On Sunday, April 23. 2017. St. Mary’s was delighted to welcome Ibrahim Faltas, Executive Director for the Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre for Disabled Children to speak at its Adult Forum. The Centre is a charitable, non-governmental, non-profit institution entrusted under the Anglican Episcopal church and founded by the Princess Basma bint Talal of Jordan, known for her long-time dedication to promoting human development, gender equity and children’s charities.
Click here to download a slide handouts from the presentation.
La Iglesia Episcopal de Santa Maria Palm Sunday Reflection
Nine parishioners from St. Mary’s Arlington worshipped with our neighbors and brothers and sisters in Christ at Santa Maria Episcopal Church in Falls Church. It is a mission church; the service is in Spanish, and the congregation is predominately from the large Bolivian diaspora in the Northern Virginia area. It was a delightful experience for all of us at many different levels, from witnessing a very different worship tradition from St. Mary’s to the fellowship afterward and meeting leaders of the church. We already plan to meet for a dinner on April 26 and have parishioners from Santa Maria join us for Sunday worship.
Here is my reflection on the experience. I did not look like I belonged compared to the hundreds gathered that day. I dressed differently and my skin is paler. The people of Santa Maria graciously and genuinely welcomed me as a visitor. The entire service is in Spanish and I don’t know Spanish. It followed the Book of Common Prayer so I knew the order of the service, the prayers being said, the celebration of the Eucharist, and when to pass the Peace.
The cultural identity of the congregation is expressed in the music, prayer, and other traditions that bind the people and the faith together. An acoustic guitarist and conga drummer lead the singing. The songs are more like ballads and folk songs than hymns. It accomplishes the same – to praise God and give Him glory. During the Lord’s Prayer, which is mixed with a song of thanksgiving to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence (maybe they borrowed the tune), everyone stands, holds their neighbor‘s hand or touches a shoulder so everyone is physically connected, as the one Body of Christ, and sings together. At the end before the final blessing, Fr Roberto calls for anyone celebrating a birthday to come forward and receive a special blessing.
It is a large, growing and vibrant church. As I have discovered, the two St Mary’s have a history together but on a smaller and more formal arrangement. As far as I know, this is the first time this many from St Mary’s have actually visited and worshiped at Santa Maria. How appropriate on Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week, when we prepare for the Resurrection and enter into new covenant with God.
Something good is happening. We don’t know what exactly. That is the mystery. The Holy Spirit is leading us and so far we are going where we are led. First He lead us to worship together. Second He is leading us to join together in a fellowship dinner on Wednesday,April 26, and third to discuss together how to strengthen the relationship between us and the greater community within which both exist through continued worshipping together and discussions.
“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas just like the ones I used to know.” So the song goes.
Too often at this time of year, we engage in a kind of nostalgia for the way things used to be or should be. And so we set impossible expectations and grow anxious and stressed in reaching for perfection. We are often disappointed with results: the decorations are not perfect, the meal disappointing. If we focus on what is missing or wrong, we are sure to be disappointed.
As Fr. Malone described in today’s sermon on the scripture readings, Joseph has to make a decision about how to handle a painful, complex situation. According to the law and the culture, he has the choice of denouncing Mary either publically or privately. He sees only the two alternatives. Then the angel appears to him and tells him to “fear not to take Mary thy wife.” And Joseph is responsive to the angel’s message.
In his book Crazy Christians, Michael Curry writes: “If we live only in the context of the way things are, we are condemned to live according to the vagaries of the present time and the dictates of the status quo. But if we live in the context of that which is greater than ourselves, we become open to the possibility of action and transformation.”
This season is a time to reflect upon and give great thanks for what we have been given through Christ’s birth. It is a time to let go of our unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others and to grasp the possibilities that can be. I pray for us to rejoice in our many blessings and possibilities, not just at Christmas but throughout our lives.
How might you begin to explore new possibilities in your life?