Thursday, December 20, 2018

Groundbreaking for New GMES!

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. - Isaiah 43:19
Myceiun Patterson, 5th grader, is as elated as Principal Ferguson and Assistant Principal Ford

We tend to read and hear this prophecy from Isaiah a lot during Advent, as we await the coming of  the Christ child. It came to mind again this week, as our dear partners, George Mason Elementary School, celebrated a wonderful new milestone. On Wednesday, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for a new GMES! This long-awaited venture is an important investment in the lives of the children and educators in historic Church Hill. 
The new GMES should be completed by fall 2020.

Christ Church has been in partnership with GMES through the Micah Initiative and Communities in Schools for over a decade. We are thrilled that our friends will soon thrive in a safe, healthy environment where they can reach their God-given potential. Join us in celebrating this answered prayer! 

Are you feeling called to build relationships with the GMES family? Click here!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Because of You

When ministry happens, we see glimpses of God’s kingdom here on earth. In this series, we will share how, because of you, we see God in each other. We hope these stories will inspire you to give generously to our Annual Giving Appeal, which funds our church and the ministries done as close as Short Pump and as far away as Haiti and South Sudan.

Because of you, this happens...

A few years ago, Christ Church re-imagined its pastoral care ministry and formed a cohort of trained pastoral caregivers as part of Community of Hope, International. Since then, these compassionate listeners have served individuals facing illness, divorce, substance abuse, and death. In small and large ways, these caregivers have made a difference in other’s lives.

The caregiving came full circle this summer when two of our caregivers found themselves in need of help. “It wasn’t until my wife required emergency surgery that I fully appreciated the power of this ministry. During a hectic two days, a CCE Pastoral Care Giver listened, prayed on our behalf, and kept others informed. His presence made a stressful situation more peaceful and allowed me to stay focused. I will be forever grateful for what he did.”

Because of your gifts, we can provide personal care to those in need. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Because of you, this happens...

When our women’s Bible studies invited women from our neighborhood West End Islamic Center to gather at Christ Church for conversation and fellowship, they hoped to extend hospitality and learn about the commonalities of our faith traditions. At the first meeting, the group quickly fell into comfortable sharing of their faith and their lives. The two groups made a deep connection and they have met regularly ever since. This summer, when a Christ Church member was seeking to help a former CARITAS client, she made an appeal on Facebook for a young mother and her son. Among the first responses were two women from WEIC who offered financial gifts toward the purchase of a new air conditioning unit. Because of you, small groups meet weekly to nurture spiritual formation, and acts of radical hospitality extend like ripples in a pond. Taste and see that the Lord is good!

Because of you, this happens...

For the second summer in a row, our Mid-High mission team spent a week serving their neighbors by partnering with local organizations all around metropolitan Richmond. Before the week’s service projects began, the youth embarked on a prayer tour around Richmond. The final stop was at the Reconciliation Statue, a landmark that recognizes the history of slave trading in Richmond and symbolizes a commitment to a new way forward based on honesty, love, and forgiveness. As they prayed for the reconciliation of our city and those living in it, our students gathered around the statue and placed their hands on its surface. People in need were served that week. Crops were harvested, schools were cleaned, meals were served, senior citizens were kept company; and the hearts of young people were forever changed. Because of you, our youth are learning that the power to transform the world lies within each of them. Taste & See that the Lord is Good!

Because of you, this happens...

When CCE first started supporting Hope and Resurrection Secondary School in South Sudan, teachers had to be recruited from neighboring Uganda as years of civil war have decimated the teacher population. This year, HRSS has its first native-born teachers. Mr. Thon Bec Ater himself was educated at HRSS and now returns to the school to equip South Sudan's girls and boys for leadership through quality education with a Christian foundation. You have made this possible. As a child, when he saw the words “Christ Church School, Virginia USA” on the wall of his classroom, Thon said it told him that Christ has a purpose for humankind, a purpose beyond humankind’s borders and colors.

Because of you, this happens...

When we gather for worship, we are changed through Eucharist, music, prayer, and fellowship. Sometimes we hear God’s call to action. When CCE collected pet food last October, a visitor asked Rev. Shirley after worship, “Will the church still be open 20 minutes from now? … Because I want to go to the grocery store and give some pet food to your pet food drive. You see, I’m new, but I’m looking for a church that cares about people. I know there are people who have to choose between buying their medicine and feeding their pets. I want to help.” Because of your gifts, worship happens at CCE, and service to our community happens, service that gives people hope for a new day.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Thank you for supporting GMES students

We recently received this sweet thank you note from the teachers at George Mason Elementary School. They were grateful for the school supplies that Christ Church collected in August to make sure the GMES students had all the things they needed for a strong start to the school year.

"Thank you members of Christ Church Episcopal for your gift of school supplies for our students at George Mason," the note reads. "You are always incredibly generous!"

When students have the tools they need, they can thrive. GMES is in an impoverished neighborhood and every resource shared or volunteer hour spent makes a difference in the lives of children whose families sometimes struggle to make ends meet. You can continue to make a difference by volunteering to serve at GMES -- once a year or once a week!

One motto of Communities in Schools is, "it's relationships, not programs, that change lives." Will you join in building a relationship with a student or a group of students? Here's how you can get involved:

Volunteer Needs 2018-2019 School Year

 K2 Cadre:   A monthly learning experience for the K-2nd Grade Families of GMES. Come once a month to engage with families over breakfast, surrounding an academic skill. Commitment: 1 hour a month from 8:00-9:00 AM • provide a breakfast item • build relationships with GMES families.

 Classroom Assistant:   Support the needs of a class by working in small groups and/or one-on-one with students, under the supervision of the classroom teacher. You will be matched with a teacher based on classroom needs and your availability. Anticipated times per grade level are: K: 9:45-11.00 AM • 1st : 1:00-2:30 PM • 2nd – 10:00-11:30 AM, though once matched with a teacher, you may have flexibility to work out a different time frame with the teacher. Commitment: 2 hours a week.

 2nd Grade Readers:  Read with 2nd grade students or have them read to you. Support good decoding and reading habits, instill the joy of reading, and connect with the students as you work with one-on-one in short sessions.  Sign up through a Sign Up Genius system as you are able throughout the year.  Hours: Tuesday OR Wednesday OR Thursday 10.30-11.30. Commitment: Sign up when you are able to volunteer.

 Special Projects Helper:  Throughout the school year, various activities/projects occur that need volunteer support:  Kindergarten registration, Walk to School Day, School Supply support, Book Fair, Teacher Appreciation.  Be one of the go-to people when a volunteer need arises. Commitment: as needed.
To get involved, contact our lay leader, Jean Watkins, at
To learn more about Communities in Schools, click here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A Spiritual Reflection for September 11, 2018


We all remember.

Even if we weren’t yet born, we remember because people we love remember the day, 9/11. I remember it as a shaking. Seven miles away from the Pentagon, I was working on my thesis in seminary, and the impact of the airplane shook the library windows. We knew, then, something was wrong.

How big the problem was kept expanding as the day went on, as we estimated the number of people dead and missing, the people who couldn’t get home, the kids whose parents wouldn’t be coming home, the people who couldn’t be home because they worked in public safety or, as clergy, were on 24x7 just to help people cope.

And the expanding awareness of how at war we’d been with an enemy many of us didn’t know hated us. We began to confront the ethical problem of being implicated in things we individually may not have realized we had a part in.

The bigness of the problem of ongoing war continued to show itself and does so still today. In 2014, I was helping a couple prepare for their wedding, but we couldn’t get to wedding planning without first dealing with this Marine’s grief -- his inability to shake the responsibility he still felt for his unit, even though they’d been home for a good, long while.

We all remember. We are forever changed. But, as the beautiful prayer reminds us, life is changed but not ended – in death, but even in life. We are people of the resurrection, not just after our mortal death but now. Hope is the thing with feathers - that perches in the soul - and sings the tune without the words - and never stops - at all.

It is Christ who has been singing in our hearts all along, even when we cannot make our minds work to recall the words of the song. It is Christ who gives us courage to believe in something beyond our ability to manufacture: healing and peace.

As we remember those who died on 9/11/2001, and pray for those who love them, we pray also for those torn apart by war and those who fight to build peace here and abroad. We pray for our friends, we pray for our enemies, and dare to hope for the day we will see the face of Christ in each other.

Philippians 4:4-9

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, beloved whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Helping hope shine through

Teach children in the way they should go; when they grow old, they won’t depart from it. - Proverbs 22:6

For many years, Christ Church has been in partnership with George Mason Elementary School in historic Church Hill and we work together to support this school in a variety of ways. Thanks to your overwhelming generosity, we just supplied a carload of new school supplies to GMES that will be distributed tomorrow to many smiling faces.

Before & After: new curtains helping hope shine through!
Richmond Public Schools serve the most distressed portion of our metropolitan city’s school-aged population and have fewer resources to put into their schools. George Mason Elementary School, in particular, is in a state of devastating disrepair. CCE member Kim Scharf visited GMES today to give a very special gift -- beautiful hand-made curtains to decorate the teacher's lounge. This outward sign of our support of this special school and God's love for the entire GMES community is an act of radical hospitality.

 Prayer for the Beginning of the School Year
Dear God, We pray  for all teachers, administrators, and students. Keep them safe and well. Open their hearts and minds to a world of learning, and may this be the first of thousands of days in which they know the depth of your love and constancy of your care. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, August 3, 2018

"I am about to do a new thing..."

The CARITAS Center
an update and reflection by Jenni Pandak

CARITAS is Richmond’s largest emergency shelter, housing up to 110 people per night, and more than 1,000 people annually. They provide more than 90% of the shelter beds available to single women and nearly half of all shelter beds in the Richmond area. CARITAS works with 15,000 volunteers and 150+ host congregations and together we create a safe and hospitable place for our most vulnerable neighbors.

Upon entering CARITAS, guests find not only the necessities for survival — they find the tools for success. Through the growing web of CARITAS volunteers, staff, and agency partners, guests get the help they need to get off the street, back on their feet, and on the path to self-sufficiency.

Opening in 2019, The CARITAS Center will bring all the solutions for breaking the cycles of homelessness and substance use under one roof.

The new CARITAS Center will include the following elements:
  • The Healing Place for Women – 160-bed peer-based recovery program.
  • CARITAS Works – Expanded state-of-the-art classroom space. 
  • Furniture Bank – Warehouse space for Furniture Bank clients and volunteers. 
  • 47 Sober-Living Apartments – For program graduates and qualifying community members.
  • CARITAS Administrative Offices – All located efficiently under one roof. 
  • Leased Office Space – For community partners
Christ Church has been a CARITAS partner, serving as a host church for more than 20 years. We have served by sheltering 45 guests for up to 3 weeks a year. As they transitioned to the new CARITAS Center, we were invited to serve on the CARITAS Planning Committee. Over the past 18 months, we met along with other CARITAS host church members, to develop a plan for congregations to remain involved.

On July 11 seven of us -- four parishioners and three clergy from Christ Church -- went down to 2220 Stockton Street, Richmond to tour the new CARITAS Center with Karen Stanley and Tiffany Terry. The demolition phase is complete, and they are beginning to build out the new facility, expected to open in early 2019. The space is incredible, and we got very excited as we envisioned our CARITAS friends in the new facility. A verse that kept popping into my head during the tour was Isaiah 43:19, “I am about to do a new thing…

This is a big change for all of us. It will require creativity and the willingness to step out of our comfort zone to meet our CARITAS neighbors where they are. While this transition will facilitate their move to stability, our CARITAS friends still absolutely need our help, our kindness and mostly our love to navigate the hurdles life has placed in their path. And we all need each other to grow in our relationship with Jesus and for the opportunity to see Him in the eyes of a stranger.

 - Jenni Pandak serves on the Missions & Outreach Leadership Network. If you'd like to learn more about CARITAS and get involved in our mission efforts, please join the Missions & Outreach Interest Group in Realm or contact the Rev. Richard Pelkey.