Dear Folks,

Last fall we formed a visioning committee to dream about expanding the Parish Day School into the elementary grades, guided by a commitment to only grow if it benefitted the school, the parish, and the community around us.   We invited educators and parents, vestry and a former PDS board chair to join us, and we asked local school leaders to challenge our assumptions.  The process clarified who we uniquely are, what we value, and why now might be the right time to grow.  And because the pandemic compelled us to add a first grade option this program year, as we write to you, 16 first-graders are thriving in a repurposed room at the bottom of the parish hall stairs.

In June, we met with Nancy Grasmick, former Superintendent of the Maryland State Department of Education, to think out loud with us about two ways we might grow: upward in grade level and more deeply into our relationship with Govans School.  Her response was immediate and strong.  “By expanding to the third grade, Redeemer will complete early childhood education, a precious gift to the current landscape of schools.  And by creating an on-going partnership with Govans, you offer a rare public-private partnership that can knock down walls that divide us.”  Go for it, she said, and you’ve got a fan in your corner.  On Tuesday, the Vestry voted their commitment and full support of the school’s case for growth!

Here’s what we are excited about.  The Parish Day School is a small, inclusive Episcopal School which welcomes diverse families from different religious, cultural, and economic backgrounds.  We provide a nurturing environment grounded in early childhood learning—experiential, student-driven, open-ended, multi-sensory… active, playful, noisy, messy… and full of joy.  Through listening and reflection, our students are helped to solve problems, make decisions, and communicate effectively with other children and adults.  Music is part of our daily life, which presents exciting possibilities to partner with the Choir School of Baltimore.  Our eight acre campus and curriculum stretch minds and bodies, invite exploration and wonder, and model how to learn from our mistakes.  We are committed to providing an affordable option for early grades, with small classes and low teacher-student ratios, and we offer need-based financial aid.  Our teachers and students are faithful, welcoming, courageous, and kind.

The work ahead is to continue listening to every stakeholder, especially as we design curriculum and develop ways that Redeemer and Govans can help each other.  It also includes fostering a culture of stewardship within the school community to support an annual fund, capital costs, and an endowment.  In the next program year, additional students will mean having classrooms in learning cottages, and we will also need to discover space in our buildings for special programs.  Continued growth will call for more permanent structures, we imagine, and school alumni and the parish community will be invited to take part in that development.

Students are fundamentally shaped in the earliest years, we believe, and so as we add elementary grades and a child-centered partnership with Govans School, we offer a program that will not only change individual lives, but our city along with it.  That’s the vision which nourishes us.  If someone asks you about the Redeemer Parish Day School’s plans for growth, tell them this: We are educating children to be curious, confident learners, discovering each person’s unique worth and beauty, building an inclusive and equitable community, strengthening the school, the parish, and Baltimore.  Will you grow with us?

David Ware, rector                 Mary Knott, PDS director

Learn more: Research supports early childhood education through 3rd grade.

Today, September 23, the Episcopal Church remembers Thecla of Iconium. Ever heard of her?

I hadn’t, either, until I started taking Greek in seminary. Our teacher gave us a passage to translate, and I found myself looking up the Greek word for seal (the ones with flippers) in my lexicon. Seals! And they were ravenous!

According to tradition, Thecla was a disciple of Paul. She was incredibly popular, especially with women, in the early church. Her story is told in the second century text, Acts of Paul and Thecla. If it sounds like the title of an adventure story, that’s because it was (remember, ravenous seals). The story goes that when Thecla heard Paul preaching the gospel, she abandoned her plans to marry and followed Paul instead. Her devotion to the Gospel was not particularly well received, and she was condemned to burn at the stake. But – ! – her life was saved by a miraculous thunderstorm! Drama!

And it doesn’t stop there. Thecla was then thrown to the beasts at a local arena. (Think gladiator arena, but minus the dude in armor. There are other accounts of early Christians being sent to the arena because of their piety during this time, though scholars differ on how much and for how long early Christians were persecuted before Constantine made it the religion of the state. It depended on where they were and who was in power.) She was protected by a fierce lioness (very cool) but, afraid it was her last chance to be baptized, she threw herself into a pool of ravenous seals and baptized herself while the seals were struck dead by lightening. WHAT?! As you can imagine, Greek class was derailed by our delight with the story’s outcome. Thecla was released by the governor and she continued to preach the gospel on her travels.

Acts of Paul and Thecla is very much the adventure story it sounds like: it contains many tropes of ancient fiction and is written in the same style of non-Christian stories. While much of it may be apocryphal, Christians in late antiquity believed that there was a real woman behind the story. She pops up in art and literature from Gaul to Palestine and people named their babies after her. Tertullian, a second and early third century Christian writer from Carthage, wrote that early Christian women used Thecla as an example to defend women’s freedom to teach and baptize.

Remembering Thecla today, I wonder what your seal pits are? A funny way to phrase the question, but I mean it seriously. What are you willing to stand up for, to which you will stay true, despite great risk? Where is God in it? Does it make you free? Thecla was called to spread the Good News, even though she was a woman and persecuted for her religion. Although it made her a target and left her vulnerable, God’s call also made her free. And her life (or at least stories about it) served as an example to countless other Christians, especially women who sought freedom.

As a closing prayer, here is the collect for Thecla.

God of liberating power, who called Thecla to proclaim the gospel and did not permit any obstacle or peril to inhibit her: Empower courageous evangelists among us, that men and women everywhere may know the freedom that you offer us in Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


PS If you want more Thecla, check out her entry in Lesser Feasts and Fasts (you’ll see much of the same information I offered today and the collect, plus the assigned scripture texts for her feast). Or, if you’re curious, you can check out a translation of Acts of Paul and Thecla. PBS has an English translation that’s (probably) from the early 18th century:

I have recently had the privilege of making a new friend—let’s call him Vernon.  Vernon is a well-traveled, well-read, and retired neurosurgeon who led the field of neurosurgery for much of his working life.  He is truly a scientist down to his toes and everything must have a rational, scientific explanation…even if science hasn’t caught up to articulating it yet.

So, imagine my surprise when he started asking me questions about GOD!  In these his later years, he is searching for he knows-not-what.  His very busy mind is driving him crazy because he has not been able to align his rational thinking with this deep question mark that seems to be hanging over his head.  Having traveled around the world and enjoyed much of the finer things of life, he finds himself asking, “so what?  Is this it?  Is there more?”

Of course, questions like these are right up my alley.  Our spirituality is nothing if it doesn’t somehow respond to the questions of meaning in our lives.  Questions like WHY AM I even HERE?  As we have talked more about this subject it struck me that Vernon never spoke much about how situations or circumstances or even people made him feel.  He had a myriad of thoughts about these things, but no feelings about them.

If you are living the human experience, and you are if you’re reading this reflection, you have feelings that are reflections of the emotive experience of being alive.  All of life is energy and emotions are simply energy-in-motion.  That is why Fear…a strong emotion has a self-conscious and reflective side to it which can be articulated.  If we find we cannot express our feelings, we are allowing these strong emotions to get stuck within us which have been shown to make us physically sick or sicker.

As Vernon and I have spent time together talking about this GOD-thing even more, I have come to realize that life’s experiences are to be felt as well as considered with the mind or thought about.  In other words, to block off our feelings shuts off a part of our aliveness…and dare I say it, separates us from GOD.  You and I are meant to both think and feel.  It is who and what we are.

So, what do we do with difficult feelings like fear, sadness, anger, guilt, or shame to name a few?  We certainly don’t pretend they are not there.  Try this. We can close our eyes and discern where in our body this feeling sits; cradle it with compassion and love; and watch its transmutation.  It will change.  Try it and see. Learning to process our emotions in this way is very calming to our nervous systems and is overall beneficial to our lives.

Vernon and I are learning together that we can experience GOD through our feelings more deeply than we can through what we can intellectually speak about GOD.  The Divine, after all is to be experienced in this school of LIFE.  At the end of the day, it is about learning to express gratitude for the experience of being alive—right here and right now.  So how do YOU feel today?

Holding You in LIGHT!

Freda Marie+

The British rock band Queen and singer David Bowie teamed up in the eighties to write and release a song called “Under Pressure”:

Pressure: pushing down on me,
Pressing down on you, no man ask for.
Under pressure that burns a building down,
Splits a family in two,
Puts people on streets …

That’s the terror of knowing
What this world is about.
Watching some good friends screaming,
“Let me out!” …

Most everyone I know, these days, and for awhile now, is feeling Under Pressure, to the nth degree. Whether it’s a personal situation or family issue(s), or simply the general state of our city, nation and world amidst our ongoing global pandemic, the pressure, anxiety and stress are over the top.

For many, this feeling of pressure has morphed into a feeling of despair. How is this ever going to get better? When will things finally change for the good? How long, O Lord, how long?

Several weeks ago, we heard a lesson from Hebrew scripture, telling the tale of the prophet Elijah and how he fell into despair. Fleeing into the wilderness and finding himself under the shade of a solitary broom tree, he throws in the towel: “This is it,” he claims before God, “I’m done, it’s over. Take my life. It’s hopeless. I’m without hope.” Millenia later, poet W. H. Auden would give voice to this sentiment:

… The stars are not wanted now; put out every one:
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods:
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

And it is here, in this place of deepest despair, that Elijah becomes aware of a messenger from God. And God’s message?

“EAT! Get up and eat!!!”

Reminds me of my former Italian neighbor Marcella, who used to say to me: “Mangia! Mangia! Si no, serai mangiada!!!” “Eat! Eat! Or else you yourself will be eaten!”(A more passionate version, perhaps, of the British notion, “Come now, and have a cup of tea ….”?)

God’s word is at once instructive and practical, down to earth and grounding, while also clearly conveying: “You may be done with life but Life isn’t done with you! God … Holy Mystery … is not done with you! So hang on, have something to eat, and then take just the next step before you. And remember: I AM with You.”


Missionary, author and speaker Elisabeth Elliot, who died in 2015 at the age of 88, had a radio program years ago called Gateway to Joy. On it, Elisabeth told of her deep despair, when her husband Jim was murdered in Ecuador, where they were serving together, leaving her alone with an infant daughter.

“When I went back to my jungle station after the death of my first husband, Jim Elliot, I was faced with many confusions and uncertainties. I had a good many new roles, besides that of being a single parent and a widow. I was alone on a jungle station that Jim and I had manned together. I had to learn to do all kinds of things, which I was not trained or prepared in any way to do. It was a great help to me simply to do the next thing …. I’ve felt that way [other] times in my life, and I go back over and over again to an old Saxon legend, which I’m told is carved in an old English parson somewhere by the sea. I don’t know where this is. But this is a poem which was written about that legend. The poem says, ‘Do it immediately, do it with prayer, do it reliantly, casting all care. Do it with reverence, tracing His hand who placed it before thee with earnest command. Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing, leave all resultings, do the next thing.’ Sometimes life is so hard you can only do the next thing. Whatever that is just do the next thing. God will meet you there.”

Here’s the poem (anonymous) below. May it give you some hope and courage, as you and I, together, simply do the next thing.

~ Cristina


From an old English parsonage, down by the sea,
There came in the twilight a message for me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
It has, seems to me, God’s teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours the quiet words ring,
Like a low inspiration: “DO THE NEXT THING.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt has its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus. DO THE NEXT THING.

Do it immediately; do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing Christ’s hand
Who placed it before you with earnest command,
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all resultings. DO THE NEXT THING.

Hurricanes and tornadoes. Evacuations and refugees. Floods, fires and pandemics.

As I sit and write in what we call “the blue room” of our home, the sun shines brightly outside and the air feels a welcome and refreshing cool. The storm has passed. And amidst the brightness of this new day, I am acutely aware of …

… folks in Louisiana grappling with loss and devastation once again …

… individuals and families, having left all they’ve known in Afghanistan, seeking refuge in new lands …

… adult friends grieving the death of their parents, and other friends recovering from surgery …

… a young man struggling with addiction and another man searching for employment …

And … I am also aware of …

… children and youth returning to school and our friends at Govans Elementary School enjoying the glory of their new 21st century school building …

… the grandchild of a friend discovering the wonder of a dryer ball and a young woman in college jazzed about her courses and professors …

… a colleague celebrating a birthday and another embarking on a new degree …

… a new program year starting here at Redeemer …

Endings and beginnings. Grief and hope. Heartache and heart exultation. Life in ALL its fullness. I wonder: how do you ground yourself, amidst the Fullness of Life and all it holds? What life-giving practice(s) do you have in place, to anchor you as the winds blow and the waters pour down?

Perhaps you’re a runner or a walker. Perhaps it’s time with scripture or time in meditation and prayer. Perhaps it’s sitting with a cup of coffee or tea and gazing out the window. Perhaps it’s playing with a child; knitting, crocheting, or painting; talking with a trusted friend. Perhaps you’re still searching for such a practice … or are so pressed for time that you can’t imagine taking the time to do any of the above …

Over the summer, I did a deep dive into my yoga practice, becoming certified as a yoga instructor. I cannot with words do justice to how meaningful and life-giving this practice has become for me; I can only tell you that it has, and that it is, and that I realize I am just at the beginning of a journey. And that I am excited to begin to share with you the fruits of what this journey holds.

Each of us … you and I … are temples of the Living God. You may not feel like a temple of the Divine, right now, and/but you are! And the world, our precious world, deeply and desperately needs each and all of us to awaken to this truth … live into it … and fully embody it.

So stay tuned for more … and in the meantime … Inhale … Exhale … again … and again … deeply, mindfully and fully … God’s Breath is Breathing You …