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Vestry Update to the Parish, June 28, 2017

June 28, 2017

Dear St. Mary’s Parishioner(s):

Many of us undoubtedly welcome the different rhythm that summer brings to our lives, with the promise of long days, vacations, and, hopefully, a slower pace. The rhythm changes at St. Mary’s as well, as we switch to the summer service schedule and give our Sunday school teachers a well-deserved break. Likewise, our regular coffee angels take a respite, and lemonade is offered during fellowship time after the 10:00 a.m. service. The choir is less formal with an open invitation to anyone who would like to join on a given Sunday.

While the rhythm has changed, a good deal of ministry is still going on. This summer, in particular, we have quite a bit happening.

  • As the Rev. Amy Slater settles in (after jumping in with both feet!), we are excited to add a third clergy member. The Rev. Chris Cole has accepted the call to serve at St. Mary’s, with an expected start date of early to mid-August.
  • Our summer book sale July 8 and 9—run by the Hale and Hahn families with help from youth—is a fundraiser for Arlington Pediatric Center and a draw for the larger community.
  • Our summer Ice Cream Social will be on July 20. This year, the Committee on Youth and our Neighbor Relations Workgroup have invited Old Dominion neighbors to join us.
  • We are organizing a St. Mary’s Day at the Ball Park on Saturday, August 12, to see the Giants versus the Nationals. Tickets are $20 per individual. Sign up in Paca Hall; email with questions.
  • And on St. Mary’s Day, August 13, we hope to have a joint service with Iglesia Santa Maria, a mostly Bolivian parish in Falls Church that St. Mary’s helped to support years ago. More recently we have been exploring avenues of deeper relationship based on worship and social justice interests.

Your Vestry also is working to forward the vision of the Beacon Committee, in particular around sustainability.

As you know, the Beacon Committee recommendations have shaped much of the recent work of the Vestry. Previous Senior Warden Jane Jacobsen wrote a letter at the end of December 2016 updating you on the parish’s response to those recommendations. Many of those efforts around staffing, financial health, stewardship, and our physical plant continue apace.

I wanted to update you on a particular decision of the Vestry, which came out of many months of discussion and discernment. The sense of the Vestry is that St. Mary’s will need a rectory at some point in the not-so-distant future. This is common practice for many Episcopal parishes: they own a rectory that is made available to a rector upon hiring. It seems particularly important in this part of the country. We simply would not be able to attract qualified candidates (when the time comes) without offering housing, given how steep home prices and the cost of living are here. With rates creeping up and housing prices steadily increasing, we don’t believe waiting too long makes sense.

To that end, the Vestry approved the formation of a small committee, headed by recently retired Junior Warden Dave Fletcher (working closely with Jane Shafran), to look for housing and to act if an opportunity presents itself.

The Vestry has empowered the committee to work from a set of parameters of what a rectory should have (proximity to the church, the number of bedrooms, open layout etc.), but otherwise has given the committee flexibility to be nimble and responsive. For example, the committee could look at a ready-to-move-into house, or perhaps one that needed renovations or an eventual addition. The house could be rented out in the meantime to keep a flow of revenue.

Earlier this year, the Vestry directed the Finance Committee to make liquid the funds from the sale of the house to our former priest associate, Anne Turner, so that we would have those funds ($850,000) available to put toward a rectory. Those funds would be used as a down payment. The Vestry agreed to work with the Finance Committee to find the best way to finance the balance between the purchase price and the down payment. We have set an upper limit on a purchase price of $1.35 million, hoping to find a suitable property for less but realistically addressing this market.

Please know these decisions were made after robust discussion over a number of meetings and months.

Indeed, the groundwork was laid a few years ago with the sale of the associate’s house. The Vestry strongly believes that giving the committee flexibility, with some basic parameters, increases our options and could even present us with a number of opportunities.

We fully expect there are parishioners who might want to sell their homes to the church, with possible lease-back while they near retirement or relocation. This raises the possibility that we could consider more than one property if associate housing and a rectory were possible to finance. The issue of parish vitality and sustainability going forward is uppermost in the Vestry’s thinking.

All sorts of options should be on the table. Hence, it is important to the Vestry that Dave Fletcher and his committee have the flexibility they need to explore and act on them. With that, I would like to thank Dave and Jane for giving of their time and talent to lead this very important ministry. We are blessed as a parish to have such faithful leaders. If you know of or have a property worth exploring, please email the information to

Rest assured, we are not pushing Father Merrow out the door. To the contrary. It is hard to imagine St. Mary’s without him. But long-term planning, which includes succession planning, is totally appropriate and critical. Businesses do this kind of planning all the time; healthy parishes do as well. Indeed, Father Merrow has encouraged this sort of planning.

Of course, much has been written about the difficulties of planning. To paraphrase one of my favorite poets, Robert Burns: the best-laid schemes of mice and men aft go awry. Or to quote Woody Allen, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

I certainly don’t think those quotes argue against planning. They just serve as a reminder that we need to be open to adjusting and adapting. Most importantly, we need to be open to the Holy Spirit. And, we have to be willing at times to step out in faith.



Kate Muth
Senior Warden

Register for Jr. High Outreach Camp!

Camp Runs: August 21 – 25, 2017, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. 

Outreach Camp is for Youth who are rising 6th – 8th graders. Campers should bring a  sack lunch Monday – Thursday. Lunch is provided on Friday!

Each day a new adventure in ministry and fellowship!

St. Mary’s 2017 Jr High Outreach Camp is a ministry to the people whose are in need in the greater Washington DC area, Northern Virginia, and Maryland. Volunteers participating in the activities of the mission trip will be expected to be involved in activities that may require direct contact with those in need, preparing and serving food, praying together, encountering people with special needs, working with animals, picking crops/produce, sorting clothing, etc.

Cost $100.00 ~ Checks payable to “St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.” *Cost includes Water Park fee (Friday) lunch Friday, rental van cost, speaker fees and agency donations/fees.

 Registration deadline August 7, 2017

Download the Registration Form!

West Virginia’s Greenbank Elementary Comes to DC & St. Mary’s

Dear St. Mary’s Parishioners,

[It is my pleasure to share Greenbank Elementary’s story with the St. Mary’s community.] Keep in mind,  that I come “late to the party” since the Greenbank-St. Mary’s partnership has been going on for more than 35 years.

In the 1970s, two of our fourth-grade teachers at Greenbank Elementary (located in Green Bank, West Virginia) decided they wanted to take the fourth graders to Washington, D.C., for a field trip.

At that time, one of the teachers had lived in and around D.C. previously and was somewhat familiar with the area.  She and the other teacher planned an overnight trip to D.C.

We live in a remote, rural area of West Virginia.  With the exception of the Green Bank Observatory, formally known as the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, our parents are primarily of the working class.  We have limited resources and a majority of our students will only venture out into the world as far as we take them as a school.  We also have an 8th grade trip to VA Beach; might be the one and only time some students get to the beach.

I’m not meaning to make our families sound ignorant nor am I suggesting they don’t do things with their kids.  Just most families live paycheck to paycheck and a vacation of the caliber of D.C. and VA Beach is out of range for some, not all.

Over the next few years, these two teachers developed the trip into the four-day trip we now take.  As it is, the trip will cost us approximately $14,000.  Without the facilities of the church for lodging, we would be unable to raise the additional amounts for hotels.  So it was determined long ago that staying in a church was the best option.  I’m amazed each year how the area supports our efforts to raise this money to make the trip happen.

A short story about one particular trip.  I personally brought a young lady several years ago that was raised by her dad.  She was very tom-boyish, wore boy’s clothes, and only had experienced the world as a girl being in a man’s world.  On the trip, the moms took her under their wings.  On the trip, she experienced what it was to be woken up by a “mom” figure as well as experiencing this interaction with women.  By the end of the week, the “moms” had convinced her to pull her hair up in a ponytail (unheard of until then for her), [treated her to a new clothing outfit], as well as [discussed seeing] the area as we toured with a female point of view.  It was a wonderful experience for her and I saw her blossoming by the end of the week.

Sleeping in [St. Mary’s] church is much more than saving on cost.  It allows us to bond as a group and become a large family by the end of the week.

[We  jam-packed our time in D.C.] to squeeze out as much as we can in the time we have.

To finish, one of the two teachers who began this trip, both are retired at this time, travels with me each year to be a school chaperone.  She and I have a wonderful time showing the students and some parents D.C. as well as laughing at ourselves in the church at night (snoring, day’s events, and pure exhaustion by the end of the week).

Your church is our safe haven in D.C., a place we can just recoup each night for our adventures the next day.  I cannot, cannot express how appreciative we are of the use of your church.  I plan to retire in two years but also plan to help keep the trip going until someone picks up the baton after I leave and continues the trip.

We are beyond getting excited, we being Judy and I, for our trip.  This year I’m privileged to be bringing my son, who went as a fourth grader, and his son on the trip.  The parents still talk about their memories.  God bless each one of you and your church for your hospitality.  We will see you soon.


Cheryl Nelson

Greenbank Elementary Trip Organizer

Get Ready for St. Mary’s Summer Book Sale


St. Mary’s parishioners Elizabeth Hale and Christine Hahn are organizing a booksale fundraiser to benefit the Arlington Pediatric Center (APC).
  • Saturday, July 8 from 9:00  to 1:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 9 from 8:00 a.m to 12:00 p.m.

All of the money raised will go to the APC, and any unsold books will be donated to the APC so that patients can take a book home with them after their appointments.

Thank you for your support!

Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre Update

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.

Click here to watch the video presentation.