Dear Parishioners of Saint Paul’s
As the world and this parish community continue to struggle with the anxiety, fear and uncertainty of a global pandemic, many of us have experienced an increased sense of isolation and loneliness. We might be separated from the people we care most about this holiday season. Many have lost people who have died directly from Covid-19. It’s a scary time and Advent couldn’t have come at a better time. We need to remember that we are also in a season of preparation and readiness. Both which are rooted in anticipation and hope. We are getting ready to greet our Lord on Christmas Eve and at his Second Coming.
The Advent season is very rich in imagery and beauty. I tend to think of it as a season where I can really step back and contemplate what it means to be ready and to more fully welcome the Lord -not just at this time of year, but every day throughout life. In a time of global crisis this can seem like a tall order. Who would want to step back and quietly contemplate what’s going on? But there are so many other things going on as well! Contemplation might be just the thing that can help us cope and stay strong and grow closer to Christ.
When we stop and slow down and quiet our mind, we are better able to organize our thoughts and feelings. This can help us to prioritize and name what’s going on inside and outside of ourselves and to ask what we do and don’t have control over. By accepting this, there is an opportunity to open our hearts to God’s grace which is always available and coming to us. God is in control. It is in that grace and in that relationship that we can find new hope and can draw nearer to the Lord, who is always present, especially in times of suffering.
Advent, Christmas and Epiphany will all be celebrated at Saint Paul’s. After my ordination on December 12th, we will once again celebrate the Holy Eucharist as our principal service. All services, including our new Wednesday service at 10:00 are live streamed. At this point we are also allowing for in-person attendance at the 9:00 on Sunday. We follow diocesan guidelines, but by no means should any one feel compelled to attend in person. In fact, if you are even slightly concerned for your health or age or for any reason, please worship with us on line. The schedule of services is listed in this newsletter.
I am always available by email, telephone or even a Zoom meeting. Please reach out if you are needing a spiritual friend or guide during this very difficult time. May we be blessed during this Advent season and may we grow in our hope and love for our Lord Jesus Christ.
A message from our Crista Johnson, our lay delegate to the Diocese
The 237th Diocesan Convention taking place on November 5 and 6, 2020 was completely online. The Diocese did a good job of planning and preparing for this Convention to make it as seamless and as inclusive as possible. On Friday evening there was a live Eucharist service to open the Convention led by Bishop Gutiérrez. The actual Convention started at 10:00 am on Saturday morning with opening remarks by video by Bishop Curry and live remarks by Bishop Gutiérrez who moderated the Convention. After the opening remarks, there was a presentation of the slate of nominees to be voted on for different committees. Most of the Convention was seamless but we had a few hiccups around voting but the IT support from the Diocese was excellent and most people had their issues resolved quickly. Bishop Gutierrez was the moderator for most of the Convention that was interspersed with videos from different committees and Diocesan representatives. These videos were on Church ministry, the Diocesan budget, and the church foundation. Canon Walmsley did the video presentation of the budget followed by comments by the Diocesan Budget Committee members. After voting on the budget we had a few more video presentations followed by closing remarks. The 237th Diocesan Convention ended at 1:00 pm (a slight delay from the originally planned end at 12 noon). In all, the Convention was successful, positive, and surprisingly interesting. Anyone wishing to view the recording of the Friday night Eucharist, the Bishops' remarks or the Convention events can go to: https://www.diopa.org/events/2020-diocesan-convention
From Chester Eastside
Advent is here and we give glory to God for the wonderful gift of Jesus, our Lord and Savior! A year ago, none of us could have imagined what 2020 would bring. The horror of a year with COVID-19, has had some positive results. We have come to understand more fully the value and beauty of caring relationships, and we have sought out methods for maintaining them. COVID-19 forced Chester Eastside to make some program modifications to protect staff, volunteers, and participants. Our first concern was and continues to be safety. Thus, every person entering Chester Eastside is required to wear a mask, sanitize their hands, and have a temperature check. Recently, we added face shields as additional protection for staff and volunteers. Cones in the parking area and printed signs are reminders for social distancing which is also maintained inside the building. Our Thanksgiving Food Basket distribution was successful thanks to the generosity of our donors, starting with St. Paul’s.
Since March, the Phoenix Out of School Time Programs are operating on a virtual platform. We are excited to report that over 70 volunteer coaches are helping children with reading, math, and special programs. We will continue the virtual format until COVID -19 is well under control.
Christmas this year is different. The flurry of activity collecting, sorting, packing, and distributing toys is missing and there will be no Christmas Bazaar or Volunteer Luncheon or Christmas Tree. However, children will not be forgotten! We are collecting gift cards from Target or Walmart in lieu of toys. Thank you for your kindness.
Our other program initiatives will be operating hopefully by the Spring of 2021. Twenty-twenty brought tremendous changes to the world. Yet, Advent reminds us that the hopefulness of life through Jesus is God’s gift to us. May God bless you and yours this blessed season.
Rev. Zuline Gray Wilkinson
An Update on the Community Garden from Barbara Nagel
What an unusual year this has been! However, despite Covid, we had our third successful year in the garden. A few volunteers and I started planting during the spring lock-down. The children were not able to participate in the garden in the spring, but by summer they returned with masks on! They worked hard (6 feet apart) and were able proudly to take delicious, fresh produce home to their families throughout the summer and the fall. All other programming, both school and Chester Eastside Summer Camp and After-school Program, was virtual so the garden was especially important for the children exposing them to fresh air and outdoor fun. All produce that was not sent home to families was donated to the Chester Eastside Food Cupboard.
This year the Master Gardeners of the Penn State Extension Agency gave full management of the garden over to Chester Eastside. We built a three-bin compost system and finished the fencing and the gate. We plan to add two picnic tables next year so that the children can do their garden literacy work outdoors. We also have started to sign up community members so that the Chester Eastside Garden at St. Paul’s will truly be a community garden.
We are grateful to St. Paul’s for allowing us to use the land behind the church for urban gardening. The neighborhood surrounding the church benefits immensely from the fresh produce provided by the garden and the children benefit by being outdoors, learning gardening skills, eating fresh produce, and getting their hands dirty! Thank you, St. Paul’s!