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Wreath with "Presence before presents: a Christmas Revival"

I slipped into the pew with my wife and two sons.  Looking around the church, a dreadful thought crossed my mind:  in less than a decade this service will no longer exist. Why? Perhaps 20 people had gathered and few were younger than retirement age. In a matter of years it will only make sense to forego the whole thing. For the rector who has one less service to organize, that might be a relief. The priest who led the service remarked about the incredible numbers of people who had attended services the night before.  But I was filled with sadness.  Let me tell you why.

It was exactly 20 years ago that I experienced something as a believer and as a young father that changed the way I view and experience Christmas.  It was our first Christmas in England and in the Anglican Church. Growing up in a different denomination and in America, I’d never experienced going to church on Christmas morning. We always attended Christmas Eve services. Once I became a believer, they were particularly powerful experiences. The only time after I was married that we attended church on Christmas day was the rarity of it falling on a Sunday. And to be honest, we only did so because I worked for the church and it was expected of me.

advent retreat 16

Advent Spiritual Retreat
December 4 - 6, 2016

Join with Bishop Mark Lawrence for a three-day retreat of expectant hope December 4-6, 2016,  at St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center for an Advent Spiritual Retreat.  Bishop Lawrence will lead three meditations and there will be soaking prayer and personal ministry time for each participant.  The event will conclude with a Holy Eucharist Healing Service, Tuesday at 12:30 pm.  Participants are welcome to join the cycle of Daily Prayer or be a part of our Tuesday Healing Service at The Prayer Center.

advent marion following Hurricane MatthewLast week I was in Cairo, Egypt for the Global South Conference—but I hasten to add my heart and mind was in prayer for those in the path of Hurricane Matthew—especially those of us in South Carolina and the diocese. What little internet connection I could find and whatever spare time I had was spent in following the Hurricane forecasts and in spotty contact with those who were here. I admit there were more than a few anxious moments for me last week as well as a cancelled flight previously scheduled for Charleston on the Saturday Hurricane Matthew chose to arrive.

Now on this Thursday after the storm it is a lovely fall day here; 76 degrees with a light breeze; one could hardly ask for more pleasant weather—yet I know that in other parts of the diocese parishioners are anxiously watching the reports on cresting rivers; waiting for power to be restored to their homes; for insurance adjusters to get back to them; for roads to be cleared from falling trees; for swollen river-closed bridges to be opened so they can return to their homes and discover what Hurricane Matthew and the accompanying waters have dealt them.  Allison and I had only a house to put back together and we suffered not even the loss of frozen foods.  Others elsewhere were not so fortune—and then there is the unspeakable pain of those in Haiti and southeastern North Carolina. It calls to mind the poignant words of W. H. Auden:

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters:  how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just
                  walking dully along;   (Musee’ De Beaux Arts)

The poet’s thrust, among other points, is the irony of how one person’s suffering often occurs while another is having a quite pleasant or just normal day.  

The Rev. Dr. Greg SnyderThe Rev. Dr. Greg Snyder, Rector of St. John’s Parish Church, Johns Island, South Carolina, was recently selected as one of six recipients of the Inaugural Stott Award for Pastoral Engagement. This Award, presented by the Carl F.H. Henry Center, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, in Chicago, Illinois, was highly competitive with many highly competent pastors and strategically positioned congregations from all over the U.S. considered. This is the first of a three year program, entitled The Creation Project, funded by the Templeton Foundation for Science and Religion. 

The final chapter of John Stott’s classic text, Between Two Worlds, is devoted to two personal characteristics which he judged to be essential to the task of Christian preaching: courage and humility.

It is through the balance of these two traits that Christian preachers can faithfully execute their stewardship as ministers of the Gospel. He writes, “The Christian preacher is to be neither a speculator who invents new doctrines which please him, nor an editor who excises old doctrines which displease him, but a steward, God’s steward, dispensing faithfully to God’s household the truths committed to him in the Scriptures, nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.” (p. 323–4)

Bishop Mark Lawrence, photo by Sue CarelessCummins Theological Seminary, Summerville, SC, is pleased to announce the election of the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, 14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, to the Board of Trustees of the Seminary.  Bishop Lawrence was unanimously elected by the 44th Annual Synod of the Reformed Episcopal Diocese of the Southeast, meeting in Charleston, SC, on Friday, September 16, 2016.

This is an historic moment in the reconciliation of these two dioceses.  The Reformed Episcopal Diocese began in 1874 when former slaves, after the Civil War and Reconstruction, were not allowed to worship in the parishes of the Diocese of South Carolina.  They sought refuge in the newly founded (1873) Reformed Episcopal Church (REC).  These former slaves wrote to the Rt. Rev. George D. Cummins, founding bishop of the REC, and the General Council, asking for a church home in the REC.

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