose to love one another as Jesus loves each of us. The sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, Marriage, Confirmation, Ordination, Reconciliation, and Unction are outward and visible signs of God’s love and presence in our lives. This history and these traditions matter. They remind us from whence we have come and whose we really are.

But, my friends, there is also a danger here. A Christian community that chooses to dwell only in the past is at risk of losing both its present and its future. These congregations turn in on themselves. They end up worshipping really only themselves. They become religious museums, spiritual social clubs where the veneration of their ancestors takes precedence.

And so, even as we celebrate and honor the past life of this congregation this morning, we must always, by the grace of God, be looking forward. We learn from those who have gone before us to prepare for what is ahead, recognizing that the world we are called to serve is radically different than it was the 1840s, 1950s, and even the early 2000s. To dwell in the past in this sense is both detrimental and destructive. We must focus with open hearts and minds on where God is leading us next.

This ministry of discernment is never easy. Please remember that, according to St. Mark’s Gospel account, the disciples of Jesus had a really hard time hearing and understanding his message, his Good News.

Consider this. Five weeks ago, we heard Jesus say to them: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their lives will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

Four weeks ago, when he had discerned that they had been arguing amongst themselves as to who was the greatest, Jesus told those disciples, “Whoever wants to be first amongst you must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

Last week, when it was made clear to the disciples that those possessing great wealth would find it more difficult to enter the kingdom of God than it would be for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, Jesus concludes this divine insight with “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first”. (Mark 10:31)

Obviously, he had not yet broken through. For just moments ago, after hearing the request of James and John to occupy the places of honor when he comes into his kingdom, thereby sharing in his power, Jesus responds, and I am going to guess with some real weariness, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10: 42-45)

Please notice. Jesus in none of these passages disparages the desire for greatness. Indeed, he makes it very clear that greatness is indeed the

chief goal of all who are willing to follow him. It is just that “greatness” in the Kingdom of God is entirely and radically different than what our world calls “greatness”. Greatness, in God’s kingdom, has nothing to do with accumulated wealth, or titles on the door, or places of honor at the boardroom table, that big dinner party, or at the upcoming Gala. In God’s kingdom, greatness is about being servant to all and ultimately about a willingness to lay down our very lives for the sake of the Good News that Jesus came to share with those who are shunned and ignored and left unloved by our world.

And I want to be very clear about this in my final Annual Meeting with you, the people of Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville, Virginia: I believe, as I have always believed, that this congregation is called by God to greatness as understood in God’s kingdom. It always has been. It is now. And it always will be.

When you have had the opportunity to read my contribution to the Annual Report, you will know that, as we look to the upcoming season of transition in the life of this congregation, we concentrate on three priorities first articulated by one of my favorite saints, Dietrich Bonhoeffer as he awaited his trial and ultimate execution by the Nazi government. In the coming months, I would recommend that we focus particularly on these three focal points of Christian life and ministry. They are 1) Prayer, 2) Outreach, and 3) an unwavering hope in God’s love for the whole world made incarnate in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Indeed, at risk of sounding bold to the point of arrogance, I truly believe that if we dedicate ourselves to these three spiritual disciplines, the ongoing life of this congregation will be blessed beyond measure.

My friends, it begins and ends in the practice of prayer. Prayer is not about the recitation of words. Prayer is, as Jim Hammond reminded us several weeks ago, about opening ourselves to an ongoing conversation with God. It is about the alteration between the purifying of our hearts, minds, and souls and the illumination of the same. Prayer is to enter into the presence of the living God just as we are. Without prayer, we will not know how to properly build this congregation in the years ahead.

I love the way we pray here at Trinity: our liturgies on Sunday mornings, the opportunities to celebrate baptisms, marriages, and burials. I love our keeping of the Church calendar and our celebrations of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. The Wednesday noontime Eucharist is one of my favorite moments each and every week. Lest we ever forget, our commitment to music worthy of our worship of God is, in fact, prayer. And our intercessors gather here on Monday afternoons and on Sunday mornings to offer prayers of healing and the praise of God. Still, we cannot pray enough. Going forward, I would recommend regular gatherings for prayer in the upcoming time of discernment. I would also strongly suggest making much more use of our trails and our outdoor chapel in encouraging the practice of prayer in the life of our church.

I also love the outreach ministries of our church. I love the fact that we generously support all kinds of ministries in our communities and in our world. I love the hands-on outreach that so many of you are already committed to, whether it be SOME or Seven Loaves, The Food Pantry, the Thrift Shop, Windy Hill, the Upperville Council of Churches, and elsewhere. Outreach is an absolutely necessary and vital expression of our faith. It is the path to truly understanding greatness in the kingdom of God. Again, without it we tend to forget about the world and begin to turn inwards only on ourselves. I would that we are very much at the point we must once again turn our attention to reaching out the children and young people of our communities. We must take to heart, that if we do not provide these sisters and brothers of ours with the opportunities to learn the traditions and great stories of our faith and life here and now, the future of Trinity Church will be very much in doubt. I ask you to continually pray about our outreach here at Trinity as you prepare to welcome my successor.

Finally, we need the enduring HOPE that is our faith in Jesus Christ. God knows our world is in desperate need of hope at this time. What we need to realize and understand is that Jesus has called us to be messengers of that hope. We need to let the world know that, even when our world’s structures are under great duress, the cornerstone that is the Gospel remains. Our hope here at Trinity is in Jesus Christ, our strength and our redeemer. Our hope is not in ourselves. Our own strength and skills are not enough to heal a broken world.

Now, it is certainly true that our work in proclaiming that hope requires the investment of each one of us. It requires our supporting the mission of this congregation in the ways we commit our time, our talent, and our material wealth in carrying this message out into the world. Please know that our faith calls us to this commitment just as much in these seasons of transition, perhaps even more so. I promise you that you will be hearing more about this facet of our baptismal vows in the coming weeks. Hope in the midst of change is one of the greatest messages we are called to witness to in our present age.

You see, even in the midst of all manner of uncertainty present in our world today, our hope is, and will always be, in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He is our rock and he is our salvation. It is this hope that brings us together today. It is this hope that is the foundation of our church and ultimately defines us as the people of God. It is the hope that our predecessors proclaimed in this place. And it is the hope that we are called to proclaim here and now. Let us lift that hope up in the coming year. Let us share that hope with each other and with the world around us. Together, let us celebrate that hope today and everyday of our lives. Amen.

Faithfully in Christ,
The Rev. Robert L. Banse, Jr.

Letter to the Ephesians

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

We have been discussing the Letter to the Ephesians during the Sunday morning Forum Hour these past several weeks. Scholars have, over the course of the centuries, spent much time studying the contents of the letters written by Paul and the other leaders of the earliest Christian communities. By comparing and contrasting the narrative found in each, it becomes apparent that there is more at work here than meets the eye. There is more here than just the written word on the page. There must have been a process, now not entirely clear, that unfolded from the time of Jesus’ earthly life to the written accounts about his ministry that we have in canonical form in the New Testament.

The revelation, for me, in these studies, is the realization that the earliest Christian communities were fluid and in a constant state of evolution and change. They were not the monolithic blocks of static faith that we often associate with the present Church. They were trying to figure out who they were and what they believed, all in the presence of the risen Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They were often attacked for their beliefs and there was real risk when they gathered for worship. This is quite a contrast to what many of us experienced growing up. Indeed, sometimes you and I subconsciously translate the opening lyrics of Martin Luther’s famous hymn from “A mighty fortress is our God” to “A mighty fortress is our Church”. I trust that all of us understand that such a translation is problematic on several different levels.

It seems to me, and I’ve said this before, that we need to acknowledge and embrace the fact that the Church today is much more like those earliest Christian communities than was the Church of sixty years ago. The world is in great flux, the importance of religion is being seriously questioned, and at times even disparaged. Frankly, even if we feel called to join a community of faith, we are just too darn busy to do so.

Sounds unsettling, does it not? Nonetheless, I want you to know that, despite all the variables and unknowns, I believe that this is a very exciting time for the Church. With these variables come new and greater opportunities to be the Body of Christ serving and sharing in the world today. With the unknown comes the awareness that God, and God alone, is our mighty fortress, and that by faith, all obstacles are overcome and all challenges are met by God’s grace and the love of Jesus Christ.

I hope that you are planning to attend the Annual Meeting on October 21st. This is our time to gather as a congregation to discuss these new possibilities and opportunities before us. The coming season in the life of our congregation will be both challenging and exciting. By God’s grace, you have an important part to play both in the present and the future life of this community. Your prayers leading up to that gathering, and your presence at the meeting, are very much requested.

Faithfully yours in Christ,
The Rev. Rob Banse

Retirement

My Dear Friends,  

I am going to assume that most of you have heard that I have decided to retire as Rector of Trinity Church at the end of this year. This decision is the result of a great deal of prayer and reflection over the last six months about the life and direction of our community and my own pilgrimage and vocation. What I have come to hear from the Holy Spirit in the midst of this conversation with God is, quite simply put, that it is time for a change in ordained leadership here at Trinity and a call personally to explore new opportunities for ministry both within and outside of the Church. Please be assured that there are no hidden agendas! It has been a tremendous blessing serving as Rector for the last eleven years. I have thoroughly enjoyed the ministry and love you, the people of this congregation. The author of Ecclesiastes once wrote, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Well, God is calling to a close one season in the life of Trinity. Now, it is time for all of us to prayerfully prepare for the time that lies ahead.  

While I cannot presently report the precise details of the upcoming transition, I can share with you some of the likely phases. In the coming four months, I will work with the Vestry, Staff, and other leaders of the congregation as we carefully review all of our current policies, procedures, and guidelines, as well as making sure that the information in our database about our membership is accurate. At the same time, the Vestry will begin the search for an Interim Rector, a priest who will provide spiritual, liturgical, and administrative leadership between the time of my departure and the arrival of my successor. My hope for you is that person will be in place by the end of January.  

With the Interim in place, the search for the next Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville, Virginia will begin in earnest. The time frame varies from congregation to congregation, but on average this process takes about eighteen months to two years. The Vestry will have oversight but they cannot do all the work themselves. Each of you will need to step up and take an active part in this search. You may be asked to participate in the life and work of a particular committee. You certainly will be asked to share your thoughts and hopes as to the mission and ministry of Trinity and what spiritual gifts, skills, and talents you believe would most benefit the congregation as embodied in the new Rector. Above all, you will be asked to pray daily for one another, for this incredibly important season in our community’s life, and for those who God is calling to consider joining you in ministry. Let me be very clear. We cannot expect the best possible outcome to this search unless we bring the very best of ourselves faithfully to God and to this work that God now calls us.  

There will be much more to discuss in the coming months. Again, I do not like saying goodbye and will not do so until we get into December and the holy season of Advent. In the meantime, please know that Janie and I plan on staying in the community after I step down. While I will not be able to participate in the life and worship of Trinity Church in any fashion after retiring, certainly not during the search process and perhaps beyond, we will look forward to visiting with you as friends and neighbors around the region. You will also be in my thoughts and prayers daily throughout the remainder of my life. May God’s peace be always with you.      

Faithfully yours in Christ,      
The Rev. Rob Banse  

Episcopal General Convention

I want to make you aware of a very important gathering in the life of our Episcopal Church. General Convention meets every three years to consider resolutions and make important decisions on behalf of our denomination. The convention is comprised of two houses. The House of Bishops is, as the name suggests, comprised of all the bishops of our church. The House of Deputies includes four clergy and four laypeople from every diocese of the Episcopal Church.  

This year’s gathering begins July 5th in Austin, Texas. I commend to you a website entitled “Center Aisle”. The Diocese of Virginia created this site several conventions ago. It is an excellent source of information as to what is going on at the meeting. It offers these reports in the spirit of the “Via Media”, that is, “the middle way”, the vantage point from which the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion have historically sought to understand both theology and the life/practice of our tradition. Please keep our bishops and delegates in your prayers as they gather for this very important moment of discernment.  

May God watch over all of us during this summer season.    

Faithfully in Christ,
The Rev. Rob Banse

Updates and Summer Reading

Dear Friends,  

I write to you immediately after the conclusion of the highly successful 59th edition of the Hunt Country Stable Tour. I have always thought of this weekend as being about much more than raising funds to assist our outreach ministries. It is also about building our relationships as we exercise the ministry of hospitality. Led by those who so generously open their farms and other venues for us, we welcome people from all over the world to the beauty of God’s creation represented by our region. This year, as I listened to the joy and appreciation shared by our guests, I realized that there was another ministry at work here. It was, and is, the ministry of healing. It may have been the chance to get outdoors after a long, wet spring. It may be the turbulent times in which we are living. Whatever the case, the time spent in the beauty of our community clearly was having a cleansing effect. Many thanks to Kat Gemmer, this year’s Chair, the members of the committee, and to each of you who volunteered to make this a most memorable tour. Now, on to the 60th!  

We will soon enter the season of summer. As always, my prayer for each of you is that you will find real time for rest, recreation, and renewal in the coming months. Hike a high mountain trail. Wiggle your toes in beach sand. Explore unknown destinations. Catch up with family and friends free from the usual schedule constraints. Be still and glory in beauty of God’s creation. One of my chief concerns for our society and for ourselves is that we have lost the absolutely necessary discipline of keeping the Sabbath. There is a reason that God has said to us from the very beginning, “I have given you six days a week to work. On the seventh day, you are to rest in my love, thereby keeping that one day holy and for God alone.” I, for one, think the loss of Sabbath keeping is the greatest cause of the decline of our churches and indeed of our world today. I therefore encourage you try and re-establish that discipline in the course of your vacations. And remember, the idea of a “working vacation” is nothing but an oxymoron.  

One of the things I enjoy doing while on vacation is to catch up on my reading. Here are several books that I would recommend adding to your list:  

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: This memoir is a sobering account of the many and inhumane injustices perpetuated in our criminal justice system today. Stevenson is the founder of the “Equal Justice Initiative” and someone I would love to have come and lead a retreat for us.    

Grant by Ron Chernow: Another excellent offering by one of our greatest living biographers.  

A Legacy of Spies by John Le Carre: I have always been a big fan of his novels.  

Souls in Transition by Christian Smith with Patricia Snell: If you want to understand what is going on in regards to religion amongst those born after 1990, this is the definitive study.  

Wendell Berry and the Given Life by Ragan Sutterfield: A wonderful account about one of our society’s best essayists, philosophers, and conservationists.  

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor: Another insightful guide for those seeking to truly live a full spiritual life.  

Living the Sabbath by Norman Wirzba: A great resource if you want to discover once again the importance of keeping Sabbath in our daily lives.  

Finally, the summer season calls us to be out of doors here at Trinity, enjoying the greatest cathedral ever known. To that end, please mark your calendars for our cookouts. The first is scheduled for Thursday, June 14th at 6pm. The conversations are always delightful and the food perfection! I will see you out there.   Here’s to a summer of rest, renewal, and healing! As the old saying goes, may this season be a time in which we truly let go and let God.  

Faithfully in Christ,
The Rev. Rob Banse

Pentecost

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound, like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.”   Acts 2:1-2  

Dear Friends,

On Sunday, May 20th, we will celebrate the great feast of Pentecost. This holy day is described as “the birthday of the Church”. The celebration often includes baptism, red balloons and sometimes even a cake.

But, of course, the significance of the day is so much more. The theologian Yves Congar describes it eloquently: “All the evangelists stress the existence of a dynamic continuity between Christ and the Church. This continuity is the fulfillment of what God had promised from the beginning in accordance with his plan of grace.” In other words, Jesus does not abandon his disciples upon ascending to his Father. He sends the Holy Spirit to inspire and empower Christians everywhere and throughout time to fulfill the mission he has entrusted to us. We are not just a social service agency that worships, prays, and engages in pastoral care. We are the Body of Christ at work and God’s spirit lives within us. Apart from that Holy Spirit, we can do very little.

A wonderful illustration of this is our annual Hunt Country Stable Tour to be conducted this year over the weekend of May 26th-27th. Yes, this is an extraordinary event that has as its primary goal the raising of funds to support our outreach ministries. But it is so much more than that. It is a weekend that depends entirely upon the Holy Spirit working in each one of us on the church grounds and at each of the farms and other venues.  We will be exercising the ministry of hospitality and we will need the Spirit to inspire us to do so. Furthermore, the entire congregation is called to participate. We cannot make the Stable Tour as spirit-filled as it can be unless we are all present. I do hope and pray that you will sign up and join in the celebration.

Finally, I am thankful to report that Bishop Ted Gulick will be with us on Sunday, June 17th. He will celebrate Confirmation, another moment filled with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, at the 10:30am service. If you are presently in the 8th grade or above (i.e. adults), and are interested in being confirmed or received into the Episcopal Church, please let me know as soon as possible.

Come, Holy Spirit, our souls inspire. May this month be for us a powerful experience of God at work in our community.  

Faithfully in Christ,
The Rev. Rob Banse

He Is Risen

Dear Friends,

Alleluia! He is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, Easter is “an annual Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, held on the first Sunday after the date of the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21.”

The Catechism of our Book of Common Prayer asks the question, “What is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection?” The answer given is “By his resurrection, Jesus overcame death and opened for us the way of eternal life.”

On the day itself, we pray, “O God, who for our redemption gave your only begotten son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our

Lord, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”

All of this is well and good, theologically and liturgically correct. But, of course, the above does not come even close to expressing the ineffable joy offered to us by God in this holy season. From the kindling of the paschal fire in the predawn hours to the final shouts of “Alleluia”, we are embraced by the realization given through faith that the stone has been rolled away and the tomb stands empty. No longer is death our final destination. Yes, we are mortal. But by Christ, and in Christ, and through Christ, we too will experience death, not as the end, but as a gate that opens into larger life.

In the meantime, we live as an Easter people. Even in the midst of all that is diminished and corrupted in this present age, we live according to God’s great promise revealed in His Son. Even as the world obsesses over all the bad news, we proclaim the Gospel: In the darkness, there is light. In the despair, there is hope. In the anger, discrimination, and hatred, there is love and that love will never fail or be overcome. Why? Jesus Christ lives. Christ lives here in our world. Christ lives within each one of us. Christ is now the way, the truth, and life. And when the moment is right, Christ will come again.

Eternal life burst out of the tomb in the resurrected life of Jesus Christ on that first Easter day. Every day now holds the Gospel’s promise. That is a promise well worth celebrating, my sisters and brothers. I look forward to celebrating this new reality with you in the weeks ahead. Welcome, Easter!

Faithfully in Christ,
The Rev. Rob Banse

Honest Before God

Dear Friends,

I came across a quote this past week that has stayed with me. I wonder how you feel about it: “There are some things worth living for, even if we find ourselves having to die for them as well.”

Let us be honest before God. Suffering and death are not our favorite topics. We do whatever we can to put as much distance between those two realities and us as we possibly can. While we admire those who make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of a worthy cause, most of us prefer not to emulate them.

That is why Holy Week and Easter are so central to really understanding and accepting the Christian faith and life. The events we remember over the course of those seven days are God’s summary statement about a life truly lived and not wasted. Jesus chooses to ride into Jerusalem knowing full well the risk he is taking. He tries to prepare his disciples for what is to come. He reminds them that, if one really wants to be a leader in this world, then one must be a servant of all. He breaks bread with them one last time and that then becomes a banquet that lasts for all time. Instead of avoiding or resisting arrest, he embraces the injustice of his trial and the horror of his execution. Why? Because he has come to demonstrate in human terms what the love of God really is: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” In other words, it is in the giving of ourselves, even of our very lives, for the sake of God’s goodness and the Gospel of Jesus, that true life is to be found.

But that is not the end of the story. On Easter day, we will gather around an empty tomb. Death cannot hold the Son of God. We are again embraced, this time by a mystery that is both sublime and impenetrable. What is the resurrection? How will we experience it? I don’t really know. But in the celebration of Jesus being raised from the dead, we can know that any and all sacrifices we make during the course of our lives are not in vain. We have followed the lead of the risen one and we can know our actions have contributed to the building of God’s kingdom here on earth. Instead of entombing ourselves in a constant fear of sacrifice and death, we have been set free to live our lives fully, faithfully, and well, as we press on with Christ into the joy of his resurrection.

I believe that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the great saints of the Church. It is said that, as the guards were preparing to lead him to the scaffold and to his death, he turned to his fellow prisoners and said, “This is the end. For me the beginning of life.” For the Christian, no truer words about the meaning of Holy Week and Easter have ever been spoken.

I look forward to remembering the events of Holy Week and then celebrating the joy of Easter with each of you.

Faithfully yours in Christ, 
The Rev. Rob Banse 

Midpoint of Epiphany

My Sisters and Brothers, 

We have reached the midpoint of the Epiphany season. The Gospel passages we have heard thus far this season have focused on the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. They have included the moment of his baptism, the calling of the first disciples, and a record of his first teaching in what we have come to call the Sermon on the Mount. Clearly, there is a progression here, a progression we must “inwardly digest” if we are to take our faith seriously, for it is God’s desire that it will be the progression of our lives as well. 

First, baptism is the moment of initiation. It is not a family tradition to be honored for the sake of our grandparents. It is not spiritual life insurance just in case all this talk about God happens to be true. It is instead the beginning of a whole new way of life, just as it was for Jesus. In baptism, we are set free from sin and death for a real purpose: to live as God calls us to live. 

Secondly, from the very beginning, Christianity is a faith built upon community. Before all the doctrine and dogma and theological debate, there was and is relationship. Read the Gospels. The first thing Jesus does is call those earliest disciples. Were they perfect? No. Are we perfect? No. Has the Church ever been perfect? No. But to take our faith seriously is to realize, accept, and believe that, for better or for worse, in good times and in difficult times, we are all in this together. When Jesus summarized the Law, he said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment”. He then added, “And the second is like unto it: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’” Community and faith go hand in hand. Indeed, if I understand Jesus correctly, there cannot truly be one without the other. 

Finally, there is the ethical, moral, and spiritual teaching of Jesus as represented in his sermon on that mountainside. When we hear these words, we’re not supposed to think to ourselves, “Well, that was lovely”, and then set them aside. Jesus means what he says. Blessed are the poor. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Again, these are not pious sentiments. Nor are they goals that we struggle to achieve. When we make our faith in Christ the foundation of our lives, the beatitudes become our very way of being. They come to us naturally. 

I close with an invitation to you in this Epiphany season to ponder anew the meaning of God’s mercy. As you are well aware, there is a lively debate going on, both within the Church and in the world, about what mercy is and to whom it is that we are to show mercy, or in other words, who are our neighbors. I think Matthew 25:31-46 is a particularly important passage at this point in time. If you would like to discuss, please let me know. 

Faithfully in Christ, 
The Rev. Rob Banse 

Gratitude

Dear Friends,

I want to begin this letter by expressing my gratitude. Christmas is always a glorious celebration here at Trinity. There are many who help to make this so, and you know who you are. From Altar and Flower Guild members to lectors, acolytes, choristers, musicians, chalice bearers ushers, and all in between, your dedication is a blessing to all who gathered here for worship. For each of you, I thank God. I especially want to recognize the hard working and talented members of our staff. Jane, Betsy, Christian, Richard, Tommy, and Angela put in a whole lot of hard work and effort in order to make these seasons of Advent and Christmas as wonderful as they are. On behalf of the congregation, I thank you.

At the same time, please join me in thanking Ellen Hall, Nicky Perry, and the members of their committee for conducting a fantastic Christmas Auction. The last I heard, over $60,000.00 has been raised in support of the mission and ministries of our congregation. Well done!

We will soon enter in to the season of Epiphany. On Saturday, January 6th, which is the Feast of the Epiphany, we will celebrate the arrival of the Magi from the east at the manger side. Like those wandering kings, we will spend the coming weeks contemplating the meaning of the birth of this child in terms of the way we understand the meaning and purpose of our own lives. This begins with the humble acknowledgement that we brought nothing with us when we were born into this world and we will take nothing with us when we depart. Ours is a transitory life, and as a result, our time is not about ownership but rather about stewardship. We are called to spend our days honoring and caring for the world that God has created and all that inhabit the same. The litmus test for every generation is, did we leave the world in better shape for the generations to come or did we plunder it for our own short-term self-interests? Like the Magi, we are called to bring our gifts of time, talent, and material resources and offer our service to God in thanksgiving for this newborn king. That service is stewardship. Epiphany is the season that brings us this realization.

In order to truly understand the spirit of life-long stewardship, I recommend that we adopt resolutions for the New Year that will keep us mindful of all of God’s many blessings, thereby fostering a constant spirit of gratitude in our hearts and minds. For example, consider keeping the Daily Offices of Morning, Noontime, and Evening Prayer as found in our Book of Common Prayer. There are simplified versions intended for individuals and families beginning on page 136. I commend them to you.

Faithfully yours in Christ,
The Rev. Rob Banse

The Third Song of Isaiah

Dear Friends,

One of my favorite canticles found in the office of Morning Prayer is the 11th, entitled “The Third Song of Isaiah” (BCP page 87). The verses of this canticle are taken from the 60th chapter of the prophet Isaiah. These are words worth committing to memory:

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you. For behold, darkness covers the land; deep gloom enshrouds the peoples. But over you the Lord will rise, and his glory will appear upon you. Nations will stream to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawning.”

Advent and Christmas are about the fulfillment of that prophecy. The world is a confused, angry, and anxious place at the moment. We seem to be looking for answers in all the familiar places but no answers are to be readily found. We’re stuck and we don’t know where our help to get unstuck might come from. Could it be that we are looking for the truth about who we are, and what life is really about, in the wrong places? Perhaps the coming five weeks are not first and foremost about brightly wrapped presents and maxed out credit cards, fragrant evergreens standing prominently in our living rooms, or about tinsel strewn and the popping of champagne corks:

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you; you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’

Really? In the midst of all the present storms, the calm is to be found in a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger? Is he the savior that we are looking for? According to these heavenly messengers, the answer is an unqualified “YES”! I came across a quote comparing and contrasting the seasons of Advent and Lent: “Lent is a penitential season cast in the key of expectation, while Advent is a season of expectation cast in the key of penitence.” I think that’s right. As you and I prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and as we remember his promise that he will indeed come again to acknowledge the fact that, too often, we are looking in the wrong places with our heads cast downwards. Instead, we need to be looking up and forward as this holy child leads us into the presence of the living God. Forget about the next “rising star” that the world around us is momentarily excited about. Look instead to the star rising over Bethlehem and the one whose arrival its light announces.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come.” I look forward to waiting expectantly with you as we prepare once again for the celebration of Christ’s birth.

Faithfully in Christ,
The Rev. Robert L. Banse, Jr.

 

Looking Forward to November

Dear Friends, 

There is much to look forward to in the month of November according to the church calendar. 

On the first Sunday of the month, November 5th, we will celebrate the feast of All Saints. This is one of the seven principal feasts each year. (The other six are Christmas Day, The Epiphany, Easter Day, Ascension Day, The Day of Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday.) One of my favorite moments in our Eucharistic Prayer is this: “Therefore, we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your name.” This is a powerful declaration of our hope in the resurrection, that even though they have died, through Christ all those saints live and continue to join with us in sacred worship. It is our custom to remember those who have been buried from Trinity by name over the past year and by the lighting of candles. We will also light a candle celebrating the lives of all those whom we have loved in this lifetime who now stand in the presence of the living God. 

Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on November 23rd this year. It is one of those special days each year when we make that great effort to gather with family and friends in order to truly remember the greatest gift that we share with one another, the gift of life. I want to gently remind you that the real import of this holiday is to give thanks to the source and creator of all life, who is, God. In order to do this here in our community, we will gather together with our neighbors at the Upperville Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, November 22nd at 7:30pm. It is always a wonderful occasion and a moment during which we “count our blessings” for God’s love so freely and infinitely shared with all. 

The last Sunday of the month, November 26th, is known as “Christ the King” Sunday. It is the final Sunday of the church year, preceding the first Sunday in Advent. The focus is very much upon Jesus’ promise that we have not seen the last of him, that he has “ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” I take great comfort in knowing that, in this day and age when our mortal leadership seems to be struggling so, God’s kingdom is even now present and God’s Son already reigns. 

There is much to celebrate and I look forward to being with you on these great occasions. God’s peace. I will see you in church. 

Faithfully in Christ, 
The Rev. Robert L. Banse, Jr.