The Rev. Catherine Hicks
Grace and peace to each one of you.
As a new year begins, I’m grateful for the love and concern we share for one another, and for our ability to work together as a visible living witness to God’s love out in the world. I’m also thankful for your disciplined giving and the ongoing care that many of you provide for our buildings and our grounds.
My report is going to cover three areas—2017 at St Peter’s, 2017 in the Diocese and a few personal remarks about 2017 and this new year of 2018.
St Peter’s, 2017
Although we are a group of people of various ages, of various races and nationalities, economic situations, educational levels, political persuasions, and varying ways of interpreting scripture and theology, we continue to be united in our love for God, for one another and for our neighbors. This unity heals and binds us together as witnesses of God’s love in this hurting and broken world.
Thank you to Ben Hicks for putting together our newsletter, The Parish Post, each month, and for faithfully formatting and producing Sunday’s bulletins each week. Thank you to Ben as well for maintaining our website and providing a written and photographic narrative of our life together as a parish. And Ben also keeps our Facebook page up to date so that people can follow St Peter’s on social media.
Thanks to your generosity with time and with your money, we have been able to continue our food distribution ministry, the Village Harvest. You’ll find statistics for this ministry for the community elsewhere in the reports. As word about this ministry has gotten around, the number of clients continues to grow, meaning that we have more work to do. If you haven’t had a chance to do so yet, come help with the Village Harvest when you can. Your presence and labor will be greatly appreciated by your fellow parishioners and by the clients who come to the distribution.
The Vestry has been working on a comprehensive safety plan for St Peter’s due in part to continuing gun violence in this nation, including violence carried out in churches and other places of worship. Chris Hall and Scott Moser from the Caroline County Sheriff’s Department did a safety assessment of our property in September and reported their findings to the Vestry, including both the things we are doing well, and the areas in which we could make our buildings and grounds safer. They were highly complimentary of the well-kept grounds. Cookie has pruned the large boxwoods behind the church in response to their suggestion so that these shrubs should not provide hiding places for those who might cause trouble. Helmut Linne von Berg, the Junior Warden, has installed locks on the heat pump and the basement doors of both the church and the parish house as another easily implemented safety improvement. Other plans, which we are still in the process of implementing, include installing an AED to help with medical emergencies, and the purchase of additional fire extinguishers for the back of the church which can be used both for any fires and as deterrents against anyone intent on harming our congregation when it is gathered for worship. The Vestry will be presenting a comprehensive safety plan to the congregation sometime during the first part of this year.
Another almost completed project is the sign that hangs on the outer front wall of the church. Rance Rupp, a woodworker and artist, is in the process of lettering the sign and making it more weather resistant. It should be back in place soon.
Throughout the year, we made various improvements to our buildings and grounds, including the raising of the bell tower and new sidewalks for the sacristy entrance, the parish house kitchen entrance, and the nursery. Please see Helmut Linne Von Berg’s Junior Warden report for more information.
Christian Education at St Peter’s continues to happen mainly at the weekly Bible study at 10AM each Wednesday, when we study the lectionary for the coming Sunday. Other Christian Education opportunities for adults this year included a Lenten program based on The Five Marks of Love, a curriculum developed by the Society of St John the Evangelist and Virginia Theological Seminary. Ben Hicks taught a five week Advent class on Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol and its connections to scripture and the Christian story of redemption. The confirmation/reaffirmation classes that Woody and Cherry attended were open to all, as were the St Francis’ Day events.
Some highlights from this past year include the MLK Community Walk and Celebration in Bowling Green on January 16th. St Peter’s was one of the supporters of this walk, and the Keys and I joined in the walk and the worship service in Bowling Green that day.
Also, in January I got trained as a diocesan trainer in misconduct prevention training, so that now I can train those in the parish who work with adults or children and need the training. Johnny Davis, Marilyn Newman and Bill Wick took the adult misconduct prevention class as part of the requirement to be Lay Eucharistic Visitors.
The Vestry held a retreat in February and spent the time in prayerful reflection. We met at St George’s in Fredericksburg and ended the retreat with lunch in town. The altar guild had a training in February.
In March, I went to the Beecken Center in Tennessee. Wendy Gayle and I did a week long training to become trainers for Listening Hearts, a discernment process used for by the Diocese for those who are considering various types of ministry. This method of discernment is also good for anyone who is in any sort of transition—a way of determining with the help of people who listen and ask questions how the Holy Spirit is present and active in our lives and what that presence means for decision making.
On Sunday, April 2nd, Dorian Gray Huffman and Kathryn Elizabeth Davis became the two newest and youngest members of St Peter’s when they were baptized at the font that has been in use here since the opening of St Peter’s way back in 1836.
Andrew Huffman, with the permission of the Vestry, set up a beehive on the river bank, and we hope to begin harvesting honey in June of 2018. If the project is successful, this environmentally friendly project will also contribute a small income stream to St Peter’s over time.
Also in April, Magical Strings came to St Peter’s and presented a stunningly beautiful concert of both traditional Celtic music and original compositions played on instruments made by Philip and Pam Boulding, the musicians. Ladies’ Night Out also took place in April.
On the first weekend in May, ten people from St Peter’s joined Christ Church, Spotsylvania, for a joint parish retreat at Shrine Mont. I prepared the various worship services, all designed with our Celtic theme in mind. During the month of May, Cherry and Woody Everett prepared to be received as members of St Peter’s by meeting with me once a week, while John and Toni Faibisy, dealing with health issues, read the needed material. Felicia Huffman also did preparation for confirmation.
In June, the children enjoyed a weeklong Vacation Bible School, led by Becky Fisher, who put together a creative program based on Christian themes in the Harry Potter series.
On the last Sunday in June, Bishop Shannon Johnston, our Diocesan Bishop, and The Rev. Ed Jones came to St Peter’s for the Bishop’s annual visitation. Bishop Johnston participated in a prayer walk through Port Royal before the service, and we prayed at various spots throughout the town. We made stops at both Shiloh Baptist Church and Memorial Baptist and prayed with members at both churches. And down on the pier, as we headed back toward church and the close of the prayer walk, we remembered our baptisms as we prayed while looking out over the Rappahannock River.
Myrtle Samuels, mother of Andrea Pogue, died in July and we held her funeral at St Peter’s and hosted a reception afterward for her family. Thank you to all who participated in making Andrea’s family welcome at St Peter’s during this sad time.
In August, the Diocesan ECW Board came to St Peter’s for their board meeting and greatly enjoyed their welcome from Cookie Davis, who prepared for them, and the beauty of our space. Bishop Shannon granted us permission to observe The Season of Creation for five weeks, beginning on September 1 and ending on St Francis Day, October 4th. The goal of this season in worship was to deepen our understanding of God as Creator, to celebrate God’s role as Creator, and to examine, deepen and widen our own relationships with God, creation, and with one another. With the Bishop’s permission, we used the Eucharistic Prayer, “We Give Thanks” which I put together and is unique to St Peter’s. This Eucharistic Prayer highlights the role of God as Creator and Jesus dwelling in nature as one of us to bring us abundant life.
The Season of Creation observance came to an end on Wednesday, October 4, St Francis’ Day. Before the Village Dinner, Susan Tilt led an art project, and Catherine designed a Stations of the Cross that drew attention to familiar pieces of the natural world around St Peter’s. Several dogs showed up for the blessing of the pets, and a hermit crab got blessed as well.
St Peter’s member Lamar Key married Morgan Palmi at the Bowling Green United Methodist Church on Saturday, November 11th. I was blessed to be the officiant at their wedding. Lamar and Morgan met with me over the period of five weeks to prepare for their marriage.
I attended Bridgette Long’s baptism at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Fredericksburg on Saturday, November 18th, and the on the 19th at St Peter’s, we welcomed her as our latest newly baptized “member” of our community. Bridgette starred in the Christmas pageant this year as Baby Jesus.
On the 22nd of November, we held the first Thanksgiving Eve Eucharist since I’ve been at St Peter’s.
December was full of traditional activities for the month. St Peter’s provided dinner for the Port Royal Christmas party at the firehouse, and several St Peter’s members showed up to help serve the pizza. The Everetts hosted the Christmas potluck and sing along at their home. On Advent 3, the Christmas pageant featured the children with some speaking parts this year. Since Advent 4 and Christmas Eve both fell on Sunday, we had only the Christmas Eve service, and ended the year the following Sunday with Lessons and Carols.
Diocesan and Regional News
2017 was the year of two annual conventions, one in January and then a second one day convention in November. Susan Tilt, the St. Peter’s delegate, and I attended both meetings. For the January meeting, I served on the Committee for Related Organizations. In November, I served on the Resolutions Committee. Beginning in 2018, Diocesan Conventions will take place in November instead of in January. At the Convention in November, the regional lines in the Diocese were redrawn. St Peter’s is now part of The Fredericksburg Region. Our region was cut in half when the lines were redrawn. The region now includes Aquia, Church of the Messiah and Christ Church, both in Spotsylvania, Trinity and St George’s in Fredericksburg, St Asaph’s and St Peter’s in Caroline, St Pauls and Hanover with Brunswick and St Paul’s in King George, and St Mary’s in the town of Colonial Beach, Westmoreland County. The bishop asked me to continue as the Dean of the Region for 2018. The clergy meets together once a month (Clericus) and we are in the process of reorganizing ourselves. The first Fredericksburg Regional meeting takes place in January with The Rev. Ed Jones helping the Region to begin to grow into its new parameters. Andrea Pogue has graciously agreed to be the representative to our Region. Hopefully, now that the region is smaller, we’ll be able to foster stronger relationships among our churches and come together for joint activities and worship as a Region.
The Rt Rev. Ted Gulick retired as Bishop Shannon’s assistant Bishop at the end of 2017. The Diocese will be electing a second Suffragan Bishop in 2018 to serve along with Bishop Johnston and Bishop Goff in our Diocese.
The Presiding Bishop, The Rt Rev. Michael Curry, made several trips to Virginia in 2017, including a September visit to Charlottesville to meet with lay leaders and clergy around the diocese regarding the events that took place in Charlottesville in August when the town was overrun by right wing Neo-Nazis espousing hate filled racist ideologies, bringing with them deadly conflict. Carolyne Ashton, President of Region One, and I attended the all day event, which included morning meetings, lunch with Bishop Curry, and an afternoon Eucharist at St Paul’s in Charlottesville.
2017 was a year of transition for me. At the end of May, I ended most of the spiritual direction work I’ve been doing at VTS for the past five and a half years, which required me to be in Alexandria for two to three days out of each month during the school year. For the few people I will continue to meet with in 2018, my trips north will be much more limited.
Thank you to all who helped Ben and me negotiate our journey into unexpected grandparenthood. I am so thankful for all the prayers, for the time spent by many of you to help Mary Lawrence get ready, and for the supportive gifts for our granddaughter Autumn. We are truly blessed to have this new little person in our lives. I’m so thankful that my extended family has welcomed Autumn with open arms. Thank you also for allowing Ben and me the time to travel to our niece’s wedding in Philadelphia over the Thanksgiving weekend. We were able to be with Ben’s side of the family at the happy occasion. We could not have been there without you all giving me that Sunday off. We’re grateful for that. This past year also gave me the chance to spend a wonderful day with two of my daughters at the Womens’ March in Washington, DC, in January, and then a week in Curacao at the end of January with Catherine and her husband Steve, a weekend in Jamestown and Yorktown to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary with Ben, a week at the beach with my extended family, and a quick trip to Chicago and then a long drive to Tennessee with Elizabeth and her husband Steve to witness the total solar eclipse in all its glory. And then Elizabeth spent several days with me after my wrist surgery. Her presence was a huge help.
I would also like to thank everyone for their prayers and support as I faced months and months of recovery from breaking my wrist at the end of May 2017. By next fall, my wrist should be completely healed and back to normal. I’m well on the way to having the full use of my left hand again. I’m so thankful for that blessing.
The Vestry is supporting the idea that I will take a sabbatical sometime in 2018. I’m in the process of developing a plan for several weeks of renewal that will benefit not only me, but the whole parish. Now that we are in our eighth year together, we must be careful about not falling into a comfortable place which unintentionally limits what God has in mind for our parish in the years ahead. Time away to pray and dream about possibilities is an essential part of my shared leadership with all of you as time goes by. Watch for more information in the newsletters and bulletins as the sabbatical takes shape.