heartO Lord, you are my God;

I will exalt you, I will praise your name;
For you have been a refuge to the poor,
a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from heat

Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

If any of these verses sound familiar: the first, from Isaiah, was, in part, last Sunday’s Old Testament lesson; the second is from Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm.”

When vestry members were asked to provide brief thoughts on why we give, the terms “sanctuary” and “safe haven” came quickly to mind. Considering Maine’s maritime tradition, images arise of a cove offering protection from a storm. Up the street, the Coastal Humane Society provides safety, food, and care for lost/abandoned animals. Did you know that in the mid-80s, hundreds of U.S. cities and towns were considered sanctuaries for people fleeing the political turmoil in Central America?

St. Paul’s offers God’s sanctuary. What does that mean? Certainly, it is a place of worship – we are safe here, sheltered from the elements in relative comfort. But isn’t God’s offer of sanctuary something more? Do we maintain, improve, and care for this facility only to worship on Sundays? Instead, consider these images:

  • – A place from which we can reach out to the community to promote Christ’s model of living with and helping our neighbors (Lay Pastoral Visitors, Ashley Bryan and 100 others chanting joyfully, Frontline efforts to defeat the “New Jim Crow”)
  • – A place to meet or live while recovering from substance abuse (AA, Meath House, FA)
  • – A place where all ages can talk about their faith, fears, concerns without fear of ridicule or condemnation (Women’s/Men’s Groups, Christian Ed, Forums)
  • – A place to literally seek shelter from the elements (The Gathering Place)
  • – A place where young families receive advice, enjoyment, and nutritional assistance (Music Together, WIC)

Last Tuesday, I attended “Prayers for Peace” at St. Charles – prayer and quiet time as we sought God’s understanding, help, and solace regarding the violence in the Middle East. It was possible, in part, because of the presence of that church, a holy sanctuary, in Brunswick. The same concept applies here. Having this sanctuary, on this corner in central Brunswick, enables and fosters all that we do. We have high hopes for the future – an ambitious plan for tomorrow – 2015: growth and outreach, and we cannot do it without your added help. I hope you will join me in supporting these initiatives; to take ownership and be a part of them. God’s sanctuary welcomes you, nurtures you, and is possible only with your help.

Part 2

What do St. Paul’s, the diocesan cathedral, Maine Natural Gas, Maine Public Broadcasting, Planet Fitness, Dish Satellite TV, and the Brunswick-Topsham Water/Sewer Authorities, among others, have in common? (The answer is in your pew.) They all accept payments or contributions through automatic withdrawals. This past year, several of you joined in on our then-new effort to accept pledges via an automatic payment plan. The comments received were, “Oh, you were right. It is easy. I don’t need to worry about writing a check and finding the envelope.” Moreover, we had a steady stream of income even when folks were away for the summer, out of town, or dealing with a moment of forgetfulness. If you are still using checks and envelopes, we encourage you to consider this other option. We can help you sign up. All you need is voided blank check or computer access..So, in deciding how much to pledge in support of God’s sanctuary, please consider this option as your tool in doing so.

And a reminder for those who already pledge electronically: Assuming an increase, you will need to update pledge either on-line or via the signed form enclosed with your pledge card.