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.

Adult Confirmation/Inquirer’s Class
Do you find yourself wondering what it means to be a Christian as an Episcopalian? Do you have questions about how the Episcopal Church came about and what is it that is normative in belief and practice in the Episcopal Church? Have you thought about having your baptismal promises renewed through the right of Confirmation?
Starting on Sunday, April 23 following the 11 am service and running until about 1 pm, St. Mary’s three priests will be offering a series of classes to address these and what other questions you might have about the Christian faith as lived out in the Episcopal Church. The class will meet weekly through May 21.
The class will include discussions of Liturgy and the Liturgical Calendar, Sacraments, Reformation and Anglican Theology, Spirituality, and along the way will address whatever other related questions class participants raise.
Anyone 16 years or older is welcome in the class. Participants may just attend for information and all will have the opportunity, should they choose, to reaffirm their faith or to be confirmed at Grace Cathedral on June3.  For more information, contact any of the class leaders.

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.


Annual Retreat

The retreat is SOLD OUT. If you have questions, please contact Amy Cebrian at

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori


St. Mary’s was honored to welcome former Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori. If you were not able to hear her in person, you can listen to audio recordings of her sermon here and the forum she conducted



Listen to talks from the 2016 Summer in the City Series:

July 3 – The Rev. Dr. Paula Nesbitt – Spiritual Listening with Indaba
July 10 – The Very Rev. Mark Richardson – Life of the Spirit and Connection to the Earth
July 17 – Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus –  Stations of the Cosmic Christ
July 24 – Joel Pomerantz – Seep City
July 31 – The Rev. Claire Dietrich Ranna – Faith in Action
August 7 – The Rev. Dr. William Stafford – Julian of Norwich Prophet of Love through the Passion
August 14 – Lauren MacDonald – On Mary and the Mural
August 21 – The Rev. Evalyn Wakhusama – Building Dreams at the Nambale Magnet School
August 28 – The Very Rev. Dr. Don Brown – Struggle and Hope

Communion and Conflict
Rev.Dr. John KaterOn Sunday, April 3, 2016, the Rev. Dr. John Kater spoke to a group at St. Mary’s.  He is a graduate of Columbia University, the General Theological Seminary and holds a Ph. D. from McGill University in Montreal. He served as rector of Christ Church in Poughkeepsie, NY for ten years and taught at Vassar College. He was Education Officer in the diocese of Panama from 1984 to 1990, and for 25 years has taught Anglican Studies at CDSP, where he is now Professor Emeritus of Ministry Development. He has lectured widely around the Anglican Communion, was a consultant at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, taught in Brazil, the Philippines and Korea, and serves yearly as Visiting Professor at Ming Hua Theological College in Hong Kong.

Listen to Rev. Dr. Kater's comments.