As we prepare to welcome Bishop Anne Hodges-Copple on All Saints’ Day, the diocesan office asked us to submit a brief word about St. Paul’s and what we have been up to since the pandemic started.
I had the privilege of writing it up. You’ll find the full text below. Once I had to put it into words, I was struck by just how much we have been able to accomplish in the past few months—and the many, many people that made it possible.
It made me grateful for your witness, St. Paul’s. I can think of no better way to commemorate All Saints’ Day: a celebration of the great cloud of witnesses in the faith, of which you are an invaluable part.
Once upon a time, St. Paul’s, Cary was known as “the little church in the woods,” but today, it is anything but: located in Wake County, and in close proximity to major universities and Research Triangle Park, the Town of Cary has experienced significant growth over the past couple of decades.
The pandemic has obviously disrupted St. Paul’s usual rhythms, but we remain committed to our common life and work. Thanks to the efforts of staff, clergy, and volunteers, our worship life now takes place online, which includes new, daily offerings of Morning Prayer facilitated by clergy and lay people alike. In response to the economic challenges posed by the pandemic, St. Paul’s parishioners have been active participants in emergency food distribution efforts with local ministry partners. Over the summer, we welcomed a seminarian intern—our own interim youth coordinator—and he navigated the strange, new world of online worship and pastoral care with us. He also brought energy and guidance to our nascent environmental stewardship ministry.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Youth Community continues to meet online every Sunday, and they welcomed a new class of middle schoolers into their midst at the beginning of the school year. Children’s programming has also transitioned to an online format: a mix of video content, Sunday School classes, and children’s chapel services. There are plans in the works for socially-distant, family-friendly events, including a Halloween parade, and our adult formation offerings—book and Bible studies as well as our usual Sunday forums—now gather over Zoom. We have been able to record some of these offerings, thereby reaching a wider audience.
In the wake of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and many others, we have also engaged in ongoing conversations about race and faith. Greatly aided by sustained attention to this work over the past few years—including hosting the Racial Equity Institute training at St. Paul’s—we have stepped into this work with humility and a genuine desire to tell the truth about ourselves and the world in which we live.
Despite the current circumstances, we have also witnessed the gift of growth and new birth. After years of organizing, St. Paul’s proudly attended the virtual Founding Assembly of ONE Wake: a nonpartisan, multi-racial, and multi-faith power organization comprised of 42 member institutions across Wake County.
We went public with an agenda for affordable housing, jobs, and public education, and community leaders and candidates for local and statewide office pledged their commitment to work with ONE Wake to achieve our goals. Over 3,000 people attended the Assembly on Tuesday, October 13. About 170 of them were members of St. Paul’s.
Despite setbacks, we are grateful for the ways that we remain connected to one another. As our baptismal covenant reminds us, we plan to “continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers”—supporting one another as we navigate these troubled, uncertain times.
— Fr. JavierTags: From the Clergy, Hope for the Journey