A Message from Mother Anita
May 20, 2020
Dear friends in Christ:
On this eve of the feast of the Ascension I think of how much I miss seeing all of you in worship and in your visits to church throughout the week. What a gift to connect with you via phone, text, email and through ZOOM and Sunday worship (note: available anytime on our website!). Thank you for your participation in and support of these various media, though nothing can compare with seeing you in person. I grieve our separation and look forward to the day when we I can see you in person in worship.
Thank you for your faithfulness in holding one another in prayer, especially supporting the remarkable front-line workers who have labored courageously during the initial acute stage of COVID-19. For those who have provided and continue to provide essential services, we recall the words of Jesus, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40). Bless you.
On May 12 and since then our bishops have written the following about in-person worship: “We believe that parishes and worshipping communities in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut should not return to in-person worship during this initial phase of reopening, which is anticipated to last at least until June 20.” I will follow the protocols and directions of our bishops.
When we return to in-person worship, it will be different. These guidelines will include continuing to practice six feet social distancing, wearing of masks, washing of hands, wiping down of surfaces and, the hardest ones for me, no communion, choral music or coffee hour – for now. The decisions I make are always first and foremost for your safety and all who enter our doors. Gathering in person is not all the church does, and COVID-19 has poignantly reminded us of this fact.
I say these things not to discourage you, but rather to keep our expectations realistic in this phase of COVID-19. We are in uncharted waters in dealing with a pandemic. But we are not in uncharted waters in our faith and prayer, our perseverance and hope. In fact, I believe we are made for these times. My daily prayer for divine guidance is taken from the lyrics of Hymn 594, "God of grace and God of glory, on thy people pour thy power,... Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the facing of this hour, for the living of these days.”
Many things have changed, some temporarily, some permanently. What remains is this community – which has grown deeper and wider in our COVID-19 time. It is a wonder to me to see how during COVID-19 we are living into our parish goals,* so let’s keeping growing together in our faith.
As we come down the final stretch of the 50 days of Easter, let us also be reminded of the Easter message that light breaks through darkness and death is never the final word. The final word is God’s love in Jesus Christ. How then shall we love? By caring for one another, staying connected, being safe, reaching out for help and praying for one another. Thank you for doing these things in love for one another. Please do not hesitate to call or contact me via email or phone. It is my deep honor and great joy to serve with you at this time.
The Rev. Dr. Anita Louise Schell
Dear people of Saint Ann's,
Steve and I feel so welcome and profoundly grateful to you for your work on our behalf. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. Thank you for the beautiful reception last Sunday and for your greetings. Here is an open invitation to visit us in the beautifully restored rectory (no vegetable or flower garden this summer, so those gifts of homegrown vegetables and flowers are particularly welcome our first summer with you).
One of the things I have learned in life (and keep learning) is that the simpler the question, the tougher the answer. It seems to be particularly true in our life as Christians. Try these out: Who is Jesus? Why does evil happen? What is salvation? What is the church? The less these questions are adorned, the more pressing they become. But it does not have to be this way.
Let me try a simple question out with you. Taking my cue from Jesus in Sunday's Gospel let me make a question of his statement, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Ponder with me, "Where is your treasure?" According to Jesus, "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." If that is so, what is the hold up? It all relates to the treasure.
The unfailing treasure is eternal - God's kingdom, also found in the present moment. It's sort of a paradox - the treasure is eternal in God's kingdom - and the treasure is right now. We don't need to look, much less wait, for the treasure to come to us. Teresa of Avila, sixteenth century nun and female doctor of the church said it best, "The truth is that the treasure lies within our very selves." There's the insight to take back into the world. As I get to know you this summer, let's explore the treasures of Saint Ann's - the obvious ones and the ones yet to be discovered. I'm ready to go!
P.S. Thank you for continuing to wear your nametags. If this is a new custom for you, I am particularly grateful to you for wearing these tags which will help me and Steve (and other newcomers) get to know one another even more quickly.