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Vestry Update: December 29, 2016

Dear St. Mary’s Parishioners,

As the year 2016 comes to a close, we would like to take the opportunity to look back on the year passed as well as glance ahead to what lies in store for St. Mary’s in 2017.

If you spend any time at St. Mary’s you are likely aware that the Beacon Committee delivered its final report to the parish in June. The report provided us with an ambitious agenda consisting of a plethora of recommendations directed at shaping our future as a parish. We would like to share with you what’s been happening in the past 6 months in response to the Beacon recommendations.

The Beacon Committee divided its recommendations into five categories: 1) Strengthening Parish Sustainability; 2) Enhancing Spiritual Growth and Formation; 3) Renewing our Outreach Strategy; 4) Fortifying Relationships with our Neighbors and; 5)Conducting a Formal Space Study of our Building and Long-term Options for All Properties.

The Vestry recently commissioned three new working groups to focus on the Beacon recommendations in the areas of Spiritual Growth and Formation, Outreach, and Neighbors. Each group has two-chairs and a vestry liaison and they have begun discussing ideas and calling parishioners as workgroup members to set agendas and begin acting to implement short and long term recommendations that are easily achievable. They expect to spend some time carefully planning and evaluating next steps for recommendations that will take more time or discernment before coming to fruition.

The group co-chairs (and vestry liaisons) are:
• Outreach: Paul Douthit and Nancy Brooks; (Elizabeth Keith)
• Spiritual Growth/Formation: Joan Turkus and Jay Liwanag: (Kate Muth and Lisa Leibel)
• Neighbors: Rosanna Esposito and Stacey Tevlin; (Tyler Suiters)

The clergy and staff have also been out in front in some of these areas, particularly with the topics covered in Sunday Forums – responding directly to Beacon recommendations with discussions focusing on mental health, stress, Christian citizenship, prayer, and individual discipline.

The Vestry has decided that the recommendations in the areas of Sustainability and Space Study/Long-Term Property options would best be addressed by the vestry itself. Much of the work in this area is well underway.

I. Staffing and Organization: The most pressing need is to make sure St. Mary’s is properly staffed and organized to meet the needs of our vibrant parish. First and foremost, we are in the midst of calling a full-time priest. A search committee, headed by Carolyn Boswell, is interviewing potential candidates and hopes to have a new priest in place in the spring of 2017.

2. Professionalization of previously volunteer positions and functions: For decades, many key functions of our church were carried out by stalwart volunteers and our small and very over-stretched administrative staff. Father Merrow and the vestry have acted to increase the capacity of our paid staff to adequately support our growing needs. We have several new paid full-time (FT) and part-time (PT) positions:

 FT Finance Manager – Janet Tasker
 FT Minister of Communications – Diane Kopasz
 PT Spt. of Sunday School, Evelyn Hutton
 PT Outreach Coordinator, Ned Leonard
 PT Weekend Sexton, Santino Dut

In our preliminary budgeting for 2017 the Vestry is planning on expanding the hours of the outreach coordinator (though still part-time) and planning for bringing on a full-time sexton to support the work of Facilities Manager Jane Shafran, who has pretty much worked 24/7 for years – an incredible, but unsustainable example of service.

Finally, a personnel committee has been reinvigorated to provide guidance and counsel to the rector and staff to ensure that there are appropriate procedures and policies in place, including up-to-date job descriptions, a process for annual evaluation, and ensuring the adequacy of compensation and benefits.

3. Financial Health: Over the past two years an enormous amount of work has been done by our Finance Committee, which is populated by a group of highly qualified financial professionals from our parish, and chaired by our new treasurer, Deb Gandy. With the support of the new finance manager, the committee is in an excellent position to evaluate and plan for our long-term needs. For the first time, the vestry has received a draft of a long-term budget for anticipated capital expenses. When the results of the 2017 Stewardship Campaign are finalized, we are confident we will be able to allocate resources for those known expenses.

4. Stewardship is, of course, the main driver of our financial health and is a major focus of the Beacon Report. Our Stewardship Committee has built on its efforts to make giving and money something we talk about regularly and encouraged us to think about the spiritual aspects of giving. This year’s Stewardship Campaign was more direct in identifying the financial needs of the parish and asking for corresponding increases in giving. Nearly 60 percent of our pledging parishioners responded to the call to increase their giving. We are so grateful for the generosity of everyone who has provided a pledge for 2017.

Another focus of stewardship has been to encourage those parishioners who do not pledge to make a financial commitment. If St. Mary’s is important to you, please pledge so we can budget proactively. Remember: You can always update your pledge amount, and your pledge is only known by the Finance Manager, you and God. Please join your fellow parishioners who have already made a commitment.

5. Space Study and Long-Term Options for Properties: One of the principal findings of the Beacon Report was that the parish felt that no new structure should be built on the 26th Street property without first ensuring best use of existing space, clearly identifying needs, as well as the resources to sustain any new construction over the long-term. In response, Junior Warden Dave Fletcher has obtained a copy of a professional space study that was done in the last three years to help analyze the use of our existing space. The vestry, with the leadership of the junior warden, is beginning to discuss possible improvements to the 26th Street property that would enhance our ability to address key priorities, such as the provision of affordable housing beyond our current four houses, as well as potential housing for clergy and/or a sexton. The cost of living in Arlington is high and is a significant barrier to the calling of clergy. Dave Fletcher is working with a small group of real estate and development professionals within the parish to begin envisioning various development options and to analyze the cost of such projects. This work is in the earliest of stages and there will be wide consultation and communication before any next steps.

6. January Retreat for Staff, Vestry and Lay Leaders: On January 21, 2017, the clergy, staff, vestry and some key lay leaders will meet for a day at Virginia Theological Seminary reflecting and planning for 2017 and beyond. This should include an opportunity to discuss recommendations from the Beacon Report including broadening, enhancing, and strengthening lay leadership.

I hope this message provides a good update to anyone wondering about follow-up to the Beacon Report and gives everyone a sense of the actions underway to ensure a bright future for St. Mary’s as a parish well-positioned to grow in faith and to serve Christ where we live and work.

In the year ahead, look forward to more updates from our new working groups and from the vestry about how St. Mary’s is working to strengthen our life together, define our role in the community, and plan for our future.


Jane Jacobsen, Sr. Warden

Sunday Reflection by Linda Kunder

“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?

Media Release: St. Mary’s Parishioner Honored with 2016 Faith & Forum Award

Contact: Diane Kopasz, Minister of Communication, 703-527-6800

Download or Print Release; High Res Photos:


ARLINGTON, VA — St. Mary’s Episcopal Church is pleased to announce that long-time parishioner Margaret (Peggy) Adams Parker has been selected for an Honor Award by Faith & Form, the journal of the Interfaith Forum for Religion, Art, and Architecture for her bronze sculpture Mary as Prophet – He has filled the hungry with good things.

Commissioned by Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), Mary as Prophet offers a radically new interpretation of the Visitation. The sculpture depicts Mary tense with prophecy, her focus turned inward. Elizabeth moves toward her, bending and reaching forward to support her. Shown as African women, Mary and Elizabeth embody the Seminary’s ties with churches in Africa and reflect the composition of the Anglican Communion. And this depiction of Mary and Elizabeth as ordinary (rather than idealized) women, reminds viewers of the church’s call to “lift up the lowly.”

“St. Mary’s is delighted that Peggy has been recognized for her work, which echoes the Church’s prophetic mission to fill the hungry with good things,” says the Reverend Andrew T.P. Merrow, Rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.  “We are thankful for VTS’ commitment to commission such public works of art that have the unique ability to move, impassion, and uplift.”

The sculpture sits on a terrace against the walls of VTS’ 1881 chapel (preserved as a sanctified space after a 2010 fire) and within view of the 2015 chapel.  The figures are a significant presence on the VTS campus, an axis linking old and new:  old chapel and new; old age and youth; Hebrew Scripture and Christian New Testament.  Their prominent location underscores one of Dean Ian Markham’s goals for the commission: to honor the significance of women’s ministries in the church.

Parker’s work, which often deals with religious and social justice themes, is in the collection at U.S. Library of Congress and featured at Washington National Cathedral’s Cathedral College, Duke Divinity School and at churches across the country, including St. Mary’s.  Parker has taught as VTS adjunct faculty since 1991.  To learn more about Parker and for additional photos visit

Parker will be presented her Honor Award at the 2017 annual meeting of the American Institute of Architects in Orlando, FL, on April 27.

About St. Mary’s
Founded in 1926, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church’s mission is to worship Christ, love our neighbors and serve the poor in our midst. Led by the Reverend Andrew T. P. Merrow, who serves as St. Mary’s Rector, the church has grown to include more than 600 households. For the past 30 years, the church has faithfully committed 25 percent of its annual operating budget to support outreach agencies in Arlington and abroad. In response to God’s unconditional love for all people made known to us in Jesus Christ, St. Mary’s is committed to be a welcoming and affirming community. To learn more about St. Mary’s ministries, visit

About the Annual Religious Art and Architecture Design Awards
The Awards program is co-sponsored by Faith & Form Magazine and the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture (IFRAA), a knowledge community of the American Institute of Architects. The awards program was founded in 1978 with the goal of honoring the best in architecture, liturgical design and art for religious spaces. The program offers five primary categories for awards: Religious Architecture, Liturgical/Interior Design, Sacred Landscape, Religious Arts, and Unbuilt Work. Read more at


2016 Christmas at St. Mary’s

Did You Know…

Christmas is actually a season that lasts until the Epiphany, January 6th. Remember the song, The 12 Days of Christmas?

While not every day of the 12 has a major feast associated with it, there are several days you can and are welcome to celebrate Christmas at a worship service at St. Mary’s.

Mon., Dec 26: St. Stephen, Deacon, and Martyr

  • 10:30 am – 11:00 am Holy Eucharist

Tues., Dec 27: St. John, Apostle & Evangelist

  • 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm Holy Eucharist

Wed., Dec 28: The Holy Innocents

  • 6:30 am – 7:00 am: Holy Eucharist

Sun., Jan 1: Holy Name Day

  • 10:30 am – 11:30 am: Holy Eucharist

Tues., Jan 3

  • 12:00 pm – 12:15 pm: Noonday Prayer

Wed., Jan 4

  • 6:30 am – 7:00 am: Holy Eucharist

Thurs., Jan 5

  • 11:00 am – 11:45 am: Healing & Holy Eucharist

Fri., Jan 6: The Epiphany

The Epiphany follows the Twelve Days. It is the feast that commemorates the coming of the Wise Men to Jesus, following the star. The Feast of the Epiphany both closes the Christmas season and opens the Season after the Epiphany.

St. Mary’s will host a worship service of readings and hymns, and will be led by St. Mary’s Youth with St. Mary’s Men & Boys Choir in celebration of Christ’s light in the world.

  • 8:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist
  • 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm: St. Mary’s Feast of Lights

Note, an Epiphany Reception follows from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm. in Paca Hall.

Sunday Reflection by Noelle Holmes

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve enjoyed waking up at early dawn to watch the sunrise. There is something magical about the appearance of everything, even the most familiar things, bathed in the light of a brand new day. Some mornings things are truly changed; wet from a night of rain or snow showers, frozen in an arctic blast or disturbed by a nocturnal creature. Other times it is like an optical illusion; the new angle of the sun’s rays as earth transitions into a new season, or the deception of a heavy fog. Most times, however, it is my perspective that makes the world transform on a daily basis.

Jesus asks, “What then did you go out to see?” in Matthew 11:2-11. This Gospel reading and Fr. Merrow’s sermon made me consider what it really means to see.

Sight is the sense for which I am probably most grateful. I’ve been able to take in so much beauty – from my mother’s face as a baby to my own children’s faces as an adult and so much more. Still, I know human eyes are easily fooled. The monster I saw in my closet as a 5-year-old was as clear as day. Countless magicians have left me in wonder during their shows. Airbrushing and Photoshop continue to cover the media landscape with a false reality. Eyewitness testimony has repeatedly been proven the least reliable evidence. ‘Seeing is believing’ is simply not often credible, especially these days.

On the [very] rare occasion my children prove me wrong, they love to demand, “See?!” This, of course, underscores understanding the error of my ways. Maybe seeing is collecting all the facts to assemble an informed comprehension then. But as we all know, facts are tricky things. Our personal biases, divergent experiences and now even ‘fake news’ constantly supply us with distortions and fabrications, not to mention the highly variable myriad of ways each one of us interprets the never-ending data.

So what is seeing? Fortunately, as children of God, we do not need to rely solely on our eyes, or the crude data put before us, or even our reasoning to truly see. As Christians, we are given a glimpse of our world through Jesus’ eyes because He came to live as one of us. We have the testimony of the Bible and the Holy Spirit in our hearts. As we fast approach the celebration commemorating His birth, I will continue to seek His light which alone can transform the way I see the world on a daily basis, much like the dawn of a new day.

Have you ever been deceived by something you witnessed?

How has your view of the world been transformed by your faith?