Blog: We Gather

“Sing to the Lord a New Song!”

By Mike Milam, Minister of Music Psalm 96 opens with these well-known and well-loved words. One of my fondest early memories of St. John’s is the first children’s choir rehearsal of the 2000-01 year. Approximately twenty-five elementary-aged children showed up on a Sunday evening, settled in, then stood up and began to sing to the Lord with strong, pure voices. The look on my face must have been one of shocked delight. I responded with an enthusiastic, “Wow!” which... Read More
at Wednesday, July 6, 2022
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Slowing Down

By The Rev. David Olson David recently walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain with a group of St. John’s pilgrims. He shares some thoughts from a day on the trail. I take a step, then another one, then another. I’ve developed a rhythm to my walking that feels very familiar and comforting. The rhythm wasn’t always there. When I started this walking pilgrimage a few days ago, it wasn’t there. Starting out, I felt anxious. I was anxious to run, or hurry and push... Read More
at Saturday, July 2, 2022
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A Time for Renewal

The Rev. Eric Long With gratitude to the people of St. John’s, I start my sabbatical this summer. My last priestly act for a while is officiating a wedding for Tray Light and Chesley Fobare the first weekend of June. After that, I will help my step-father rebuild our back deck (pray for us!) and then welcome family and friends for my daughter Abigail’s graduation from high school. On June 10, I fly to Dublin, where I join a pilgrimage in Ireland put together by my... Read More
at Monday, June 6, 2022
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Stepping into History: The Camino de Santiago

By Christine Mortlock, Minister for Children, Families, and Lifelong Formation St. Francis of Assisi did it in 1214. Andrew McCarthy, who starred in movies like St. Elmo’s Fire and Pretty in Pink , did it in the early 2000s. And in the spring of 2022, eleven people from (or friends of) St. John’s did it too. We walked the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, in Spain. This May, our St. John’s group hiked the northwestern Spanish provinces of Leon and... Read More
at Thursday, June 2, 2022
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Girls on the Run

This spring twenty girls at Crystal Spring Elementary School participated in Girls on the Run. Three of those girls were St. John’s girls—Abby Scaggs, Ada Emerson, and Virginia Bass. Christine Mortlock, Minister for Children, Families, and Lifelong Formation, and Carley Emerson, St. John’s member and Sunday School teacher, were two of the coaches. If you have a child who is interested in participating next fall, please be in touch with Carley at... Read More
at Thursday, May 19, 2022
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Black in Appalachia

By Jenni Faires, Canon for Evangelism and Youth Ministry,  The Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of journeying with a group of diocesan youth, five of whom were from St. John’s, on the Black in Appalachia Youth Pilgrimage.  Our journey began on Friday night when we were visited, via Zoom, by the pre-eminent historian of black history in Appalachia. A native of Harlan, Kentucky, Dr. Turner has devoted much of his life to the... Read More
at Thursday, May 5, 2022
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Easter People in a Good Friday World

By the Rev. David Olson As I drop my head, my eyes squeeze shut.  I hold them closed for a good amount of time, not ready to open them back up.  Eventually I know I must and so slowly I raise my head and open my eyes…but the picture is still there.  It’s of a pregnant Ukrainian woman on a stretcher. She is being rushed to get help after Russian forces bombed the maternity hospital where she was to give birth. Later I learned it was too late. She died, along with... Read More
at Saturday, April 2, 2022
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Making Time

By the Rev. Eric Long This summer I will do something I haven’t done in 23 years of ordained ministry. I am going on a sabbatical. While Episcopal clergy are generally afforded sabbaticals every 5-7 years, I have consistently found a reason why I could not take one. Whether it was starting a new church, leaving one parish for a new call (St. John’s), or a particularly busy or transitional season in my congregations, some issue, or maybe excuse, has convinced me I... Read More
at Thursday, March 3, 2022
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St. John’s Literacy Ministry Team

By Kate Ericsson   On August 15, 2021, as the Afghan capital fell in a matter of hours, the world watched in disbelief. The evacuation operations were one of the largest airlifts in history. Between August 14 and 25, the US evacuated about 82,300 people from Hamid Karzai International Airport. The tragic images from Kabul brought the plight of refugees to our forefront and compelled us to take action. Last September, Christine Mortlock, Minister for Children, Families, and... Read More
at Tuesday, March 1, 2022
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Listening for a Call

By the Rev. Marisa Sifontes Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1 Six years ago this month, my Sending Parish, St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, convened a Parish Discernment Committee for the purpose of exploring whether I was called to become a Deacon. At that very first meeting, someone announced that they didn’t see me as a Deacon, but they saw me as a Priest. The comment took... Read More
at Thursday, February 3, 2022
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A New Normal

By the Rev. David Olson As much as I enjoy big events and occasions, the truth is I always look forward to things going back to normal once they are over. Even after Christmas, which is a wonderful time of year, once the presents are opened and the traditions have been meticulously enacted, I’m ready to drag the tree out the door and box everything up and put it all away.  Big events and special occasions are fun, but there is something comforting and relaxing too about just... Read More
at Monday, January 3, 2022
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The Gospel of Luke

By Christine Mortlock, Minister for Lifelong Formation With so much available for us to read, from John Grisham’s latest courtroom drama to Louise Penny’s newest Inspector Gamache mystery, why, pray tell, read the Gospel of Luke? The answer—for a multitude of reasons! One, we are going to be hearing a lot from our clergy from the Gospel of Luke this year. A lot. Many of you know this, some of you don’t know it yet, but we’re in year C (the Luke year) of our... Read More
at Saturday, January 1, 2022
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A Thank You to All Those Who Made Canterbury Books and Gifts Possible

On December 8, 2013, Canterbury Books & Gifts held their grand opening at St. John’s. Items like personalized prayer books, holiday ware, and confirmation and baptism gifts were for sale. All profits benefited St. John’s Outreach Ministries. Over the last eight years, a host of volunteers and store managers have contributed their time, talents, and energy to a store where customers could find anything from a tumbler with the Episcopal shield on it, to a book by theologian Walter... Read More
at Monday, November 29, 2021
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Giving Thanks

By the Rev. Marisa Sifontes In this month, sandwiched between the season of Pumpkin Spiced Lattes and all things Christmas, I’m finding it hard to focus on the fact that it’s November. Maybe it’s a good thing, then, that we find ourselves with a self-imposed gratitude break at the end of this month. A day on the calendar focused around Giving Thanks -- you know the one.    It’s not just a day full of turkey and football, but also a day to reflect where... Read More
at Monday, November 1, 2021
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From Under the Yoke to a New Land: Sudanese and South Sudanese Refugees in Roanoke

By Christine Mortlock Ayen’s husband abandoned her and her five children several years ago. Barely literate, she works at a popular restaurant chain in Roanoke five days a week. She brings home about $12,000 a year to feed, clothe, and house herself and her children, whose ages range from 8 to 18. They live in public housing in southeast Roanoke. The youngest child recently got into the gifted program at Highland Park Elementary School. The oldest child just graduated from the Boys... Read More
at Monday, September 13, 2021
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Finding Ourselves

By The Rev. Marisa Sifontes It is well known that both moving and starting a new job are two of the most stressful transitions that one can experience. Of course, those two things often happen together. In my case, the last three months have seen me complete a thesis, graduate, become ordained to the transitional diaconate, move to Roanoke, and begin a new ministry, in that order. Clearly, I am in a time of transition. But I’m not the only one. The fact is that we’ve all... Read More
at Tuesday, August 10, 2021
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The Race Set Before Us

By the Rev. David Olson I could see it on their faces as one by one they crossed the finish line. It was a look of joy, relief, and pain all at the same time. I was standing with my kids at the finish line of the Carilion Clinic IRONMAN, cheering and watching the racers cross the finish line. An unseasonably hot June day was taking its toll on the participants. Despite the heat and the exhaustion from their efforts, they couldn’t contain their joy at having finished the difficult... Read More
at Friday, July 2, 2021
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The Maker of Heaven and Earth

Psalm 121 1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Deb Neff, St. John’s financial controller, has been a talented professional night and landscape photographer for the past 14 years. She took the photograph above near Roanoke from the Blue Ridge Parkway in early December. She reflects on the image and Psalm 121. Psalm 121 speaks to me. I have been a landscape photographer for many... Read More
at Thursday, July 1, 2021
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For my Moms on Mother’s Day

By Abigail Long I’ve been asked to write about the children’s lesson this week on Jesus the good shepherd. The analogy is that Jesus is the shepherd and we, as his disciples are the sheep. Jesus makes sure to take care of and lead his sheep always. One of the questions asked was “Who are the leaders in your life and how do they lead you?” Thinking about the answer to this question made me think about all the different people in my life who have had different impacts... Read More
at Sunday, May 9, 2021
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A Letter from Katy Gattuso, Inaugural St. John’s Youth Intern and Now Coordinator for Children, Youth and Family Ministries at College Lutheran in Salem, Virginia

St. John’s Youth Internship will continue in Fall 2022 when we welcome Roanoke College student Lauren Roth. Dear St. John’s Episcopal Church, I come to you with immense gratitude for the opportunity to have been your intern. You all have a strong youth ministry team. Christine Mortlock, the Reverend Whitney Burton, and the Reverend David Olson have helped me every step of the way. St. John’s has shown me what a sustainable youth ministry looks like in action. You all... Read More
at Tuesday, February 23, 2021
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Creator Spirit, Come

Art and music inspire our own creativity in a variety of ways. They draw us in and deepen our relationship with each other, with the world around us, and with our Creator. Enjoy these music-inspired photographs submitted by parishioners. Lynne and Harry Kessler in the St. John’s Choir, were inspired by John Rutter’s arrangement of “ For the Beauty of the Earth. ”  This is the eastern view from their backyard in Craig County as the sun sets in the west, creating... Read More
at Wednesday, January 27, 2021
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Webinar on Foster Care in the Roanoke Valley

St. John’s youth Channa Levine organized and moderated this webinar to discuss foster care in Roanoke Valley. Channa is a Girl Scout who organized this webinar as part of her Silver Award. The webinar features guest panelists Ben Jones, Amber Tiller, and Stephanie and Dustin Wimbish. Ben and Amber are from the Roanoke County DSS and Stephanie and Dustin are foster parents of eight. Thank you, Channa, for your work advocating for foster children in Roanoke Valley! ... Read More
at Wednesday, January 20, 2021
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God of Wonder

By The Rev. Whitney Burton-Smith "O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”    The collect for the Feast of Epiphany from the Book of Common Prayer ushers us out of the twelve days of Christmas and into the season... Read More
at Wednesday, January 6, 2021
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Lament

by Christine Kimel O Lord, we suffer plague Friend and foe alike fall ill And die, untouched by human hands   The dead pile up Few grieve at their graves They go to their rest unsung   The hungry, the oppressed, the victims of violence to body and mind The children, hidden and afraid Their cries rise to You, unheard by human ears   Our hymns are silent No longer do we gather to praise Your name Our priests pray in empty spaces alone... Read More
at Wednesday, August 19, 2020
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Sacred Ground Resources

A number of St. John’s parishioners and others from the community are participating in Sacred Ground, the Episcopal Church’s curriculum on race and faith.  Facilitators from St. John’s have recommended the following resources for those who would like to explore these topics further.  The Starter Kit: Waking Up White by Debbie Irving So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo The Uncomfortable Truth (Amazon Prime) The 1619 Project – New... Read More
at Thursday, July 30, 2020
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