Teach Us To Pray! (Part Two)

By the Rev. Kyle Mackey, Curate

Patrick Malloy, an Episcopal priest and liturgical theologian, lays out 8 principles of good liturgical worship in his book “Celebrating the Eucharist.” The first and most important principle simply reads as follows: “The entire assembly celebrates the liturgy.” Everyone is a part of this little miracle we witness so often. It is a coming together of many members of the one body of Christ, and there is a beauty within that merging. 

One of the most obvious places where we come together as a church is in the singing of hymns as a congregation. Whether the text we sing is chosen from our hymnal or prescribed by the prayer book, anyone who has been in a choir will speak of the connection that forms when people sing together. This is not a new phenomenon either. The Epistles of the New Testament, some of the closest scripture we have to the life of Christ, mentions the singing of hymns. (Colossians 3:16 comes to mind)

Because of that history of song, when we set out to make our children’s chapel the richest experience it could be, we knew it needed music. Thankfully, we have been blessed by the presence of someone who has many years of experience teaching sacred music to children. Ms. Dawn Harrison. The first thing we do on Sunday in Children’s Chapel is to sing while an adult helper lights the altar candles. This song helps to serve as our song of praise at the opening of the liturgy, much like the Gloria in Excelsis does for the service in the nave.

We also sing a song in the middle of the service. This hymn varies slightly, it may be like the sequence hymn of the service matching the Gospel of the day, or it might be more like a musical introduction to the prayers of the people. Either way, all music that we use in church or chapel, is intended to help bring the all of God’s children together with their focus on the Lord whom we worship.

Children’s Formation at St. Paul’s

By Susan Payne, Director of Children’s Ministry
It has been said that the way we pray shapes the way we believe. With that principle in mind, we have designed a new way to do children’s chapel that more closely mirrors the way we pray together on Sunday. By organizing the children’s chapel service much like the service in the nave, we are passing on and entrusting our tradition to some of our youngest. You might be asking “What does this new service look like?” Please join Reverend Kyle and Susan in the Children’s Chapel for Children’s Chapel Shepherd training at 9:45 am on Sunday, February 23rd.  This 15 minute training will be for all parents assigned to volunteer for Children’s Chapel and anyone curious about the new format.  
Children’s Sunday Formation is up and running in our new Children’s Ministry space from 9:30-10:45am on Sunday mornings. Developed by Dr. Jerome Berryman, Godly Play, is a Montessori-based curriculum that includes biblical storytelling, interaction, exploration, and creativity to teach and enliven Bible Stories. In Godly Play (age 4-3rd grade) marvelous things happen as children “work, play and wonder together at the awesomeness of God.” Parents are welcome to observe a Godly Play session. Please send a request to the Children’s Ministry Director if you are interested in observing. 
Building Faith Brick by Brick is a faith based Sunday School Curriculum for 4th and 5th graders that teaches Biblical Stories and allows older Elementary School aged children to express their thoughts and analyze stories through Lego creations.

Teach Us To Pray!

By The Rev. Kyle Mackey

It has been said that the way we pray shapes the way we believe. With that principle in mind, we have designed a new way to do children’s chapel that more closely mirrors the way we pray together on Sunday. By organizing the children’s chapel service much like the service in the nave, we are passing on and entrusting our tradition to some of our youngest. You might be asking “What does this new service look like?”

After the children depart the nave on Sunday, they follow the cross, much like our altar party follows the cross into the nave, back to the children’s chapel. The worship begins where we left off in the nave, with singing God’s praises! During the hymn, which the candles on our little altar are lit. Just like in ‘big church’ we have candles on the altar!

After we sing, we pray together. The familiar “The Lord be with you” marks the prayer of the day. The leader prays this prayer over us, much like the presider in the nave prays over and for everyone. These prayers reflect the day’s lesson, often asking for God’s help in living up to Jesus’ way while encouraging us to share God’s love with others.

Then, just like in the nave, we read the day’s lesson from one of the Gospels. This reading is paraphrased to be easily understood and is concluded with the familiar “The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!” Readings of scripture, and particularly of the Gospel invite the Word of God, that is Jesus himself, to speak in our midst. Rather than a sermon, we have a time of discussion, a participatory and responsive look at the contents of the reading. If only sermons were so much fun, oh well.

Like our service in the nave, our next thing is an affirmation of faith in the form of a Creed. Our children’s chapel version of the Nicene Creed is simplified, but still hits all the same fundamental points of belief. Take a look:

We believe in God the Father, who made the whole world.

We believe in Jesus the Son, who died on the cross for us, and rose from the dead.

We believe in the Holy Spirit who brings life and love to us all.

We believe that the Church is one family, and that one day we will share in everlasting life with God in the world to come. Amen.

Now we sing another song, led by our own Mrs. Dawn! Then it’s time to pray the prayers of the people. We pass out toys that represent the 6 areas of life the prayer book instructs us to pray for each week on pg 383. A cross for the Church, a flag for the nation, a bell for the welfare of the world, cars and airplanes for those who travel in our community, a teddy bear for the sick and all who suffer, and a butterfly for the departed. We also added a singing cupcake as a thanksgiving for those who celebrate birthdays this week. Other prayers can be named and placed on the altar with these. All answered with “Lord, hear our prayer!”

We then say a short prayer of confession. Then we are reminded of God’s grace and forgiveness. Then we pass the peace with each other. What an adorable sight the passing of the peace is! Little ones giving hugs in peace, a vision of heaven if there ever was one. Then we line back up and follow the cross to join the rest of the community for Eucharist. All in all, it is one continuous liturgy through which we are all connected!

Bill and Dawn Harrison: Living Christ’s Words

By Joan Doggrell

Jesus left guidelines for his followers, many of them in the form of parables. A few are enigmatic, but for the most part, His meaning is quite clear. You don’t have to be a Biblical scholar to catch the drift of this passage:

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And      when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?”

And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matthew 25, 34-40

In this passage, Christ gives us straightforward instructions of how He wants us to live, but sometimes, following His directions is about as simple as assembling a piece of furniture by the manufacturer’s “easy” steps. It can be a temptation to just give up. However, St. Paul’s is not a parish of quitters. There are lots of folks at St. Paul’s that live out Christ’s love both inside the parish and outside in the Newnan community and the world beyond. Two such people are Bill and Dawn Harrison. I would like you to get to know them.

They both hail from Pittsburgh. They are high school sweethearts who have lived happily ever after for more than fifty years. They raised their four children in towns and cities from Florida to Maine.  Everywhere they lived, they played major roles in the life of their parishes.

The Harrison family in Baca Raton celebrating the fiftieth birthday of their eldest.

Though brought up in different Christian sects, they have this in common: parents committed to their churches and communities.

“A lot of it gets down to upbringing,” said Bill. “Both of our families were heavily involved in church, and so were we from the time we were knee high to a grasshopper. As you go through life, moving different places, having good and bad experiences with churches – we’ve had both – your faith evolves. You realize that Matthew 25 tells us just what we’re supposed to do.”

“Bill’s right,” said Dawn. “I was taken to church every Sunday by my father. My mother was a sporadic attender. She had a lot of medical issues. But my dad went every Sunday. He was Junior Warden of St. Stephen’s for thirty years. (They didn’t change positions back then.) As a child, I built an altar in my bedroom. I had a little table with candles on it and everything.”

“I married into the Episcopal church,” said Bill. “I was raised Presbyterian. One of the jokes we share is, my mother had a hard time getting used to my being an Episcopalian – all that standing up and sitting down, all that kneeling, candles… my favorite saying of hers was ‘Communion once a quarter is plenty.’”

At St. Paul’s, Dawn leads the Bell Choir and the Children’s Choir and sings in the Parish Choir, as does Bill. She also plays the organ and the piano and occasionally subs for our organist and choir director Mason Copeland. So Dawn makes a major contribution to our music program, not only through her own talents but also by passing on our glorious sacred music heritage.

But that’s not all she does. She is there to help anybody who needs support for any reason: post-surgery, emotional, transportation. And she is a steady guide in personal emergencies.

I like lists. They keep me organized. So, to keep track of how Bill and Dawn are meeting their commitment to Christ, let’s organize their contributions under these hearings:

  1. Give food and drink to the hungry and thirsty.
  2. Welcome the stranger.
  3. Visit the sick.
  4. Clothe the naked.
  5. Visit the prisoners.

Give food and drink to the hungry and thirsty

“As we’ve gotten older, we see a lot of need in the church to reach out to people

in the community,” said Dawn. “Bill and I both deliver Meals on Wheels. I did it in Pittsburgh too, when I had four children. I would take all four of them with me. The people loved the kids.”

Welcome the stranger

I know Bill and Dawn welcome strangers. They were the first to greet Don and me when we walked into St. Paul’s. Dawn immediately recruited me for the choir!

“Just greeting a newcomer to church is a big ministry,” said Dawn.

But Dawn goes further. She understands what it means to be a stranger to human contact, to be alone during life’s trials.

“I was parish administrator at Peter and Paul in Marietta,” said Dawn. “The priest and associate would be gone a lot. Strangers would come in the office wanting to speak to one of the clergy. Before I could say, ‘Would you like me to make you an appointment?’ they would be sitting down and unburdening themselves. And I’m thinking, these people are really hurting. They need somebody to listen to them. And I think that was the beginning of my decision to reach out to the stranger in need.”

Visit the sick

My husband Don has been hospitalized several times since we’ve been members of St. Paul’s. Bill and Dawn were two of many St. Paul’s folks who visited him. And Bill’s Lay Eucharist Visitor ministry brings him to the homes of the sick and the nursing homes of the elderly.

But sickness can mean more than physical disease. Two persistent illnesses of modern life are loneliness and depression. Dawn and Bill, with their kind natures and formal training, are well equipped to treat these forms of sickness and have been doing so for years.

If you are involved in any kind of personal emergency, you want Dawn or Bill at your side. They will know what to do. Dawn attributes their skill to training as Stephen Ministers. The purpose of the Stephen Ministry is to provide companionship to a person going through a crisis: a death, a divorce, a job loss. Dawn and Bill took their training at St. Gregory’s in Boca Raton, Florida.

“Six of us were candidates, and we went through fifty hours of training” said Dawn. “We would visit with people in need once a week for an hour or longer. The main thing was just to listen. But the ministry also taught us how to deal with certain issues if we felt that the person was not quite mentally stable. They taught us to get in touch with the proper authority. That, to me, was very rewarding.”

“When we were in Florida, I had three people I ministered to, and Bill had two. My favorite and last one was the mother-in-law of our associate priest. He felt she would be lonely because he and his wife went to Maine in the summer. He asked me if I would be a Stephen Minister to her and visit her once a week, which I did. Usually you minister to someone for two years. But we became such great friends that after two years, I said, ‘Tina, you really don’t need a Stephen Minister. How about I just come as a friend?’ So I continued to visit her every week, and we just enjoyed each other’s company. In fact, when we moved back here to Newnan, I sent her a letter every week. I usually wrote it on Tuesday, the day I would visit her.

“She passed away in January two years ago. It so happened that I was going to be flying down to Boca Raton on the day of her service. I flew in, and my daughter brought me to the Catholic church where she was a member. I walked in at the Gospel reading. Tina’s daughter, when she saw me, just dissolved into tears. She gave me one of Tina’s little angel statues, which Tina used to collect. I have it on the mantel. I look at it all the time and it reminds me of her.

“The Stephen Ministry is really rewarding, and I would like to see something like that get started at St. Paul’s. We have a lot of people who are widowed, divorced, or having other life crises. New babies arrive, and the mothers may be going through post-partum depression and just need to talk to somebody. Bill and I have the skills to do that because we were taught.”

Clothe the naked

I’m giving Dawn and Bill a pass on this one, in the literal sense. With cheap clothing readily available at Goodwill and the Salvation Army, no one needs to be naked. Nevertheless, there are still clothing needs.

“One of my heroes is a fellow we met up in Marietta at St. Peter and St. Paul,” said Dawn. “His name was Dick Hillman. Every winter he would collect socks from people and go to downtown Atlanta and give socks to the homeless. I thought that was a great ministry. I don’t know how he got all the socks.”

“I used to go with him sometimes to the manufacturers and the retailers,” said Bill. “He would say ‘Hey, I’m doing this,’ and they would give him socks.”

But, like sickness, nakedness might be interpreted more broadly. One could be naked of dignity or respect. Bill and Dawn attend the funerals of babies that die under sad circumstances.

“Generally, it’s indigent families who can’t afford to bury their babies for one reason or another,” said Dawn. “Maybe the child has been beaten. Sometimes the families will be at the burials, and sometimes not. We just go to witness, Bill and I, and David Waldron too. The babies are in individual coffins and are prayed over.

“Holy Innocents Episcopal Church in Dunwoody spearheaded this ministry. It really struck a chord with me because I had lost a baby. I was in the hospital and didn’t get to see the child buried. So it just tugged at my heart that these babies would be laid to rest and nobody was going to be there.”

“Fulton County has a fulltime chaplain,” said Bill, “and part of his responsibility is indigent burials, both adults and children. What happens to indigent children and adults in Coweta County? Is there a program that provides a decent burial? It’s important to give them that dignity.”

Another form of nakedness is the lack of a roof over one’s head.

“Bill and I also did a ministry in Boca Raton called Family Promise, which takes in families that are homeless,” said Dawn. “Each church would take several families for a week. Our church had an old rectory where we were able to bring the families in the afternoon. We would greet them, play with the children, help them with homework, feed them dinner, and get them settled for the night. Then a bus would come in the morning and take them back to DelRay where the kids would go to school and the adults were able to do resumes and job applications.”

Visit the prisoners

Has Bill ever asked you for cookies? Dozens of them, six to a baggie? They are for his prison ministry called Kairos.

And what is Kairos?

According to their website, “Kairos Prison Ministry International, Inc. is a lay-led, interdenominational Christian ministry in which men and women volunteers bring Christ’s love and forgiveness to prisoners and their families. The Kairos programs take the participants on a journey that demonstrates the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Kairos Prison Ministry is Christian in nature, although no religious affiliation is necessary to be a participant.” For further information see http://www.kairosprisonministry.org/about-kairos-prison-ministry.php

“The first time I heard of Kairos was at St. Paul’s,” said Bill.  “A man named Ron Gillihan told a wonderful story. He had a son that was murdered. He wound up going to a prison to visit and forgive the person who killed his son. His experience led him to join the Kairos prison ministry.

“Once I started hearing about Kairos, it chased me around,” said Bill. “I was in Oklahoma on a consulting assignment for three years by myself pretty much. God just grabbed me by the scruff of the neck. I was in Kairos up there. Then when I moved back here, I was reminded of it at our men’s breakfast. Jeff Lamb came to the breakfast and mentioned the magic word.

“I was at a Kairos Prayer & Share meeting this morning. That’s kind of my heart, just watching those guys and hearing some of their faith stories. It’s the power of teaching people that there are no Lone Rangers in Christianity. You’ve got to have relationships, and you’ve got to have a group of people you can share with, your concerns, joys, sorrows. And that’s what we try to teach these guys.”

“I went to one of the Kairos closing on a Sunday afternoon,” said Dawn, “And to see the change in those men, listen to them speak, would just warm your heart. The Kairos volunteers hug them and give them the assurance that they’re loved. Some of them have never even touched a person before. That’s sad, because touch is very important to people.”

“We used to joke about how some of them come just for the cookies,” said Bill. “No doubt that’s sometimes the case. But they come for curiosity and then get the good stuff. The power comes when you can see guys of different backgrounds getting together like lifelong friends. At one table this morning there were two Hispanics, one Black and one White. Their heads were together and they were talking. That just doesn’t happen very often, even outside. I’m hoping that the relationship continues, and they can talk about really important stuff.

“One of the things we can do as followers of Christ is to get people to realize that there but for the grace of God go I! It’s so important for prisoners to feel they have somebody to talk to, pray with. It’s so easy to get in with the wrong crowd.”

Final Thoughts

“It’s become very important to me that we acknowledge that there are so many different faiths,” said Bill. “Denominations within Christianity is a whole different story, but we must be able to value other world religions. We are all children of God.”

“Many of the things Dawn and I do are religiously oriented, but there are other ways we can do ministry. For example, Meals on Wheels has no overt religious content. We need to value other efforts too, like the GED program. And then this new ministry that’s starting, NEST, that’s going to be important too.  It’s a joint effort led by the Newnan City Church to provide a warm place to sleep for the homeless on freezing nights.”

“The other dimension is – and I firmly believe this –the joy you feel, whether it’s taking communion to somebody or helping somebody with a math problem. I think we need to be more effective in allowing people to have those kinds of experiences. It’s not altruistic. We joke about it in Kairos. We get much more than we give.

“I also think there’s a fellowship dimension to living that’s important. Not necessarily from a spiritual point of view. That comes in different ways for different people. But I think we undervalue the importance of close relationships. It’s like our Tuesday breakfast, and Daughters of the King – the purpose is to have a relationship and know that there are other people who care about the same things you care about. And even care about you. I can’t underestimate how important that is in living.”

“Somebody said once, God wants us to be more Christlike,” said Dawn. “We can do that. It doesn’t cost anything. Just be kind to people.”

Doing all the things that Bill and Dawn do would wear most of us out. But that doesn’t seem to happen to them.

“We persevere,” said Dawn. “It’s important. You have to think, what would this person do if he or she couldn’t call on me?”

So there you have “The Bill and Dawn Story.” Admirable folks, whom I try to emulate, but not unique. There are more like them at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Come join us and get to know their stories as well.

Getting Acquainted with the Mackeys

Getting to Know Kyle and Mary Rose Mackey

By Joan Doggrell

The Reverend Kyle Mackey has been our Curate for about 18 months now.  He’s been busy: he conducts the Education for Ministry classes every Thursday evening. He meets with the St. Paul’s youth every week and has taken them on numerous outings. He shares worship services with Mother Hazel as they take turns officiating and preaching. He is also a pretty recent bridegroom.

Mary Rose and Kyle were married at St. Paul’s just a few months ago, on November 17th, 2018. We are delighted to claim this young couple as our own, and it is high time we got to know them better.

Let’s begin with Mary Rose.

Mary Rose was raised in Atlanta in the northwestern section, around Chastain Park. “it’s kind of my old stomping grounds,” she said. “I learned to swim at that pool, and I had my sixth birthday party there,”

She grew up with a younger brother and sister, two dogs, and three cats. “I didn’t realize until my teenage years that I was allergic to them!”

Ironically, she calls herself the black sheep of the family because “I became the church-goer. As I was growing up, our family were the Christmas and Easter attendees. I remember hopping between Episcopal and Methodist churches.”

After high school she attended the University of Georgia in Athens. “I only lasted a year. It turns out that college is much more difficult than I had expected. I spent a little too much time investing in friendships and not so much on homework,” she admits.

Considering that she took online classes for her last two years of high school, it’s understandable that she was ready for friendships. One of those friends was Kyle. So obviously her time there was not wasted!

Mary Rose studied landscape architecture at UGA, and then architecture alone at the Southern Polytechnique Institute (later Kennesaw). “I will never look at shadows the same way again. I am still fascinated by them. It’s really interesting to see how different directions and colors of light affect what you see on the ground or on a wall.“

“In my search for friends, the Episcopal Student Center was one of the groups I strongly considered because I was already going to Episcopal churches,” she said. “I went there one day. The door to the house part, not the chapel, was just a plate of glass. It was sunny outside and dark inside. I was reaching out with my hands – I couldn’t see in, but the people inside could see me, and someone let me in.”

She was reaching out for something she couldn’t see. Hmmmm…

“I think the first few weeks were a little rocky as I was getting to know people because before coming to UGA I didn’t really know anybody. However, I liked the people I was with, and I really liked the feel of the hangout spot, the dilapidated house, even though It was in serious need of TLC. There were two circles of couches and a kitchen, and people just hung out there after work and made meals,”

“It was a community,” added Kyle. “I was heavily involved at that point. I spent an inordinate amount of time at the Episcopal Center between 2009 and 2013. I had gotten involved in leadership — I was just around.  I was one of the numbers on the board – in case of emergency, call in this order.”

Kyle and Mary Rose met in her freshman year, which was the year Kyle graduated, in the fall of 2013. “If it weren’t for the Church’s campus ministry presence, we wouldn’t be sitting here,” he said.

“Kyle and I started dating in the spring of 2014,” added Mary Rose. “We’ve been together coming up on six years. Other than the first two or three weeks, we were in a long-distance relationship. I was living in Atlanta while he was still living in Athens.”

Two years later, Mary Rose’s relationship with her parents reached a crisis point while she was attending Southern Poly.

“I was living at home and commuting to and from college. In 2016 I moved out and crashed on a friend’s couch while I figured out my next move. When my friend had a medical mishap and moved back in with her parents. I took her slot in the apartment one of our mutual friends. I joined the working class, becoming a Waffle House server to pay the bills.”

“My parents and I haven’t had the greatest of relationships. So, when I moved out, there was more of a separation. It was my time to be out in the world by myself. I was twenty-one. But for all that experience, I think I can say now that my parents and I have kind of made peace. We’re okay now with being different families. They have their life and I have mine.”

“I’ve always liked cooking. I like to eat! When I was living in the apartment, I had to provide my own food, buy my own groceries, etc. outside of work, because I was able to eat on the clock, which was nice. Kyle also was kind of nudging me to further my cooking skills, so I decided to try. I soon found out that I liked cooking.”

Today, Mary Rose works as a cook at Meat and Greet in downtown Newnan. She sings soprano in St. Paul’s Parish Choir. And she supports her new husband in his first ordained position.

Now that we know something about Mary Rose, let’s hear from Kyle. The following is mainly in Kyle’s own words.

Kyle’s story

I am from a little town called Dudley, Georgia. I didn’t grow up there – that’s the nearest city. I‘m a son of Laurens County, through and through. From home, the drive to anything meant being in the truck for at least 20 minutes and passing by more cows than people.

I’m a convert to the Episcopal tradition. My family were staunch members of the Baptist Church in Dudley. That was my initial introduction to the Christian faith.

I can remember being ‘incentivized’ (or bribed) to memorize all the books in the Bible in order and to recite them. I was in the third grade. And the prize was – get this – three dollars, paid out completely in dimes. Exactly thirty pieces of silver. I don’t know what to make of that. I think about spiritual things – I think about the Bible a lot, and I blame it on that experience.

Our family attended this church every time the doors were open – it was very moderate, middle-of-the-road for a Baptist church. Our pastor, The Rev. Bill Weeks, was a very kind, sweet sort of guy, a wonderful man. He passed suddenly from cancer when I was eleven or twelve.

It was the new pastor that got me going. This was after the big change of guard in the Baptist convention in the 1980s. The fundamentalists took the fire and brimstone to the next level. There is Jonathan Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” and then there’s the stuff I grew up with!

The new Baptist message was not Old Testament based – I’m a huge fan of the OT. They were doing a very poor reading of the Book of Revelation, and cherry-picking passages of Paul. We rarely heard from the gospels. When I was in high school, there was a huge focus on eschatology, the study of the End Times. Their version was heavily influenced by sources like the Left Behind* series. There was a lot of that Rapture kind of focus. For instance, ‘if you died right this second where would you go?’ was a constant question we were asked. I was about fourteen when that trend was huge. It was a very not-okay place to be. My initial problems with how I was raised started in that time frame.

I was a bit of a clever kid – I liked to read – I liked to figure things out. So, I recognized that there was a logical inconsistency in the Rapture belief. If God’s ultimate goal is to save as many people as he can, then snatching all the true believers out of the world before he destroys it definitely doesn’t mesh with the Jesus of the John who came not to condemn, or the Jesus of Matthew who is here to fulfill the Law and make everyone righteous.

I brought that concern to my Youth Pastor. He told me, wisely, to read the Bible. If you’re having doubts, just read some more scripture, and you’ll understand. So, I did. I’m probably one of the few who hear that advice and actually heed it. Over a year and a half, between weeding and watering the garden, I just read. It took me the better part of a couple of years, and I had to put J.R. Tolkein’s The Two Towers on hold. But all that reading didn’t help – it made my confusion worse.

The Bible is a library; it’s not a unified text, and even some books are built from different authors writings. It is a collection put together over thousands of years, so I didn’t find what I was being taught in any one place. it finally dawned on me: this tale of the Rapture has been constructed from a snippet here and a snippet there. What they’re predicting is not anywhere to be found.

That was the beginning of the deconstruction of my faith. When I was at UGA, several years later, I ran into a good friend from home, who ended up hanging around the Episcopal Center because I was there. He figured it must be legit because I had gained a reputation back home as a fire-breathing atheist. ‘Don’t go near him. He will destroy any understanding of God you have.’ I was pulling apart the faith that had been given to me. It was inadequate. It didn’t speak to me in a way that was helpful. So, by the time I went off to college, I called myself agnostic. I was a functional atheist.

I will credit my first visit to the Episcopal Center to a friend I had as a freshman. She, the art major, took pity on the chem major that had grown up in a faith that was not working for him. I was railing pretty hard at organized religion as a whole. She wanted to show me something different. So, I went begrudgingly to the Episcopal Center for Evensong. It was gorgeous. but I wasn’t there yet. I wandered off to “da woods,” metaphorically speaking.

About a year later, I became an RA (Resident Assistant). I was in charge of a floor of fifty or so residents. Mostly freshmen. Good people. I loved my second year as an RA, when I got to know everybody and became close to their lives, struggles, hopes, and dreams.

What set me over the edge, however, was an experience I had one night. I was off duty, trying to get some sleep, when I heard a knock at the door. It was maybe two or three in the morning. If you’re an RA and someone knocks at your door at two in the morning, you know it’s not good!

I hopped up, slapped on my shorts, opened the door, and standing before me was one of my residents. He had his arms crossed over himself and a cellphone up to his ear. He handed me his cellphone.

“Hello.”

“Hi, is this Kyle Mackey? And you’re the resident assistant at Payne Hall on the first floor? “

“Yes.”

“OK. (name omitted) is one of my patients. I’m with the Mental Health Services on campus. I’m concerned that this student will harm himself. I need you to sit with him until the police arrive to take him into protective custody.”

“OK – I can do that.”

“If you need me, my number is —.”

I hung up the phone, and we went outside to sit on the steps. I don’t think I said much. I just remember sitting with him on what must have been one of the worst nights of his life. I had nothing to go on, nothing to go to. We just sat there quietly. Eventually the police showed up and took him away. He’s fine. I keep up with him on Facebook. He made it through that night.

But what that night triggered in me was different. It started a spiral. That same semester, my parents got divorced, my grandfather developed lung cancer, and I took quantum mechanics for the third time. What I was trying to do was not working. Toward the end of that semester – and you have to maintain a certain GPA to be an RA – I was getting really tired of the paperwork – long nights – having to be everyone’s best friend and worst enemy at the same time – and so as that stress built up in me, the first thing I did was signal to my friends that I was getting out of this business. My supervisor – my go-to person – did not give a rip. She was useless.

One night sometime in the spring, the floodgates broke, and God and I had a very long, very one-sided conversation, very laced in profanity and accusatory in tone. For example,

“Why, dude, why would you do this to my friends, my family, the people I watch out for? Why would you create a world that is so broken? And then do nothing about it?”

I raged at God all night. But the strangest thing was, the window in my room faced east. I stayed up talking to God so late that I noticed the colors in my window starting to shift. I thought, I’ve never just sat and watched the sun rise. So, I went outside, sat down, and watched the sun come up. As that top band of the sun broke the horizon — I hesitate to say I heard a voice — but I did. It said, “I am as steady as the sunrise. I have been with you, in this, the whole time. You are the one who turned your back. You are the one that chose not to see me.”

I was no longer agnostic.

A week later, a friend of mine called me up.

“I remember you saying something about trying to get out of the RA business. You still looking for a place to live?”

“Yep, you got it.”

“Cool. You want to room with me? You care where?”

“Not really.”

“I’ll bring you the lease tomorrow.”

I signed it without looking.

He took me around to show me the place. The Presbyterian Student Center. They had rented out a house in the back to generate income for the ministry.

I’ve never been one for the Presbyterian approach, but the guy they had interning for the campus ministry – I’ll never forget him – was Episcopalian, but I didn’t know that. We got to talking one day and he said, “I think I’ve got a place you might like, and I’ve got some people you should meet, by the way, there’s free dinner on Wednesday.”

My faith had been deconstructed, and this was the beginning of its reconstruction.

We take a walk down Lumpkin Street to the Episcopal Center at UGA where I had been three or four years before. I go in – it’s a Wednesday and a Eucharistic night – it was dinner before and service afterward. We had dinner – I recognized a few people – and the priest, Fr. Dann Brown, – he’s still active in the Diocese – walks up and says,

“Hey Kyle, it’s been a long time. How have you been?”

This guy remembered me from three years prior. The light bulb lit up – something is going on here.

We went through a Rite II Eucharist, and the liturgy just came alive. It feed some part of me I didn’t realize existed. That night I found a home, a place I had been without for years. So that’s how I wound up in the Episcopal Church. And that’s where, a couple of years later, I met Mary Rose.

How Kyle became a priest.

Back about 2011, there was still a program running in the diocese called Vocare, which is based on Cursillo …but since it was aimed at college students it was about vocation – what is God calling you to do?

I had never considered any ordained vocation, much less the priesthood. However, looking back, there were signs. The first one occurred the night I got baptized. It was weird, because I was sitting in a Sunday night service by myself. Mom was leading the Children’s Choir, and Dad was an usher. I was eleven. In the middle of the last hymn of the evening, I just got an inkling, a nudge. “Hey, go up there and get baptized because I’ve got plans for you.”

For some reason, I stood up and went through the baptismal ceremony. Both my parents told me later it was quite a shock. They were proud and happy but did not see that coming. That was the last I thought about my “calling” for a long time.

The second “call” came when I was attending Vocare (from the Latin, ‘to call’). I hadn’t fully joined the Church. I would be received a month or two later.

I arrived Friday night. There had been a worship, a couple of talks, and then a night of silence. We said Compline and went to bed. I didn’t know what I was getting into. That’s when I got my first rosary, Anglican style, with instructions, thank God! I sat outside, played with it for a bit, then went to bed.

I had a dream. I’m not one who remembers his dreams, so when I do it’s usually significant. I was in some church – I’ve yet to match it up to a real one. I was in a procession. There were people in the pews. Way out in front of me was a cross with torches. Then a couple other people, then someone bearing the Gospel. I woke up that morning and didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t think about the fact that if you’re processing behind the Gospel, that’s an ordained position. I just pushed it off and ate my breakfast.

The second day of Vocare is a series of talks. The main question of Vocare is, what am I being called to do with my life? One of the speakers was a young priest who said he had asked God for a clear sign. That night he had a dream.

“I was cruising along, and there were all these diners, and they had different jobs pinned to them. I found myself in front of one that said ‘Priesthood.’ Maybe I should explore that.”

I thought, ‘You’re kidding!’ He talked about being called to the priesthood through a dream literally on the day I had dreamed about being ordained. Then in our small group discussion he turned to me and said, “Hey Kyle, ever thought of becoming a priest?” Literally. I believe I said something like, “I’ll get back to you on that.” That kind of got me started.

The diocese at that time had a “Young Priests” program that I went through in the last year of college. I went to monthly meetings at the Cathedral, meeting with people from the Diocese such as Zackery Thompson, Kim Jackson, and the Bishop right after he was elected. I watched the ordination of the new Bishop. We did a series of experiences including spending time with the homeless and writing reflections about it. I got a positive recommendation at the end of it and was told that my next step was an application letter. This was in 2012. I had a year to work and get my life together.

Mary Rose and I had met. In 2013 I decided to begin the process. It took me until the spring of 2014 to get the paperwork done, meet with the Commission of Ministry, etc. The Bishop told me, “You can go to EDS (Episcopal Divinity School, since closed); GTS (General Theology Seminary in NYC); or Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, VA which is where I ended up going. That year, all the GTS faculty resigned. Virginia said, “If your net worth is under $15,000, we will pay for you to go here.” We Have A Winner!

This was after the discernment in the young priest program, a year-long process. Then the next year was a parish process, and then came the Diocesan process. I got a positive recommendation from all the right people. Meanwhile I worked for Jimmy John’s making sandwiches. So, with VTS offering to pay me to go, I went to Alexandria. That was hard for Mary Rose and I because if we had gotten married before I went, it would have cost us over $100,000 between housing, moving, and fees. Or, if we could squeeze out three years of a long-distance relationship, it would be nearly free.

“I’m sorry for all I put you through, Mary Rose.” Kyle said as he turned to look as his bride. “We had started seeing each other starting in the spring of 2014. We been dating for less than a year when we had to make this choice.”

“We were dating through most of his discernment process,” said Mary Rose.

“I warned her up front that this was a real possibility. But still – really sorry about that. I’ve gotta give her credit,” he said.

“Well, I’m still here,” she replied.

Many of Kyle’s new congregation attended his ordination at the Cathedral, and we were delighted to be guests at their wedding.

“You know they split us up before the wedding. Me and the boys were down in the office. Hazel lays the marriage license on the desk and tells me to sign it and sign the marriage register. I do those things, people take my picture, and I take my phone out and put a reminder on the day, with a month’s notice. I programmed it that day. I didn’t want to be that stereotypical guy that forgets his anniversary. Then the reverse happened! We are so atypical.”

Mary Rose ordered her dress from Amazon. Kyle read the directions for taking the measurements from Goggle!

She walked down the aisle on Kyle’s arm. She looked stunning.

*According to Wikipedia, “Left Behind is a series of 16 best-selling religious novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins dealing with the Christian Dispensationalist End Times interpretation of the Biblical Apocalypse.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_Behind

Several books in this series were best sellers. I read most of them because I was intrigued that a writer could take a fantastical Biblical account and turn it into a cheap but engaging thriller. I didn’t take the books seriously – they were just entertainment. I didn’t realize that this saga had become the basis for a whole religious movement!

 

 

 

 

How the Doggrells got to St. Paul’s

Joan’s birthday dinner, November 2017

For all of our lives, Don and I have belonged to an Anglican or Episcopal church. However, until we came to St. Paul’s, neither of us could claim a profound commitment to the Christianity that the church represents. The people of St. Paul’s have changed all that.

We were born, baptized, confirmed, and married in the Anglican Church of Canada. We immigrated to the USA in 1962, and brought our first child back to Canada to be baptized in the same church we were married in. But thereafter we became Episcopalians.

Over the years and in different cities, we have stayed connected to the Episcopal Church. We made sure each of our four boys was baptized and confirmed. However, getting them to church clean, dressed and on time was a challenge we did not always meet. I sang in choirs whenever I could. Don served on the vestry at All Saints in Las Vegas, Nevada where I taught Sunday School. We tried, but I can’t say our commitment went very deep. I was getting the college education I had missed. Don was busy with hockey and Cub Scouts and eventually went back to school himself. So for those and other reasons, church took a back seat in our lives.

In Huntsville, Alabama, where Don took a new job in 1985, we attended the Nativity Episcopal Church for awhile. They had a great choir, but no one in the congregation bothered to speak to Don. Thus we joined St. Matthew’s, a small storefront church in Madison, a Huntsville suburb. Shortly thereafter, Don went off to Saudi Arabia for four years, not an ideal place to practice Christianity – at least not openly. I stayed in Madison and donated “sweat equity” toward the construction of St. Matthew’s church building.

After Don’s return from Saudi Arabia, we landed in Dallas, Texas, where we ran smack into the gay controversy. The congregation of St. Nicholas had made it their mission to oppose the national church for ordaining a gay bishop. For the first and only time, we formally resigned from a parish. Sadly, in the Dallas diocese, there was no Episcopal church that did not espouse the same views, so for awhile we were unchurched. But not for long, as we were transferred to Atlanta within months.

In Atlanta, I joined the choir of St, Martin’s-in-the-Field, and Don attended there too. After two years, I was laid off, Don retired, and we decided to make our home in Newnan. This, at last, brings us to St. Paul’s, where we hope to stay for the rest of our lives.

We were met at the door by Dawn and Bill Harrison. I jokingly say “accosted” because Dawn tried to drag me downstairs to sing with the choir that very day. It felt good to be wanted.

Choir didn’t start off so well. The director took an hour and a half to tell the sad saga of why he was resigning. But I was not deterred. Every Wednesday and Sunday, I stood beside Dawn and followed her perfectly pitched alto notes and knew I was there to stay.

We found everyone at St. Paul’s friendly and welcoming, made several friends, and at last felt a true sense of belonging. But we didn’t know just what a treasure we had stumbled upon until Don got sick. Really sick. His illness became obvious on Christmas Eve of 2015. He was Vestry member of the day. Trying to lock up, he realized he could hardly stand. Son Jim and I helped him to the car. Fast forward to the ER. I called Lee Daniel, who called Bill Tudor, who called Father Allen. He prayed, and we all laid hands on Don. Lee and Bill stayed until Allen told them to leave.

On arrival, Don had been given an EKG. It seemed that when they found out he was not having a heart attack, medical personnel became very scarce. Allen sat with us for hours. Finally he had to leave to be able to conduct the service Christmas morning.

The wee hours got larger and larger. At last Don was admitted, and Jim drove the two of us home in a violent rain storm.

Don was diagnosed with a huge abscess in his abdominal wall. He was septic and spent the next fifteen days in the hospital on heavy antibiotics. This was a scary time for us both. But we weren’t alone. Don had loads of visitors, including the entire Vestry who left their retreat to drop in unannounced.

When Don was finally released, he was ordered to go every day to an infusion center for more antibiotics. I was teaching full time at West Georgia Technical College. I couldn’t get him there without quitting my job. So Linda Tudor organized a group to take turns driving him. Lee Daniel, Bill Tudor, John Abbey, Bill Harrison, Ron Wilson … these are names I remember. And frequent visitors appeared at our home bearing hot meals and flowers.

Don recovered, but the abscess formed again a year later. I found him helpless on the bathroom floor. He’d been there for five hours. When the ambulance arrived at the hospital, Lee Daniel and Bill Tudor were waiting. This time the abscess was removed surgically, and it hasn’t returned. The eight-inch incision took many months to heal. But heal it did.

I can’t possibly express the gratitude I feel for all that these wonderful people did for us. All I can say is that Jesus is no longer an abstraction for me. He lives at St. Paul’s.