Blog: We Gather

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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 we&rs... Read More
at Monday, November 1, 2021

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 Hom... Read More
at Monday, September 13, 2021

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 been ... Read More
at Tuesday, August 10, 2021

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 race... Read More
at Friday, July 2, 2021

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 years, and... Read More
at Thursday, July 1, 2021

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 o... Read More
at Sunday, May 9, 2021

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 have ... Read More
at Tuesday, February 23, 2021

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 the... Read More
at Wednesday, January 27, 2021

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

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 o... Read More
at Wednesday, January 6, 2021


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   We fear this curse ca... Read More
at Wednesday, August 19, 2020

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 York Times... Read More
at Thursday, July 30, 2020

House Church

by John Jackson When my grandmother had her 80th birthday in the early 1980s, my family came to Roanoke from our home in Richmond to celebrate. We called my grandmother, Grandma Edie, and she was my last living grandparent. My mom (her eldest daughter) stressed the importance of being present for this special occasion. The weekend was filled with parties, a reception at her assisted living home, and house church. My aunt and my grandmother both attended Christ Lutheran at the time, but ... Read More
at Monday, May 18, 2020

Laughter, Lilacs, and Board Games

     by Al Cole On a walk around the neighborhood last weekend, I happened to overhear a conversation between a parent and child, who were also out on a walk. They were playing a story-telling game. The rules were that each could only say one sentence at a time. There was laughter at the silly story, and even more laughter when the rules were altered to only say one word at a time. I was happy to share in their joy, even as I walked out of hearing distance of their story. Su... Read More
at Monday, May 11, 2020

Night Prayer

by Lolly Rosemond “The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect end.” It is quiet now.  Trouble, our twelve-year-old hound, has settled down after sending his final message to the dog two blocks over.  The TV is off.  Any news can wait until morning. I pull out my prayer book and open to Compline, then scroll down on Facebook to pick up the night’s offering. “Our help is in the Name of the Lord The maker of heaven and earth.” I lo... Read More
at Monday, May 4, 2020

Journeying through Film

by Alan Perry I always await the start of Journey Groups with great anticipation. There are a couple of reasons for this; I know I will learn, but the best reason is the interaction with the St. John’s community.    This winter and spring, I was in a Journey Group that looked at Jesus and Mary Magdalene in film. I didn’t know much about the topic and I still know only a little. Even so, watching the movies and read... Read More
at Friday, April 24, 2020

Guess that..........Parishioner!

Guess that………Parishioner!  These photos were recently unearthed deep in our church archives. Can you guess the parishioner? Make your guesses and share your memories of St. John’s in the comments portion on Facebook! Make an appointment to visit our remarkable History and Archive Room on the fourth floor to find more photos from church directories, back-issues of the church newsletter dating to the 1920s, photos spanning the 20th century, memorabilia, and mor... Read More
at Thursday, February 20, 2020

St. John’s Youth Group: Lots of Fun While Learning about the God Who Loves Us

by Jackson Wills A lot of kids around my age think Youth Group at church is not for them. They’d rather spend their Sunday nights doing something else. Those kids may be missing out on one of the best experiences of our young lives. Each Sunday after the Gathering Service and Sunday Supper, I look forward to spending an hour with friends, learning about God, and unwinding before school the next day. Youth Group also opens doors to opportunities like diocesan events such as Youth at Co... Read More
at Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Epiphany Dawns

by the Rev. Dr. Jenny Call I first learned about epiphany from childhood cartoons.  Back then, I recognized it as the “a-ha” moment when Tom the cat would have an idea to defeat Jerry the mouse and a lightbulb would appear over Tom’s head. Suddenly he had grasped a solution to his problem…at least for the moment, until his nemesis outwitted him once again.  Growing up as a low church Baptist whose major holy days included only Easter and Christmas, I wasn&... Read More
at Thursday, January 23, 2020

Moving into the New Year—With Gratitude

by Al Cole Gratitude for the Big and Small For a few years running, I made a New Year’s resolution to write something I was thankful for every day on a sticky note and add it to a jar. On the following New Year’s Eve, I read through a year’s worth of accumulated notes with my partner. We laughed and cried as we remembered our year together. The content of the notes ranged from the mundane (a favorite food!) to the extraordinary (a promotion at work!). Whether big or small,... Read More
at Thursday, January 9, 2020

A Heavenly Host

by Lucy Burnett Christmas Eve of 2014 was my family’s first Christmas Eve service at St. John’s. I remember staring at the stained-glass windows during the service and drawing my own version of an angel from the stained glass windows (yes, I took some artistic liberties). The next year, I came across my drawing whilst nostalgically flipping through my old artwork and decided to make an updated version with the skills I’d learned over the year. Since then, I’ve made it... Read More
at Thursday, January 2, 2020

A Christmas Reflection

by Phil McNeish Christmas is the day when it all began...again. On Christmas, God’s love for you and me began to be manifested in a way never before imagined. How could it be that God loved us so deeply that he would send his own son to the earth to redeem us? What father could give up his son—even for a short time--so that others could live eternally? It is unthinkable. And yet He did it. The ancient prophet Isaiah recorded the words that God himself put so well: “As the h... Read More
at Friday, December 27, 2019

Exploring Racism and Faith: An Invitation to Walk on Sacred Ground

by M. Todd Null I am not a racist.  I believe that all human beings are created in the image of God and are therefore of equal value.  But I’m also white, male, cisgender, and solidly middle-class.  These identities convey significant unearned privilege within the social, political, and cultural systems in which I live.  Maybe I benefit from racism? I am not a racist.  But I was born in the richest and most powerful nation on the planet.  A nation that wa... Read More
at Monday, December 16, 2019

Sunday Supper: So Much More than Food

by Martha Keely I could report the stats of attendance and meal costs associated with our Sunday Suppers. These figures can be obtained from our financial secretary.  These dispassionate metrics do not reflect the many ways God’s grace and love shine during this time. Numbers would not indicate that Sunday Supper at St. John’s is about so much more than food. Sunday Supper is a time when we are enabled to do God's will. It is a time of healing and a time when blessings ... Read More
at Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Q&A: Why Is Worship Important to Me?

Five St. John’s parishioners reflect on the meaning of worship for them. Their reflections continue the theme of the article “Why Worship?” on page 3 in the December Record. As you read this Q&A and the article, perhaps you too will consider the meaning of worship for you.   By Janet Johnson Worship is a two-way conversation between God and me with prayer.    Those conversations include adoration and praise, thanksgiving for the blessings I am surro... Read More
at Wednesday, November 27, 2019