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Letter from Liz: March 22,2022

Part 5 of a 6 part series on Incarnation's early years!

Dear friends

We're almost up-to-date! But last year too had it's ups and downs...

Josie leading a Bible study at the fence: so many lovely memories of worship 'under the canopies'


From my perspective January and February 2021 were quite delightful, as Simon and I were on sabbatical in the UK! Amy was left in charge with the wonderful Katie by her side, and they began a series preaching through 1 Corinthians. Amy navigated shepherding the community through these 2 months with her customary calm, good humor and wisdom, including ensuring that Incarnation prayed through the days following the Jan 6 insurrection.

Amy adds: We navigated some choppy waters together as a community in the wake of January 6. Emotions were high, political divisions were intense, and our beloved rector was away! But we did what the church has always done in times of crisis: We kept talking. We kept breaking bread together (virtually).We kept praying. Within hours of the events in the capital, we gathered on Zoom to pray the comforting words of compline and to intercede for peace and justice. And in the weeks that followed, we met for many long walks, good and challenging conversations, and lots more prayer. It was a gift to be one of your pastors during that time — and it was a gift to welcome Liz home again afterward!

We returned to the USA at the end of Feb and as a team, we began to wonder about how to navigate the next season of the pandemic. Vaccines were becoming more available and it truly felt like the end was in sight. At some point we had the GENIUS idea of meeting outside - and so Canopy Church was born.

To be honest, I really wanted to name it Dumpster Church, but was persuaded that ‘Canopy Church’ did sound a whole LOT more welcoming. Having had the idea of ‘popping up’ a few canopies over the parking lot, Grant and Simon were volunteered to make it happen. Guess what? It’s not quite that easy…. However, a wonderful bunch of people figured it out over the course of several long, sweaty Saturdays. A whole lot of trial and error, and drawing physics diagrams of forces on grubby envelopes, multiple runs to Home Depot, and a plenteous supply of donuts and coffee helped.

Canopy church launched on Easter Sunday - and AT LAST we were meeting in person - sure, we were wearing masks and physical distancing, and using lashings of hand sanitizer, and wearing gloves for communion distribution. BUT WE WERE IN PERSON. And that was so good. We were also able to have our global worship week in person; and begin to find ways to be together and even, at last!, exchange hugs felt after so much touch-abstinence.

Some other fun things we did in the late Spring/early Summer were picnicking in Pohick Bay and a great bookclub discussion on 'The Making of Biblical Womanhood' in July. Throughout the year Jenni organised regular hikes - and we headed out to some beautiful areas with dogs, children and our neighbors and friends. It's so wonderful to live with so many glorious hikes so easily accessible.

Amy adds: I was proud of how we continued to seek out ways to love our neighbors even as the pandemic continued throughout 2021. Again and again, this community jumped into action to energetically meet whatever needs popped up. You provided groceries, baby care items, and bagged meals for asylum seekers with Restoration Immigration Legal Aid. You donated dozens of grocery cards for Afghan refugees. You collected an abundance of coats for students at Randolph Elementary. You prayed and worshiped and remembered the nations throughout Global Week. You prayer-walked Culmore and Columbia Pike. And you gave generously toward the crisis in Myanmar and toward local Afghan resettlement. Thank you!

What do these people have in common: Zelophehad’s daughters, Elijah, Paul (as in St. Paul), Desmond Tutu, Luci Shaw, Father G (Homeboy Industries), Amy Carmichael, and Origen? Over the summer, we preached a series called “Imitate Me” (the title came from 1 Cor 11:1): we looked at different ways these people exemplified a holy Christian life, as we sought role models to follow in our growth as Christians. What a joy to have good examples to imitate. We also moved our service time to 9am for the summer to avoid the midday heat - what a relief cooling breezes were as we stepped into a summer of cicadas, and DC heat!

June 26, Katie was ordained a priest and Amy a deacon. These milestones were so significant for these two women, but also for our community. What a privilege to see God at work calling women to serve him as clergy. But it’s not just the ladies! David was ordained as a deacon in October - another wonderful occasion! For a small church we certainly know how to shepherd new clergy. :)

Amy adds: I will never, ever forget lying prostrate in the parking lot under the canopies, holding hands with Katie on the concrete, while you all sang the words of a 1000+ year old hymn inviting the Holy Spirit to fill us. Thank you for all your support in our journey to ordination.

But as we marked leadership transitions and changes, we also accepted that Beth’s time as musical director (she agreed to volunteer in the position in 2017 for one year!) should be allowed to come to a close. Fortunately, Beth still has time and capacity to lead music regularly and is a beloved member of our community - but even super-volunteers need a break sometimes. We do preach that we should all live with margins!

Our children gathered for 'atrium on the quilt' week by week. Josie used her love for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd coupled with her passion for seeing our kids encounter Jesus to develop fresh ways for our children to be stretched and welcomed. Our slightly older children gathered after the service to do Bible study by the fence, whereas the younger ones were able to spend the first half of the service with Josie. Having them 'in' with us for the whole service has been so delightful. So often, one of the kids will share a nugget of how they have encountered God during the service at a time when we might have thought they were not really paying attention. But God has been at work in helping them listen and respond. In addition, our teen girls started to meet as 'Worthy Wonderers' first with Emily D and then with Juliet V. Two particularly joyful services were Pentecost and Christ the King, which our children led.

For Simon and me as we approached the Fall, the big news was that a date we had always known would come, had indeed arrived. We are in the USA on G4 visas linked to Simon’s employment, and he was now entering his final year before mandatory retirement in September 2022. My work permit will expire on May 8, 2022 and so the sad decision was made that that would signal my retirement from Incarnation. You can know something will happen, but that’s not quite the same as it actually coming to pass. This started so many really hard decisions and processes. I had talked through the timeline with our Bishop and Canon Mary Hays (who handles church transitions for our diocese) earlier in the year and so had a plan in place - and now it was time to execute it. And so I told the vestry. They prayed and talked to Canon Mary. Together we told the church. We prayed and met, and talked some more.

The vestry (independently of me) worked really, really hard. They followed our diocese's rector-search procedures and invited Amy to be interviewed. After rigorous interviewing, they unanimously agreed to call her to be the Rector-Elect of Incarnation. I was over the moon. NOTHING could have been better. A woman I trusted, loved and have delighted in co-leading with over the last four years was the perfect fit from my perspective. The Bishop was also delighted - and when the congregation found out they were THRILLED. God’s goodness in provision of a good shepherd for this little flock felt so precious.

The new vestry

In addition, Kaitlin, Tom, and Cory were voted onto vestry, and Jenni was re-elected. We moved our service time to 10am to begin to catch some winter warmth. We decided to stay under the canopies outside until the end of the year - as long as the temperature did not fall below 40. We wrapped up warmly and worshiped and worshiped. We also bought a van, as we realised we had outgrown the Chapel and we DID want to meet indoors from January! And so as we wrapped up our time under the canopies we began to dream about a school-church partnership. We found a new home at Randolph Elementary. We began to pack.

A new to us van, Christmas Eve and packing up the Chapel

And then, before we left our canopies we had our last weekend of outdoor services: Christmas Eve we we had a manger, a baby, straw, Los Posadas, fire pits, neighbors, and caroling. It was SO wonderful. Christmas Day we had PJ church on zoom… but then we gathered one last time under the canopies for Amy’s ordination to the priesthood (on Boxing Day!). Such a good way to finish the year.

And so we stepped into 2022.

In other news:

  • Prayer training: On Wednesday evening (March 23) there is an opportunity to deepen your prayer life by completing our after service prayer training at the Vicarage. WhatsApp or email me for more info!

  • Worship Night: Next week we will gather at the Vicarage for probably the last event there - 7.30pm, March 30 come and pray and sing for a Lenten worship night led by Anna P and Katie F.

  • Do share your memories of last year in the response section below - or drop us an email with your pictures and stories!

Always ready to walk or talk,

Your pastor

~ Liz x


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