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.

St. Francis in October

Dear Friends, 

We celebrate the life of St. Francis on October 4th. His was a story of “from riches to rags”, not a career path much appreciated in our present day and age. Instead of following his father into the lucrative textile business, Francis’ encounters with the poor and the marginalized of his society led him to embrace “Lady Poverty”. He gave up all personal ambition and instead devoted his life entirely to living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He also wanted to rid himself of all distractions when it came to his relationship with God, so he literally gave all his material possessions away. 

One of the aspects of his life that inspires us was his appreciation for the glory of God revealed in creation. Legend has it that he had the ability to speak to animals and was known to apologize to an ant when he realized that he was about to step on it. Many people keep a statue of Francis in their gardens as a reminder of his love of nature and it is for this reason we choose to hold our annual Blessing of the Animals on a Sunday closest to the 4th. 

Many of us also resonate with the prayer attributed to Francis: “Lord, make us instruments of your peace” (Book of Common Prayer, page 833). I think that one of the deepest desires in our lives is for peace. We seek this peace in all manner of ways. Yet, the horror of Monday’s violence aimed at innocent people in Las Vegas, people gathered together seeking peace in their love of music, reminds us how elusive peace can be. That is why the prayer continues. In order to end hatred, that great obstacle to peace, those who long for peace must sow love. Those who understand that conflict destroys peace must proactively work for forgiveness and union. Those living in hopelessness and despair need faith and light in their lives. We must seek to restore these essential elements if a peaceful existence is to be theirs. Finally, and with the greatest humility, we must embrace the fact that, if we are to be instruments of God’s peace, we must honor and cherish others before we honor ourselves, even if we give our lives for the sake of others in the process. 

The Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts reminds us that, “Of all the saints, Francis is the most popular and admired, but the least imitated.” There is a good reason for that. Bringing peace into the world does require the utmost humility, and again, that kind of humility is not greatly encouraged in our world today. As we here at Trinity continue to pray about how we might best act as “instruments of God’s peace” in our world, we would do well to embrace the example of Francis. The world needs more of his gentle spirit, now more than ever. 

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

Goodbye from Rachel

 

Dear People of Trinity Church, 

It has been such a blessing to be with you for the time that I’ve had here at Trinity. It is always difficult to leave something behind, especially when good relationships have been built. I am grateful for you as a church, for loving, supporting, and encouraging me in the faith. 

Many of you have asked where I will be going. I am going to serve as the assistant rector at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill in Alexandria, Virginia. It is a parish that sprung from the seminary, and I served there for two years as a seminarian. If you are ever in the Alexandria area, I would love to see you. 

I will miss Trinity Church immensely, especially the community. I have said before that the church is neither a building nor an individual, but a community of those committed to following Jesus together. The Holy Spirit is certainly at work within this community, and I look forward to hearing of the many ways you all continue to learn and grow together in love of God and of neighbor. God has great things in store. In all things, never lose sight of the hope that is found in Jesus. I ask that you hold me in your prayers during this transition, and I will keep you in mine. 

In Christ, 
Rachel Rickenbaker

Rector's Pen

Dear Friends, 

I received a copy of an email several weeks ago. It was from a member of our congregation expressing her appreciation for the people, buildings, and grounds that comprise Trinity Church. She was particularly glad that her teenage children found peace, strength, love, and comfort in the midst of life’s anxieties whenever they were on the campus. 

I have been thinking a lot about that note as we prepare to enter into another program year here. While I know that the cares of the world are always with us, we are presently living in a moment of great anxiety. It seems to me that this anxiety is rooted in fear of our neighbors both near and far, a fear expressed in suspicion, doubt, anger, hatred, false pride, and poisonous partisanship. 

I therefore have a simple recommendation to make. In the coming year, let’s make Trinity an anxiety-free zone with God’s help. You may remember that in a sermon some months ago I shared that, as disciples of Jesus, we are called always to hope and never to fear. That hope is grounded in God’s perfect love, not just for some of us, but for each and every one of us. Furthermore, that love gives us the courage to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world while we incorporate this Good News in our community. Finally, in allowing Christ’s love to cast out all fear within us, we are set free to really enjoy life as God intends and have fun while we’re at it! 

Yes, I know that we are human. I know that our natural inclination to self-absorption means that you and I will never be able to love perfectly. Nonetheless my friends, that is no excuse not to try to love one another as Christ loves us each and every day, not some of the time, but all of the time. To borrow from the lyrics of Hal David, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” That is no mere sentiment. That is sublime and profound theology. That is the foundation on which our community, buildings, and grounds are built. It is the reason for the incarnation and the resurrection. It is our reason for being as well. 

See you on Sunday. 
The Rev. Robert L. Banse, Jr. 

Assistant Rector's Pen

Dear People of Trinity Church,

The weather is warming up, and the days are getting longer. While things slow down a bit for the summer here at Trinity, the Church is still active!

The Church is made up of people who take upon themselves a life of discipleship, of following Christ. Even amidst vacations and periods of rest (which we all need!), Christians are meant to exemplify their faith with their lives. It is in fact our very identity!

This summer provides some great opportunities for living into our Christian faith. One is that the relaxed pace of the summer provides opportunities to invite a friend or neighbor to church. Plan a Sunday morning around the worship service, followed by coffee hour, a walk around the grounds, and lunch with a friend. If you have not attended the more contemplative Wednesday noontime Eucharist, come check it out, and join the group for lunch afterward.

Another great opportunity is our summer picnics. We had our first one in June, and our second is on July 26. Bring a friend or neighbor to enjoy an evening of great food, wonderful conversation, and a beautiful setting, followed with a brief Evening Prayer service. It is a casual and relaxed event that provides a great opportunity for fellowship. Even if you don’t bring a friend, come and get to know your fellow parishioners!

I extend the challenge from one of my recent sermons to all of you. Make it a goal to say hello to someone you don’t recognize every Sunday. We have so many people who come to the church and slip out unnoticed, and perhaps some people wish to go unnoticed; however, we will never know if there are those who slip by because no one took the time to speak to them. Even if you are travelling this summer, God provides countless opportunities to share His love with those you meet along the way. Live into those opportunities, and if you wish, share them with me. I love to hear about the ways the Church is living into the work of God in the world.

Finally, you will notice in this issue of the Genesis there are brief biographies of those running for Vestry in the fall. Please read and pray over these candidates this summer, as we look towards electing a new Vestry class made up of those passionate about the life and ministry of Trinity Church. Keep your Vestry members in prayer in their envisioning and decision-making, and ALWAYS feel free to talk with them about ideas and passions that are stirred within your hearts and minds. They are your representative body here at Trinity and are eager to hear your thoughts and ideas around the life of this church.

I hope your summer is restful and enjoyable, and remember that even in the summer, we all continue to be the Church!

God’s peace,
The Rev. Rachel Rickenbaker

The Assistant Rector's Pen

Dear People of Trinity Church,

Summer is nearly here! I remember writing my first Genesis newsletter last summer, and I am now coming up on my one-year anniversary at Trinity. How time flies when you’re having fun in the presence of Christian community!

As most of you know, Father Rob will be on Sabbatical this summer, a time for him of both recharging and continued study and learning. This will be an opportunity for me to step into a different leadership role for a time, though certainly not without the help of other clergy (thank you to Jim in advance!), wonderful staff, and all of you. Yes, while this summer may certainly show things slowing down a bit, the Church will be open and active!

In just a few weeks time, Trinity will welcome 30+ kids onto our church campus for a week of fun, upbeat, and creative activities. From June 12th-16th (9am-12pm each day), volunteers of all ages will help put on Vacation Bible School, an opportunity for kids to experience the love of Christ through words and actions, games, interactive Bible storytelling, crafts, snacks, and music! If you have not yet had a chance to volunteer and can make some time that week, please let me know. We can use many hands and hearts on board, and thank you to those who have already volunteered! The volunteers have been planning and working months in advance. That week, you will see the church transformed into the Maker Fun Factory, a creative workshop where God creates each of us for a purpose and inspires us to be creative. If you are free anytime during the week, please stop by and see the incredible work that God is doing at Trinity during VBS.

I am looking forward to these coming months, and I hope you will not hesitate to reach out to me with questions, concerns, and prayers. Please keep Father Rob in prayer during his Sabbatical, and please keep me in prayer, as well. We always benefit from your prayers. (As a side note, my husband James’ rector will also be on Sabbatical this summer, so it will be a busy summer in the Rickenbaker household). I am anticipating the ways that God will work through each of us at Trinity in these next few months and beyond. How might you be open to the possibilities God has in store?

In Christ,
Rev. Rachel Rickenbaker

From the Assistant Rector

Dear People of Trinity Church,

Alleluia! He is Risen! Let us keep spreading the good news during these 50 days and after!

This month, on May 7, we look forward to Bishop Ted’s visit, at both the 8:00 and 10:30 AM services. We will have Confirmations taking place at the 10:30 AM service that morning and ask you to be there to support your fellow members in the Body of Christ, as they make their public affirmations of faith.

For the past three months, Father Banse and I have been rotating teaching our Confirmation class. “What is Confirmation?” some may ask. Confirmation, according to our prayer book, is “the rite in which we express a mature commitment to Christ, and receive strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by a bishop” (p. 860). In other words, because we practice infant baptism in the Episcopal Church, it is expected that when one reaches an age of maturity, he or she should make their own public commitment of faith in the presence of the bishop. When the bishop lays hands on the Confirmand, we believe that the Holy Spirit gives guidance and strength to the individual to continue forth as a disciple of Jesus and a minister in the church (indeed as baptized Christians, we are all ministers).

During the preparation and class time these past months, we spent time focusing on our Christian narrative, reflected in both the Old and New Testaments. We explored Jesus’ earthly ministry and Paul’s letters. On a morning-long retreat during Lent, we began exploring discipleship by discussing what it means to follow Jesus, experiencing a sensory Stations of the Cross, watching portions of the movie Jesus of Nazareth, and beginning a conversation on spiritual gifts. The Confirmands each took a spiritual gifts inventory and explored ways they can put their gifts to practice as members of the Body of Christ.

Each experience I have had with a Confirmation class, this one certainly included, has helped me to further understand where we are as a Church and how we teach the faith to our young people. Father Banse and I will pray about ways to continue improving the process of equipping disciples of Jesus through Confirmation preparation, and I hope that is a discussion that we take on as a congregation.

You are never too old to be baptized or confirmed. If you are interested in the process for either Baptism or Confirmation, please talk with either Father Banse or me.

Let us welcome Bishop Ted on May 7, and be present to support our Confirmands. Most importantly, during this Easter season, we are called to worship our Risen Lord, who seeks us constantly and daily. May we choose to seek and grow in relationship with Him, always and everywhere.

In Christ,
Rev. Rachel Rickenbaker

10th Anniversary

Dear Friends,

I am rapidly approaching my tenth anniversary as Rector of Trinity Church. Time does indeed fly when you are having fun! My letter of Agreement with the congregation calls for a three month sabbatical every five years. Thus, this is the summer to exercise that part of our agreement.

While sabbatical time includes opportunity for rest and renewal, it is not an extended vacation. Sabbaticals, as I understand them, are primarily about study, discernment, and developing expertise in areas that will be of benefit to the community once the person returns to the usual full-time role and responsibilities. It is just as much about “sharpening the axe” as it is about “recharging the battery”. That is my plan.

I have shared with you my belief that congregations today need to see themselves as communities rather than institutions. The life of that community is focused on the process of bringing people into closer relationship with Jesus Christ rather than churning out programs intended to satisfy the needs of the communities that that congregation is called to serve. This process will be the focus of my sabbatical.

In the first month, I plan on reading deeply and praying carefully about the true nature and process of discipleship. In particular, I want to re-examine what we in seminary somewhat irreverently referred to as “Hatch, Match, and Dispatch”. How do we go about in the present age of genuinely preparing people for Baptism and Confirmation, Marriage, and the great transition that the Burial Office represents? These moments are not “products” that we come to purchase from the church. They are milestones to be celebrated on our journey toward God. How do we renew that understanding here at Trinity?

“Telling the Story” will be the topic of the second month. We can no longer assume that most people know even the most important stories of the Bible. And yet, these stories comprise the foundation on which the Christian faith and life is built! What can we do to ensure that every member of our congregation, from youngest to most senior, has the opportunity to read, study, discuss, and thus learn from these Holy Scriptures in order to build our lives accordingly?

Finally, in the third month, I want to explore a topic that I believe is of critical importance presently: the stewardship of God’s creation. The planet that God has entrusted to our care is now threatened in any number of ways and the wellbeing of future generations is at great risk. What can do, here at Trinity, to become more faithful caretakers of this world that, for the moment, is our responsibility?

The sabbatical will also include some travel and time with family and friends. Please keep me in your daily prayers and know that I will be praying for each of you while away. In the meantime, Rachel, Jim Hammond, and our excellent staff will take great care of our congregation’s daily life! I rejoice in knowing that you are in great hands.

Faithfully in Christ,
The Rev. Rob Banse

From the Assistant Rector

This Lenten season has provided some great time for prayer and reflection for me, and I hope has been fruitful and refreshing in many ways for you, too.

Priorities. This word has been on my mind recently.

There are certain times of the year when people generally seem busier than others, and I believe Lent, like Advent, is often one of those seasons. Perhaps it is because Spring Break takes place during this season for many , and often that break includes some sort of vacation or travel time. For others, it’s the start of sports and games for the spring season. If we’re not involved in any of those, we manage to get caught up in the nice weather and somehow always find plenty to keep us busy!

As I talked with a good friend on the phone the other day, she said that it seemed like my schedule was busier than normal this Lenten season. I realized that I had listed off all the things on my plate to her, as if none of them were things I had decided to add to the plate. I made it seem like they were things that were happening to me, not things that I had chosen to prioritize.

For us as human beings, we always find plenty of things to do, though we don’t always want to take credit for accumulating our To-Do list. Certainly, there are times when we cannot help certain circumstances in our lives, and we must rely on God and our loved ones to support us and help us through those times. But for other times, when life is going on as usual, we (myself included!) often make excuses for why we don’t have time to do certain things. As Christians, the most important thing on our daily list is to spend time on our relationship with God; yet, how hard it is for us to make the time!

Priorities. Being a Christian is about prioritizing our relationship with God, placing worship of God and living out the Gospel above all else. Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness,” telling us to put our relationship with God first and foremost.

When Christians live this way, with God at the front and center of our lives, people will take notice. In our families, kids will observe how faith is being modeled and prayerfully will follow suit. One of the best ways to share the good news of Jesus with others is by modeling, which includes prioritizing. This may mean making small schedule adjustments, and it may mean making life changes (sometimes both!). These are often not comfortable or easy decisions.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ words are clear, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” When we put God first, He will work through and in us in incredible ways we cannot begin to imagine!

As we continue on this Lenten journey, soon entering into Holy Week and into the season of Easter, I ask you to reflect on and pray about your priorities. This season is one of the best to rethink the ways our lives are headed and to redirect our focus and priority on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who did indeed make His way to the cross on our behalf, out of His great love for us all.

In Christ,

Rev Rachel Rickenbaker

Alleluia! He is risen!

Dear Friends,

Alleluia! He is risen!

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 first blast of the Easter brass and initial shouts of “Alleluia!”, we are embraced by the realization, given through faith, that the door has been opened, the stone has been rolled away. No longer is death our final destiny. Yes, we are mortal. But by Christ, and in Christ, and through Christ, we too will experience death, not as the end, but as the gate that opens into larger life.

In the meantime, we live as an Easter people. Even in the midst of all that is warped and wrong in this present age, we live according to God’s promises revealed on that first Easter Day. 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. Why? Christ lives. Christ lives here in our world. Christ lives within each one of us. His kingdom has already come.

Eternal life bursts out of the tomb in the resurrected life of Jesus Christ on Easter day. Every day now holds the Gospel’s resurrection promise while we await eternal life. That, my friends, is a hope and a promise well worth celebrating.

Welcome, Easter!

Faithfully in Christ,

Rev Rob Banse

 

 

From the Assistant Rector

Dear People of Trinity Church,

Grace and peace to you at the start of this Lenten season. This is one of my favorite seasons of the church year because it’s a time set apart specifically for penitence and reflection, and the readings, the music, and the liturgy help with that penitence. I have always found, ever since I was a little girl, that living into this season, specifically through spiritual disciplines, draws me closer to God and to my fellow members of the Body of Christ, the Church. Being reminded of my mortality helps me, in turn, feel more connected to God and all of God’s creation.

This Lenten season, there is an opportunity for you, on Sunday mornings at 9:30am, to learn more about spiritual disciplines, those actions that Jesus practiced in his own earthly life. I’ve titled the Adult study, “Becoming Like Jesus: Practicing the Christian Disciplines,” because my hope is that in learning more about those things Jesus practiced, including fasting, prayer, and solitude, we can in turn practice and be enriched by them in our own lives. I have come to believe that going to church on Sundays and feeling “good to go” for the week is not enough for this life of following Jesus. Our own practices of faith, whether in the solitude of our homes or amongst a community of believers, must be deepened, as well.

We heard in the Gospel of Matthew a few Sundays back that we are to “Be perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect.” Spiritual disciplines will not make us perfect Christians. Indeed, I believe none of us will be perfect in this lifetime. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23); however, we can and should seek to grow into a deeper understanding of and a closer relationship with our Lord. The hope is that the closer we are to God, the more we will be drawn into His love for us and for all creation. The more we are enveloped in His love, the more we will live it out in our very lives.

As Quaker theologian and author David Elton Trueblood wrote, “The great problems of our time are not technological, for these we handle fairly well. They are not even political or economic because the difficulties in these areas, glaring as they may be, are largely derivative. The greatest problems are moral and spiritual, and unless we can make some progress in these realms, we may not even survive.”

Come join us, during this Lenten season, to learn, to study, to practice, and to grow into the Christian disciplines. I pray that this season for you is one of meaningful worship and strengthening discipline, as we all seek to grow more fully into our relationship with God and with one another.

In Christ,

The Rev. Rachel Rickenbaker

 

Holy Season of Lent

Dear Friends,

We will gather here at Trinity on March 1st to offer the Ash Wednesday liturgy and thus enter into the holy season of Lent. Whereas Christmas and Epiphany are about outwardly and joyfully celebrating the infinite love of God born in Bethlehem and made manifest through the course of Jesus’ earthly life, Lent is about introspection. It is about looking deep within. It is about acknowledging that, even as we celebrate the light of Christ always with us, there continues to be a blindness within ourselves that prevents that light from fully entering in. Lent is the season that best represents what St. John of the Cross described as “the dark night of the soul”. Even as we seek to follow Jesus, there is still so much that gets in the way. And as long as those obstacles are there, we will never fully know the depth and breadth of God’s love for us.

This is why the observance of Lent includes both penance and sacrifice. These are not acts of self-punishment. Rather, we give things up in order to experience the reality that so much we think is important really is not. In fact, the things that we have come to desire and covet actually blind us to the simple beauty of living our lives trusting entirely in the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Lent is a season in which we are called to pray more and study more in order to be filled with the real riches that God seeks to share with us in this lifetime. Frankly, the spiritual poverty we know all too well is not God’s fault. The hunger we experience exists because we are too busy stuffing ourselves with all the world tells us is important. The junk food that our world offers will never be an adequate substitute for the bread of life.

Joan Chittister writes “Ash Wednesday is a continuing cry across the centuries that life is transient, that change is urgent. We don’t have time to waste on nothingness. We need to repent of our dillydallying on the road to God. We need to regret the time we’ve spent playing with dangerous distractions and emptying diversions along the way. We need to repent of our senseless excursions into sin, our breaches of justice, our failures of honesty, our estrangement from God. We need to get back in touch with our souls.”

To that end, there will be additional opportunities for study and prayer here at Trinity over the course of the season. Please read carefully the rest of this Genesis in order to learn about them. I will be leading a discussion on Wednesday evenings throughout Lent focusing on “The 5 Marks of Love”. In baptism, each of us has been sealed by the Holy Spirit and “marked as Christ’s own forever.” How do you and I live accordingly? How do we go about incarnating the love of Jesus for the rest of the world to see?  We will begin with a simple supper at 6:30pm. The conversation will last an hour. We will conclude with the prayers we know as Compline. I look forward to our conversation.

I pray that this Lent will be a life-changing season for all of us.

 

From the Assistant Rector

I’ve noticed as of late many new faces in church on Sundays and even on Wednesdays at the Noon Eucharist. That is a great thing! In any church, it is important to look after one another and care for our own; yet, it is also equally important to be reaching out to new people. 

Evangelism. That word perhaps has a negative sound when it hits our ears, especially if we picture the Bible-waving, criticizing, loud person on the street corner. That is certainly not what I mean by evangelism. What I mean by evangelism is the willingness and openness to listen to other stories and to tell others about Jesus. It is about sharing the good news of how Jesus has impacted your life and how the Church family has played a role in your life, so that others may come to the knowledge and love of Christ (Ephesians 3:19). 

I feel a renewed sense of energy towards evangelism because of last month’s
Annual Convention for both clergy and lay people in the Diocese of Virginia.
Our responsibility at that convention is to yearly discuss, ask questions,
make decisions, and report back to you, on behalf of the wider church,
representing each of the parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.
Furthermore, the convention offers opportunities to listen, learn, and grow in small groups and workshops. The theme around convention was “walk in love”, as you hear Rob or me say every Sunday before the Offertory: “Walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God” (found in Ephesians 5:2 and in our Prayer Book!). As you can imagine, part of that theme of walking in love gave way to many discussions on evangelism. 

So, why is evangelism pertinent to each of us as members of the Body of Christ? For me, the answer is threefold. First, Jesus calls us as His followers to proclaim the Gospel in word and action. As the Rt. Reverend Robert Wright, Bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta, says, “Jesus never said, ‘Wait and welcome.’ He said, ‘Go and make!’” As the Church, we can’t sit and wait for people to come to us. We must go to them. Secondly, evangelism helps us practice articulating our faith. We don’t always have the opportunity to talk about our faith, stating out loud what we believe, what things we may struggle with, and how we move forward as Christians. Evangelism gives us the space to share our stories of faith. Finally, because Jesus has touched our lives, we have the responsibility and indeed, the joy, to share that good news with others. This is not about bragging or making others uncomfortable. We have experienced Christ, in Holy Scripture, in the Communion bread and wine, in our neighbors, and perhaps in other ways; why should we keep that experience to ourselves? Evangelism is the way for us to share the good news of Jesus Christ with everybody we meet. 

My challenge to each of you in this month ahead is to approach someone, whether a new face in the congregation or a next-door neighbor who doesn’t go to church. Introduce yourself if you haven’t met, listen to them, talk with them, share your story, and ask them their story. And, perhaps if it reaches that moment, invite them to church with you, to a worship service, a Bible study, or to Sunday School. I find this is where kids often do a better job than we as adults; they are often less afraid of asking a friend to come with them to church. I believe that when you practice talking about your faith with others, as well as living it out in the world, you will discover the living God in new and profound ways. And maybe, just maybe, you will help someone else experience Him, too. 

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,

Rev. Rob Banse