Dear St. Mary's Family,
Each day, it seems that more and more information that is brought to light about the inhumane conditions that exist for children and other asylum seekers in government custody. Many people who are fleeing violence and danger arrive at our borders looking for relief and a safer life for their families, only to find themselves in overcrowded detention centers that lack basic sanitation, causing more suffering and even death.
Despite being a news junkie, I find it difficult to sort through all of the issues involved with what is clearly a crisis on the southern border of the United States. What is clear is that there is no simple solution. We can and should respectfully debate the country's immigration laws and policies, but beyond calling our representatives in Congress - an important step, no doubt - what can we do to love and care for these people in Jesus's name?
Over the past several weeks, The Episcopal Church has issued a response to the border crisis that includes calls for donations and goods from Episcopal dioceses on the border, prayers for those seeking safety, efforts to engage in advocacy, and pastoral messages from bishops around the Church. You can read the church's response here. A list of resources for education and support is available via the Episcopal Migration Ministries' website here.
This crisis extends far beyond the southern border of our country. Immigrants all over the country - both those here legally and illegally - are subject to appalling treatment (click here for a particularly vile example here in Kansas City). We need to prayerfully discern how St. Mary's is called to respond, not only to immigration-related injustice, but other important needs in our city.
To that end, I've asked St. Mary's parishioner John Simpson to head up our Social Justice Ministry. He has formed an initial ministry team to begin discerning how we might address injustice in Kansas City. Please share any thoughts you may have directly with him at church or via email. Once this new ministry team formulates a plan of action, you'll hear more about how you can get involved.
In the meantime, please join me in praying for immigrants and those who care for them. And please join me and all your brothers and sisters at St. Mary's in treating and serving the foreigners among us as though they are our own citizens, our own neighbors, our own family. (Leviticus 19:33-34).
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of the sight to the blind, and to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19)
St. Mary’s Family,
Have you ever looked around the photos of the former clergy of the parish hanging in the parish hall and thought, “What’s with the hat?” The biretta has been used regularly throughout this parish’s history, and this coming Sunday, you’ll see it in use once again.
The precise origin of this four-sided brimless cap is debated, though it is likely that its roots are in the academic headgear of the high Middle Ages. At the time, the clergy were amongst the few with an academic degree and the biretta ultimately became especially associated with the clergy. It evolved to the form you see today by the early sixteenth century, with regulations defining its ecclesiastical use being written a hundred years later. The biretta has fallen out of disuse in today’s world, a point made rather bluntly on The Episcopal Church’s website: “It is rarely used in The Episcopal Church, except in some parishes with an Anglo-Catholic piety.” St. Mary’s is certainly that!
In the public liturgies of the Church, generally, the biretta is worn by the Sacred Ministers – priest, deacon, and subdeacon – in procession and while seated, while assisting clergy carry it at the breast in procession and wear it while seated. But perhaps the most important part of the use of the biretta is that it is removed anytime the Holy Name of Jesus is mentioned.
The preacher this Sunday (yours truly) will be tempted to say the name of Jesus as many times as possible during the sermon just to enjoy the look on the parishioners’ faces upon seeing the constant bobbing of hats behind him. Or perhaps we will observe the standard custom of doffing the first three times the Holy Name is used and then stop with the madness. Either way, the doffing of the biretta is a powerful, visual reminder for all to bow their heads in humble reverence when hearing that “name that is above every name.”
May its continued use at St. Mary’s lead us all to a closer devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus!
 James-Charles Noonan, Jr., The Church Visible (New York: Sterling Ethos, 2012), 266.
 The minor order of subdeacon has not existed in the Churches of English heritage since the Reformation, but a good number of Anglo-Catholic parishes like ours have maintained the liturgical role of subdeacon. In our parish, the role of the subdeacon is typically served by someone who is aspiring to be ordained.
On Sunday, we will use the Exhortation as the Bidding to Confession at St. Mary's.
The Exhortation has been part of the Anglican liturgy since the first prayer book in 1549. In a world of monthly or even quarterly celebrations of holy communion, it and was intended to be read on the Sunday or holy day prior to remind the faithful to approach the Holy Table worthily after having repented of their sins. Thankfully, in our day, weekly communion has been restored, but that means that we rarely hear these powerful words.
In the Exhortation, the Church invites us to approach the Holy Table worthily. By accident, the Eucharist can become mindless repetition. We mechanically sit, stand, and kneel, and recite the prayers from memory. We approach the altar without even thinking about what we’re doing…without thinking about who we are or who we are about to consume. The Exhortation reminds us that we are sinners called to repent, and that God is holy and stands ready to forgive us.
While the Lord calls us to receive communion worthily, the Eucharist is not a purity test. There are churches that teach that you can’t receive communion unless your soul is in a “state of grace”, meaning free from mortal sin and pleasing to God (as if you are somehow less pleasing to God at other times). That is not the message of the Exhortation! This isn’t about being refused communion because of what the Church or the priest think about your conduct, it’s instead a call to “judge yourselves, therefore, lest you be judged by the Lord.” We are called to examine our lives by the rule of God’s commandment, reconcile with God and with our neighbor, and then “come to the banquet of that most heavenly Food.”
Beyond its occasional use at Mass, it is also a powerful tool for any Christian to use as a way to examine one’s conscience. As Lent quickly comes to an end, let remember the dignity of the most Holy Sacrament, and let us repent and return to the Lord!
An Exhortation – from page 316 of the Book of Common Prayer
This Exhortation may be used, in whole or in part, either during the Liturgy or at other times. In the absence of a deacon or priest, this Exhortation may be read by a lay person. The people stand or sit.
Beloved in the Lord: Our Savior Christ, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood as a sign and pledge of his love, for the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of his death, and for a spiritual sharing in his risen life. For in these holy Mysteries we are made one with Christ, and Christ with us; we are made one body in him, and members one of another.
Having in mind, therefore, his great love for us, and in obedience to his command, his Church renders to Almighty God our heavenly Father never-ending thanks for the creation of the world, for his continual providence over us, for his love for all mankind, and for the redemption of the world by our Savior Christ, who took upon himself our flesh, and humbled himself even to death on the cross, that he might make us the children of God by the power of the Holy Spirit, and exalt us to everlasting life.
But if we are to share rightly in the celebration of those holy Mysteries, and be nourished by that spiritual Food, we must remember the dignity of that holy Sacrament. I therefore call upon you to consider how Saint Paul exhorts all persons to prepare themselves carefully before eating of that Bread and drinking of that Cup.
For, as the benefit is great, if with penitent hearts and living faith we receive the holy Sacrament, so is the danger great, if we receive it improperly, not recognizing the Lord’s Body. Judge yourselves, therefore, lest you be judged by the Lord.
Examine your lives and conduct by the rule of God’s commandments, that you may perceive wherein you have offended in what you have done or left undone, whether in thought, word, or deed. And acknowledge your sins before Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life, being ready to make restitution for all injuries and wrongs done by you to others; and also being ready to forgive those who have offended you, in order that you yourselves may be forgiven. And then, being reconciled with one another, come to the banquet of that most heavenly Food.
And if, in your preparation, you need help and counsel, then go and open your grief to a discreet and understanding priest, and confess your sins, that you may receive the benefit of absolution, and spiritual counsel and advice; to the removal of scruple and doubt, the assurance of pardon, and the strengthening of your faith.
To Christ our Lord who loves us, and washed us in his own blood, and made us a kingdom of priests to serve his God and Father, to him be glory in the Church evermore. Through him let us offer continually the sacrifice of praise, which is our bounden duty and service, and, with faith in him, come boldly before the throne of grace [and humbly confess our sins to Almighty God].
Dear St. Mary's Family,
It is with great joy that I announce to you a very important change in the life of our congregation. As I'm sure you're aware, our parish has been worshiping using music and musical instruments that are woefully out-of-date. Effective next Sunday, we will be improving our Sunday morning worship experience by retiring our antiquated and ineffective music program and taking up more relevant, contemporary music that will be sure to bring in the young people!
In order to bring our parish into the 21st century, we will need a new acoustic guitar, bass guitar, drum set, and sound system, along with a screen that can be lowered from the rood. This important work will be funded by pawning off the organ pipes and hymnals. Our two primary staff musicians, Dr. Maglione and Dr. Wilcken, have happily resigned to make available the funds needed to hire the band and AV technicians.
Out with the Gregorian chant, and in with the strobe lights! By Easter, we will ready to sing "Shine, Jesus Shine" in a way that truly honors our Lord!
Dear St. Mary's Family
Between the time that Jesus and his disciples shared the last supper and his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked his disciples to keep watch with him while he prayed and struggled with what God was asking him to do. You have an opportunity to answer Jesus' request this Holy Week by keeping vigil before the Altar of Repose.
At the end of the Maundy Thursday service (Thursday, April 18th at 7pm), the sacrament is removed from the Church and moved to St. George's Chapel where a candle-lit, garden-like setting will be created. A vigil will be kept before the Altar of Repose from 9:00 pm to midnight. Spending an hour of prayer and contemplation before the Altar of Repose can be a powerful experience and if you have never done it, I encourage you to try it.
To sign up for a time slot, please click here and sign up on our website.
Why do we veil the crosses and images of saints in the church during Lent?
Like many of the liturgical practices in The Episcopal Church, this one isn’t prescribed by canon law or by the rubrics in the prayer book. It’s an amalgamation of traditions that have formed over the centuries. And like much of our liturgical ceremonial at St. Mary’s, this custom has its roots in two separate-yet-intertwining traditions: the traditional Roman rite, and the variation of the Roman rite that was used in parts of England prior to the Reformation: the Sarum use.
In the Sarum use, unbleached linen trimmed in red and black (“Lenten array”) was typically used during Lent. Images and crosses were covered from Ash Wednesday until Easter. In the traditional Roman rite, the color used during Lent is violet. Images and crosses are veiled during the two weeks preceding Easter. Most Anglo-Catholics use violet during Lent as we do, and most Episcopal parishes observe the Lenten veil through the entirety of Lent.
What is the spiritual significance of this practice?
The Lenten veil is a visual representation of the penitential nature of the season. The cross – the sign of Christ’s glorious victory over death – and the images of the saints who lead us closer to him are simply too bright for us to bear during this season of mourning and penance. The veil also reminds us of the fig leaves worn by Adam and Eve, the visible sign of the shame felt by our first parents when they ate the apple from the forbidden tree. During Lent, we hone our spiritual habits, and as we do, we become more aware of our own sinfulness with its corresponding shame. As we grow in self-awareness of our tendency to sin, we also become more and more aware that we are not able to fix ourselves on our own. We need a Savior.
The veils will come off soon enough as Easter is just around the corner. But in the meantime, the Lenten veil reminds us that we are sinners in need of a Savior. In the words Fr. Alexander Schmemann, “The night may be dark and long, but all along the way, a mysterious and radiant dawn seems to shine on the horizon.” 
 By “traditional Roman rite”, I’m referring to the primary liturgy used in the Roman Catholic Church from 1570 until 1962 along with its prescribed ceremonial. It is properly referred to as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, but commonly called the Tridentine Mass or the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM).
 The Sarum use is a now defunct pre-Reformation variation of the traditional Roman Rite that stems from the Diocese of Salisbury and spread to much of southern England as well as elsewhere in the British Isles. If you’re interested in an academic overview of the Sarum use, click here. It is a pet peeve of mine that in The Episcopal Church today, it is common to attribute any liturgical peculiarity to the Sarum use in order to attempt to legitimize it, even if it has no basis in historical practice. For example, Episcopal parishes that use blue as the liturgical color during Advent often call it “Sarum blue”, even though blue was never the color used for Advent in the Sarum use.
Our Choirmaster and Director of Music Dr. Tony Maglione was recently interviewed by the Kansas City Star's Patrick Neas and our own Dr. William Baker, director of the William Baker Festival Singers and chorister at St. Mary's. Spend a few minutes listening to the conversation, and to Tony's handiwork! You can listen to the podcast by clicking here. And you can hear his beautiful music making every Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. at St. Mary's Episcopal Church!
Dr. Maglione's bio can be found here.
St. Mary's Episcopal Church is located at 1307 Holmes Road in downtown Kansas City.
Dear St. Mary’s Family,
Yesterday, the United Methodist Church voted to strengthen its ban on gay, lesbian, and trans clergy and same-sex marriages. As the UMC is the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States, many of us have friends and family who are directly affected by this decision. I can think of many of our own parishioners who were Methodist for many years.
One of my college roommates is on the faculty at a United Methodist seminary. He said to me last night, “I’m horrified at our church’s witness. We are aghast. Many students are asking us whether to leave or stay. God have mercy.” It is not an over-exaggeration to state that a deep and ugly church split is imminent.
Grief. Pain. Betrayal. I cannot imagine the range of emotions our Methodist cousins are feeling right now.
What can we do? First and most importantly, we should pray for our Methodist friends and family. Second, we must continue to extend Christ’s love to everyone, no matter their race or sexual orientation or gender identity. And lastly, we can humbly invite those who are hurting to worship with a welcoming and loving church family here at St. Mary’s.
But we must be careful, lest our extended hand of welcome be perceived as an accidental strike of abuse. Many Methodists might hear "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" as a grieving widow would hear "I know someone you might like." And we certainly shouldn't use their ecclesiastical dysfunction as an opportunity for recruiting. The UMC belongs to its LGBT members as much as it belongs to its traditionalist members. Some will leave, many will stay. We must listen and give our Methodist cousins time to grieve. But we at St. Mary's can and should welcome those seeking refuge from this storm, even if it's for a time.
We will offer prayers of healing for our Methodist brethren and for all who are hurt by this decision tonight at 6:00 p.m. at St. Mary’s. All are welcome. You are invited to come and find solace and healing as we celebrate the great feast that unites us with Our Lord – the foretaste of that heavenly banquet where there is neither sorrow nor crying, but the fullness of joy.
Dear St. Mary's Family,
Ash Wednesday (Wednesday, March 6th) marks the beginning of Lent. The Church invites us during this season to a time of examination and repentance, to prayer, fasting and self-denial, and the reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word. (BCP 265)
What spiritual practice will you take on during Lent? From what food or drink or behavior will you abstain during Lent? In what way will you provide for those in need during Lent?
It is my prayer that each of you will prayerfully consider these three pillars of Lent and intentionally engage each of them in some way. It is a deeply rewarding time of spiritual renewal that makes the joyful celebration of Our Lord's resurrection at Easter all the more meaningful.
The audio recording of this sermon can be found here.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
The Rev’d Charles Everson
Isaiah 6:1-13, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
February 10, 2019
“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts! Heaven and earth are full of thy glory!” These words, referred to as the Sanctus – the Latin word for “holy” – have been sung in Christian worship from the very beginning, and they find their roots in our Old Testament passage from the prophet Isaiah.
It begins with a simple fact that seems rather out of place in such an awe-inspiring vision: “In the year King Uzziah died.” Uzziah was a real king in history. We know the date of his death, a few things about his political views, and we know that like many of Israel’s kings, he began his reign as a good king but ended up going completely off the rails with his pride being his downfall. He was then struck with leprosy as punishment, and lived the rest of his life under house arrest until his death.
It was in this historical context that Isaiah sees this vision of a very different kind of King. The vision is in the Temple in Jerusalem which the Hebrews believed was directly connected to God’s celestial palace in heaven. Isaiah sees the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty, and in addition to the throne, an altar is present. God has giant proportions in this vision with the hem of his robe filling the entire interior of the Temple. Angels with six wings were attending to him. Two of the wings covered their faces, two covered their feet, and with two they flew – another translator indicates that hovered is a better translation. They were calling to one another, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of Hosts! Heaven and earth are full of thy glory!
Their response to being in the presence of God was one of fear and trembling. Perhaps even terror. They covered their faces as God is so holy that they can’t even look at him. And they covered their feet because they’re in the presence of holiness and can’t let their feet touch the ground. Isaiah, faced with this awesome vision in the Temple, notes that the pivots of the thresholds shook at the voices of the angels as they sang this hymn, and the house was filled with smoke.
In a moment, when we sing the Sanctus, note that the altar party and even some in the congregation profoundly bow when we sing the hymn the angels sang in Isaiah’s vision, and you’ll see a decent amount of smoke arise. In a sense, we are entering into the holiest moments of our worship of God, a God who is so holy and powerful and awesome that we can’t help but avert our eyes, bow in deep respect, and pay homage.
Isaiah, faced with this almost fantastical vision of God in his throne room in heaven, responds by saying, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips…yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts!” Faced with God’s holiness, he recognizes his sinfulness. The Hebrew words translated as unclean lips infer that he has a foul mouth and is perhaps even a liar, something you and I might be able to relate to. One of the angels took a live coal from the altar – so hot that tongs were needed – and touched Isaiah’s lips with it. Think about how sensitive your lips are. This must have been a terribly painful experience for Isaiah, but the result of it is that his guilt departs and his sin is blotted out. It is only now that he’s been forgiven that Isaiah can respond in the affirmative to God’s question, Whom shall I send? He says, Here I am; send me!
It would be really nice if the passage stopped here, and I could simply tell you, “recognize that you’re a sinner, accept God’s forgiveness, and then go out into the world and do God’s work!”
But God tells Isaiah to go to the people and tell them to keep listening but not understand. He tells them to make the mind of the people dull. Isaiah has to be confounded by God’s instruction, and asks, “How long, O Lord?” How long until you relent and turn from judgment to rescue and redemption? God responds not by giving a time and a date, but by saying that first the land has to be devastated.
Sometimes things get worse before they get better.
Zac, as you’re preparing for Holy Baptism, know that the waters of baptism won’t be quite as painful as the burning coal was for Isaiah, though, we could run down to the Missouri River to baptize you by full immersion which would have the opposite effect. But also know that responding to God’s holiness by acknowledging your sinfulness and accepting God’s forgiveness doesn’t automatically make your situation right. Same thing for me and for all of you who have been on this Christian journey for a long time: sometimes, our circumstances get worse before they get better, no matter how faithful we are to our Lord and to his teachings.
In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul reminds us to hold firmly to the Good News he’s proclaimed to us – the good news that he received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day. This Good News, like the context of Isaiah’s vision, was rooted in history. This isn’t a myth or a fable. Christ actually died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day. As if he knew the church at Corinth wouldn’t believe him, he begins to call witnesses: Peter, James, the twelve apostles, and five hundred other brothers and sisters who saw Christ with their own eyes after his resurrection. Like Isaiah, Paul responded to God’s call as an unclean man unworthy of such a calling – before his conversion, he persecuted Christians to the point of their death. Even he could be redeemed and reconciled with the holy God Isaiah saw in his vision.
Friends, some of us in our community are struggling. Struggling spiritually, financially, dealing with family dysfunction, physical illness, the awful effects of old age, and so on. And yet we continue to gather in this place with our parish family and choose to worship a God that is so holy and powerful that we must avert our eyes and pay homage. As you struggle, I encourage you to hold fast to the Good News that Jesus died for your sins, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day. Choose to hold fast to this Good News day after day, even when things seem so dire that there appears to be no hope. And choose to keep coming back to this Temple to encounter the Almighty in the beauty of holiness with your friends and family again and again.
 This summary comes from Same Old Song podcast, Mockingbird ministries. https://www.mbird.com/podcasts/
 Robert Alter. The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2019.
Fr. Charles Everson works as a banker by day and a priest by night. His love for music and liturgy led him to a suburban parish as a simple chorister, and as of late, to St. Mary's as a priest. He feels called to share the love of Jesus Christ with a broken world in desperate need of hope and reconciliation.