Spiritual Formation

St. Mary’s offers numerous opportunities for adults to learn and grow. Spiritual Formation includes programs that challenge you to think differently, help you to expand your knowledge base, deepen your prayer life, and engage you with the breadth and depth of Anglican history and contemporary expressions of the faith.

Making All Things New, An Invitation to the Spiritual Life – By Henri Nouwen

Making all Things New

Engaging discussions were held on this book in October and November.  If you would like to read it yourself, copies may be found on Amazon (CLICK HERE), bookstores, libraries or by electronic means. A few printed copies will be available in the church library.

The Rev. David Erickson


Summer in the City 2017 “Who Are We?”

e who attend St. Mary’s parish are many things. We are individuals with fascinating stories that enrich our community. We are members of a parish that tries to live its faith in its community and the world. We are part of the Episcopal Church, the Diocese of California, and the worldwide Anglican Communion. But, Who are We?

We will learn more about our church, our communities, our parish, and ourselves in this year’s Summer in the City Series, Who are We? Join us between the 8:00 and 10:00 a.m. services, beginning Sunday, July 2 and running through Sunday, August 27, to learn more about how we are living our faith in our parish, our community, and the world. Each program will begin promptly at 9:00 a.m. in the Great Room and end by 9:45 a.m. Child care will be provided.

Sunday, July 2 – 9:00 a.m. Who Are We…As Christians? – with David Crosson, former Director of the California Historical Society, and St. Mary’s parishioner.

American Jesus: How the son of God became an American icon

America may or may not be a Christian nation, but it most certainly is a Jesus nation. Although His message is continuously debated, the name of Jesus has been invoked to justify wars, social reform movements, corporate business practices, and anti-abortion campaigns. How did Jesus become one of the predominant images and values of a nation that was founded largely by Enlightenment rationalists? David Crosson will explore the evolution of the Jesus nation from Thomas Jefferson through Jesus Freaks, praise choirs, old- and new-age spiritualists, and more.

Listen to David's Talk     

Sunday, July 9:
Anglican Communication At The Crossroads
The Rev. Paula Nesbitt,
Assisting Priest at St. Mary’s, International Anglican Women’s Networking Steering Group

What is the Anglican Communion? What challenges does it face in 2017 and beyond? How can St. Mary’s parishioners be involved Communion-wide? These questions will frame an interactive presentation that describes the 85 million member Anglican Communion, how it facilitates cross-cultural mission and relationships, and some of the global challenges it faces. Paula Nesbitt draws on more than 25 years of research, including her recent book Indaba! A Way of Listening, Engaging, and Understanding across the Anglican Communion.

Listen to Paula's Talk     

Sunday, July 16:
Faithful, Joyful, and Grateful Giving: Generous Individuals throughout St. Mary’s History
Sandy Stadtfeld, St. Mary’s Parishioner

Throughout its history, St. Mary’s has been blessed by the gifts of committed parishioners. Their bequests and donations are reflected in much of the existing fabric of the church, and in our enduring values and traditions. To look into this facet of who we are, parishioner Sandy Stadtfeld will discuss historic individual acts of generosity and foresight that have helped shape the faith community we cherish today.

Listen to Sandy's Talk     

View Sandy’s talk on youtube.

Sunday, July 23: Who are we….as The Episcopal Church?

Charting the future of The Episcopal Church: A look at the path ahead
Panelists Sarah Lawton and The Rev. Eric Metoyer, California delegates to the 2018 General Convention and The Rev. Dr. Paula Nesbitt, St. Mary’s assisting priest and Episcopal research consultant. The Very Rev. Dr. Don Brown, Interim Rector, moderator.

Statistics show a steady rise in those who claim to have no religion and declining membership in the Protestant mainline denominations, including The Episcopal Church. What does this mean for the future of our Church? How is it addressing the challenges and potential changes that may lie ahead? Panelists will present data on Episcopal congregations and membership, and discuss various ways the church is responding, now and at next year’s General Convention. Time permitting, there will be an open discussion of possible next steps.

Listen to the Panel and discussion     

Sunday, July 30: Who are we… as an an Episcopal Church in the world?

Hope and Sustainability in Haiti
The Rev. Davidson Bidwell-Waite, Diocesan Minister to Haiti

From a first visit in 2013 accompanying the Presiding Bishop and Bishop Marc to a Commemoration Service for the 250,000 victims of the of the Great Quake of 2010, Davidson and his partner Edwin Waite have helped build a relationship between the Diocese of Haiti, the Diocese of California and the National Church. He will discuss the causes of on-going poverty, as well as exciting new projects building sustainability from a grass-roots level. Davidson will share a clip from a forthcoming documentary about last years’ Youth Pilgrimage to Haiti with Bishop Marc.

Sunday, August 6: – Who Are We…as Protectors of all God’s Creation?

Too “Bee or Not to “BEE”: – Pollinator-Friendly Environments and Renewable Energy
The Very Rev. Lin Knight, St. Mary’s assisting priest, with Rob Davis, Director of Communications and
Innovation, Fresh Energy

You may have read about it in National Geographic or on Martha Stewart’s log. Join our assisting priest Lin Knight to learn more about a model initiative promoting the establishment of pollinator-friendly garden solar sites. This initiative is one of the many works of Fresh Energy, a Minnesota-based non-profit that is dedicated to accelerating the transition to a clean energy environment and is a leader in environmental advocacy, innovation and solutions to make our world a better place to live. As part of the program, Fresh Energy’s Rob Davis will join Lin for a group participatory Q & A segment on garden solar sites and other environmental topics, including what we as community and individuals can do to advance the renewable energy cause.

August 13, 2017: – Who Are We..Caring, Supporting, and Being Present With our Elderly Friends and Family Members?

It’s Inevitable: Ministering with the Elderly Dr. Patrick Arbore, Ed.D

Dr. Arbore is a nationally recognized expert in the field of elderly suicide prevention and grief services who has devoted his life to creating in the community an awareness of isolation, loneliness, and depression among older adults. Most of us have (or will be) called at some time to live out our faiths by ministering with family members, parishioners, and other friends who are suffering from the challenges of aging including loneliness, depression, stress, and isolation. Dr. Abore’s interactive discussion will identify ways in which we can support, listen to, and be present with each other as we encounter aging-related issues for others and ourselves.

Listen to Patrick's Talk     

August 20, 2017: Who ae We..Supporting and Assisting Refugees to Live in the Bay Area?

The Interfaith Welcome Initiative, Bill Campbell of Old First Presbyterian and Nancy Levine of Congregation Emanu-el, co-founders and co-leaders of San Francisco-based Interfaith Welcome

Interfaith Welcome is a multi-faith ministry whose purpose is to help settle and orient refugees recently allowed by the U.S. government to live in the Bay Area. Several St. Mary’s parishioners have become active members  of this ministry. Interfaith Welcome provides an array of advocate and special services for recently-arrived refugees including finding housing and jobs, preparing welcome kits of household goods and clothes, and cooking for and periodically visiting refugee families. It also contributed a large number of teddy bears to refugee children in displacement camps in Jordan and has made donations to refugee resettlement organizations. Our presenters will interactively share stories helping us as parishioners to discern how we as a faith community are being called to minister with refugees who have settled here in the Bay Area.

Listen to the Interfaith discussion     

August 27, 2017: Who Are We…In Social Action?

Faith IS Action! St. Mary’s parishioner Margaret Stafford, and a panel that includes representatives from St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church and St. James Episcopal Church, San Francisco

A panel of clergy and lay members from local Episcopal churches will talk about their parishes’ work in the community with the support of the interfaith organizing group, Faith in Action (FIA) Bay Area. FIA is “committed to ensuring that the dignity of all members of our community is upheld” and helps congregations of many faiths discern what area of community engagement they feel called to, then makes connections with community partners and other congregations. St. Mary’s is in the process of going through our own listening and discernment process, and we are looking  forward to learning from our fellow Episcopalians who are further down this  road in hearing God’s call to action.

Listen to Faith in Action Discussion     

Lenten Series Audios

If you missed any of the Lenten Series, five audios are available. The series was designed to form an arc from the historical Jesus to the Cosmic Christ. To begin, the Rev. Jeremy Clark-King offered information on the origins, history, and traditions of our Lent and Holy Week liturgies.The second week, Fr. Clark-King described the last hours of Jesus’ life and how the story gave rise to the practice of the Stations of the Cross through prayer and art. The following week, Fr. Don Brown continued and expanded knowledge of the Stations of the Cross historically and in relation to our own lives. The following week, Bishop Marc Andrus offered insightful questions and approaches to three Gospel stories, showing participants how to become involved in and get relevant meaning from them. For the last session, Bp. Marc led a discussion on how baptism carries out the Easter message. If you have not yet experienced his engaging teaching style, now is your opportunity to become acquainted. Find all five talks below.


March 8, The Rev. Jeremy Clark-King —–  
March 15, The Rev. Jeremy Clark-King —-  
March 22, The Very Rev. Dr. Don Brown —  
March 29, The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus ——  
April 5, The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus ———  


Parishioner Perspective
Ashes and the Divine Spark
by Deborah Franklin, Altar Guild President and Vestry Member
Deborah Franklin

Last Saturday found me between storms, on a bench before a flaming cauldron in St. Mary’s courtyard. I got a new perspective on the central ritual of Ash Wednesday.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” – a few solemn words and a swipe of grime across the forehead 40 days before Easter mark the beginning of Lent, the reflective season when we Christians are supposed to quit our whining and preening and remember that we are nothing – nothing — apart from God. That’s what I thought I understood. Then I tried to make ashes.

Every year or so, the Altar Guild gathers up some of the palm fronds waved on Palm Sunday, and puts the bundle on a high shelf in the sacristy to dry. We burn them the following winter to create the ashes for Ash Wednesday — the start of Lent. Circle of Life. Great idea!

Except, this year I couldn’t get them to burn.

True confession: I’d never done it before, and am a little afraid of fire. But I’d downloaded the instructions from the National Altar Guild (God bless the internet!). I had a fire extinguisher at the ready, just in case things got out of hand. Snip, snip, snip – I cautiously put a small mound of frond-confetti into the cauldron, touched a match to it, and stood back.

Nothing. Nada. Instead of bursting into flame, the little squares turned black around the edges and shriveled, but didn’t burn. I doubled the fuel – a full two cups of snipped-up fronds. Still no flame. No ashes.

Finally, exasperated after 40 minutes of snipping and shriveling, I curled long fronds into the cauldron like loose spaghetti, and tossed in a match.

WHOOSH! The combination of air and loose abandon did the trick. The woody scaffolding of each palm frond gave way to black, then silver, then glowing ghosts of fibers — white-hot and tinged with red. Perfect! It took time, but little effort. I watched until the red glow died away, then scooped white flakes of ash into a bowl.

That’s when it hit me. How often, I wondered, have I played it extra safe with my “leaps of faith” and trust in God? How often have I been strategic in waiting and watching, measured and careful with the way I spend the confetti of my time, my money, my energy — careful to guard my heart against disappointment or hurt?

How often have I stayed so close to my own comfort that I’ve missed out on meaningful detours – the chance conversations that might have led to powerful friendships and new ministries? How often have I said no to opportunities (“things left undone,” as our prayer of confession says), or focused so closely on my own pain, that I lost sight of another’s? Or averted my eyes from the homeless young man on the sidewalk outside Walgreens; or given him a little cash, but not risked also stopping to ask his name, his story?

St. Mary’s is now in the middle of a search for new rector, and it’s easy for us all to hang back in this transitional time – to wait and see who our new long-term leader will be, to expect that person to spark us to action, to guide our church community into our next chapter. Maybe we’re overwhelmed or deeply hurt or disappointed, so we step gingerly. Maybe we show up, but hold back a bit; fearful of a mis-step. Maybe, we figure, we’ll just wait to see how it all turns out before trusting in God and our community, before risking our hearts.

An hour last Saturday with that carefully tended, smoldering – and failing — fire taught me that’s no way to live! If, individually or as a parish, we want to do big things, we can’t wait, or force whatever’s happening now to conform to what’s gone before – we’ll smother the spark. We need to open our hearts and be all-in to recognize the divine spark in each other — to see ourselves as God sees us, and prayerfully expect that if we give God a chance, he’ll feed our dreams with oxygen, heat and light, and allow us to do big things in and for our hurting world right now.

St. Mary’s has a long history of strong, lay-led ministries – of outreach to homeless families and young people in transition, of glorious, inspiring music, of vibrant children’s programs. We know how to build an inclusive community, feed the hungry, tend the Earth and each other. We have experience working for justice, standing up for refugees and others at the margins. We build bridges, and so much more. We have what it takes – a vigorous, multi-generational community of families and couples and singles. It’s a community of long-time parishioners and those just arrived – who can all knit together and work spiritual magic in the world, right now.

Don’t wait! Commit! Be all-in. We need you, and you need us. Whether you’re a newcomer, or someone who has worn many, many hats at St. Mary’s and could use a new one, ask God where you can be most joyfully useful in our community right now. Got a new idea for something the church should be doing, a way you’d like to help change the world? Introduce yourself. Share your vision. Risk your heart. Sign up and jump in. We’re meant to live our lives fully, vibrantly — white-hot to the end. We don’t want, at the end of our lives, to have left something back, a fibrous, unburned husk.

One more thing I learned from that burning cauldron: Once God sets us aflame we’re not easily deterred or quenched. At the end of the afternoon, I picked up my bowl of white ash, and noticed it was still warm. I stuck the spoon in and stirred it around a little – tiny red embers, each smaller than a grain of rice, still glowed, still igniting whatever unburned bits of palm fiber they touched.

Life is short, and we do not have too much time
to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us.
So be swift to love, and make haste to be kind.
And the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.




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