3916 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104 Sunday at 11 AM


Stewardship at St. Mary’s


You can download a 2020 Stewardship Pledge Form here.

Stewardship Reflections from our 2019 Stewardship Campaign

Natalie Zamora
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.
Thank you!

Jonathan Aston
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.

Thank you.

 

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Stewardship Reflections from our 2018 Stewardship Campaign

Frank Innes

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.

 

Cassandra Royall
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.

Thank you.

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Stewardship Reflections from our 2017 Stewardship Campaign

Martin Bodtmann

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.

Thank you.

Karen Stachelek

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.

Sincerely,

Karen Stachelek
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/

Stan Stachelek

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.

Thanks.

 

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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.

Aaron Todd

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.

Holman Massey

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.

Allie Schreffler

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.

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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.

Frank Innes

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.

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Reflections from our 2014 Stewardship Campaign

Eric Krewson

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?