Category Archives: Blog

Experiencing the Total Eclipse

I became a member of St. Mary’s several years ago, long after first being confirmed in the Episcopal Church in Florida in the early 1970s.  I participate in the caregiver’s support group, men’s activities, and retreats. I also had the privilege of participating in the 2016 St. Mary’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Photo by Alson Wong

My interest in astronomy and astrophysics started in elementary school and continued while growing up in Miami during the very early days of the space program taking place up the coast at Cape Canaveral, never dreaming that one day I would work at a place near there called Kennedy Space Center that didn’t even exist then.

Some of you may have seen the 80+ percent partial eclipse visible in the DC area on August 21 — and wonder what’s the big deal — Which is what I thought before experiencing (not just seeing) the total eclipse from Jackson, WY during a tour of the national parks out west this year.  I could never understand why “eclipse chasers” (aka “eclipsophiles”) would travel all over the world every few years just to see another solar eclipse.  Let me point out that a 90 percent covered partially eclipsed sun is still 100,000 times brighter than a total eclipse.  It gets dark enough to see stars and planets around the eclipsed sun during totality!
First some background information — Our sun is about 400 times the size of our moon, and — miraculously — about 400 times further away.  Therefore, while the moon’s orbit is not always perfect, the moon is often visually exactly the same size as the sun when viewed from the earth during an eclipse.  This size match is not so for any other planet in our solar system, or anywhere else as far as we know now.  I remember a science fiction book years ago where visitors from elsewhere would come to the Earth as tourists just to see the solar eclipse.
Our sun, old Sol, acts like a continuously exploding hydrogen bomb changing hydrogen into helium while converting a few percent of the mass into energy — a LOT of energy.  Our sun has several layers above its core — We can see the photosphere, chromosphere, and corona.  A very, very thin layer between the chromosphere and the corona is known as the transition region, where the temperature rises from 14,000 degrees F at the chromosphere to 900,000 degrees F at the beginning of the corona.
The thin photosphere is what we see when we look at astronomer’s pictures of the sun’s surface.  The photosphere is a bright, granulated layer of plasma containing darker, cooler sunspots.  The photosphere also generates flares that extend hundreds of thousands of miles into space.
The layer of the chromosphere is next up from the photosphere.  The chromosphere emits a reddish glow as super-heated hydrogen burns off.  But this thin red rim can only be seen during a total solar eclipse as it is much dimmer than the photosphere.
Photo by Alson Wong

The third layer up is the corona consisting of white plumes, tendrils, and streamers of ionized gas that flow visibly outward into space for multiple sun diameters.  These are spectacular during a total eclipse.  While the corona is hundreds of times hotter than the sun’s surface, it is also millions of times less dense.  Therefore the corona is still much dimmer than the sun’s surface, so also only seen during a total eclipse.  The corona does not have an upper limit and is the source of the solar wind that goes off into space with enough energy to cause auroras on Earth and other planets and sometimes damages Earth satellites.

The eye may see large sunspots, which could contain multiple Earth-sized planets, on the sun’s surface and flares at the sun’s edge through solar eclipse glasses sold for viewing the solar eclipse and optical devices with solar filters, such as binoculars and telescopes.  During a total eclipse, we see only the flares from the photosphere, glimpses of the chromosphere, and the glorious corona.
Due to the rotation of the surface of the Earth, which is moving much faster than the Moon’s shadow, the solar eclipse shadow moves west to the east, even though our sun and moon rise in the east.   The eclipse went across the entire US for the first time in almost a hundred years on August 21.  The shadow was moving at 2,400 mph starting in Oregon, then slowing down due to the curvature of the Earth to 1400 mph in Illinois for the greatest total eclipse duration for this eclipse of over two and a half minutes.  Then it sped up again going on to exit the US from South Carolina.  In other locations around the Earth, a total eclipse may last several minutes.  In 1973, a Concorde supersonic jetliner with scientists on board stayed in the total eclipse shadow for 75 minutes — still a world record for viewing totality!
If you are in a high enough location to see a total eclipse where you can see the ground far away, you may see the Moon’s shadow coming toward you. When you are in the shadow, you may see sunset 360 degrees around you.  You can feel the temperature drop as the partial eclipse shadow moves over you, and it will be noticeably even colder during totality.  Animal life gets confused and thinks it is nightfall. We had crickets start chirping on my eclipse tour at Jackson, WY, and nocturnal animals may wake up and become active.
As the leading edge of the Moon moves over the Sun to almost completely cover it, someone in the tour group shouted out “Diamond Ring” — This is the last bit of sun visible as the Moon covers it, and it looks like — well, a diamond ring…  Then it is safe to remove your solar filter glasses, or filters on whatever optics you are using, and view the total eclipse without filters.  Then comes “Baileys Beads” a view of smaller bright spots on the rim showing through valleys on the leading edge of the moon, which makes it look like a necklace or bracelet.
Then comes totality — The corona pops into view with white streamers and plumes extending multiple moon diameters in various directions around the dark black disk of the completely eclipsed sun!  This event must be experienced to get the full effect.  The children in the group go wild — including teenagers who had been blase until this point.
The experience of totality seemed like it lasted only several seconds, even though it was over two minutes long in reality.  In fact, an oft-quoted eclipse expert has said that “totality is always eight seconds long.”
At the end of totality when the trailing edge of the moon starts to move off of the sun, some chromosphere and then “Bailey’s beads” reappear at the trailing edge of the Moon, followed by another “Diamond Ring.” The Solar filters go back in place for the trailing part of the partial eclipse phase — But most people start to leave, as they already saw the partial phases leading up to the total eclipse.   Anything after seeing a total eclipse is anticlimactic.
Now, I am thinking about a cruise to Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific in 2019 and seeing the eclipse from a ship.  Or, maybe seeing the eclipse from the coast of Chile north of Santiago and stopping at Manchu Pichu on the way


By Glenn Mucklow

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20’s & 30’s Gathers Sept 25 @ 6:00 pm

Capture a glimpse into this group as we gather for a meal (in Paca Hall) and conversation about our Response to God’s blessing — Fr. Chris will guide the reflection of this phenomenon. Jay and Lindsay Liwanag, who are part of the 20s and 30s group, will be there to help celebrate and extend the conversation about our talents, time and treasure.

Adults of all ages are invited.

Join us this Sunday, September 25 from 6:00 pm-7:30 pm.  Childcare will be provided.

Please RSVP via Sign Up Genius.

Sept 10: Regular Sunday Service Schedule Resumes

On Sunday, Sept. 10, St. Mary’s regular Sunday Worship Schedule resumes. 
>>Holy Eucharist at 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m. , 11:15 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.<< 

Sept. 10, we will have Children’s Chapel during the 9:00 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. services.

Sept. 17, we will resume Sunday School, which is scheduled at 10:15 a.m. downstairs. Adult Forums and coffee hours will also resume at 10:15 a.m. upstairs in Paca Hall.

Weekday Services 

  • Tuesday
    12:00 p.m. – Noonday prayer
  • Wednesday
    6:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist
  • Thursday
    11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist with Healing Prayer

Justice at St. Mary’s: Fall 2017 Update

Thinking about social justice and race in America and wondering where to start?  We encourage everyone to exercise their Christian identity at one of the following events this fall.

WHAT: The Diocese of Virginia – 2nd Annual Intercultural Summit

WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 16, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Updated Location:  St. Mark’s, 520 North Boulevard
Richmond, VA 23220 804-358-4771

The events of Charlottesville highlighted the racial divide in our Country, our State and even our Church. How do we find our way to community from this chaos? Join the Diocese of Virginia’s 2nd annual Intercultural Summit to discuss critical issues related to the the multicultural church. You will meet and network with people of various cultures from our diocese and beyond.

Cost: is $15.00/ individual or $10.00 per person for a group of 4.

Interested? Contact .

WHAT: Washington
 DC, March for Racial Justice

WHEN: Saturday, Sept 30, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

WHERE: The march will line up at Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill

This march is intended to harness the national unrest and dissatisfaction with racial injustice into a national mobilization that strengthens local and nationwide efforts for racial equity and justice. Organizers are mobilizing a coalition of organizations, groupsand individuals to stand together for racial justice in Washington, DC., to create a just and equitable future for communities of color, so that we may all thrive together.  The march will line up at Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill between 10 am and 12 pm, march to the Capitol and past the Department of Justice at 12:30, before culminating at the National Mall between 4th and 7th Streets. A vigil at MLK Memorial will happen at sundown.

Questions? St. Mary’s Contact for the March: Alicia Phillips Mandaville


 WHAT: VOICE State Election Action

WHEN: Sunday, October 15, 4:30-6 p.m.

WHERE: Patriot High School, 10504 Kettle Run Rd., Nokesville (Prince William County).

Join VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement) leaders to hear from the candidates for governor and lift up social justice issues ranging from housing affordability and support for public education to immigrant rights, criminal justice reform, and ensuring a future for WMATA.

Questions? St. Mary’s Contact for VOICE: Marjorie Green,

Supporting the Dreamers: Episcopalians as Individuals Can Contact Senators and Representatives

The Presiding Bishop and the Virginia Diocese are supporting the bipartisan Dream Act, which will provide a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, brought to this country as children and now living and working under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

To show your support, go to the Episcopal Public Policy Network website for info on contacting your senators and representatives.


Responding to Hurricane Harvey

Dear Friends,


Throughout southeast Texas, rainfall of unprecedented proportions has flooded tens of thousands of people out of their homes. Hurricane Harvey is now turning back to Louisiana. Your prayers for the victims and for first responders are needed.


In conversation with staff and the Wardens, the St. Mary’s Outreach Committee has allocated/ reserved $5k in emergency funding for natural disasters. It makes sense to send those monies immediately to ERD (Episcopal Relief and Development).


Episcopal Relief & Development reminds us not to send food, clothing or other items because affected dioceses have limited or no capacity to receive, store or distribute goods. It is more efficient and better for the local economy to make a donation.

Episcopal Relief & Development already has actions in place for first-line aid.

  • If you too would like to make an individual donation to the ERD Hurricane Harvey Response Fund to support impacted dioceses, check here.


The Reverend Andrew TP Merrow


2017 Outreach Backpack Drive

Help All Our Kids Succeed
Donate School Supplies 

St. Mary’s 2017 Backpack Drive directly helps local kids through two great local organizations: Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) and Doorways for Families.

Simply sign up to participate and pick up a supply list in Paca Hall.

This is a wonderful outreach activity to do as an individual family or to share with several families–it’s a great way for many of us to get involved!

  • Doorways Donations Needed by August 20, Questions? Grace Stroup
  • UPDATE: There are only four children left to sponsor in this backpack drive. All of the children are between the ages of 2-months to 3-years.  Please sponsor one of these early learners!
  • APAH Donations Needed by August 10. Questions? Ned Leonard
  • UPDATE: Thanks to all who donated to the APAH drive!


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?

Sunday Reflection by Kate Muth

Usually, this week’s reading from Isaiah (11: 1-10), with its promise of the holy mountain and the peaceable kingdom, is a comforting passage during Advent, as we prepare for the birth of Jesus. It is the promise of security and stability, of the glorious resting place where harmony will rule and “the wolf shall live with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid.”

But this year, in our very troubled times, the passage is not so comforting. Mother Kate, in her sermon, said the images in the reading always fill her with a wistfulness, and this year, she feels “the most wistful of all.” Our current world is very far from the peaceable kingdom, she said.

Like Mother Kate, I am feeling wistful too. Indeed, wistful might be an understatement. Despondent doesn’t feel too far off. The vitriol from the recent election; a bitterly divided nation; a casual disregard for the truth; the disdain with which people treat those they don’t even know; the lack of compassion for those who are different from us. And this is just a partial list! All of this makes it so easy to throw up our hands in disgust and further immerse ourselves in our own insular worlds. Or worse, we might feel pulled toward the fear and anger we are witnessing and act in ways that would not be described as our finest moments.

Yes, it is easy to grow increasingly skeptical that the peaceable kingdom is even possible.

But just as pessimism can threaten to slither in and overtake us, God reminds us that the kingdom truly is at hand. At the 9:00 a.m. service, that reminder was in the form of a remarkable testament from Bruce Lyman, our newly baptized adult member of the church. Bruce spoke to the congregation about why he chose to be baptized and his new life in Christ. He reminded us all that we are not really in charge, but God is.

What a remarkable and courageous moment it was. Frankly, it is not the kind of testimony you often hear at an Episcopal Church. But it was so ideal and so needed, on this particular Sunday, in this particular moment. Bruce’s open and moving testimony was a powerful reminder that the promise of the peaceable kingdom is real, even as we try to make our way in this broken and sad world. As Mother Kate said, the glorious kingdom is not ours to build, but it is the Lord’s mighty doing. He will show us signs and graces of the kingdom, she noted.

That grace was evident in the baptism. And I have decided that I want to choose to look for more signs of the kingdom rather than to slide down into the muck of pessimism, fear, and anger. It won’t be easy and I know I will be easily distracted by news and social media updates, and I perhaps will wander into those first few layers of the muck on occasion. But I plan to return to the baptismal prayer for strength: “Give us an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.”