You can access the 2023 Stewardship Pledge Form here.
Frequently Asked Questions in Stewardship
How are Philanthropy, Charity, and Stewardship different?
Philanthropy says, “This is mine, and I am giving it to you to use for a specific purpose.” Charity says, “This is mine, and I am giving it to you to use as you see fit.” Stewardship says, “Everything I have is God’s, and I am returning a portion of it to God through the church so the church can carry out God’s mission in the world.” In the words of the late Rev. Terry Parsons, “stewardship is all that we do with all that we have, all the time.” Stewardship is not about projects or crises, nor is it about budgets or deficits. It has to do with our relationship with God. (Adapted in part from The S Word by the Most Rev. Douglas Hambidge.)
What is a pledge?
A pledge is a commitment that we make to the church and to God to give a specific amount and/or proportion of our income in the coming year, to fund the mission and ministries of the church. We are also invited to make pledges of our work and wisdom to the church- time, talent, and treasure.
What is not a pledge?
A pledge does not include money given to the fund-specific programs or projects (flower offerings, outreach collections, altar guild, etc), purchases of event tickets, money spent at the fundraisers, etc. These and all other monies are considered over and above a pledge, which is the baseline amount that we commit to giving the church each year.
Why should I pledge?
As people of faith, we believe that in making a commitment to God and the church, we receive an intangible but real spiritual benefit. Pledges are also essential for the leaders of the church to develop a spending plan to fund the mission and ministries of St. Mary’s for the coming year.
If God owns everything, God does not need our pledges; God knows we need to make them, for our own benefit and for the benefit of those who will not know of God’s love for them unless the church, through its mission and ministries, shows that love to them.
Why shouldn’t I just fund the specific ministries that are important to me?
Think of the church’s building and annual spending plan as a launching pad. Launching pads may not be very flashy or attractive, but it is impossible to launch rockets without them. All the rockets of our current ministries, from Christian Formation to Outreach, to our weekly music and liturgy, depend on us maintaining and strengthening the infrastructure of our launching pad. And there are limitless rockets of ministry we can launch together that haven’t even been thought of yet – but we have to make sure our launching pad is structurally sound.
How can I know if I’m up to date on my pledge?
We endeavor to provide quarterly giving statements to all pledging members of the parish. Colin de Paor, our treasurer, can help you with that info. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
What if I need to change my pledge?
A pledge reflects a hope and is not a binding contract. Life happens and things change. If you need to decrease or increase your pledge, simply let the treasurer or Mother Mariclair know.
I’m worried my pledge is too small.
A pledge is not a demand or requirement. It’s an offering to God and to the church, a way of stepping forth in hope. 2020 pledges at St.Mary’s ranged from $1/week to over $250/week. Regardless of the amount, a pledge speaks of our intention and our aspirations. The amount is secondary to the giver’s desire to give. If you have a desire to give, give! Be without fear that it’s not enough. All pledges will be joyfully and gratefully received.
Stewardship Reflections from our 2021 Stewardship Campaign
“Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above…” James 1:17, NRSV
Dear St. Marians,
My new neighbor said recently that she appreciates what she sees as my open-heartedness and generosity. That stems, I think, from my offer to do her a small favor, from being friendly, and from what she had heard about me from a mutual neighbor. She herself, despite age-related infirmities, still works well-past usual retirement age, and also collects clothing for Syrian refugees. She said my offer to do her a favor gave her energy to do her clothes-sorting tasks.
The generosity of others (and offering compliments can be an act of generosity), inspires us. It also builds back on itself! I am grateful to God for having a neighbor who is so generous with her kind words and deeds. It gives me energy, too! I am also grateful for our community at St. Mary’s, as we focus on our annual pledge campaign.
“Every perfect gift….”
I have witnessed so many perfect gifts of time (including expressions of appreciation), talent, and treasure over my 20-plus years with St. Mary’s. Every gift makes a difference!
We have been blessed by God’s inspiration to give back to our neighbors, our church, our world. Treasure: the financial gifts that we make to our community are essential to support our mission. This year has been so different from other years in terms of what has been asked of us as individuals and as a community. I know some of us are struggling with finances, with isolation, with uncertainty. But over and over again I am reminded that it is the God we encounter at our church and it is Jesus whom we follow by recognizing him in each other. That keeps us together, and that provides consistency in a shifting world.
Every dollar that we raise has a face behind it, a story, a purpose, a mission! We use our financial gifts to serve God, to care for each other, and to show our love for our neighbors. What greater gift can there be? I am grateful for how each of you supports our ministry in our community.
If you are ever in doubt about the impact of your giving, look about you. Whether you have seen our church family through a screen this year, or, cautiously and recently, back in our sanctuary, every person you see is part of the story of your giving. As you consider making your gift or your intention to give this year, I ask that you also consider how you have been impacted, and how you will impact this church and our neighbors. What is the story of your gift, how will it unfold? How will your blessing be a blessing to others?
I invite you to make your perfect gift, reflective of the gifts you have received from our Creator.
Good morning, St Mary’s!
First, I wanted to say that I’m very lucky to be speaking first this month for Stewardship. I must admit that I volunteered a bit by accident but nonetheless, I’m excited to share with you why I dedicate my gifts to St Mary’s.
For those of you who don’t know, my name is Natalie Zamora, and my husband, Juan, and I have been coming here since July 2018. If you are anything like me, you are probably having a hard time conceptualizing time as, in fact, a real thing. The last time I spoke to the congregation for a stewardship moment, I spoke about my family and my upbringing. I spoke about being raised by a single teen mom in California, being catholic by the luck of being Latino, and not having ways to practice and discover my faith on my own. Finding my own ways of practicing spirituality, being uplifted by this small yet mighty community, and understanding social justice through the lens of Jesus Christ and the Bible has been meaningful aspects to my St Mary’s life and my growth as a human being.
Today, I figured I’d reflect on the last 19 months and how St Mary’s continues to be a pillar in my life. How despite many challenges and stresses on this congregation during the pandemic, we thought of innovative and safe ways to engage with one another. I want to reflect on these 19 months because I think it’s in the moments of challenge where we can see just how strong our foundation of love, compassion, and generosity really is.
I remember leaving work on March 13th, 2020 thinking how lovely a 2-week vacation from going into the office sounds. Those 2 weeks turned to month, after month, after month. There were good things that came from early pandemic life: Tiger King, sourdough bread making, and moments of reflection about what’s really important in life. But, there were clearly very difficult things too. How our country was facing not just a global biological pandemic, but also horrible acts of racism and police violence. Despite all of this, I never once felt disconnected from everyone here. Through the remarkable work of folks in this room, we moved our Sunday service to virtual platforms. We had zoom coffee hours where we were able to decompress from weeks that truly felt like several chapters of a future history book. We started incorporating daily worship through Morning Prayer on Facebook live— I have to say it is truly a delight to see and hear Juan on Monday mornings welcome folks online and read Bible passages to you all while I’m working at my desk not a foot away from him. And when it was starting to look better, we worked hard to make in-person meetings as safe as possible—being nimble when the delta variant came into focus, but all the while still strong in our commitment to hold space for one another.
I have been so grateful for the last few Sundays. To see us turn from little zoom squares back to human again. To slowly incorporate singing back into our service. To do our polite little waves during the Peace. You’ve maybe noticed Juan and I get more involved as ushers (like today), acolytes, volunteering for morning prayer, and even on the vestry. I am so proud of how much we’ve grown because of this community and I’m so happy to give back what it’s given us. Your strength and perseverance have uplifted me in ways I can’t express. It’s the reason I give my time and treasure to this community, and the reason I stand in front of you today asking you to consider doing so as well.
Colin de Paor
I was not raised in a church setting, so the vast majority of my experiences in church have come as an adult. In a way that might not have been afforded me as a child, therefore, I have always been able to choose where I worshiped, volunteered, and gave. As I thought about what I might include in this stewardship message, this point stood out to me. It rose up in my mind as I considered why giving, and why giving at St. Mary’s in particular, is important to me and my family.
We moved to Philadelphia just over two years ago. We attended a couple of churches in Pittsburgh and had found a strong sense of community and a commitment in both of them to the social justice principles that I associate with the best of the Christian tradition. As we looked at neighborhoods and schools in preparation for our move to Philadelphia, we naturally turned to a consideration of where we might worship. We have two boys, now 11 and 5, and it is important to us that they have a church home as part of their lives. We are also a mixed-race family. My wife and I both work in areas that we hope to have some impact on social, racial, and economic justice. These are some of the features that make us who we are, but they are also things we look for in any community we seek to be a part of.
I realized that like most people, our choices about where to worship and give were more about community and these values than they were about anything else. As I researched from afar, looking for churches in West Philadelphia that would be relatively near to some still-imagined home, I found St. Mary’s and read on the website that the church had sheltered draft objectors in its bell tower during the ’60s. That was enough to make us determined to visit. When we did, we were welcomed and made to feel comfortable about having children in the back of the church. We were invited to coffee and into the life of the community immediately. We were invited to submit petitions and attend rallies on issues of equity and justice. In short, we felt like we had found a community that we could support and that could support us.
This is why we pledge and why we give. All of the works, without which faith is dead, require resources in the form of time and skills. They also require financial resources. For us, being part of a community means offering support when we can so that anyone – our children, our neighbors, us – can receive support when they need it. Every time we hear the music that makes up such an important part of our service, or view service or morning prayer online, or hear about the jeans drive, we find gratitude in knowing that we are part of supporting our community. I hope you consider this season making a pledge to be a part of it in any way you can as well.
Good morning, my name is Casandra Royall. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of speaking about stewardship here at St. Mary’s. I was fairly new here, so I spoke about the journey that my daughter Cheryl and I took to seek out a new church home and about how all roads seemed to lead us back to St. Mary’s. It was no surprise that we chose to settle here.
At the time, it was easy to point out all of the great reasons to support St. Mary’s. I remember speaking about diversity and how people from different backgrounds were all welcomed here. And how love permeated through the air, which became apparent during the Peace offering that often took several minutes to complete or when we’d lay hands on a graduating student or someone venturing off to a new job in another state. I remember saying how good it felt to let a person know that their St Mary’s family would be with them in spirit no matter what. It generated such a positive energy that one couldn’t help but to feel at home.
My goal, being a member here, was to learn and grow and I am happy to say that I’ve been able to achieve that goal. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Frank Innes and Joanne Kellerman on the annual audit. I am currently a member of the Vestry and this year along with Vanessa and Sara, represented St. Mary’s as a lay delegate at the Episcopal Diocesan Convention. I also worked on the reopening committee with Deacon Barbara and Janet. To those who I mentioned and the many others that I didn’t mention but may have worked with: Thank You. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you all.
Things were going well, then along came COVID and with it came a lot of uncertainty. All of the tangible and intangible things that inspired me to join and support St Mary’s were put on hold. But the Spirit of St. Mary’s didn’t waver. We couldn’t see or touch one another but by faith, we knew that we were not forgotten. Through emails and phone calls many volunteers worked hard to let people know that the St. Mary’s family was still intact and available to them. Thanks to Virtual services, we were able to get a glimpse of one and other, community outreach continued, social justice issues were addressed, our spirits continued to be nurtured and the building remained standing. We all prayed that things would soon go back to normal. Who knew that soon would take so long and normal would never be the same.
Through prayer and faith, we are now sitting, Yes Sitting! in our church enjoying the sermon, participating in the Eucharist and sharing in the Peace. Although we had to make a few changes like sitting further apart, a few things remain the same. As the choir sings, you can still feel the
love that permeates through the air, people of all backgrounds are still welcome and St Mary’s, Thank G_d, is still standing!
There are two things that COVID made very clear. TIME IS PRECIOUS and LIFE GOES ON. Stewardship comes in many forms. A gift of your time is precious and greatly appreciated; so please reach out to help with any of the many volunteer opportunities that are available; and please, share your treasure by making a pledge so that we can continue to operate our many community outreach programs and keep our building up and running. I hope to be here many more years continuing to learn, continuing to give back and continuing to support St Mary’s as an integral part of the community. If you are visiting with us today, I hope you will be inspired to join our St Mary Family as we move forward toward our new normal.
I am grateful for you all, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank you
Vanessa Albert Lowry
First I want to welcome Layla Outerbridge.
Why do I pledge to St. Mary’s? This place is full of love. I pledge because it is clear that this parish strives to live out the two great commandments.
The first time I walked through the red doors and wandered into an 8 a.m. service in September 1985 in St. Phillips Chapel, I knew that here was a place that was beautiful and honored and loved and that welcomed those in need of community, of spiritual challenge, of food, of compassion. My fellow parishioners that day were an educated, older, homeless man who had visions, a homeless young female drug addict, a Wharton graduate student. The service included a Socratic style sermon in which all participated. After the service we sat down in the Parish Hall and shared an Entermann’s coffee cake. Here was a parish that I could call home and that would push me to become a better, more loving person.
I have never looked back, only forward. By the time I had my children, I knew that, though there were no young children in the parish, mine would be welcome, and they were, as were the others that joined them. When I had my second child, I knew that I could welcome young women, au pairs who helped me raise my children, to my home and to this parish. In 2004 when Bronwynne, Layla’s mom for those who do not know, arrived here in Philadelphia, from a small city in the Western Cape in South Africa, I knew she would be welcome here. And she was, as were her friends and were other au pairs from near and far over the years. Not just welcome, invited to participate in God’s work here, supported in difficulty, challenged to act.
Here at St. Mary’s, we love God, we praise God in song, in spoken word, with organ and other instruments. We listen to God’s word. We meditate on it – this year through online offerings daily, such as Morning Prayer and the Sacred Word discussion group. We work together to make a place where all are welcome to find God and to be in community upholding each other’s work and seeking always to do more.
I pledge because I know that my time, talent and treasure will be transformed here into the tools that will allow God’s work in us to continue, and to flourish, to sow abundant seeds, for us and for others to tend, for God to water and from which we and future generations will benefit.
I hope that each of you will join me, giving as you are able. Thank you.
Stewardship Reflections from our 2020 Stewardship Campaign
Hello! My name is Elle Rothermich, and I am currently a 2nd-year student at Penn law. I was fortunate enough to find St. Mary’s soon after I moved to Philly, so I’ve had the honor of singing with the choir for a little over a year now, and I’m also a relatively new member of the Vestry.
Like more than a few Episcopalians, I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. My mother’s family came to the US from Germany in the middle of the 19th century and settled in a very German Catholic area right outside St. Louis, Missouri. My grandfather’s brother was going to be a priest before he decided to get married, and his sister also studied to become a nun before she too decided to get married. My grandfather himself, along with my grandmother, were extremely involved in their local church both in Missouri, and when my grandfather moved his family to Connecticut to take a job in publishing. My current cover photo on Facebook, as it happens, is a picture of a page from my grandfather’s journal. He had terrible handwriting, as do most people in my family, myself included. But you can make out “be Christlike” in bold letters in the middle of the page. He wrote it when he was 21, I recall, right before he married my grandmother. Those words have carried me, my mother, and my entire family, since he wrote them.
So when I was young and asked my mother why she wanted to attend Catholic mass every Sunday despite the fact that the Church didn’t formally welcome her – she and my father divorced when I was a very small child – I could understand why she said she stayed for the community. Living among people who tried their best to live the faith was how she grew up, and how she wanted me to grow up. And it worked, for a while. I kept attending mass even after most of my friends stopped, and I still refer to Saint Augustine, Saint Aquinas, and Saint Ignatius’ work frequently.
But when I attended college, the frustrations and dissonances I had felt throughout my entire life became difficult to bear. I knew I was in a place that many of my friends weren’t welcome because the Church deemed their gender identity or sexual orientation “divergent.” I knew that I had to hide pieces of myself as well to “fit in.” I felt that I must be doing something wrong if I didn’t agree with the sermon, even if I thought I could support my reading with the words of one of my favorite Saints.
So when I had a chance to study in England during college, I decided to attend Anglican services. I’ll be honest – I made this decision based on my love of BBC dramas, where there is always a little church with sheep outside and everyone knows each other. But once I actually experienced the mass, I realized that it had everything I loved about Catholic mass and many things I wish I had seen growing up. There were women clergy members, all sorts of people attending as parishioners, and sermons that were challenging without suggesting that the Word is only for certain types of people.
When I returned to the US, I began seeking out Episcopalian services, and I found that what I discovered across the pond was true here as well. When I chose to attend law school, I also chose to make the leap to an Episcopalian church full-time. I was so glad I found St. Mary’s, where everyone was so kind. I immediately felt welcome, I know all of my friends would feel welcome, too. The food is great, of course, but even better is what it represents – a community.
It is a testament to everyone’s gifts of their “time, talent, and treasure” that St. Mary’s has continued on virtually while the world has been on lockdown. I know that it is difficult, sometimes, to make that gift – life throws things at us that we do not feel ready for. I also know that without St. Mary’s, I likely would have given up on finding a church community that, like my grandfather, deeply felt the call to “be Christlike” and welcome everyone to take part. That’s why I try to give what “time, talent, and treasure” I can – so that St. Mary’s can continue to be a haven for all.
Why do I pledge my money, talent, and time to St. Mary’s, and why do I continue to do so?
I have been a parishioner since at least 1984. I was first drawn in by the Choir which I joined immediately. Having sung in church choirs since my teens, choral singing has been a source of great joy.
This parish has given me opportunities to serve in unexpected ways. Two come to mind. The first opportunity came when Fr. John Scott retired as Rector, and I happened to be the Rector’s Warden. When this happens, an interim year begins in which the parish evaluates the traits and skills our next Rector should have and chooses that person. The interim period meant that I had an extra year automatically added to my term of office. This was both a gift and a burden. The gift was that I would serve as the leader of the parish in a time when continuity of leadership was crucial. It was a burden because of more time away from my wife and son for meetings and to deal with urgent issues. I was more than ably assisted by Web Christman, the People’s Warden.
The second opportunity was serving as a lay eucharistic minister. I brought communion to several homebound parishioners. Among them was Fr. Scott, who, in his later years, was stricken with multiple sclerosis and required care at Kearsley nursing home.
Much of my family life is centered on St. Mary’s. I was married to Mary here in October 1985 by Fr. Scott and Fr. Carl Graczyk, OFM, a Roman Catholic priest. Our son Matthew was baptized here in October 1986, and my father Frank’s memorial mass was celebrated here in 2006.
The clergy and people of St. Mary’s have counseled and supported my family and me through grief for my parents and through health crises.
Now we all feel the loss of lives and the smashing of routines by the pandemic. At the same time, I was found to have colon cancer. Creating a new routine for my life was made easier by daily Morning Prayer. It gives me a reason to get out of bed and start the day with gratitude.
Stewardship is focused on what each of us can give. What I receive are the unexpected gifts of love and help freely given by all of you.
Good morning, my name is Jerene Good. I am here today to underscore the good words from Vanessa Lowry last week, and in the letter from Claudia Crane
I want to talk about community and how our choices support it in our lives. This is part of living intentionally, treading gently on “this fragile earth, our island home”, living into our baptismal covenant. Living simply, living mindfully, seeking “that of God in all people”
So. For David and me:
We recycle what we can, and donate what is reusable to Second Mile.
Keep money in a local federal credit union.
Tend a community garden plot where David grows his beloved flowers and herbs.
Shop at Mariposa food coop.
Put our bucket out weekly for Bennett Compost to pick up.
Do laundry with soap nuts instead of some chemical cocktail.
Volunteer at Lea School, 47th and Locust, where St. Marian, Karen Jackson, once attended.
Volunteer at the Free Library teaching basic adult literacy.
When walking, always carry a plastic bag for cans and bottles to recycle.
(Many of these things I first learned from my daughter when she was in high school and college. Always well to listen to young people!)
Of course, this leads me back to St Mary’s, my spiritual home, and my source of strength and renewal. Think about what you miss most in this pandemic shutdown. I imagine St Mary’s is high on your list, too! For me the music and choir–Thank you, Michael!, but also conversation, insightful sermons, great food—Thanks to Pattie for organizing us, book recommendations, cooking together and cleaning up afterward, watching all our children grow, sharing travel stories. We all support St Mary’s in so many ways with our 3 t’s: time, talent, treasure.
I would like to recommend that you try the strategy I’ve used for a couple of years. I added St Mary’s to my autopay in online banking. No more end-of-the-year “surprises”, no more embarrassment when I see my pledge report. I do the same for human rights, civil rights, environmental and cultural organizations I support. Like St Mary’s they all have to plan yearly budgets without knowing exactly what they will have to work with. Let’s help St Mary’s out by making payments on our pledges predictable! The amount of your pledge is important, of course, but less important than your participation in this essential sharing across our community. Know you are supporting the wonderful gifts of St Mary’s in each of our lives.
Dear Saint Marians,
This year has reminded us in so many ways of the strength and closeness of our community. Even in the months in which we have been unable to gather in person, the Spirit has kept us together, connecting us. Many in the media or in our society kept referring to our churches as “closed,” but we have never been closed- we have continued following the Gospel call to live in love with our neighbors, finding ever new ways to seek and serve Christ in all people.
I have missed seeing you all in person, but Paul and I very much enjoy our Sunday Morning Prayer service on Facebook. That, and the fellowship at our Zoom coffee hour afterward, are as much a source of comfort and strength for me as they were when we were all gathered under one roof. Maybe more so, now that the challenges I see in my life and the lives of all seem ever more complex and fraught with danger.
We are often reminded at St. Mary’s that “We are Resurrection people!” To me, being a Resurrection person is to keep on helping others, keep on striving to make the world a better place for all, and spread the Good News, no matter what. I see St. Marians being adaptive, creative, and thoughtful Resurrection people all the time. Some examples since the pandemic began: our expanded Facebook worship services on Sundays, weekdays, and Thursday night Compline; safely continuing to provide meals and other services for people experiencing homelessness three days a week; checking in with each other and on those who are unable to attend our electronic services; virtual Sunday School; and, not least, using our time away from using the parish hall to get our bathrooms repaired and other needed maintenance done!
Many of you are also engaged in “Resurrection” activities in the world beyond our parish activities. I am personally involved with a state-wide nurse group seeking to get state legislative candidates elected who already take, or pledge to take, responsible, science and data-driven public-health-related legislative actions that will save lives and prevent disease. St. Mary’s community and our grounding in prayer and fellowship give me the strength to keep on! What are you striving to do that St. Mary’s helps you to “keep on?”
As we look to the year to come, we are more committed than ever to the ministry and love we share with our community and our neighbors. Our ministry is funded through the gifts of its members — your generous offerings given in grace and love. This is the time of year when we ask every member to take part in our stewardship campaign by making a pledge. Included with this letter are materials for making your gift and learning more about opportunities to get involved and participate in our congregation.
Over the coming weeks, we will be hearing messages in our Sunday Facebook services from members of St. Mary’s about why they call this parish home and support it financially. The Gospel is rich with examples of how our faith kindles our love for each other and our Christian responsibility to share our love with the world. I invite you and your household to pray and learn, taking these weeks to consider how your generous response to God’s call has been shaped by this community and the friends who gather with you. Thank you for being a part of Saint Mary’s and for your faithful, faith-filled gift to our annual campaign.
In the spirit of generosity and love,
Vanessa Albert Lowry
These past 6 plus months have given us all material to reflect upon in answering the
What is St. Mary’s worth to each of us and to us collectively? This time has made
it clear to me that, while or Sanctuary is lovely and I miss being in there ( and by
the way it still needs us as we still need it), we, the members of the Parish, are
the Church and we are held together by the strength of God’s Love that fuels our
communal energy. This communal energy has kept me going during lockdown and the
social distancing we are now engaged in and through the horrific episodes of police
brutality and its aftermath. We uphold one another through grace and love made
manifest right now in emails, calls, texts, waves, and action. Yes, every week, and
many weeks, more than once a week I see the hands, feet, and strength of Christ at
work through all of us. We are all giving of our time and talents in new ways. For
this, I am very grateful.
Prior to lockdown, I had my daily periods of prayer and reflection built into times
of trolley riding arrival at work, quiet times before breakfast. Sadly, this has
been very difficult for me to replicate at this time of staying home. The services
Mother Mariclair and Deacon Barbara have held daily uplift me spiritually now, even
though I cannot usually attend. It is as if we are together in a silent unformed
prayer that our clergy through grace transform into words and present for us as our
daily offering of worship.
There is so much for us all to be grateful for in the midst of suffering and work as
For these reasons and more I know that we must continue to build the Kingdom of
Heaven here and now through grace and without fear. We must be bold disciples. I
pray that our works will, through grace, multiply and thrive. We must all reflect
on what we can contribute and not hold back but give knowing that together we will
move forward even at this time. Thank you all.
Vanessa Albert Lowry
Stewardship Reflections from our 2019 Stewardship Campaign
Good morning, St. Mary’s!
It’s so nice to finally address you all. My name is Natalie Zamora and my husband, Juan, and I have been coming to St. Mary’s since July of last year. It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a year because the St. Mary’s community already feels like home. And, that’s hard to say when you are very far from your home.
Most of you know this by now when Juan and I walk into church with our In-N-Out t-shirts on, but we were both born in California. I grew up in the Inland Valley– an hour from anything remarkable is how we described it. You are an hour from the beach, the desert, the mountains, and… of course… Disneyland. I was born while my mom and dad were still in High School and, though they wanted to have a family, they were not ready for the challenges of being teen parents. My dad was in and out of jail for most of my childhood. I was primarily raised by my single mom and, between childcare and work, the last thing on my mom’s mind at the time was structured religion. I was baptized just a few months after birth and that was, just about, the last time I had been to a church. For my mother, who was raised Catholic, faith was important. She told me stories from the Bible and encouraged me to welcome Christ into my life, but without any additional support, I felt aimless when it came to practicing religion.
Growing into my teens, I remember seeing people use religion to justify judgment, harassment, and even support of laws that restricted the freedoms of people. As someone born with citizenship, born into privilege that my mother has never experienced, I was especially hurt by the legal system that only seemed to work for some. I conflated being politically conservative with being religious and closed the book on faith entirely. It wasn’t until maybe a decade later that I felt like my spirit was lost. 2016 and 2017 were years where I felt most lost. I felt my spirit was broken and the divide of this country weighed heavily on me. I set a new year’s resolution to “be more spiritual”—note: I still could not say “religious” or “religion”. This led to us finding St. Mary’s and I couldn’t be more grateful.
More than just the friendly faces, the Third Thursday potlucks, and other congregation events, I found a place where I could just feel. We are barraged with news– disaster after disaster and atrocity after atrocity. They become commonplace links we scroll past on Facebook. When I say “my spirit was lost” I mean, I truly couldn’t feel for humanity anymore. I knew things were bad, but I didn’t know how to take a moment to reflect. Coming here and hearing amazing sermons from Rev. Mariclair and Deacon Barbara, calling for justice for the oppressed, was something I thought was impossible to do in a church. Praying for the world as a congregation and those precious moments after taking communion to reflect by myself… It’s here where I have felt most supported to take a moment and just feel. It’s here where I feel my spirit has been restored.
Because of all these things, I’m truly humbled to be a part of this congregation. I want to thank each of you for welcoming Juan and I. Our lives have been blessed having you in it. You’ve bared witness to some lovely moments in our lives together. You were all literally the first to know about our engagement during the midnight mass on Christmas eve. And, of course, Rev. Mariclair unifying Juan and me in the eyes of God this past June. There have been many difficult times, but many more joyful times here in this church. I’m so glad to be a part of this congregation, now and for the many years to come.
Hi, my name is Jonathan Ashton. I am a junior hear at Penn, and I have been coming to St. Mary’s for two years now. I am a little different from most Episcopalians in the sense that I was actually born and raised in the Episcopal Church. I went to a small Episcopal church in my hometown in Massachusetts. My family really liked going to the 8 am quiet service, so coming to St. Mary’s was a little bit of a change. I had to get used to singing in the service and being here for longer than 45 minutes. The 8 am service at home also averaged about ten people, so coming to St. Mary’s when there are usually more than 50 people here took some getting used to. I had originally found St. Mary’s when I looked up the closest Episcopal Churches to my freshman dorm, and I decided St. Mary’s looked like it was worth checking out. I still remember walking in for the first time and immediately being welcomed by several people. By the time I got to my seat I had filled out the visitor’s book, made a nametag, and been given nearly every handout we keep at the back of the Church. After the service I was convinced to stay for the third Sunday brunch, which was unusual for me because I’ll admit my Dad and I rarely go to coffee hour at home, always choosing to go out to breakfast right after church. Still, I left that day knowing I had found a spiritual home for my time at Penn, and I remember calling my parents later that day to tell them about this church that uses Eucharistic Prayer C and has a bunch of stained glass which are things they both like.
Since that first Sunday, I have continued to come back to St. Mary’s, and this church began to play an important role in my life. College can be a difficult time. There are a lot of transitions and changes. There is stress making friends, taking midterms, writing essays, and looking for jobs. For college students like me whose life can be filled with so much stress and change, St. Mary’s can offer peace and stability. No matter how stressful my week had been or was going to be, starting my Sunday morning with friendly faces here helps me get through it. St. Mary’s acts like a rock in the turbulent times and when I leave on Sundays I always leave a little bit calmer and thinking a little bit more clearly.
During my time at St. Mary’s I have been an acolyte, read at the occasional service, and gotten the privilege to serve as the undergraduate representative on the Vestry. I have been able to learn about what this church means not only to me but to the whole community. St. Mary’s is such a special place and helps so many people because of the amazing people who come here And, it being stewardship season, I have started to try to think about what more I can do to give back to this fantastic community. Leaving home and coming to college challenged me to change the routines I had had for so many years at home. I had to evaluate how I interacted with my church and how to give back, and I found that there was more room for me to give than I thought. If you had told me a few years ago that I would be on the vestry of my church while I was in college or I would spend time on a Saturday morning pounding rebar into the ground for a memorial against gun violence, I would have been shocked. So in this stewardship season, I challenge all of us to think about the routines we have fallen into and how we could each give just a little bit more of our time, talent, or treasure. One thing my Dad likes to talk about was that in a community like this, great things are achieved by everyone doing a little bit. If we each gave just a little bit more of what we have, whether that be pledging a little more every month, or showing up for a parish workday, or volunteering to help during services, we can continue to help St. Mary’s grow and be such an important part of this community.
Thank you for listening to me, and thank you for making St. Mary’s such a great and welcoming place for college students like me.
Sara Macro Forrest
Good morning, my name is Sara Macro Forrest, and I have been attending and a member here at St Mary’s for almost 18 years. I have volunteered my Time, Treasure, and Talent in different ways since I got here: singing in the choir, helping out at UCHC meals, pledging a monthly donation, and working with our youngest parishioners in the Sunday school. I’ve been thinking about these experiences as I’ve prepared this talk and the definition of “stewardship” which is to take care of an organization or property. Every year at this time, as you’ve heard, we each reflect about how we can take care of St Mary’s, each bringing our special talents to bear.
I grew up in the Episcopal church in CT: I went to Sunday school, got confirmed, was an acolyte, and was involved in our church’s Youth Group. This Youth Group was very important to me in my awkward middle and high school years and we went on amazing trips. One year we went to New York City and slept over in the Cathedral of St John the Divine. That was my first glimpse of what social action looks like in a big-city church and it has shaped my world-view and spiritual compass to this day. When I think about my current church life, I compare St Mary’s to that amazing sanctuary. I am so moved by all that St Mary’s does through this congregation and I want to participate and further these calls to action in God’s Love. This church lives out Jesus’ teaching to “feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit prisoners, care for the sick, and welcome the stranger.” We do all those things here, each in our different ways.
I’ve thought about the “prayer time” we have in Sunday school each week. We start off each class meeting with a time for everyone at our little table to share something they want to thank God for, or something they want to ask for God’s help within their lives. Sunday school is a blessing in my life. The children have shown and taught me so much about spirituality! Each week we read a Bible story, eat a snack, and do an art project or re-enactment of that week’s story. We don’t always win at Bible trivia – right Stan?? – but we do learn about God’s love for us. Historically, we have put on a Christmas pageant, which I look forward to each year. The children choose the theme (and costumes!) and we stick close to the Gospel words that each character speaks. Our “Hunger Games Nativity” was our best, in my opinion (Katniss’ salute).
I also thought about our “soft-space” and what a blessing and amazing concept it is. This soft space is welcoming to children and allows them to be present in this sacred God-loving place, in a way they can do – just like St Mary’s, and St John the Divine met me where I was in my faith journey. It has been through this acceptance and welcoming that I have found a faith that works for me. And I want to give back and show my gratitude for this blessing of faith – because I have lived without it, and this way is much, much better!
I realize that I get back from Sunday school much more than I give. And this is how I’ve felt about each way I’ve participated in the life of St Mary’s. St Mary’s is a huge blessing in my life – you are all a family to me and have carried me through some big moments in my life, and I am truly grateful. You show me how to live in a community of faith, and what faith means every day. I can’t put a price tag on that, but I give what I can to support this community in all the ways that I am able. I ask you, as we gather in our stewardship pledges, to be as generous as you can be as we take care of this community to glorify God’s Love in the world.
Stewardship Reflections from our 2018 Stewardship Campaign
I want to tell you why I feel that I belong here. I grew up in the Episcopal Church. My grandmother was a parish secretary at St. Paul’s, Chattanooga, and my great aunt was a bishop’s secretary. I attended St. Peter’s in the Great Valley as a youth.
My first encounter with St. Mary’s was in 1969 when the Diocesan Youth Caucus held a weekend meeting here. I learned that our parish already had a strong stance on social justice including civil rights, peace, and LGBT rights under the leadership of the Rev. John Scott.
I was away from church during my college years at Temple University. However, in 1971, I became a campus draft counselor, and my advisor was the Rev. Ed Lee who later became the Bishop of Western Michigan and served as an assistant bishop here.
In 1982 I joined the parish via the choir then led by Roger Allen. I was married here on October 5, 1985, by Fr. Scott and Fr. Carl Graczyk, a Roman Catholic Franciscan priest who was recruited from Archbishop Ryan Boys High School by Mary’s mother, a school nurse.
In the years since then, I have frequently been on the Vestry served as Rector’s Warden twice and now serve as Treasurer because I know that I will always be supported by you — this community.
Good Morning, my name is Cassandra Royall. When I was asked to speak about stewardship I was absolutely honored and then I asked myself what do I know about stewardship? Then I realized that good stewardship was all around me. I have been attending St. Mary’s for a few years now and I’ve met a lot of really interesting people. The congregation is a beautiful collage of different backgrounds and different generations. They blend just enough to produce an atmosphere of warmth that you feel as soon as you walk through the doors.
A few years ago I started my journey to seek out a new church home. My family and I attended St. Peter’s Church and thoroughly enjoyed our stay there. My youngest daughter had attended the school and sang on the church choir so the church became a part of our lives. Once she grew up and other things in our lives changed it wasn’t quite as easy to get there. To be honest one of my requirements for a new church home was that it be convenient. My faith in G-d was strong and I knew that wherever I went I would be fine on that level but, I wanted to be somewhere that made me and my family feel like we belonged.
St. Mary’s opens its arms to everyone. I have enjoyed fellowship each Sunday; I’ve
enjoyed the sermons; I’ve enjoyed talent shows; I’ve enjoyed the delicious food, but mostly, I’ve enjoyed the feeling of being part of the community. As for what I was looking for in a church, I wanted to find a place that would reinforce my faith, encourage me to learn, allow me to grow, but more importantly, I wanted to be able to give back. I have been fortunate here. I have had some health issues and I received major support. Pattie has prayed me through many difficult times. I wake up on Sunday morning looking forward to coming to church.
I am not sure of the exact date that I started to attend St. Mary’s. My daughter Cheryl and I visited many churches before we settled here. We went to a different church each Sunday and then we noticed a pattern that every few weeks we would attend St. Mary’s. We had a discussion where we said maybe we should pay attention to the fact that no matter what churches we attended, we always came back to St. Mary’s. We decided that we would give it a try to see if this could be a good partnership and I have not been disappointed.
I feel like I am surrounded by many good stewards. There are lots of examples of that. There is nothing scary about being here. People are accepted for who they are and they are appreciated for whatever talent or skill that they can bring to the table. People are encouraged to come and participate. St Mary’s met the criteria that I set down for a new church home. My faith has been reinforced because of the love that you feel when you enter the building. Whenever there’s a send-off for someone who has graduated and going off into the world or leaving on some personal journey, the idea of an entire congregation standing and laying hands on them to bless them…you can feel the energy. Each time that happens, I feel so good just to be a part of it. To let a person know that their St. Mary’s family is with them where ever they may go; it’s a beautiful thing.
Seeing how many people participate in organizing and attending activities and events are all testimonies for good stewardship. Giving of time is precious and we are thankful for all those who can. For those who can’t please consider sharing your treasure by making a pledge to help programs to continue and to keep our building operational.
Although I am still not sure when I actually started to attend St. Mary’s I am thankful to be here. It feels like I have been part of this community for a long time. I am grateful for you all, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank you
Sally Hillman Redman
Last month, my son, Maxwell, and the lovely Victoria Healy were married less than twenty feet from where I stand. Mother Mariclair officiated over the ceremony with the bride and groom’s families beaming with joy. It was a very happy event for everyone.
My three older brothers flew in from Florida and California for this rare family wedding. I joked that “we were getting the old band back together.” As siblings now in our sixties and seventies, the four Hillmans talked a lot about growing up at 65 Maida Terrace in Middletown, New Jersey. We all agreed that we had a magical childhood at the Jersey Shore. We realize that we were blessed with two parents who deeply loved each other, and loved their children. While this may seem like an insignificant point, life has taught me how uncommon it is.
My Dad worked in New York City as a stockbroker, and the six of us lived on his modest income. At that time, Wall Street was a very different place than it is today. As I recall, my father had one really good year, and the rest were average or weak ones.
However, we had everything that we needed: food on the table, a roof over our heads, and clothes on our backs. My parents also sacrificed for all of us to go to Catholic school for twelve years. We did not, however, have a lot of stuff. I do remember treasuring my Carol Heiss ice skates and my English racer bike. But if I wanted a book, I had a library card. If I wanted a record, I borrowed it from my brothers’ record collections. If I was bored, I was told to go outside and play. It was a simpler time.
In my family, my Mother controlled the family budget. It was always difficult for me to ask her for money. I knew that it would never be casually handed over to me. If you wanted your allowance or something extra, it would cost you in sweat equity. In the 1960’s sexism was alive and well. While my brothers earned their money by doing yard work or cleaning out the basement, I was assigned the dusting and ironing. To this day, I truly hate to dust. But I can get a bit misty-eyed when I recall watching the 4:30 movie out of New York while I ironed and chatted with my Mother.
In 1973, the American economy was bad. Inflation was on the rise. They nicknamed for Wall Street was Death Valley. My father sold his company. My parents also sold the house at 65 Maida Terrace with all of our possessions including my skates and my bike. They moved to Florida with hope for a new and better life. It was the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at the University of Delaware.
Here is what I learned: #1: In life, love is always the answer to every situation. #2. Stuff is stuff. It should not own you. #3. Your marriage oath of for better or worse is a statement and not an option. #4: You must be independent and earn your way. #5: Physical work is just as valuable as money. #6: You should never be bored with the whole great world out there to explore.
When I started to write this Stewardship talk, I was writing about the role of my different Episcopal churches in my life. Since we married in 1976, Marty and I have moved nine times for new and better jobs in higher education. Currently, I work at the University of the Sciences as a graduate admission officer, and Marty is the Executive Director of College Houses and Academic Services at the University of Pennsylvania. We actually live across the parking lot from St. Mary’s in the Class of 1925 residence hall. With each move, my church has been the center of my community life.
Interestingly, we came to Philadelphia due to the economic downturn in 2010, much like my parents’ move to Florida. We relearned the same lessons. #1: In life, love is always the answer to every situation. #2. Stuff is stuff. It should not own you. #3: Your marriage oath of for better or worse is a statement and not an option. #4: You must be independent and earn your way. #5: Physical work is just as valuable as money. #6: You should never be bored with the whole great world out there to explore.
What do these personal stories have to do with Stewardship at St. Marys?
Like my life at 65 Maida Terrace, I have found a loving home at St. Mary’s. I cherish all of you as my brothers and sisters in Christ. I support our dear church with my treasure, my pledge, my flower donations, etc. because our church lives on budget with bills to pay.
I still have trouble asking people for money, and I always want to pledge more money than my family budget can afford. But I have found other ways to give to our lives together. I share my possessions or purchase what is asked of me, whenever possible to share with others. I do the physical work that needs to be done. I help with Altar Guild, our tag sale, cleaning the kitchen, writing for the newsletter, attending the Vestry meetings, working on fundraising events for the Nationalities Service Center, serving dinner with the University City Hospitality Coalition, and more. I bring food for the coffee hour and Third Sundays. I filled a backpack for the NSC. By doing all of these things, I find see Christ’s hands at work.
I ask you not only to prayer about the dollar amount for your annual pledge, but to consider what talent you can share with St. Mary’s. We need singers, ushers, writers, and readers. We need people who like to cook and serve meals. We all have unique or special talents. Here are a few examples: Right now, I am watching an architect share his talents as we are applying for a grant to improve our parish hall. We have another longtime member who is sharing his memories of St. Mary’s from 40 years ago. He is helping us all know more about the history of this special place. We have a woman who is serving the needy in University City every day.
What is your talent or passion that God gave you that you can share with us? Yes, we need everyone to submit a financial pledge. But please look at the rest of the pledge form and share your talents with St. Mary’s. I think that you will find that “there is no place like home” at St. Mary’s.
Sally Hillman Redman
October 14, 2018
Vanessa Albert Lowry
My name is Vanessa Albert Lowry. I have been a member at St. Mary’s since September 1985 when I arrived in Philadelphia to attend Penn Law School. I am honored to be speaking with you all today to kickoff Stewardship season here.
A couple of weeks ago I was traveling through the United terminal at O’Hare. It has two concourses joined by a tunnel. The tunnel is an amazing piece of functional, post-modern architecture. It has a central moving walkway and wide pathways to accommodate actual walkers and airport terminal vehicles either side. It has a river of neon above that ebbs and flows and there is ambient music enveloping the space. It is a little, indoor, virtual park. It is one of my favorite places if truth be told. I love the bustle of people with a purpose contrasted with the calm of the neon river and the music. When I was walking through it I was thinking of this sanctuary and how the tunnel was a little like it. A refuge from the tumult. A place full of busy people from all over the world. But St. Mary’s is much more than that.
When I first arrived at St. Mary’s 33 years ago, I was not sure what to expect. I found a place of amazing beauty, that welcomed me and all who came through these doors, that fed the hungry, cared for children, encouraged art, music, and service of all types, and, most importantly, a place where questioning and a desire to learn and grow were accepted and raised up. I had found a Church home and discovered the joy of service in a community made up of many busy individuals doing what needs to be done, together.
I have always tried to contribute here as I was able. I started with $3 a week and by staying for the tiny coffee hour after the tiny 8 am service to chat with the homeless who came before I headed to the library. I had no income, not much time and no particular talent of use. I contributed what I could. I have never felt alone in this.
When my children were small and I was struggling with how to teach them the love of God and how to live as God’s children, Sara Forrest told me we could teach Sunday School. I had never been to Sunday School. The thought was daunting, but we did it with the help of many people here, and it grew and flourished.
One Sunday last Epiphany, I had come into the sanctuary mid-service. At the end of the service, I found at the back of the Church a basketful of stars with words on. Mariclair explained that one could take one home and think about the word. I selected a star with the word “patience” on it, a good word for me because I tend to rush. I always feel that I will get more done if I push forward. I know that this is but an illusion, but I often forget. This little star helped me through my older son’s College application process and my younger son’s process of diagnosis of a rare condition. With this simple little star, the kingdom of God came a lot closer to me.
Now I am able to give much more than when I first arrived. I strive to tithe, I teach Sunday School and I serve as People’s Warden. I do none of this alone. I would forget to write a cheque, I would be overwhelmed in the nursery, I would not get done what needs to be done to keep this parish vibrant and our mission on track. I receive so much more than I can give. This is the miracle of communion. When we become the body of Christ we can move mountains, together. I hope you will join me.
Stewardship Reflections from our 2017 Stewardship Campaign
Good morning! My name is Martin Bodtmann. I was born in Hoboken, New Jersey and was raised Roman Catholic by strongly religious parents. The only way to get out of going to church on Sunday was to be near death. I became an altar boy in 4th grade and served until 8th as was the usual practice back then. In fact, I am the product of 16 years of Roman Catholic education. After Catholic grammar school, I attended both a Jesuit high school and college. Growing up I knew I was different from most other boys early on, but I never thought that God did not love me. However, it wasn’t until I did an abbreviated version of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises in my senior year of college that I became comfortable with my sexuality. I also learned that I could indeed have an unmediated relationship with my creator. They were probably NOT the insights St. Ignatius had in mind when he designed the Exercises, but they helped me immensely.
When I came to Philadelphia my first church home was Dignity, an organization of gay Roman Catholics unrecognized by that Church. In fact, they worshipped and still do in an Episcopal church on Sunday nights. Dignity became an important part of my life, but the service was very guitar mass which was not my style; after all, I started being an acolyte when the Mass was still said in Latin, and I liked a more formal service. Once I moved to University City with Scott in 1983 I became a member of St. Francis de Sales parish mainly so I could get the certification I needed to be godfather to two of my nieces back in Jersey, but also because I did enjoy their traditional service. While I was not an every Sunday member I was there fairly regularly until 1996.
That year then-Mayor Ed Rendell officially recognized domestic partnerships for management employees of the city; Scott was one of them. When Cardinal Devilaqua had his letter opposing those partnerships read in all the parishes of the Archdiocese, De Sales did the best they could. They read the letter before the service rather than after the Gospel, which was the normal practice. However, I knew I could no longer worship in a church that went out of its way to oppress me. So I ripped up my check and walked out of that Church. And six years later when I got laid off for a year from Amtrak I was certainly glad I could get medical benefits through my domestic partnership with Scott.
It took me a year to decide to find my next church home and the Episcopal church seemed like the logical place to start the search. So it was 20 years ago this fall when I first arrived at St. Mary’s. I loved the traditional Anglo-Catholic service, the wonderful hymns, and the absolutely beautiful surroundings. As I began to attend regularly I learned the parish itself was at a crossroads; a long-serving rector had left and a new one, Father Jim Littrell, had begun and there was the inevitable shuffling of parishioners that entails. In addition, some longtime vestry members were tired and ready to retire and there was even some talk of going to a part-time clergy status. When Fr. Jim asked me to join the vestry it didn’t seem like I had much choice so I answered the call and served there for two terms; it was quite a change for this not at all active former Roman Catholic.
I also volunteered to be a lector early on; it is a ministry I continue to enjoy. And as my six year’s service on the vestry ended a fellow parishioner, Tawn Stokes, for whom we now pray each Sunday, suggested we start a third Sunday brunch. I had grown up eating delicious food and enjoyed cooking myself so I found making a big meal once a month an acceptable alternative to vestry meetings! I forget when I first got roped into counting, but know I did it because it was something I could do with Nikki Blake whom many of you remember. She is a delightful young woman, and we had good times together counting, polishing brass on parish workdays, and just plain socializing. Finally earlier this year we were suffering from a lack of altar servers and Mother Mariclair asked if I’d be willing to take that on occasion so I figured why not? I too find it hard to say no to a priest.
Well, now that I’ve bored you to tears I guess I should get to the point of this stewardship speech which I agreed to do for purely selfish reasons. I ask you to consider carefully what you can give of your treasure to St. Mary’s so we can keep the doors open and the lights on in this place that I have come to love so dearly. I also want you to look at the opportunities for service listed on the pledge form and see where you might like to help out. I was thrilled when Mother Mariclair got me help in counting, and I was delighted when new members Tara and Jonathan volunteered to serve as acolytes; I was originally scheduled to serve on the altar three Sundays this month but their reinforcements let me cut back to only one. Finally, as my mother was always fond of saying, “Many hands make light work.” So I ask you to think hard, dig deep and give generously of your money and your talent to St. Mary’s, and I thank you for listening.
Sara Macro Forrest
Good morning, my name is Sara Macro Forrest, and I have been attending and a member here at St Mary’s for about 15 years. Mother Mariclair asked me to talk about Stewardship this Sunday, and I have learned to say YES – even to things that might feel difficult. I have also learned that the best way to get help in life is to ASK – right, Stan? This is especially true in volunteering and fundraising – and that’s part of what this is about. Stewardship means to take care of an organization or property, and every year at this time, we each reflect on how we can take care of St Mary’s each bringing our special talents to bear.
I am originally from North-Central Connecticut and was raised as a “Low-Church” Episcopalian, which is why I often call the mass a service. I attended Sunday school, was confirmed, and participated in the church Youth Group. I came to Pennsylvania for college and returned to the church after I got married.
When I first visited St Mary’s, I didn’t know what to make of the bells during mass. But there was childcare available and my older daughter was a toddler at the time. I liked the singing, loved the food, and the sense of welcome and community that I felt right away. Unlike the church I grew up in, this was an active, big city church, doing God’s work in the community like I didn’t see in CT.
Once my daughter got old enough, Vanessa asked me if I thought we should revive the Sunday school, and we got started. We asked other parents to help, and for 12 years we read the Bible stories, put on Christmas plays, and witnessed the children’s prayers – something which has profoundly deepened my spiritual life.
One Sunday a few years ago, Thomas stood up and said the choir was looking for new members, and that you didn’t need to be an awesome singer, just have an interest. I joined the choir and have even sung a duet with Ron, and two solos – a major personal accomplishment!
During a particularly difficult time in my life, I served dinner at the UCHC meals for the homeless. This experience helped me so much! It made me realize in such a fundamental way what Jesus was talking about – feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit prisoners, care for the sick, and welcome the stranger. We do all those things here, each in our different ways. I have seen God’s love in action in the world through St Mary’s.
So, as you know, the Sunday school class we had got confirmed and “graduated.” Over the summer I prayerfully considered what my role should be now. How would I contribute my Time, Treasure, and Talent? I decided I would return the favor that I received 15 years ago, and am volunteering to do childcare during the mass. And I am also going to continue the monthly monetary pledge that I have been giving.
St Mary’s is a huge blessing in my life – you are all a family to me and have carried me through some big moments in my life, and I am truly grateful. You show me how to live in a community of faith, and what faith means every day. I can’t put a price tag on that, but I give what I can to support this community in all the ways that I am able. I ask you, as we gather in our stewardship pledges, to be as generous as you can be as we take care of this community to glorify God’s Love in the world.
Dear St. Marians,
You are welcome here.
“The Episcopal Church welcomes you – all of you, not as merely a church slogan, but as a reflection of what we believe Jesus teaches us and at the core of the movement he began in the first century. The Episcopal Church welcomes all. All of us!”, stated Presiding Bishop Michael Curry this past year.
St. Mary’s works to ensure that we live and proclaim this sentiment every day. Our work with Nationalities Services Center has continued this year. Members of our church have created a Social Justice Working Group and met with other Philadelphia groups concerned with social justice, such as the Diocesan Anti-Racism committee. Our banners and lawn signs proclaim to students, neighbors, and visitors who walk past that all are welcome here!
This year has been a productive and rewarding year for everyone who has participated in the many different church activities offered- programs, leadership, and worship activities. Our partnerships with St. Mary’s Nursery School, University City Hospitality Coalition, and the Bearded Ladies also further exemplify our belief that all are welcome. Will you help us continue this work?
Your financial pledge for 2018 allows St. Mary’s to meet the financial needs required for our ministries to be carried out to our larger community. Your participation and dedication to St. Mary’s drives the mission and spirit of community in our congregation. And you, through your pledge, guarantee the resources needed are available when we are called to welcome everyone.
Vestry Member and Stewardship Chairperson
P.S. We now have online giving capabilities for one-time donations, and are working on recurring options, through our online donation page: http://stmarysatpenn.org/donate/
My name is Stan Stachelek. My wife, Karen, and I have two daughters: Emma who is now a sophomore in high school and Siobhan who is an eighth grader. Philadelphia was supposed to be a three-year layover for us while I finished my fellowship. That was 16 years ago. So, my family has been coming to St. Mary’s for about the past ten years. My daughters attended the St. Mary’s nursery school. Initially, what attracted us to St. Mary’s, both the church and the school, was its proximity to our house. We live just 5 blocks or so away. With two small children at the time, getting ready for church on a Sunday morning involved a lot of cajoling, yelling and bribing just to make it out the door.
Once we made it inside these doors on Sunday, we found an amazingly beautiful church with great stained glass and dark wood. It was everything that growing up as a Roman Catholic, a church was supposed to be. We knew some of the parishioners from our daughter’s nursery school and they immediately made us feel at home. We were quickly introduced to other members of the church and were very happy how such a diverse spectrum of people can slow down their lives and come together as one to listen to God’s words and try to make a small bit of sense out of the world and their place in it.
As our kids got older, our ability to make it to church on time improved and we were able to explore the church more in-depth. Our daughters enrolled in the Sunday School, where many of their good friends also attended, which immediately led to the arrangement of Sunday Afternoon play dates following services, which led to chatting with their friends’ parents when it was time to pick the girls up. This, in turn, led to those parents becoming some of the dearest friends and we continue to share in each other’s joys and anxieties as our kids have moved from nursery school to high school and college.
I mentioned that we found a very diverse spectrum of people when we got to St. Mary’s. I grew up in a rural suburban town in Central Massachusetts. It is very different from Philadelphia. My hometown has several stores to buy livestock feed or to get your tractor fixed. There were lots of Trump signs on the lawns last year mixed with NASCAR Dale Earnhardt No. 3 flags. Every time I go to work in the morning, I know that I am not in the town I grew up in. St. Mary’s makes that knowledge more hands on. Within these walls is a very diverse group of people with a myriad of talents, skills, and life experiences that I never would have imagined were necessary to make a church work. But I am certain that everyone here at St. Mary’s has used their talents in some way to positively influence my life.
Some of the talents of our fellow parishioners are easy to identify if you listen to the choir, or you eat Martin’s meatballs at the Third Thursday brunch. Those are the easy ones. However, it’s talking to my fellow St. Marians during that Sunday Brunch where I truly realize how blessed I am to be amongst such an amazing group of people. Over the years, they have shared their own life experiences with me, which has helped me to think through life decisions that I have to make. This, in turn, helped me to realize that no matter how bad things seem, it will improve. So for those conversations over the past ten years, I have been coming here. I am truly grateful.
I mentioned that everyone here at St Mary’s has talents and one day about 8 years or so ago while walking up Locust with Sara bringing our daughters to Nursery School, I was called to use mine. Sara asked me how I felt about teaching Sunday school. I laughed. No, she said she was serious. I agreed still thinking there was some joke surrounding this. I knew there was no joke when I was in a room with more than half a dozen children and armed only with a box of Entenmann’s cookies. Eight years later, I have finally hung up my Sunday school hat but it was not until after I realized that I probably benefited more from the students than they did from me leading them in a game of Bible Trivia for cookies. I got to appreciate how talented and insightful today’s kids are and it truly gives me hope for our future.
Shortly after saying yes to being a Sunday School teacher I was asked to be on the vestry—specifically to be the Treasurer. Now if you ask my wife, I’m not even sure where our checkbook is for our household finances, but I tend to hedge my bets when it comes to any spiritual issues and hardly ever refuse a request from a clergy member. So I became the Treasurer of St. Mary’s. With Scott’s guidance, I wrote out the checks so lights stayed on and people got paid. But I really got an appreciation for the volunteering and the financial commitment necessary, from each one of you; to keep this magnificent institution we call St. Mary’s functioning. And I’m going to come to that now.
What I have found out during my decade at St. Mary’s is that every single one of you in this room has talents that may not even be realized. I had no idea that I could keep what seemed at times like a screaming horde of children entertained and learning for over an hour, or that I can have a positive effect in the decision-making processes and the finances of St. Mary’s. But together with my fellow parishioners, I have been able to do that. This diverse group of people here today has the many talents and skills that can continue to make St. Mary’s the amazing place that I have grown to love and call home. So please as the Stewardship Campaign starts to get underway, please take a moment to think about how your talents can benefit St. Mary’s.
Stewardship Reflections from our 2016 Stewardship Campaign
Sally Hillman Redman, People’s Warden
“The Bells of St. Mary’s”
Good morning, my name is Sally Hillman Redman, and I am a member of your Vestry. I was born in Plainfield, New Jersey but moved to Middletown when I was two years old. There I grew up in a stereotypical Baby Boomer community where all of the split-level homes looked alike, and you always had tons of friends to play with outside. In 1960, I started first grade at Saint James Grammar School on the other side of the Navesink River, two miles away in Red Bank. A year later, all dressed in white, I received my first communion in the beautiful St. James Catholic Church. A decade later Bishop Ahr confirmed me in the same church. In 1968, I crossed the parking lot from my grammar school to attend Red Bank Catholic High School for four years. While at the University of Delaware, I broke my mother’s heart when I told her that I was stepping away from the Roman Catholic Church.
All was going well until my high school sweetheart and I decided to get married at the end of college. We both wanted a church wedding; just not a Catholic wedding. Interestingly enough, my husband’s fraternity adviser at Dickinson College was an Episcopal priest! When we were casually discussing our problem with Padre at a cocktail party, he asked the big three questions of our faith: do you believe in the Last Supper, do you believe that Christ died for your sins, and do you believe in the resurrection of Christ? When we both said yes, Padre told us that he would be proud to marry us.
So, we were married on June 12, 1976, in St. John’s Episcopal Church in Carlisle, PA. When asked about my transition from the Catholic Church to the Episcopal Church, I joke that the Reformation suited me just fine.
I was officially received in the Episcopal Church in 1990. We raised our two children, Katie and Max, in the Episcopal Church. I attended medium size church in Pennsylvania, a small prairie church in Minnesota, and a growing church in New Hampshire.
When I lived in Hanover, New Hampshire, it seemed that I was involved in everything at St. Thomas. I loved my church community! I am especially proud of co-founding the Jumble Sale that annually raises over $12,000. I also loved my four years in EfM, Education for Ministry. If you would like to know more about this continuing education program through the University of the South, or Sewanee, I would be happy to share. I am happy to report that our daughter, Katie was married in St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Hanover in 2015.
Meanwhile, I moved to Philadelphia in June 2011. I mourned the loss of my church community at St. Thomas and my life in Hanover. I did come to St. Mary’s on Pentecost in 2011, but it was a low attendance Sunday and I was still missing my previous church. I decided to take a break from church until I got settled in my new job and new life in Philadelphia.
A one year break turned into three. But on Easter Sunday 2014, I heard the bells of St. Mary’s ringing and ringing. Oh, here is an important fact that I need to mention: I live across the parking lot from St. Mary’s. But the bells made me realized that I was being called back church, back to a faith community. I came to church the next Sunday, and since then have seldom missed a Sunday. After I met The Rev. Mariclair Partee Carlsen and many others at St. Mary’s, and I realized that I was where I belonged. This is where I say: “Thank you, Jesus!”
Even though I planned to take it slow in 2014, I am as busy as ever with church activities. I am on Altar Guild, on the Vestry, working with the St. Mary’s Refugee Committee, the newsletter and more. I invite you will join in the fun since this is what giving of your time and talent looks like with stewardship!
Once The Rev. Mariclair Partee Carlsen spoke about our responsibility to pass this beautiful church building on to the next generation. I pledge some of my treasure to this church in thanks for current good works that happen here in this building every day. But I also pledge to help pass this building on to those who come after us. My pledge is a tangible expression of my gratitude for all of the blessings that I have received through Christ our Lord.
I have been attending St. Mary’s for about 6 years now and I recently joined the vestry. I first came to St. Mary’s during a difficult time in my life. I had just completed my undergraduate degree at Temple University and had only recently embraced my sexuality. Having been raised in a Presbyterian church that does not celebrate gay relationships, I couldn’t fathom how the church would fit into my new identity. I was very fortunate to meet my partner Thomas, who, at the time, was a grad student at Penn and was already an active member at St. Mary’s. Through him, I was introduced to an incredible community of open-minded individuals who celebrated diversity in every sense of the word.
While I found St. Marians to be very welcoming, it felt like a daunting task to step over the threshold and become a member. It wasn’t until I joined the choir that I felt comfortable enough to call St. Mary’s home. Music has always been something I can relate to, and the choir initially provided me with a safe space in which my introverted self could build relationships with people one-on-one. 6 years later and I’m stilling enjoying the reciprocal nature of giving to the choir, and therefore the church, and the way it gives back to me.
The Rev. Mariclair Partee Carlsen frequently talks about investing our “time, talent, and treasure” in St. Mary’s. Devoting my time and talent to St. Mary’s is what got me in the door and made me feel like a part of this community. Investing in St. Mary’s is not only a surefire way to personally benefit from this loving community, but your time, talent, and treasure help to expand the reach of our mission and strengthen our community.
If you haven’t already, or if you are a relative newcomer to St. Mary’s, I encourage you to explore what you think you can invest. Think about the skills you possess and an area of St. Mary’s that could benefit from your talent. Whether it’s participating in the choir or the altar guild, preparing food for the coffee hour or Sunday brunch, doing community outreach, or dropping your pledge in the giving plate, there’s something meaningful that you can do to keep St. Mary’s going.
As you know, St. Mary’s is in the midst of its annual stewardship campaign, and as a member of the vestry, I would like to share with you why it is important to me to support the ministry of this church.
When my wife Gail and I arrived in Philadelphia in the summer of 1974, fresh out of graduate school in Baltimore, one of our first priorities was to find religious communities where we could feel at home as members of a mixed Episcopal-Jewish marriage. After visiting a number of churches and synagogues, we settled on St. Mary’s here at Penn and Society Hill Synagogue in Old City. Both of these communities were welcoming, nurturing and supportive of our non-traditional relationship.
We came at a time when the country and our faiths were in a state of ferment and change. The Vietnam War was just ending, and the counter-cultural revolution was in full swing. Civil rights, women’s liberation, including women in the priesthood, LGBT rights were hot and divisive topics in the nation and in our religious institutions. Just out of graduate school, we were products of this time of ferment, just taking our first steps into independent adulthood. I feel like I grew up at St. Mary’s. In the midst of what seemed to be a turmoil that threatened to tear the nation and the church apart, St. Mary’s, always on the forefront of change, provided a laboratory where ideas and ideals could be tested in the context of values, principles, and spirituality grounded in the long history and witness of our faith. This congregation was a lodestone in a dark and stormy sea, and today that beacon continues to serve us, as many of the same issues resonate in the contemporary climate of political and spiritual unrest. Indeed, St. Mary’s has continued throughout these many years to nurture and challenge – challenge and nurture – ideals and principles grounded and honed in faith, and realized in the life and witness of this loving faith community. To me it is home.
Over the years, St. Mary’s has also been home to the St. Mary’s Nursery School, the Neighborhood Bike Works, the University City Hospitality Coalition which serves meals to the homeless, the University City School for Asian Youth which taught English to Southeast Asian refugee children flooding in during the boat people crisis, the Cherry Tree Folk Music Co-Op, the Bearded Ladies Cabaret, numerous Penn student groups – and these are only a few of the many activities that have found home under our roof.
And then there is the beauty of our worship. Don’t let me forget the choir.
But before I go on too long, let me say that all of these things need a home – a place to come together – this beautiful building and its Parish Hall. And this property needs to be maintained, and our staff needs to be paid. And that’s why we have stewardship drives, so please consider what this church means in your lives and what you can commit within your means to see that St. Mary’s continues to have the resources to continue on with its mission.
Thank you, and God bless you.
For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Allie Schreffler, and I am a first-year veterinary student here at Penn. This is also my fifth year as a parishioner of St. Mary’s and my third year as a member of the vestry.
One thing that I love about the modern Episcopal church is that it puts its money where its mouth is. When its clergy or parishioners claim that they believe something, they substantiate that claim with actions, often by dedicating time and money to support a cause that they believe is important.
However, we students—and young people in general—tend to excuse ourselves from the need to turn our claims into tangible actions. I know that I certainly do. But I have always wanted to be someone that acts on my convictions. This is what I want to be when I grow up.
We often don’t like to admit it, but we are growing up right now. Our words and our actions here in college shape the kinds of adults that we will become.
Of course, we are busy, and of course, we are pretty short on cash. And yet, I always seem to have time and treasure left to give. Lately, I have donated very generous amounts of time to Netflix and perhaps too much treasure to Wawa. I like to believe that Netflix and Wawa are not two of the most important things in my life. So if I have the means to give my limited resources to these two rather trivial causes, couldn’t I allocate an hour and a few dollars from those expenditures each week to give to St. Mary’s, an organization that is a significant part of my life?
That’s what I strive to do. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I don’t. But it’s important to me that I at least try. I believe strongly in the work that St. Mary’s does for this community and for the world beyond. If I put off supporting that belief with my actions until I have lots of money and free time or until I feel like a real live grown up, then this wonderful organization might have to wait a very long time.
Stewardship Reflections from our 2015 Stewardship Campaign
Sally Hillman Redman
Why do I pledge? I guess the bigger question is why do I come to this particular place on Sundays.
Is it because I love coming to this beautiful building with its amazing stain glass windows and the altar that helps me to focus on our Lord’s sacrifice for my sins? Yes, of course, that is the reason that I pledge.
Is it for the beautiful music that transports me by the words and angelic sounds? Yes, of course, that is the reason that I pledge.
Is it the words of the Book of Common Prayer that are like poetry to my ears? Yes, of course, that is the reason that I pledge.
Is the Gospel, the Good News, the reason why I come here? Yes, of course, that is the reason that I pledge.
Is it the thought-provoking sermons that stay with me throughout my busy week? Yes, of course, that is the reason that I pledge.
Is it the fellowship of St. Marians where all are welcome with no exceptions? Yes, of course, that is the reason that I pledge.
Are the good works that this congregation does in Christ’s name? Yes, of course, that is the reason that I pledge.
All of these are true and valid reasons to pledge my time, my talent and my treasure to St. Mary’s. However, on a Sunday that follows the horrors in Paris, I need to come to a place. I need a place where the lights are turned on, where our beautiful rituals are observed, and where we sing to praise our God. I truly need to hear the word of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and a sermon that will comfort and heal me.
I need to be in a fellowship that knows what the two greatest commandments are. The first is to love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with your whole mind. Today I need to be with people who also know that the second greatest commandment is to love one another. Yes, to love one another without exception, to even love those who hate us.
Yes, of course, that is the reason that I pledge.
The Manayunk Bridge Trail which opened on Friday shows what good stewardship of our tax dollars can accomplish. An obsolete railroad bridge has been transformed into a recreational asset for now and many years to come.
As a pledging member of the parish, I have seen what the transformative power of good stewardship can do. Your pledge to contribute a set amount of money, time and talent enables us to maintain St. Mary’s Church, Hamilton Village as a home for many ministries that have evolved over time and continue to evolve: from creating the Nursery School in the ’60s, teaching English to refugees from the Vietnam War in the ’70s, to providing a home base for the University City Hospitality Coalition, to maintaining the Women’s Spiritual Sharing Group, to recreating an active Sunday School several times over the decades- these are just a few of the ministries we have created and enabled.
I cannot leave out the love and support so generously given to me and my family by fellow St Marians over the years.
Please take time to think about what St. Mary’s means in your life, and then take time to discern how you can best be a steward of this parish. Then fill out the stewardship form available at the back of the church and return it today or next Sunday.
Janet A. Deatrick-Ash
For unto whomsoever much is given, much shall be required. I have been given much in my life in that I have had love and support. Every opportunity was afforded to me. I want to give my time and talents to help others in the best way I can.
My name is Janet Deatrick-Ash. My husband and I “downsized” and moved to an apartment in University City from New Jersey in December of 2013. We found St. Mary’s in July of 2014 after emerging from our winter-time move. While I say that we moved to Philadelphia, in many ways I had lived part of my life in University City for some time. I had been commuting from New Jersey since 1989 when I joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing as an Assistant Professor.
I am a life-long Episcopalian. My mother was raised Episcopalian by parents of Dutch-German heritage in Union County, New Jersey, and my father was raised Presbyterian by parents of German heritage in Defiance County, Ohio. After meeting in New York, where they both worked before World War II, they were married and had three children – my two brothers and me.
My family attended an Episcopal Church in our small Ohio town throughout my childhood. We had the same priest throughout, and he was a major support to our family. My younger brother served as an Episcopal priest for many years and is presently “retired” in New Jersey and volunteers at nearby churches that need a hand with services, visitation, and activities. My older brother is a civil engineer.
I am a child of the ’60s. My nursing education in the 1960s emphasized community aspects of care, the rights of human beings to decent health care, and the role of nurses in advocating and working toward social change. My practice, education, and research focus on children who have serious chronic conditions or who have been diagnosed with cancer. I direct the Center for Health Disparities/Health Equity at the University of Pennsylvania. All of these experiences put me in touch with people, places, and ideas that are vastly different than the experience of growing up in my hometown in Ohio, where everyone looked the same as me.
My husband and I met in Chicago in 1986, four years after I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Illinois. I am blessed by a wonderful life with John and by loving stepchildren, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and many wonderful friends and colleagues. We have experienced our share of sorrow along the way, especially the suicide of John’s son John. Our collective and individual faith in God has enabled us through good and bad days to move forward in life- and better understand God’s mercy and love.
Bringing this back to stewardship, I think you can tell that I feel I have truly been given much in my life. I have tried to serve the Church and God by service on the vestry, in the choir, and as a Sunday School teacher. My newest adventure is as a St. Mary’s acolyte. I know that there is much more that I can do in the future.
St. Mary’s is a perfect match for me in so many ways- too numerous to mention. I think you understand, after listening, about the importance to me of St. Mary’s mission of social justice. I hope that we all will support St. Mary’s in the way that we are able, and facilitate its important religious and social missions.
Reflections from our 2014 Stewardship Campaign
I’ve been worshiping here since the summer of 2012. I first came to St. Mary’s during a somewhat formative period for me: I had only recently become a committed Christian. I already knew Lee Ann and her daughter Nikki, and both were very welcoming. Additionally, all of you—the St. Mary’s congregation—impressed me in a way that congregations really never did. You cared, earnestly; you were interested in everyone who came in the door. Moses commands us to “love the stranger” and you did that.
The congregation’s size also appealed to me immensely; I had never experienced a small parish, and it reminded me of the house churches that Paul mentions in his letters. Both these things, the church’s kindness, and its closeness added to my feeling that St. Mary’s was a place where I might be encouraged, along with all of you, to do what I think all Christians are called to do: namely, to help build the Kingdom of God.
It’s been my goal to do this building, to place stones, in every aspect of my life: in my family; through art; and as a congregant in this community. I recently joined the vestry here, which has been a wonderful experience thus far; I occasionally take part in the music ministry: I wrote a hymn that we’ll sing together in January, and I also support the church monetarily with money that I put aside.
I would invite you, during the next month, to think about your role as a Christian in the church universal, as part of the communion of saints. Then consider what your role is, or what it might be, here in this specific community of St. Mary’s. What is God calling you to do? How might God work through you and in you?