By Father Casey
So much of the life of Transfiguration happens out of sight right now, so I feel it important to bring to light a few important things, so you can share my gratitude, joy, and anticipation.
First, I have heard from many of you of your appreciation for our worship videos. A priest friend of mine, who does not serve in a parish, has virtually “attended” many different churches around the country, and he says our weekly video is the finest he’s seen. Hopefully, you’re attending each week and enjoying the archived music, beautiful photos and video of our congregation, and overall high production quality.
What you probably don’t know is that every week for nearly 6 months, parishioners Robert Hacker and John Makowski have been our videographers. They spend several hours recording the service, using their own cameras, climbing on ladders for better angles, adjusting white balance and other settings, and generally being amazing.
You also may not know that the videos are produced by Alex Vorse of Shiny Box Pictures. He is the same person who made a series of welcoming videos for Transfiguration last year, produced the Dear General Convention video three years ago, and is the producer of our Christmas Pageant, which will premiere on December 24 at 3:00 p.m. Alex is a masterful storyteller and artist, and he puts together all the pieces we send him into a beautiful video experience.
Alex is also a professional whom we pay, but he charges us only a fraction of his true rate, because of his love for Transfiguration. Yet, even at a reduced cost, we couldn’t have funded his work without the help of two of our members, who have generously donated these funds since June. I would love to celebrate them by name, but they prefer to remain anonymous. Take it from me: they are incredible people who have given much in time and treasure for many years in service of our mission.
Second, if you didn’t see it last Sunday, take an hour and experience Advent Lessons and Carols. Joel Martinson directed an absolutely gorgeous service last year, and this year he skillfully produced a video featuring that service for us to enjoy. It is a real Advent treasure, a gift you should not leave under the tree.
Third, I want to make sure you know about the Stations of the Nativity, which will begin on our campus on Monday, December 21. We may not be able to worship inside our church this Christmas, but that doesn’t mean we can’t praise the newborn king! Thanks to a creative team of volunteers and staff, and with the help of a grant from the Endowment and a special sponsorship from some generous parishioners, we are creating a lighted path through our campus, where you can pause at displays of art to pray through the story of Christ’s birth. Think “Twelve Days of Christmas” at the Dallas Arboretum meets Stations of the Cross. It will be up and available any time of day from December 21 through January 6, but I encourage you to walk it in the evening, to enjoy the lights. And do please bring your mobile device and ear phones, so you can access the narrated version that includes music.
Fourth, I want to let you know that our former parishioner, Ted Clarkson, who is a third-year seminarian at Sewanee, will be ordained a deacon on December 18 at All Saints Chapel in Sewanee. Ted was a member of our choir for many years, served on the Vestry, and was a significant leader of The Way, among other things. He is formally sponsored for ordination by All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, but he is very much one of our own. I hope you will pray with thanksgiving for Ted, and his husband, Mikey, as he prepares for this major event.
Fifth, I want you to know how our Sharing Our Story stewardship campaign is going. So far, we have heard from 360 households, or about 80% of the total from last year, and our average pledge is actually $300 higher (about 7%) than last year! Can you believe that?! In spite of everything – the struggles, stress, and separation of this year – you are standing by your church and even stretching your generosity. It takes my breath away to think of it.
We still need to hear from that last 20%, about 75 more households, to reach our goal, so if you haven’t yet pledged, I very much hope you will soon. As I’ve said many times, we don’t live on a few pledges to bankroll our church, but instead rely on everyone who calls this church home. Every single pledge matters. And if you are among those who’ve lost your job, or been hit hard by the pandemic, please just let us know that you will give as you’re able, so we won’t follow up with you again.
Finally, I want to share with you something I’ve done with the money you’ve donated this year to the Clergy Discretionary Fund. Last week, I gave $2,000 to North Dallas Shared Ministries, one of our longtime partner agencies here in Dallas, and another $2,000 to RIP Medical Debt, which helps those suffering under crushing medical debt. This year, because of the uncertainty about our own finances, we aren’t able to give away the Christmas offering. So I’m using money you’ve already given to support these agencies that are doing fantastic work, and I hope that, if you’re able, you’ll make your own special offerings to them, or other agencies you love and support.
There is even more I could tell you, but that’s plenty for now. It is a tough year, but our God is good. And even as we await his second advent in great power at the end of days, we can celebrate with joy all the ways Christ is known in our midst even now. For the church is nothing less than his body in the world, filled with grace upon grace and shining light in the darkness.