DURING THIS TIME OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, IT IS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT THAT YOU KNOW THAT AT ST. CHRISTOPHER’S YOU HAVE A PLACE TO BELONG. I HOPE THAT YOU WILL READ THE FOLLOWING LETTER BECAUSE IT WILL TELL YOU WHO WE ARE DURING THIS TIME WHEN WE CANNOT PHYSICALLY BE PRESENT WITH ONE ANOTHER. DURING THIS TIME OF PHYSICAL DISTANCING, WE ARE FINDING WAYS TO MAKE BELONGING AND THE WELCOME OF CHRIST A REALITY STILL SO THAT WE DO NOT LOSE THE UNIQUE QUALITIES OF THIS PARISH. PLEASE JOIN US.
We are live-streaming Sunday worship every week. You can come to the home page of the website and it will be posted there. On that homepage, you will also be given links in case you would like to use YouTube or Facebook. We begin at 10:15 a.m. with Prelude Music, followed by the celebration of the Liturgy.
On November 21, 2020, we celebrated the ninth anniversary of The Reverend Doctor Mary Ann Brown Mertz, Rector.
Here are words that she has written to us and continues to change and develop as we grow together in faith, in hope, and in love . . .
As I began my time at St. Christopher’s, this reading from Ephesians was read on my first Sunday here. It has become a defining scripture for ministry in this parish and is truer today than it was on that first day in November, 2011.
“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” Ephesians 1: 15-16
Over the years, we have grown and changed and become even more deeply part of the community of Oxford and surrounding areas ranging from southern Lancaster county, into Delaware and Maryland and, of course, here in Southern Chester County. We are a parish that is known for how “welcoming” we are. One of the best features of the Episcopal Church is that it is a church where people who have belonged to many other denominations or who have never belonged to a church community have found a home. We extend a warm welcome to anyone who is looking to deepen their spirituality, who are looking for a church home where they will know that they are accepted and loved, who can come “just as they are” and feel at home. Our worship includes scripture readings from the Revised Common Lectionary, music in a variety of styles ranging from traditional hymns to contemporary liturgical music, and the weekly celebration of Holy Communion. When you walk through the doors of St. Christopher’s, know that YOU BELONG!
In 2016, the interior of the church was made accessible both for those who have difficulty with mobility as well as those who have hearing loss. We committed to installing a new sound system including an Audio Frequency Induction Loop that allows those with hearing aids that have a T-coil to use it to have direct access to the speakers. Others who need additional amplification can use headsets that can take advantage of the loop. Now, during this time of COVID-19, that sound system has been connected into the live-streaming professional camera that was purchased through generous donations from parishioners so that what we hear on Sunday virtually is clear and what we see is beautiful.
During the renovation of the church in 2016, not only did we care about accessibility with regard to hearing, but we also wanted to make the building accessible in other ways. We have made the floor one level for ease of movement and are using padded chairs both for comfort as well as to have the ability to arrange the worship space in different configurations, as needed. (During COVID-19, we are using plastic chairs for ease of cleaning and disinfecting, and cannot wait to return to the beautiful church chairs!) We have been happy to welcome many community groups who are now also using our space for concerts, worship, meetings, and other events. All are welcome.
I am so pleased to be the pastor of this parish. We are a parish that puts the worship of God at the center of parish life and from it everything else follows. We have long been a place that has provided a home for AA so that several meetings can be offered each week. We now also are thrilled to offer to the community an Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers’ Support Group that meets on the first Saturday of every month at 10 AM in the church house (the old rectory). Both of these groups are conducting ZOOM meetings during this time and are looking forward to the time that they will gather again in-person. Look for other activities offered by our Health Care Ministry Team. In addition, we have begun work to create a Spirituality Center at St. Christopher’s and have hosted several events both for parishioners and community members alike. Other events and sessions are being developed that will allow anyone who desires to take part the opportunity to deepen faith and and to grow in spiritual life. Keep returning to the website as this continues to develop over the course of the year to find out what is happening next.
2020 has been a most difficult year, but there have also been many blessings. I spoke of the Spirituality Center in the preceding paragraph. One element that we have been working on is the creation and installation of a Labyrinth. It is a circular path that will be made out of paving stones, again, very accessible that people can walk to help with prayer and meditation. This has been made possible through a generous grant from the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. In addition, we have received a second grant, even larger, from the diocese that will enable us to begin a project that will put some of the finishing touches on accessibility at St. Christopher’s. The first part of the project includes reconfiguring the entrance and installing a ramp so that it is handicapped accessible. The doors into the church itself will also be changed and people will no longer have to negotiate the step up or down to get in and out of the church. That should make it more accessible, as well. The grant from the diocese will provide the initial funds to begin and just as the parish contributed to previous projects in the years prior to my arriving nine years ago, we trust that a Capital Campaign is sometime in our future.
That is a little about us, some of our history and some of our dreams. The most important part of this community is that we believe in Jesus and seek to serve him. We welcome all who want to, as Jesus said, “Come and See.” Right now, it is pretty easy since you can look in on the parish online. But once this pandemic is in the rear view mirror, we hope to meet you in-person and extend to you the Welcome of Christ. You are not only welcome, but You Belong Here. Come (virtually now – in-person soon), and you will see.
If you have any questions, concerns, comments, etc. about the parish, the church, or other needs, that you want to discuss with someone, please contact us. The information is below.
I want to conclude by sharing with you a portion of the very first letter that I posted on the website. Why? Because it is as true today as it was then:
“I know from experience that when people speak the truth in safety to one another, health and growth, both individually and as a community, is most often the result. My door is open and I will always listen. I believe that what God has in store for us we cannot even ask or imagine. I believe that first we must keep our focus on God and the worship of God and from that all of the other things that we are and do as church will flow. We have to keep the children and youth in this parish in the forefront of our thinking and discussion will need to take place about how to continue to best minister among them and allow them to minister to us and to the world as well. We are a Christian community whose mission is to spread the Gospel and we believe that this can best be accomplished through the example of our lives lived in loving relationship with God and with one another. ‘The Episcopal Church Welcomes You’ is not just a sign to advertise where our church is located. Rather, it is real and the way that we at St. Christopher’s live our lives as Christians. All are welcome and when you come through our doors we will welcome you as Christ. Please accept this invitation and come join us soon for worship.”
Our Parish is assisted in the office by our Parish Administrator, Mary Clark. She is in the office on Wednesday and part of the day on Saturday. You may also contact Mary at the office phone, 610-932-8134, or by email, if you have questions or concerns. You may always feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you may call my cell phone which is available when you call the church office.
The Rev. Dr. Mary Ann Mertz