The Conversion of St. Paul

Today (January 25) we remember the conversion of St. Paul. His original name was Saul and he was a zealous student of Jewish law. Like many of his teachers, he was bitterly opposed to the new movement that followed the teachings of Jesus (called at first “the Way” and later the “Christian” movement). He worked with the Jewish authorities to arrest members of this movement as heretics who (falsely in his view) acclaimed Jesus as the Messiah and said that he had risen from the dead. Saul got authority to expand his work from Jerusalem to Damascus. On the way, he was struck blind and heard a voice saying, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” This must have been a staggering encounter for someone who was making it his business to arrest anyone who said Jesus was still alive. Following Jesus’ directions, Saul allowed himself to be led into Damascus, where he remained blind and took no food or drink for three days. Then Ananias, a disciple of Jesus in Damascus, had a vision telling him to go to the place where Saul was staying and to lay his hands on him so that he could recover his sight. Ananias initially raised objections, knowing what a dangerous man Saul was, but he was assured that all would be well. He also heard, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” [Book of Acts, Chapter 9.] Ananias trusted in God and went to visit Saul. As soon as Ananias laid his hands on him, Saul’s sight was restored. Saul then began preaching in the synagogues in Damascus, arguing forcefully that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. Those who had known him before were astonished at how he had been converted (“conversion” means to change direction or belief).

After this 180-degree turn in his life and with foreknowledge that he would suffer for Jesus’ name, Saul went on to be a powerful missionary to the Roman Empire. He took the name Paul, which was more familiar to his Latin and Greek audiences. His deeds occupy a large part of the Biblical Acts of the Apostles and many of his letters are included in the New Testament. Paul reminds us to listen for God, that God’s service may involve suffering, and that great things can be done by dedicated believers.

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David Teniers I (Antwerp 1582-1649) The Conversion of Saint Paul
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How to pray in times of uncertainty

William Laud Archbishop of Canterbury, 1645

January 10, 2021 was a day packed with importance in the life of the church. The church celebrated the 1st Sunday after Epiphany, recognized the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Another event shared the day in the cycle of the church. It was the day that we recognize the life, ministry and martyrdom of Archbishop William Laud.

William Laud, born in 1573, became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, having been Charles the First’s principal ecclesiastical adviser for several years before. He was the most prominent of a new generation of Churchmen who disliked many of the ritual practices which had developed during the reign of Elizabeth the First, and who were bitterly opposed by the “Puritans.”

Laud believed the Church of England to be in direct continuity with the medieval Church, and he stressed the unity of Church and State, exalting the role of the king as the supreme governor. He emphasized the priesthood and the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, and caused consternation by insisting on the reverencing of the Altar, returning it to its pre-Reformation position against the east wall of the church, and hedging it about with rails.

As head of the courts of High Commission and Star Chamber, Laud was abhorred for the harsh sentencing of prominent Puritans. His identification with the unpopular policies of King Charles, his support of the war against Scotland in 1640, and his efforts to make the Church independent of Parliament, made him widely disliked. He was impeached for treason by the Long Parliament in 1640, and finally beheaded on January 10, 1645.

Laud’s reputation has remained controversial to this day. Honored as a martyr and condemned as an intolerant bigot, he was compassionate in his defense of the rights of the common people against the landowners. He was honest, devout, loyal to the king and to the rights and privileges of the Church of England. He tried to reform and protect the Church in accordance with his sincere convictions. But in many ways he was out of step with the views of the majority of his countrymen, especially about the “Divine Right of Kings.”

He made a noble end, praying on the scaffold: “The Lord receive my soul, and have mercy upon me, and bless this kingdom with peace and charity, that there may not be this effusion of Christian blood amongst them.”*

In the Old Testaments Scriptures we are promised:

Arise, shine, for your light has come, *

and the glory of the LORD has dawned upon you.

For behold, darkness covers the land; *

deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.

But over you the LORD will rise, *

and his glory will appear upon you.

Nations will stream to your light, *

and kings to the brightness of your dawning.

Your gates will always be open; *

by day or night they will never be shut.

They will call you, The City of the LORD, *

the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

Violence will no more be heard in your land,*

ruin or destruction within your borders.

You will call your walls, Salvation,*

and all your portals, Praise.

The sun will no more be your light by day; *

by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.

The LORD will be your everlasting light, *

and your God will be your glory.

ISAIAH 60:1-3, 11, 14, 18-19 ESV

The Lord is our everlasting light, even in times of fear, uncertainty and apparent darkness. In remembering Archbishop Laud we pray:

Collect of the Day William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, Martyr, 1645 O God, our heavenly Father, you raised up your faithful servant William Laud to be a Bishop and pastor in your Church and to feed your flock: Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP2019)

Archbishop Laud inspires us to remain true to the faith to the end. When we look to our present times remain vibrant in our prayers and faith. One of our prayers well suited to our times is this:

For Trustfulness in Times of Worry and Anxiety

Most loving Father, you will us to give thanks for all things, to dread nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on the One who cares for us. Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested unto us in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

#80, BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER (2019)

*Church Publishing. Lesser Feasts and Fasts (Kindle Locations 2652-2668). Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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A Prayer for Thanksgiving

A prayer we pray daily:

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen. (BCP 2019 The General Thanksgiving)

Christians Should Always Be Thankful | Concretized ...
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A Call to Prayer for Christians All Over the World

The Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

St Francis of Assisi Biography | Biography Online
St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.*

*ThoughtCo. “The Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi.” Learn Religions, Aug. 26, 2020, learnreligions.com/prayer-of-saint-francis-of-assisi-542575.

A PRAYER OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

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St. John Chrysostom

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time, with one accord to make our common supplications to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will grant their requests: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen. (BCP2019 Morning Prayer)

A Prayer of St. Augustine

Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new. Too late have I loved you!  You were within me but I was outside myself, and there I sought you! In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things you have made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The things you have made kept me from you – the things which would have no being unless they existed in you! You have called, you have cried, and you have pierced my deafness. You have radiated forth, you have shined out brightly, and you have dispelled my blindness. You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You have touched me, and I ardently desire your peace.

Confessions, X, 27, 38

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Augustine, Bishop of Hippo
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The Feast of Epiphany – 2021

Epiphany Organ Concert by Jeong-Suk Bae - Saint Theresa ...
The Wise Men Bring Gifts to the Newborn King – The First Epiphany

The twelve days of Christmas end today, January 5. We now enter a new church season, Epiphany. The term is Greek and means to become, becoming evident or manifest. This season celebrates events in which Jesus’ divinity was made evident or manifest. One is the visit of the Magi who came from the East following astral indications that a new king had been born in Judea. Another event in which Jesus’ divinity was shown was his baptism in the Jordan River, which was accompanied by signs and wonders from heaven. A third is Jesus’ first miracle, where he changed water into wine at a wedding feast. Our Bible readings during this season will give you more details about these events. It is fitting that the season of Christmas, which celebrates Jesus’ birth, should be followed by Epiphany, when we are reminded of his cosmic significance.

Epiphany - Diocese of Manchester

Join us in this season of Epiphany! All are welcome, any time from 10:00 a.m. until Noon on Sunday mornings. We share Bible readings for the day (Sunday Lectionary), say the confession, and receive communion. Epiphany Blessings!

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Happy New Year!

Cardinals welcoming in the New Year!

The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time for making resolutions, both to end bad habits and to begin good habits. Here is a suggestion that will do you more good than any diet or exercise program:  Go to church on Sunday! Hear readings from the Bible, the story of God’s encounters with mankind. Hear music and poetry written over centuries to praise God. Join in prayers to God. Confess your sins and hear words of forgiveness and encouragement. Receive consecrated bread and wine in a sacrament that joins you to the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Ask questions and get information. To limit the number of people in the church at any given time, you may receive the sacrament any time between 10:00 am and Noon on Sunday’s. We require masks and encourage social distancing. Individuals are served communion one at a time, at the communion rail, with no touch precautions in place. We hope to see you on a Sunday, sometime soon!

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Christmas is Just Getting Started!

December 25 was Christmas Day, but there are twelve days of Christmas (sounds like a song title). The birth of Jesus, the Son of God, requires more than just one day for an appropriate celebration. So keep your decorations and colored lights in place but get rid of the tree if it dries out and becomes a fire hazard. 

The Christmas festival extends through January 5. On January 6 we have another major feast of the Church, Epiphany. Between now and then, our Sunday celebrations will focus on the marvelous birth of Christ and its meaning for us. Today, December 27, the schedule will be as follows: 10:00 am until Noon, individual “walk up” communion at the altar rail.

The Red Doors at Christmas Tide
Cardinals on a Wreath
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Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Services

Please join us as we rejoice and worship the Newborn King!

Christmas Eve – 7:00 pm

Full Eucharist

Candlelight Service with Music

Christmas Day – 9:00 am

Full Eucharist with Music

Dress Code-Both Services: Masks Required

Social distancing, HEPA filtered sanctuary,

Hygienic serving of the Eucharist

Observed for your protection

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Last Week of Advent!

People passing by are probably wishing you Merry Christmas, but Christmas is not yet. We are still in Advent, the time of waiting and watching for help from God. This season connects us to the ancient Israelites and also looks forward to the second coming of Christ that we expect. This coming Sunday, December 20, is the last Sunday of Advent. We will have consecrated bread and wine available from 10 a.m. to noon. If you come at 10, you can hear opening prayers and the daily readings.

Christmas day is of course December 25. In accordance with old Jewish custom, the Christian Church regards days as beginning at sundown on (what we would otherwise call) the previous day. That’s why you get Christmas Eve, Easter Eve, and All Hallow’s Eve (Hallowe’en) celebrations. We will celebrate the birth of the Messiah on Christmas Eve, December 24, starting at 7:00 p.m. This is a regular service with beginning, middle, and end, so please come on time. We will practice social distancing and wear masks, but we want to be together for this major feast of the Church.  We will also celebrate Christmas on Christmas day with a service at 9:00 a.m.

Have a blessed remainder of Advent and (when the time comes) a Merry Christmas!

Fourth Sunday of Advent full of excitement and ...

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Advent Admonition

To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.1

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?2 Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.3 To love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.4

Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.5 Mary … sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. One thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.6

It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.7


1Pro 21:3; 2Mic 6:8; 31Sa 15:22; 4Mar 12:33; 5Hos 12:6; 6Luk 10:39,42; 7Phi 2:13; (Bagster’s Daily Light KJV)

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