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Message from the Senior Warden

Senior Warden’s Message

Welcoming the stranger! How exciting is that? Imagine going somewhere you’ve never been before and being welcomed with open arms and included in all that is offered. One of the things I’ve heard about St. Thomas’ is how welcoming we are. We are willing to step out and introduce ourselves to people who are visiting our church, especially during the passing of the Peace.

Well, I’m happy to report that your welcoming has come to fruition as we welcome two new families into St. Thomas’. You may
have been in church on the Sunday that Mike Zellhoffer, Executive Director of Third Wall Productions, gave the sermon. He and his wife, Laurie, have decided to join St. Thomas’, and we’re delighted to have them with us.

Some of you may also recall when our own Kenny and Tracey Daniels suffered a tragic fire at their home a few years ago. Their next door neighbors welcomed the Daniels family, including their four children at the time, to live with them while repairs were being done to their home. Well now it’s time for us to welcome those same neighbors, Maureen and Ronnie Creitz, and their two children, Devin and Gabrielle, into the St. Thomas’ family.

It’s exciting to have these families join us here at St. Thomas’. Keep up the good work and continue with your welcoming ways. We are truly blessed to be able to provide the spiritual and community comfort to those who seek it.

Our New Senior Warden

Hello! For those who don’t know me, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Diane Flayhart and I have been selected to serve as the Senior Warden here at St. Thomas’ for the next three years. It is a role I’ve been training for over the past year under the rock-solid hands of our previous Senior Warden, Jan Bahner. So I’m hoping to step right into the role, ready to work for you, the members of St. Thomas’.

I’ve been a member of St. Tom’s for more than 50 years, coming to St. Tom’s as a young child when the church was located on the corner of 31st Street and The Alameda in Baltimore City. I began singing in the Youth Choir with my sisters and continued many years into the Adult Choir until duckpin bowling interfered with choir rehearsals on Thursday nights. I still help out in the choir from time to time for special services. When I was in 10th grade I started helping out in the Nursery, a role I continued for 40+ years. I’ve seen many of the members of St. Thomas’ come and grow over the years. When we moved to our current location in Towson, I started working with the fruit delivery, a role I continue to maintain. I’ve served several terms on the Vestry including the position of Registrar, and I’ve proudly represented St. Tom’s at several Diocesan Conventions and Regional Council meetings.

You may have seen me up and about at the many functions at St. Thomas’. I chair the annual Basket Bingo and Crab Feast, and help at the Christmas Bazaar, Vacation Bible School, Tuesdays at Tom’s and National Night Out. I promote our service projects, such as ACTC, Woodbourne Center, and Loch Raven Network. I’ve also chaired the Stewardship Committee, worked with the counting teams and I currently provide your quarterly contribution statements. I also serve as Director of the Altar Guild, a position I will continue to hold in the coming years.

We at St. Thomas’ have a bright and exciting future ahead of us. I am anxious to get started, and with your help, guide St. Thomas’ into our future together. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or if you have any ideas. We’ll travel this journey together.

Respectfully Submitted,
Diane Flayhart

Message from Our Senior Warden

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Happy New Year! I hope you each found peace at Christmas and joy for the New Year!

This will be my last Senior Warden Message. After the Annual Meeting on January 28th, I will “retire” as Senior Warden and we will welcome Diane Flayhart as our new Senior Warden. I have spent time teasing about how glad I will be to be out of a “job”. The truth is that I will miss being your Senior Warden, but it’s time for a change in leadership. I know that you will give Diane the same loving support that you have given to me.

Any accomplishments we’ve made this past year will be detailed for you in the Annual Report and presented at the Annual Meeting on January 28th. So I won’t spend time here discussing them.

The past three years have seen much change in and around St. Thomas. Some good, some not so good depending on your perspective, but all part of the ever changing world in which we live. We and the world around us will continue to change.

I hope that we are ready to embrace the next new change. I hope that we do not dwell in the past and that we see new opportunities. I look forward continuing to work with you as we face the future at St. Thomas’.

To those of you with whom I’ve had to share difficult realities and decisions over the past three years, I hope that I’ve done so with compassion. If I’ve offended any one of you when I struggled with the job of Senior Warden, I ask your forgiveness.

To those to whom I could always turn to lend a listening ear or a helpful hand, my sincere and undying gratitude. I’m certain that I didn’t say thank you nearly enough.

To those of you who shared your wisdom and those who taught me invaluable lessons just by being yourselves, thank you.

Thank you for trusting me, for guiding me and at times for just tolerating me! I appreciate all of you!

Wishing you a blessed 2018 filled with peace and all of God’s many wonders!

Jan Bahner, Senior Warden

Message from Our Senior Warden

A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.
– Proverbs 18:16

Last month I wrote about the history of the Loch Raven Network (LRN) and the role that St. Thomas’ has played in the success of the network.  During October, St. Thomas’ once again hosted the LRN Annual Fundraiser. It was a huge success! We raised almost four times as much as we did last year. These funds will go to supporting students and families with Thanksgiving meals, supplementing donations to the Room of Support, assisting students with graduation and pre-college expenses, and other needs as they arise.

Updates on our St. Thomas donations in September and October follow later in this Good News.  Thank you for all of your donations!

The Blue Horizon Team and Vestry met on October 14th. After updates from our FOG (Financial Opportunities Group) and SSG (Sharing Space Group), we decided the following:

There are possibilities to explore about our building and property in order to secure the future of St. Thomas. None of the opportunities fully explored to date was palatable to the group.  We will revisit these opportunities and our need in six months.

While members met with another church in the area to explore sharing ministries, there was no interest at this time. We will continue to seek opportunities and evaluate each on its own merit.

The use of the name Blue Horizon will stop after this writing.  The work of Blue Horizons has never been about a project, it’s been about the future of St. Thomas’. The work will continue, but the name will not.

In response to the question of What do we need to do for St. Thomas’ to be what we want it to be in 10 years, we created the following work groups:

  • Money – how we think about money: growth vs. maintenance
  • Volunteers – how do we ask and find volunteers
  • Communication – more and more and more
  • Metrics – how will we know if we’re reaching our goals
  • Music/Worship – what needs to evolve and what doesn’t

If you’d like to join a work group, please let Rev. Loree+ or me know.

Many thanks to the members of the Blue Horizon Team! Your work has formed the foundation of the work yet to come. Your leadership will continue to be needed in the work groups and others areas of the church’s work.

As we bring our Stewardship month to a close on November 12th, I look forward to seeing everyone at our catered dinner after worship.

Message from Our Senior Warden

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” Matthew 25:35

October is fundraising month for the Loch Raven Network. A time when the entire community surrounding and including St. Thomas’ reaches out to support homeless students and those living in poverty at Loch Raven High School.

I thought this might be a good time to reflect on the history of the Loch Raven Network, its purpose, and St. Thomas’ role in the Network. Some of this information may be new to you, for others just a reminder.

The Loch Raven Network of Baltimore County, Inc. serves students in need at Loch Raven High School through the provision of food, clothing, educational supplies and other critical items. The Network partners with social workers and other school staff to assist homeless students and others in need. A homeless student is identified as one whose living situation is unstable, i.e. living in a hotel or shelter, or couch surfing.

The level of poverty in the Baltimore County Public schools is staggering! In 2016-2017, over 50,000 students qualified for Free and Reduced Price Meals, 45% of all students in the school system. 90 schools in the system have poverty rates over 50% and 107 schools in the system have poverty rates over 40%.

The Loch Raven Network grew from a holiday project begun by Laurie Taylor-Mitchell in December of 2015. An e-mail request for 4 volunteers to help 5 students and families, either homeless or in dire need, led to an outpouring of community support, which in 17 days generated 128 volunteers and gifts and donations worth thousands of dollars.

Laurie Taylor-Mitchell then began to develop the Loch Raven Network in order to provide a structure to partner with the school to meet the needs of the nearly 300 students living in poverty and 24 homeless students at Loch Raven High.

About 18 months ago, Laurie met with Rev. Loree+ who offered our Fellowship Hall for a fundraiser. It was a time when the Blue Horizon Team was asking how could we connect with the community surrounding St. Thomas’. This seemed like an ideal partnership.

A follow up meeting was scheduled with Diane Flayhart (Chair of the Ministry and Mission Team) and Jan Bahner (Sr. Warden). The Network had secured a space at the high school for a food pantry but needed shelving and bins to get it started. It was decided that St. Thomas’ would provide the resources for the shelving and bins from our Outreach Fund, about $300.

The Room of Support became a reality in the spring of 2016, focusing initially on food and clothing, until we understood just how much these students didn’t have. At one point a student and their family had been moved out of a shelter to an empty apartment. When asked if they needed bedding, their reply was that they had no beds. Within 3 days, the volunteers of the Network provided air mattresses and bedding to this family. With a bed to sleep in, the student was able to sleep and stay awake in school.

St. Thomas’ began a back to school backpack program in 2016 for homeless students coming to Loch Raven High for the first time. The first year, we provided 20 backpacks. The second year, we provided 25. However the donations were not as generous this past year and additional donors had to be sought to achieve our goal.

Once the community became aware of the tremendous need, the Loch Raven Network has given them a path to support students and their families. St. Thomas’ was there from the beginning! Without our initial investment, the Network would not have been able to respond as quickly to the students’ needs.

The Network is growing. Volunteers from the Loch Raven Network have been busy assisting Parkville High School volunteers to create a Parkville Pantry and Network. With 900 students living in poverty, their need is greater than Loch Raven’s. The Parkville community has responded. Members of St. Thomas’ are also volunteering there.

The Loch Raven Network is now working to rename its tax-exempt non-profit organization to the Student Support Network, Inc. This will allow other schools and their communities to adopt the model created at Loch Raven and assist students in poverty at the local level without having to create their own non-profit organization.

Poverty is far more pervasive than we think as we drive through Baltimore County.

We are fortunate here at St. Thomas’. While many of us are on fixed incomes, we’re not worrying about where our next meal is coming from or how to buy soap to cleanse our bodies or clothes.

Helping students stay in school and support their dreams of graduating and becoming contributing members of society benefits us all. Yes, it might be a long-term goal but the short term impact of helping students get to school (alarm clocks), stay awake in school (often nutrition related), and helping them join in “normal” high school activities (APT testing, graduating in a gown) is so necessary.

Checkout the Network’s new website for more information or to make a donation: www.lochravennetwork.org.

This issue of the impact of poverty on students has become of great interest to me. It might not be to you. This I understand. However, our church isn’t this building we meet in every week. It is the people who reach out and care for those in need and share the Good News. And we have so much to give and share!

Please see a separate article in this issue of the Good News about St. Thomas’ collection for the Room of Support in October. If each one of us donated just 1 or 2 items, we’d make a huge impact on the Room of Support. A dollar or two if you can’t or don’t like to shop will enable others of us to shop for you.

And then consider joining us for the Loch Raven Network’s Annual Fundraiser on Wednesday, October 11th from 7-8:15 to learn more about the work of the Network, and enjoy a raffle, a silent auction, good food, and fellowship. Tickets in advance (preferred) or at the door are $20 or a gift card of any amount for Giant or Safeway. For tickets in advance, please contact Jan Bahner at janbahner@gmail.com or 443-564-9464.

We can each make a difference in the lives of these students!

Respectfully submitted,
Jan Bahner, Senior Warden