From the Rector

By the Rev. Eric LongEric Long color

As a pilot in the Navy and then for Fed Ex, my father was gone for large portions of my childhood.  This was the price that came with Dad’s service to our country, and then his job.  The longest separation started when I was nine years old.  Dad was assigned to sea duty for two years on an aircraft carrier, and my family decided to remain in Memphis, TN, as that is where Dad’s future employment would be.  Two years is a dreadfully long time for such absolute separation, and it stands out as a particularly sad time in my life.  Yet what floods in right behind those lonely memories are the people of my church, mostly older, who rushed into that void and were there for me and my family in tangible, powerful ways.  Although we had no blood relatives in Memphis, I grew up with countless surrogate aunts and uncles, grandparents, and even father-like figures.  They filled my life through Calvary Church of the Nazarene.  I still remember their names and continue to feel their love.  I wonder at times what I would be without them, what different path my life would have taken without that church.  I’m glad that is a version of myself I will never know.

One fall when my dad was at sea, our church was holding a Father-Son banquet of some sort.  I will never forget the number of men who called me up to ask if I would come with them to that event.  They cared enough about me that they stepped into that empty place and transformed what would otherwise have been a painful memory into one of the most powerful testimonies I have about the goodness of the Church for our lives.

This way of being there for one another is one of the most enduring gifts of life in Christian community. I don’t suppose we notice it so much, except at those times when we need it the most.  Recognizing this has indelibly shaped my ministry.  At St. John’s, this is the chief reason we have tried to introduce chances for our church to be together across generational lines at gatherings such as our Fellowship on the Fourth events.  We have also endeavored to allow for community to be built with people in similar stages of life.  Yet the one group the clergy have longed to see brought into being is one offering friendship and fellowship for parishioners of retirement age.  This eluded us in the first stage of my ministry as we sought to rejuvenate waning children and youth programs, but we always circled back to it as a priority that had not been met.  We worried over this potential hole in our community life through which someone might fall.  Meeting this need has been regarded not only as the right thing to do, but, for me, as a way to give back.

It is, therefore, my great joy to announce that we now have this long-awaited group for our older members.  The Fine Wines is a community of retirement age parishioners who will gather to share life with one another while having fun.  If you have not heard about this group, or could not attend their first event on November 29th, please look at the full schedule of outings and events they have planned for the months ahead provided in this newsletter. What they have put together is fantastic.

Togetherness is the point of it all, and a great point it is.  For what was taught to me as a child forever remains: we really do need each other.  Indeed we do, and this is why God has given us to one another.

With you,

The Reverend Eric Long, Rector

From the Rector

By the Rev. Eric LongEric Long color

Last night at our vestry meeting, we did all the normal things vestries do: we discussed new and lingering issues with our facilities; reviewed the financial statements for the month, while trying to use your gifts in the most judicious ways possible; discussed strategies to meet the broad needs of our people across all generational lines; and celebrated new endeavors on which God is calling us to embark. Believe it or not, our meetings are always uplifting, mostly because our leaders know that we are not simply having a business meeting, but prayerfully making decisions about how to be the church that Jesus says we are to be.

Last night offered something more. Ann Marie Wood made a report to the vestry about one of our nine Outreach ministries, Temporary Relief for Unexpected Emergencies, or T.R.U.E., as it is generally called. T.R.U.E. helps our neighbors in the Roanoke Valley who find themselves in extreme circumstances pay for housing costs so that their basic need for shelter is preserved. Many of you know all about this work because you have volunteered to help on Tuesday mornings. All of us, however, should be aware of just how significant an impact our parish is making on our community. While other area charitable organizations have reduced the assistance they offer, St. John’s has increased its commitment to provide basic dignity to all people in Jesus’ name. This year, St. John’s will provide almost $62,000 worth of assistance through T.R.U.E. alone. In 2016, we have already helped well over 900 families and individuals, an overwhelming proportion of whom have children in their homes. In doing so, we are literally fighting homelessness before it occurs.

When Ann Marie gave us her report, I welled with pride for our church and you as her people. If you consider that on a good Sunday, 500 people are in attendance in worship at St. John’s, and yet we are annually helping over twice that number of families and individuals keep their houses, who could not rejoice in such faithfulness? What’s more, it is clear to me that behind every decision our vestry makes about budgets and facilities, those people are at the forefront of our leaders’ hearts and minds.

St. John’s is a model of Christian generosity. In absolute sincerity, I know of no other church our size which comes close to doing good at the level this parish does. It is beyond any church I have ever served, or ever been associated with. As I mentioned above, T.R.U.E. is but one of nine Outreach ministries of St. John’s which also include everything from an after school tutoring program (CYP), to assistance to families transitioning out of homelessness (Family Promise), medical missions in Ghana (Kimoyo), blood drives for the Red Cross, once in a lifetime gifts to change the course of a family’s future (Crossroads), and home repairs for needy families in Appalachia (Grace Rebuilding). If you’re counting, my list is not exhaustive because we also partner with area agencies to give hope in Jesus’ name. In fact, I write this article having just walked an extra block to my office because there was nowhere to park at church: St. John’s is hosting the Total Action for Progress (TAP) luncheon today, just another one of our many outreach efforts.

I look forward to many such long walks from my car into this church, not only because I need the exercise, but because the world needs St. John’s to be St. John’s. If you’ve wondered what happens around this place when we aren’t at worship, this is it. If you’ve wondered what our vestries do, it is making sure this continues.

St. John’s, this is who we are and each of us should have a heart that sings with joy, knowing that when Jesus asks us what we have done for those in extreme need, we will join hands and say, “Together, Lord, we did quite a lot.”

St. John’s Gives. Celebrate all the ways.

Blessings,

The Reverend Eric Long, Rector

From the Rector

Eric Long colorBy the Rev. Eric Long

“Money is the root of all evil” is a famous adage erroneously attributed to the Bible.  People ceaselessly believe it to be scriptural, although it is not.  And it’s not for good reason: the comment is untrue.  Money, while capable of being dreadfully misused, has, in the right hands, accomplished tremendous good.  Habitat for Humanity houses, emergency relief for families on the verge of homelessness, mission trips to Ghana, and churches all cost money.  These examples could easily be partnered with millions more, both small and large, to demonstrate how money has been utilized to achieve profoundly good ends.

The actual biblical statement that is misquoted comes from I Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil.”  No doubt you immediately notice the obvious difference between the accurate quotation and the false.  The issue at hand is where your heart is with regard to money.  When money becomes the desire of our hearts, the center of our affections, or an end to itself, evil easily creeps into the scene.

Which begs the question: what is the place of money in our lives?  Is it something we voraciously chase no matter the cost?  Is it something we look at in a utilitarian way simply to get what we need to make it from one week to the next?  Or is our money viewed as a gift that God has entrusted to our care, and thus a gift on which God has a claim?  If you have never asked yourself these questions, I challenge you to do so.  How do you tend to view money in your life?

Of course, many roll their eyes when the pastor starts talking about money.  Ulterior motives are never far from such discussions, even in the Church.  Yet far from having base motivations for bringing this up, I am mindful of my call as a priest, especially in a world where the love of money has caused great pain (just consider recent years) and in which money matters have wreaked tremendous havoc within marriages and families.  Simply put, I would fail in my vocation if I never raised such questions.

Churches must talk about money, not simply so that the parish light bill is paid, but because the state of our very souls depends on such conversations.  Jesus spoke about the place of money in our lives more than any other moral issue.  Think about that, and then realize how little, by comparison, we actually think or talk about money as a spiritual and moral issue at all.  As followers of Jesus, we must guard our hearts ferociously in financial matters.  The stakes are too great to leave to chance.  Being deliberate about money as a spiritual concern is a calling that is inseparable from all of our calls as disciples of Jesus.

I hope you have noticed postcards coming to your house which demonstrate different ways that “St. John’s Gives.”  Take a moment and look at the cheerful pictures of us doing our work.  Read the encouraging testimonies given by our people, and then, consider how St. John’s gives to and through your life.  Yes, we are talking about this because it is stewardship season, but that’s not the only reason.  Stewardship season is a gift, because it offers us an all too often rare chance to measure our hearts with regard to the things of our lives, and to bear tangible witness through our gifts of what it is we value.  Of course, this parish is not the only worthwhile place to give – although it is worthy beyond measure!  The point is giving, cheerfully and generously.  Show me a life that is lived without giving, and I will show you a life diminished; a life not worthy of being called “life.”

The end result of God’s people being intentional and faithful in this area is a renewed focus on money as a powerful occasion to accomplish God’s good ends through the gifts that fill our lives.  Indeed, Jesus will use our gifts in powerful ways as long as the treasure of our lives is not what we treasure most.

Giving with you,

The Reverend Eric Long, Rector

From the Rector

Eric Long colorBy the Rev. Eric Long

On July 10th I preached on Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. That was our first Sunday together after the shooting deaths of two African American men by police followed by the assassinations of five police officers in Dallas. Many of you have been kind enough to ask for a copy of that sermon, while others were out of town given the busyness of the summer months. Therefore, below is an adaptation of my sermon notes from that day so that it can be read.

I pray this inspires us all toward greater empathy and understanding of each other.

Our neighbors are everyone and our neighborhood is the world.

Sermon: Luke 10: 25- 37

In Mary Gordon’s novel, “Pearl,” the main character decides that her life should be forfeited as a testimony against a terrible thing she’s done. Actually, a terrible thing she’s said. Now I know that sounds crazy, but that’s the premise of the novel. In this young woman’s mind, she believes this is the only just way forward: her words have caused tremendous pain; therefore she needs to end her life because human life can cause so much pain.
As you can tell, “Pearl” is a cheery novel!
One compelling thing about it is how vividly it speaks about the careless ways we do inflict pain on each other. For Pearl, it was on a young man named Stevie, who was naïve, awkward, illiterate, and just not as quick-witted as others. And Stevie was keenly aware of these weaknesses in himself and highly sensitive about them, particularly when it came to Pearl: a beautiful, smart woman who had shown him some attention. That is, until he did something reckless, and Pearl responded with the terrible words: “How could you be so stupid!”
These terrible words tore into Stevie’s soul. They were perhaps the worst of all possible words for him, from the worst possible person. And they ultimately led to his death because Stevie was not able to face a world where the one person’s words he cared about most were cruelly flung at him in the most painful sentence ever. And so Stevie ended his life.
As I said, “Pearl” is a cheery novel.
Pearl decides she has to end her life by starving herself to death as some sort of atonement for Stevie’s life and as a testimony against human pain. She wants the ending of her life to be a statement. She says, in fact, that she wants to turn her whole life into one sentence – something that speaks against pain. And so she decides to go down this extreme path.
By choosing this horrible path, she does, in fact, reduce her life to a single sentence, but not the one she intended. Instead of making her life a sentence against the pain we casually cause, she made her whole life about the pain she casually caused in the one sentence: “How could you be so stupid!” Through her actions, she was making that one sentence the measure of her entire life. And because she reduced her entire life to that one terrible sentence, that one terrible sentence became a death sentence for her.
There’s a great chance that the whole premise of the story I just described seems ludicrous to you. Who in the world would sacrifice their life because of one thoughtless sentence? But when you turn the story around just a bit, it starts to connect with our lives – particularly this week – way more than it should, for just consider how easily we judge one another and sum up each other in a sentence. How we make judgments about another human being and reduce them down to one terrible sentence: “He’s nothing but a thug.”…a refugee.” “…a criminal.” “…a junkie.” Or this week in Dallas, “…a cop.” Or the old standards: “There’s that guy who ruined his business, had the affair.” “That’s the woman who had the DUI, whose kids are always causing problems at school.”
While we could not imagine making Pearl’s decision to sum up our own existence in one sentence because we know that we are much more than the worst things we have done or any summary judgments hurled our way, we casually do this to one another. And in so doing, we kill the full dimension of each other’s humanity – by reducing each other’s humanity to one terrible sentence: “You are only the worst thing you’ve ever done, or the worst thing I believe you’ve done.” And this itself is its own sort of death sentence because in so doing we assassinate each other’s full human worth.
I’d like to hold this up before us right now, after this week of both careless and thought-through violence and the flurry of words surrounding it all. I’d like to hold this up before us during this election season, where this great reduction of human beings is being done with abandon, and even with joy, glee, and uncaring regard for how it further divides us and prevents us from fully considering each other in all of our many dimensions. This is because our politics have devolved into a public demonstration of the viciousness of our age, with our casual, easy indictments of others. The candidates act as if the other candidate or members of the other party can be summed up by the worst sentence or two ever constructed about them. More insidiously, they do this to whole groups of people and, in fact, they will rely on us to do the same in order for them to win. “That person is only… That group is only….” “They’re all only…” We will hear it over and over and over again. “That person is only….only….only.” Only none of it is true because none of us is ever only one thing.
I pray you believe that — and believe it enough to fight this ugliness — because nobody’s life can be reduced to a sentence, particularly the most uncharitable one that could be written. For when it is, we can also see that it can literally become a death sentence.
Today Jesus tells a famous story. So famous, in fact, that if I said, “What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word, ‘Samaritan,’” many of you would answer, “good.” But if you asked that question in Jesus’ day, I can assure you “good” would not be the answer. For no one in Jesus’ day – outside of Samaria – would say there was anything good about a Samaritan. “Samaritans, they’re all terrible. They’re unclean. Defiled. Racially impure. Their ancestors intermarried with the enemy (Assyrians). They collaborate with the Romans today. They worship wrong. Heretics all. They’re worthless and hostile and dirty and other and not us. Samaritans are anything but good.” Except to Jesus who tells the story of the Good Samaritan. Because no one’s life can be reduced to a sentence, particularly the worst sentence that could be told.
Now this is a great story. A lawyer wants to test Jesus. And being a lawyer, he’s great with sentences. Sentences that test. But after the great sentence that says that the way to true life is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself, everything comes down to one final sentence: “Who, then, is my neighbor?”
Who is your neighbor?
Politicians will tell you few people are. Your fears will do the same. Few people are your neighbors – only those who think like you, vote like you, maybe even look like you.
But who does Jesus say is your neighbor?
If your life were to tell a sentence that answered that question, what would it say? Who is your neighbor?
The priest’s life in Jesus’ story told a sentence: My neighbor is not as important as my ritual obligations and religious worldview. I’m too much better and more important than my neighbor.
The Levite’s life told a sentence: My neighbor is not as valued as my ceremonial cleanliness before God. I can’t risk being sullied in my normal community for the sake of my neighbor. He’s not a member of my tribe.
And the “loathsome” Samaritan’s life told a sentence: My neighbor is everyone, particularly everyone in need, even those nothing like me, who even hate me. Therefore I will give all that I have, no matter the personal cost to me, for the sake of my neighbor.
Who is your neighbor?
Jesus says your neighbor is everyone in this world. And right now, in this world, we need Christians who really believe that. My Facebook feed certainly says we need Christians today who really believe that. Our newspapers shout we need Christians today who really believe that. For the literal love of God, we need Christians today who really believe that. And act on that.
Everyone is our neighbor. And our neighborhood is the world. For Jesus says our neighbors are all people, everywhere, particularly those whom we could find great reasons not to consider our neighbors. All those Samaritans in our lives. And even though we could put together a lot of sentences with a lot of reasons to justify not helping them; although we could come up with all kinds of death sentences against each other’s humanity, it doesn’t change the fact that they still remain our neighbors according to the neighborhood rules of God.
We are our brother’s keeper. We are our sister’s keeper. There will never be enough words to write any of them off from the human family.
Jesus picks a Samaritan as his example of what a good neighbor looks like and then turns to us and says, “Go and do likewise.” Because our lives are making a sentence. They are speaking of not only who we are but how we prize the God-given humanity of those around us. But it is not the tsunami of words we utter that form that sentence at all, but rather how we live our lives with whomever “the other” is in our lives that speaks the most.
Who, then, is your neighbor?

~

Sharing with you the neighborhood of God,
The Reverend Eric Long, Rector

From the Rector

Eric Long colorBy the Rev. Eric Long

It is difficult to fit more things into an overly filled life. This is particularly so when the newly heaped on things are ones we could easily have avoided adding at all. They have been loaded on by choice.

I must own such feelings as I write this article during a brief break from my studies at The University of the South (Sewanee), where I am in the thick of my last year of classes in pursuit of a Doctor of Ministry degree. Even though my body is here, my mind and energy are very much in Roanoke, with all that makes up “real life” there. And with a mind full of “there”, it is easy to question why I am here.

Almost certainly you don’t know this, but there wouldn’t be a there for me, without here. That is because it was here at Sewanee two years ago that Carolyn H’Doubler called me by phone and asked me, on behalf of the Vestry and all of St. John’s, to come there to be your Rector. And it was here that I said yes and took on the adventure of my new life there.

Yet here I am again, even two years later, because once you have put four years into something, it seems a shame not to make a push to finish it. Somehow, I am also here as a testimony, of sorts, to why I took on this challenge in the first place four years ago: I was hungry to hear something new from God. That appetite compelled me to action, even to school work no one was forcing me to do. You see, in the day-to-dayness of life — even a priest’s life, even a church’s life — routines of busyness make it hard to have ears that listen, maybe most especially to God. And so I came. And so I come again. And because I came, I went. To Roanoke. To you. Without a here, there wouldn’t be a there.

One of the classes I’m taking is called The Art of Preaching. It involves using literature to provide fresh language for preaching. We are doing unbelievable amounts of reading and then writing sermons – which might well never be used – based on stories and poems and novels. One short story by Peggy Payne is about the pastor of a church who audibly hears God speak to him and is scared to death about telling his congregation, as they will think he is crazy. It is called “The Pure in Heart,” and I suppose that title is about the struggle the pastor has about having a heart that is pure enough to speak of the God who speaks, as opposed to meeting the low expectations of his beloved parishioners who, very much like all of us too often, do not much expect a loquacious God. The pastor finally gives in, knowing he must bear witness to what he has heard, and in response, the church board very narrowly decides not to ask him to leave, although they think it would be a very good idea that he talk to a psychiatrist.

You may be relieved to discover at this point that I have no confession to make, other than to say that I came here originally to hear precisely that voice, and the hearing of it is what brought me to you. I heard, through a phone call from Carolyn on your behalf, a call that was made because she thought you all heard something too. Now, after two years, I trust we both heard right from the God who does indeed still speak.

It is easy to be so burdened by everything else that there is no room to add one more thing. Yet perhaps like Mary of Bethany at Jesus’ feet, we find that few things are truly needful, and only one is absolutely essential — the act not easily added to the mix of life: to listen.

I came here to listen to God and because I did, I now belong there with you. But the task is not done. It continues, although now we do it together, for taking time to hear is a forever vocation, even when – especially when – it feels just like adding one more thing.

Realizing it is the only needful thing is the trick.

Listening,

The Reverend Eric Long, Rector

From the Rector

Eric Long colorOur own James Merten was gracious enough to be our preacher for Youth Sunday on May 22nd. Having spent his entire life within our community, James gave voice to the ability of the Church to gracefully shape us in all life’s seasons as it prepares us for whatever comes next. I share with you James’ words from that day so that you can celebrate this gift our community offers in Jesus’ name and then reflect on the myriad blessings that have come your way because you are an essential part of St. John’s.

Blessings,

The Reverend Eric Long, Rector

Sermon for the 1st Sunday after Pentecost – Trinity Sunday by James Merten

Many of you might recognize the last name because of my father, John Merten, probably because he seems to be involved in every committee they will let him be on. But you might not know who I am; my name is James Merten. I am a senior at Patrick Henry High School and will graduate later this month. I have been a member of St. John’s since I was a baby and was thrilled, but a little bit surprised, when Eric asked me to give a sermon for Youth Sunday. Then I was nervous when I found out that Youth Sunday was on Trinity Sunday.

I’ve been told by many people that no preacher ever wants to give a sermon on Trinity Sunday. And, after thinking about it a little bit, I understand why. It is very difficult for anyone to fully understand how God can be in three different forms but still be one singular God. So, if it’s all right with all of you, I will shy away from such a complicated subject. Instead, I’m going to focus more on the Holy Spirit and his everlasting presence with each of us. Today’s scripture is a part of what is known as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse — his final words before his arrest and trial. While I do not plan to be arrested in the future, this sermon is also, in a way, my final discourse.

In the scripture, Paul mentions twice how we will boast: once about “our hope of sharing the glory of God” and again about “our sufferings.” I definitely understand the first boasting; who wouldn’t want to boast about sharing God’s glory? But I find the second one slightly more confusing; who would want to boast about their own sufferings? Personally, I tend to keep my own suffering or pain bottled up and quite private. Paul continues in this passage with what might be known in the world of literature as a slippery slope fallacy. For those who don’t know, a slippery slope fallacy is when someone argues that one smaller thing will cause a chain reaction and end in a more significant effect. I believe that suffering is the initial cause of this chain reaction which ultimately leads to hope. And this hope is received by God who gives us his unconditional love in return.

With this in mind, I would find it much easier to open up and share with others my own sufferings. However, I would still be hesitant to share something so personal with those who might not understand my struggles or might judge me based on what I say. And I think that is why St. John’s is such a magnificent place. This is a place where we can all come together, be comfortable with our faith and comfortable with sharing what is happening in our own lives, whether that is pain and suffering or joy and happiness. This is a place where we can gather and share our feelings with each other and with God in a judgment-free environment that encourages others to endure for a while longer, build our character from our sufferings, and have hope for the future. And in return, receive the love of God through others.
I am reminded of when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, a time when our entire family was suffering. While I was only in the fourth grade, I can remember the pain that we felt as she received several chemotherapy and radiation treatments. This could have been a time in my life when I doubted God and chose to walk away from his promise of love and compassion and his promise of everlasting life with him. But instead, I came to St. John’s with my family, and we continued to sit in the front row and pray for well-being. We continued to receive love from other parishioners who genuinely cared about how we were in this time of trial, and continued to push us further and endure through this tribulation to a point where we were hopeful of the outcome and a place where we were ready to receive God’s love. We were all able to endure through this tough time and have hope that everything would be all right. And with this hope, we were shown God’s love that has been given to us unconditionally.

To those of you who weren’t counting the number of times I have used the words “love” and “suffering,” I will just go ahead and let you know now that I have used the word “suffering” eight times and “love” only seven times. So to that, I only have five things to say, “love, love, love, love, love”. Now the count is eight to twelve. Now I didn’t do this to be obnoxious, but instead to try and show my point that love will always be greater than suffering. Suffering is a momentary pain that we will all feel in our lives, but love is something that God gives us for all eternity.

St. John’s truly is a beautiful place. And I’m not saying this because of the magnificent church, the glorious music, or the numerous outreach programs we have. I’m saying this because of each of you, the amazing parishioners who come together to love and support us in our times of pain and suffering. This is a community founded on God’s love with the full intent to share it with the entire Roanoke Valley. This is a community that I am proud to be a part of and a community that I will greatly miss as I move on to Charlottesville to attend the University of Virginia this fall. I am confident that this community will continue to grow and flourish and I know that I will always have this kind and loving home to return to. Thanks be to God.

From the Rector

By the Rev. Eric LongEric Long color

Unbelievably, it snowed last Saturday. This should not occur on the 9th day of April. It was briefly the talk of the town – or at least the part of the town I was huddled in. The snow was, thankfully, an outlier; a momentary return to frozen days belonging to a former season, and, as such, it did not last. With this blip of unwelcome weather gratefully gone, we again spring forward with temperatures and spirits rebounded. This time of year feels like turning a corner. In many ways this is the case. We have finally left the cold behind for the gloriousness that is springtime in Virginia. Easter Sunday is a milestone passed as well. It was joyous, but now only another great memory, and with its passing, the rhythm of church life slows while we slide inexorably towards summer. I suppose this is because families that live by the school year are eyeballing summer breaks. Their focus is shifting. The long slog is near over, and vacation plans long-since laid no longer feel too many calendar pages away to think about. Yet it’s time to pay attention now, because summer will soon be here. Turning each of these corners makes this a fun time of year, at least for me. More sun, longer days, less hectic schedules, and a break from the hard-driving pace of regular life fit well into a world that is warm and that entices us outdoors to play.

Within the Record this month, you will see programming shifts that match the change of seasons. For children and youth, we have ample offerings this spring and summer that are varied, fun alternatives to our regular programming. Also, our Sunday morning worship times will shift as our 10:30am service will move to 10am starting on June 5 (our 8am worship time will remain unchanged). This small change of time allows more of the day to be enjoyed with family and friends, and also helps our Adult Christian Education time (which will now be held between 9 – 9:45am) to fit more easily between the two morning services. The changes in tempo of our parish life yield space for new “longer form” education offerings, such as our “Learning to Lead for Change” weekend workshop led by Jen Brothers for adults of all ages on April 29 and 30. Our Youth Sunday will be on May 22nd and will have a Jazz Eucharist and lunch as well as a special concert that night featuring our children and youth choirs. We will also welcome back a good friend when the Reverend Sandy Webb visits Roanoke as our speaker for the St. John’s Endowment Society event on Saturday, May 7, and our guest preacher the following day at all Sunday services. Finally, Martha Bourlakas will be with us on Wednesday, May 25, for a book signing event celebrating her memoir, “Love Feast.” More information about each of these can be found in this month’s newsletter or by contacting our church offices. What we have endeavored to provide is out of the ordinary occasions for growth, learning, and refreshment for all the people of our parish.

Amongst the other exciting changes coming to St. John’s is the long-awaited renovation of our Garden. Weather willing, work will commence in early May. Ultimately, this sacred outdoor space, where many of our saints are buried, will be remade into an even more beautiful, accessible, and usable natural cathedral. This renovation will allow us to hold concerts, worship, after church fellowship gatherings, and much, much more in an area better suited for each of these. Because of those who are buried there in the hope of Christ, and because of the new, life-giving events that will be available to us in this restored space, we are renaming it The Resurrection Garden.

The change of weather is but one of the countless demonstrations that God is forever beckoning us forward. The snow is behind us; we have turned the page. It is a good season, not only outdoors, but within the doors of – and beyond – St. John’s Episcopal Church.

With great anticipation,
The Reverend Eric Long, Rector