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Message from the 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

Senior Warden’s Message

As I look back on August, a total solar eclipse has occurred (or for Maryland at least a partial one) and the most devastating hurricane the US has experienced has landed in Texas. What extremes in nature!

As I prayed for extended family in Texas, I was overwhelmed with the force of nature. Now as I thank God for their safety during the hurricane, I’m humbled. My Grandmother used to tell me that God worked in mysterious ways. And here we’ve had two examples of God bringing people together during two extreme wonders of nature.

And what contrasts. Neighbors sharing eyeglasses for safety in watching the eclipse to neighbors saving neighbors from drowning during a hurricane, to the hate and violence we recently saw in Charlottesville. We are reminded of the forces of nature and the power of hate and love. Are these events a reminder of God’s call to love, to share what we’ve been blessed with, and to share His word to those who need to hear it? I think so.

We shared St. Thomas’ and God’s word during National Night Out and Vacation Bible School this past month. I’m thankful for each of you who volunteered, participated or prayed for our church and its people during this time.

This has been a spectacular summer at St. Thomas’. We’re sorry Rev. Loree missed it but we are grateful that Fr. Ron Fisher could be with us. I’m thankful for God’s beauty and grace shown by our faith community who reached out to each other to offer assistance and prayers. And now we look forward to autumn.

September has always felt like a time of new beginnings to me, school calendars probably instilled that feeling a long time ago! Autumn is almost here; in fact we’ve already experienced some of its weather. And again, we will have new opportunities to learn about and to share the Word! There are several new opportunities listed in this Good News. Look for ways to serve with your time, resource or energy. St. Thomas’ needs you!

We’ll have Seminarian Joe Zollickoffer back with us in September to begin his field education. We welcome Joe and his family back to St. Thomas’. We are truly blessed to have them with us. Many thanks to Tracey Daniels, Kevin Harper, Barry Jones and Pat Yoos who volunteered to serve on the Lay Committee to support Joe in his work.

Thank you all for your continued and in many cases increasing support of St. Thomas’! This is a wonderful family of faith!

Peace,
Jan Bahner, Sr. Warden
Psalm 96: 11-12
11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.

Message from Our Senior Warden

August already! The beginning of summer seems to have flown by. We were busy in July with Jesus Christ Superstar performances followed by Tuesday’s at Tom’s. If you missed Third Wall Production this time, look forward to having them return for performances next year…currently planning one in the Fellowship Hall and Godspell in the church. These talented performers were most appreciative of the hospitality of St. Tom’s folks and have ready begun return-ing for some of our fellowship events.

Many thanks to our volunteers, Jeanne and John Windsor, Vicki Sappe, Diane Flayhart, Donna Lettow, and Greg Flanders for handling the concession stand for us. And very special thanks to Jill Dumser for her tireless efforts to support the performers and coordinate their work with St. Tom’s.

August will be no less busy with National Night Out, the Crab Feast and VBS followed by a farewell for Fr. Ron and a welcome back for Rev. Loree+.

Fellowship activities aside for the moment, we have been busy caring for each other this summer. First and foremost, we appreciate the messages, care and compassion that Fr. Ron has brought to us during this time. We have been truly blessed to have him with us this summer. Thank you!

A special thanks to Diane Flayhart, for taking on the mantle leadership while Vern Adams and I were unavailable. Diane, you’re going to make a great Senior Warden! Thank you!

To each of you who reached out to provide care to our homebound, those who have been ill, and help say goodbye to those who are on their way home to the Lord, thank you! Your caring calls, cards, visits, and kind words have meant a lot, perhaps more than you’ll ever know. Thank you!

And again this month, thanks to those who continue in the summer heat to clean up the gardens around the church.

So these are the things that we’ve been doing really well…what else could we be doing to for our church? How else could we be living into the discipleship that God calls us to do.

Three things come immediately to mind. Establish or reinvigorate our individual prayer time. Jeanne Windsor shared an article on “10 Fresh Ways to Engage with Your Bible” with me this month.  I hope you will take time to pray about how these words and activities might benefit you. And then take time to share your experiences with others at St. Thomas’. Chat during coffee/iced tea time. Spend a few minutes with others in the congregation who might not be in your immediate circle of friends.

Secondly reach out to someone who is not a member of St. Tom’s. Bring someone to church with you on Sunday who may not currently have a church. Or simply share your faith story with someone who is seeking. Look beyond your friends and neighbors to those with whom you might interact during the week. “Seats” in the pews has been how churches counted their impact in the past. In today’s world, it might be more appropriate to count the lives we impact as Christians.

And thirdly, get involved with our outreach programs. Donating has been traditional at St. Thomas’ and we have lots of opportunities to give things and money…and that’s important to the outreach we do. But also consider giving of yourself…take time out of your day to deliver supplies to students at Loch Raven High or Paul’s Place, join the currently small group of volunteers who want to start a mobile food ministry, create a new outreach opportunity, call someone you haven’t talked with in a while at church or start a small Bible study group. Join in our fellowship activities and share your faith story with a visitor.

Thank you for you continued faith and support of our St. Thomas family!

Matthew 25:40 “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

Peace,
Jan Bahner, Senior Warden

Message from the Senior Warden

As I write this message, I’ve just returned from attending our Bon Voyage party for Rev. Loree+ and Jo Leslie. What a wonderful party! Many thanks to all of the St. Thomas cooks who turned out delicious Spanish recipes. Many thanks to Jill and Greg who decorated the Fellowship Hall. And to those who attended, your presence was most appreciated by Rev. Loree+ and Jo.

As I typed the word “presence,” I was reminded of Exodus 33:14 “And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Summer is usually looked forward to as a time when vacations give us rest we need. Let’s take God on vacation with us this summer. Let’s rest in the knowledge that all things are possible through Him. Let’s gather as a faith community for St. Thomas’ summer activities and find rest for an hour or two together. Let’s bring back vacation stories to share with each other.

Not all of us will be going away for vacation this summer; some will wait until fall; some will enjoy “staycations”…never going far from home but enjoying some different activity. There will be plenty of activities here at St. Thomas’. If you’re having family or friends visit this summer, bring them along!

If the timing of you summer activities is such that you can join us at Tuesdays’ at Tom’s (rides are available), Vacation Bible School (it’s not just for kids anymore) and National Night Out (a real community festival), please know that your individual presence will make these activities richer because you are there.

Let’s all be present this summer in the life of this church with God who brings us comfort and rest.

And while we’re all enjoying the fun of summer, remember that we’ll be working on planning for new activities and the continued growth of our church. A mobile food ministry, Sunday School for the fall, an Evening Song service or replacement, new small groups (currently thinking about a Men’s Group, Theology on Tap, and dinner groups), Basket Bingo, and last but certainly not least the Christmas Bazaar (maybe even some cookie making).

We also are finding new ways to partner with our renters and new renters to help support our finances. Jill has found out from folks in the community that they love being able to hold graduation and birthday parties as well as community group meetings in our Fellowship Hall. We are grateful for those who come to us as a community center!

St. Thomas’ has a vibrant group of people who gather for fellowship, Bible study, do work in and around the church, and take time each week to support a ministry opportunity in the church. We are so grateful for our parishioners!

So for the next three months (sounds like a long time doesn’t it? It will probably fly by faster than we can imagine!) we’ll be welcoming Fr. Ron Fisher to worship with us each week. Planning for these summer activities is well underway. Volunteers are continuing to be sought for each of these activities. More importantly, we’re seeking your presence. Come and be a presence in our fellowship at St. Thomas’ this summer.

Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Faithfully in Christ,
Jan Bahner, Senior Warden