As part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew (SsAM), 29 members shared their memories of our church’s first twenty-five years.
Older posts are first; newer at the bottom, all written in 2021.
She Said, “Please Come Back”
by Pat Saunders
It was December 30, 2006. I had moved to Wilmington three days before, and because it was Sunday morning, I went to SsAM. I knew one person in Wilmington, the Rev. Fred Guyott, who told me to go to SsAM.
The service, the music, the sermon must have been wonderful — I have no recollection of them being anything different. But what stood out to me was that after the service, Shirley Bynoe, who had sat behind me and introduced herself, wanted to know my name and what brought me to SsAM. I told her, and she answered, “Please come back.” I knew I would. I have often told Shirley she is the reason I am at SsAM — not Fred, not the service — but she.
As a physically challenged person, I am often ignored. But Shirley treated me as she would have anyone. She made a difference in my life. Thank you, Shirley, and thank you SsAM, my beloved spiritual home.
Made to Feel Welcome!
by Peggy Shane
Although we were not using this theme six years ago when I first came to SsAM, we experienced the spirit of “Invite, Welcome and Connect”.
On our first or second visit to SsAM, we were made to feel WELCOME. Ken Francis shared his pew, and we were swept up by the experience of “sharing the peace” at SsAM. This experience continued. Sandy Holt made sure we were included by pointing out the difference between the BCP, LEVAS, and The Hymnal to ensure we were INVITED to share in the service. CONNECT was Cynthia Martin asking for help in the Archives. The rest is history in the making!
Thanks be to God.
10th Anniversary of Shipley Lofts… Thank You, SsAM!
by Geoff Sawyer
Prior to the consolidation, St. Andrew’s bought the property at the other end of our block, 701 N. Shipley St, a former furniture store. The initial purpose: single unit apartments for the homeless partially supported by the city.
Unfortunately, the city withdrew its support. The newly joined church, SsAM, with a full plate of consolidation activities, took on the job of finding a use for the building.
After many years of false starts, through the leadership of Canon Lloyd Casson and Chris White (then SsAM’s senior warden), Shipley Lofts was opened 10 years ago. It contains 23 artists’ lofts (most of which are rented at subsidized rental rates) and an art gallery. Financing was arranged using a complex system of tax credits and support from local foundations, banks, the city, and SsAM. At least two members of the board of directors of the Chris White Community Development Corporation must be SsAM Vestry members.
Just days before the opening of Shipley Lofts, Chris White was killed by a car jumping the curb in front of SsAM. It was a truly tragic loss for his family, as well as for Shipley Lofts, our church, the city, and the state. Chris was head of Delaware Legal Aid at the time. The Shipley Village Community Development Corporation was renamed in his honor as was the gallery within the building.
The lofts have been rented at a 100% occupancy rate for the last ten years, for the most part to artists. As planned, our operating budget continues to break even. The Chris White Gallery has been on hiatus during COVID but is planning a 10-year anniversary celebration later this year.
Shipley Lofts and the Chris White Gallery have become a well-known beacon within the recently formed Creative District of Wilmington, a proud monument to what we can all do together.
So Moving and Joyful!
by Sister Rosie Castelli
I was accepted into the Episcopal Church in 2009 by Bishop Wayne Wright at Grace Episcopal Church on the Concord Pike.
One day in a conversation, Mother Emily (Gibson), who was then interim rector at Grace Church, told me about SsAM and that her husband, David Andrews, was rector there. She told me she thought I would love some of the liturgies and music at SsAM. So, I said I would attend just to see what it was like. My first SsAM encounter was Jazz Vespers. I loved it! I decided to try some additional liturgy and ended up at a celebration of All Saints. I loved that too.
Every time I went, it was just so moving and joyful. What finally got me was that people were so friendly. At the peace, people reached across the aisle, recognized that I was new, and welcomed me to the liturgy. It was genuine fellowship and community. I felt a part of the parish even before I became a member! Finally, I found myself wanting to go to SsAM even though I knew I would miss Mother Emily. Mother Emily smiled and told me how happy she was that I loved SsAM. I decided that it would be my spiritual home.
Can you imagine my delight when Mother Emily joined us at SsAM? I had the best of all worlds.
From time to time, I go out of remission from my rheumatoid arthritis. When that happens, I can’t worship in person. The family at SsAM has never let me down or left me isolated. Fr. David has visited me many times, bringing prayer and the Eucharist. The pastoral care warriors have reached out on many occasions to keep me connected to this wonderful community. Despite my physical challenges, I have been able to lead prayer through Facebook. I consider myself both lucky and blessed to be a member of SsAM. God is with us, I have no doubt.
The Katherine Esterly Organ
by Joshua Martin
The Katherine Esterly Organ at SsAM was dedicated on February 19, 2017. Of interest though are the facts related to the origin of this wonderful instrument.
Prior to the decision to acquire the new organ, the parish surveyed the membership to determine the most pressing capital needs at that time. After a lengthy process, including surveys of the congregation, it was agreed that the renovation of the kitchen and a new organ were the top priorities at the time for the parish.
A capital campaign was initiated, with the understanding that the kitchen renovations would get top priority and the organ project would follow.
Additionally, it was agreed, after consultation with experts, that the organ then in place was beyond repair and needed to be replaced. With the agreement that this was the prudent approach from a financial perspective, it was decided to pursue a radical renovation project and acquire a new pipe organ that would incorporate pipes from the three former parishes, i.e., St. Andrew’s, St. Matthew’s, and the Cathedral Church of St. John.
Consistent with the desire to make this a “community organ”, some new pipes were to be added to allow the instrument to accommodate a range of musical needs, including support of our liturgy and the ability to attract additional musical groups from the community. After receiving bids from a number of organ-restoration firms from around the country, Quimby Pipe Organ Inc. of Warrensburg, Missouri was chosen to build the organ.
The decision was made that both the kitchen renovations and the pipe organ acquisition would be paid for by funds raised during a capital campaign. This campaign targeted members of the parish, friends of SsAM, local foundations and others including borrowed funds from the Diocese. After the campaign reached its goal, including the repayment of all loans, the Katherine Esterly Organ installation was initiated on March 7, 2016.
The 2013 Kitchen Renovation
by Pat Saunders
One facet of our 2013 Sharing Our Blessings Capital Campaign was the renovation of the kitchen, originally built in 1954. By 2013, appliances were unreliable and everything was outdated. When the workers from Friendship House cooked Sunday breakfasts for the homeless and disadvantaged, they never knew what might break down next.
Beginning in May 2013, with the assistance of architect John Dobraniecki and InSite Construction’s Joe Gallo, SsAM’s kitchen was gutted. By August a new commercial kitchen was completed. The only items remaining from the old kitchen were the butcher block tables and the dishwasher — both had been upgraded previously.
Because SsAM truly runs a community kitchen with breakfasts served weekly, and suppers served to the same population when the weather turns so cold during Code Purple nights, we were able to obtain grants from local foundations and the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware to renovate the kitchen. The Diocese also provided a loan of $150,000 for five years, paid back monthly, with interest paid semi-annually. Because of the generosity of foundations, SsAM’s donors and friends, we were able to pay off the loan in full seven months before the scheduled due date. And, we completed the campaign without touching our endowment.
We chose to dedicate the kitchen to the memory of James Thomas, a Vietnam veteran, who spent his final years helping in SsAM’s kitchen. He died shortly before the renovation of the kitchen began. James gave what he could to SsAM. The completed kitchen was dedicated in his memory in September 2013. Thus, from our capital campaign, Sharing Our Blessings, we now have the Katherine Esterly Organ and the James Thomas Kitchen. Click here to see photos and learn more about the kitchen renovation.
Drumming Circle: A Reflection
by Chuck Bean
I have been thinking a lot about drumming and how this, and the rest of music, reaches my spirituality. I have been impressed by how important this time is for SsAM and how we, as a worshiping community, have an important mission to re-imagine not just our community but to sing out SsAM’s accomplishments in blending two congregations.
I so appreciate Lu Soukup’s statements about the growing pains of our early church consolidation 25 years ago. There is something in her words that gives me hope for the world and I hope we at SsAM can continue to be an example of love and acceptance of differences to embrace each other. I also smile at old stories like Kitty Esterly banging pots and pans at the Mardi Gras service.
There is hope for the world as the joy of the slap and base on the djembe calls us all to worship, remembering the past with its pain, prejudice, and suffering, but also the resilience and strength that can bring healing and peace.
And now the Drumming Circle has begun again!
The rhythm and beat is now calling out to the community at the 7th and West Street Park. This venue allows for social distancing, an open outdoor space, and a great opportunity to engage young and old alike in a circle of acceptance; to call out to the neighbors and to anyone else who wants to join in the communion of rhythm. There is ample room for children to play and intermittently engage in the sheer joy of percussion that Jonathan Whitney’s leadership encourages. This space at 7th and West provides a time to learn and enjoy from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday evenings. There are extra drums available for folks to join us. When the weather turns cold, we will be back at SsAM indoors, but the present location allows this ministry to the community to be more visible.
I look forward in having the djembe sing out as part of our Sunday worship and to have it join the continuity of humanity who have used drumming to communicate, call to worship, and celebrate life through thousands of years. I hope we can find new ways to engage the drumming circle in the growth and development of our parish and extended community.
Episcopal Church Women
by Ernestine Brock-Walker
I have been an active member of the Episcopal Church Women (ECW) at SsAM since the consolidation of St.Andrew’s and St. Matthew’s. When I became the ECW President, our members agreed that we are a ministry, and not a group of women who meet. Our ministry is doing the work that we are charged to do because we are “His people and the sheep of His pasture.”
We have accomplished much during these years with the support of our Church Family. Examples include bake sales to raise funds for outreach charities, collection of clothing for babies, help for the homeless and food to support the food banks and pantries.
We also give to these charities: St Michael’s Nursery and School, State of Delaware ECW, Food Banks/Pantries, Clothing Bank, Friendship House, Seaman’s Charity, The Home of the Brave, The Way Home, and other charities over the years.
We have had projects that included Annual Pancake Supper, Christmas Luncheon, Jazz Tea, Holiday Bazaar, Recognition of Achievements of Women of SsAM (including all three combined churches), and Mother’s Day Bake Sale.
We have sponsored a “Women’s Conference” for the purpose of being inclusive in our spiritual walk which included reaching out to all the Episcopal churches as well as the churches in the Wilmington community. We had an excellent turnout from other denominations and we hope to continue this work when we are able to open as the state allows.
As we have more work to do in God’s kingdom, we are inviting other female members of SsAM to join us in the very valuable ministry in service to others. I can’t say it enough that new blood brings new ideas which we will greatly embrace and appreciate.
As always, all praises to our God and His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that dwells in all of us that we do His bidding.
Come join us, please.
Love, peace and blessings to all…
SsAM: A Place of Welcome
by D-L Casson
Since joining in 2011, my SsAM memories center on our being a place of welcome.
SsAM is more than a place that houses the Friendship House Empowerment Center. For many, SsAM is “the quiche house” and as I walk to and from our apartment, it isn’t uncommon for someone to yell hello, calling me “the quiche house lady”. We are the place where people can use the restroom and not be turned away. We are the place where all are welcome on Sunday to worship with us. The story of this being a place of welcome was beautifully told by Silas Harrison as he participated on a panel with our Bishop. We treasure having Silas as an acolyte, Eucharistic Minister and friend. Click here to watch Silas’ six-minute video, “From Visitor to Acolyte”.
Another memory comes out of providing an orientation (and tour of SsAM) to all new Downtown Vision (DTV) Ambassadors each year. It was an Ambassador who brought a young adult to us late one day. The young man from Ohio was trying to help his family and had joined a “sell magazines and make money” outfit. Unfortunately, he didn’t make his quota and was dropped off at the Wilmington Bus Station to make his way home. As he walked on Market Street, a DTV Ambassador met him and brought him to SsAM. Over the next few days, we connected him with his family, made sure he had a place to stay and food to eat, and then got him a bus ticket back to Ohio. I will never forget how his family called the office to tell us he had arrived safely.
It is reassuring to know that when we are fully open, we will once again have a pitcher of ice water ready, a prayer for someone who asks for one, and the chance to make more memories.
Summary of the 25th Anniversary Survey and Conversation Circle Results
by Cynthia Primo Martin
The high level of survey response (47%) indicates the level of caring the SsAM community has for its spiritual home. It also indicates the need for our parishioners to share their voices.
Strengths that respondents noted included:
• caring, dedicated and committed congregation;
• caring for our mission as well as volunteers willing to do the work;
• our strong outreach;
• the people are the church, and that relationships and community are the reasons many have stayed engaged; several comments applauded the vestry for its hard work in addressing the challenges.
• being an aging congregation and the need to build the membership with more youth and young families (sometimes, but not always connected to SsAM’s financial challenges);
• perception of discontent and internal power struggles;
• leadership not including more of the congregation in decisions, and, empowering members to contribute;
• SsAM’s resiliency…. we have come through tough times before, including a pandemic.
There was no clear consensus on two key matters:
1) Music: for some, it is important to keep investing in the music program; but others feel the program has too much power, focus and resources.
2) Diversity: many cited the welcoming, diverse aspect of the church as a strength and part of our hope for the future; however, it was also noted that there are differences and misalignments, and that not everyone feels welcomed.
Ideas for moving forward towards a strong future included:
• make mission, faith, and ministries the priority;
• be more progressive in liturgy and theology, that we might re-imagine church, increase freedom of thought and witness on race;
• extend community engagement;
• apply lessons learned during COVID;
• obtain more spiritual leadership, inspiration and pastoral care from a priest as we call a new rector.
It was noted that much work is needed. Comments included the following:
• ensure opportunities to listen and learn from each other and build consensus. Make space to listen to one another in regards to age, gender, race and our entire community;
• review and communicate strategies for growth, ministry and leadership;
• external community engagement is a two-way street: not only do we have something to offer the community, but the community has something to offer us;
• SsAM’s communications philosophy and practices need changing;
• SsAM’s past was richer and stronger than our present because we are “resting on our laurels”; many of us rely on the strength of our past rather than look to the future.
by Kaziah Soto
Keziah Soto has created the piece at the right to be used in our 25th Anniversary celebrations in 2021. We are delighted to be able to share it with you.
We applaud Keziah for submitting this work of art, in which we feel she has captured the essence of SsAM.
Click on the image to see it larger.
There’s A Sweet, Sweet Spirit in This Place
by the Rev. Maryann D. Younger
In 2017, I found myself caught between two bishops and needing to take a gap year from my seminary studies. Might this be the moment I hoped for? Finally, the opening to spend some time at SsAM? I connected with Fr. David Andrews, who for years also hoped I could spend time at SsAM. Over coffee, we came up with a plan: in exchange for a pastoral care role, I would become part of the weekly liturgical team, preaching monthly.
Working with the Pastoral Care Team, facilitating the relicensing of the eucharistic visitors, and creating together a new Centering Space wasn’t the most impactful part of my time here. Instead, it was the sweet, sweet spirit that permeates the walls and lives in the hearts of the people of SsAM that will stay with me forever.
My preaching legs grew strong at SsAM. Of course, it helped that the congregation gave me positive reinforcement during the sermon, encouraging me and multiplying my own energy in return. Where else will I ever preach while wearing a boa and beads at Carnival Sunday?
The real gem, though, was falling in love with the Life Every Voice and Sing hymnal. Perhaps it was that we have an organist that can play it properly, with life and joy. (He credits the congregation for teaching him over the course of his first two years. I am indebted to those instructors!) Or perhaps it was the way that we would sing the last verse of the communion hymn twice, the second time standing, dancing, and singing loud enough to raise the roof. Or maybe it was our voices united singing We Shall Overcome on MLK weekend, while our hands joined, snaking all around the room. But mostly it was the innumerable times that the Spirit was so strong that tears ran down my cheeks.
During my one year with you, SsAM became my spiritual home. The place that I felt the most centered, the most filled with the Spirit and the most connected with God. I couldn’t contain it all; it would spill out of me, overflowing like a cup running over. Perhaps this happens to everyone, which is why there is so much spirit that lives in those pews. Regardless, I learned why the Holy Spirit kept tugging on my heart to spend time with you. I’m not sure I’ll ever find another place quite like SsAM and that’s okay, because I will take you with me wherever I go.
From the Cathedral Church of Saint John to SsAM
by Deborah Layton
When it became clear in 2012 that the Cathedral Church of St. John was going to have to close, the vestry and parishioners asked themselves where they would go to worship in the future. At the same time, the Cathedral Choir School was considering where it might take its program to continue its support of music and youth in a church.
Several vestry members and Choir School board members visited a number of churches to determine space needs for the Choir School and worship opportunities for parishioners. As parishioners deliberated where they might worship in the future, the Senior and Junior Wardens at SsAM sent a very thoughtful invitation to the St. John’s parishioners who were seeking a new place to worship.
Several meetings followed with both vestries led by the Rev. Andrews and Dean Lane where we shared our mutual interests. We felt the interests of both congregations coincided very well — our interests in community outreach, diversity, inclusiveness and music. Based on those joint meetings, the St. John’s vestry recommended to the congregation that SsAM was a good fit and that parishioners should seriously consider moving here.
This invitation was so gracious and welcoming that many parishioners (approximately 70 people) from St. John’s decided to accept. At the same time the Choir School accepted the invitation to continue its program at SsAM, thereby encouraging families of Choir School members to transfer their memberships as well. On the first Sunday following the close of the Cathedral, SsAM provided a welcoming service and coffee hour to let St. John’s parishioners know how happy it was to have them as new members.
Although the Choir School has moved away from SsAM since then, at least half the number of parishioners who transferred their membership to SsAM continue to worship here. Of those, many are active at SsAM in a variety of positions — vestry, finance, ushers, altar guild, office assistance, lay reading, choir, and other committees — having found their new church home.
Interview with Retha Fisher
Retha Fisher remembers that the members of the two churches, St. Andrew’s and St. Matthew’s, struggled to consolidate the two congregations. It took many meetings to bring about one community from two. Since she was first married, she had been a member of St. Matthew’s. Now she is proud to be a member of SsAM, has been for these 25 years.
During her time at SsAM, she has served on the Property Committee, been an usher, a reader, and a eucharistic minister. She has especially enjoyed being in the dinner groups. These groups allowed her to get closer to other people in the congregation.
Because she was being fed spiritually at SsAM, Retha was able to reach out to the community. A social worker by profession, one of her many tasks included making Christmas food baskets for the needy for many years. Retha recalls that then Senator Joe Biden came every year to help. One time, she says with a chuckle, someone asked the now president what he was going to do next. He smiled and said, “Whatever Retha tells me to do.” With another chuckle, Retha wondered aloud if he remembers that. She will never forget it.
Retha worked tirelessly to help the disadvantaged of Delaware. She was involved with the opening of Sojourner’s Place, an agency that helps men and women on a path to self sufficiency. She has volunteered in the prison system for over 20 years and still is active in that ministry. She saw the need for a Food Bank in Delaware, and went to the proper authorities to begin one here in this state. She was told Delaware was too small; people could go to Maryland or Pennsylvania for food. Undeterred, Retha persisted, and the creation of the Food Bank of Delaware occurred because of her efforts. She was also one of fourteen original founders of the Fund for Women. These women, seeing the need to help other women (most agencies only helped men at the time) had a goal of getting one thousand women to give one thousand dollars each, making a total of one million dollars. Today that fund is worth over $3,000,000 and, with the interest, that group gives grants each year to help girls and women throughout the State of Delaware.
Retha has won many awards, including the Governor’s Volunteer Award and an award from the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, one of her proudest achievements. She has done much to help people in Delaware for many years. And for the last 25 years, Retha Fisher, a force to be reckoned with in the community, has called SsAM her spiritual home. This home, whose mission includes reaching out to the community, has helped give Retha the focus she needed to do the work she was called upon to do.
Healing Service Remembered
by Anne Gibson
The noontime Wednesday Healing Service was a part of SsAM’s ministry for decades. This meaningful service, to the people who came, had three parts. The healing portion came first. During that short part, those in attendance could come to the altar rail to be blessed by the priest. This was followed by the Eucharist, with a homily that focused on healing.
The service itself was very important, but the sense of community it created, was vital. It brought not only church members together, but people from outside the church family.
Mary Davis was a very faithful attendee for many years. She was not a member of SsAM but she was a faithful member of this community.
Louise Spaulding was a dedicated member who performed the duties of the Altar Guild for many years until failing health prevented her from continuing.
Betty Feasel was another special member of the community. She greeted every arriving attendee with a huge smile and “Good Morning”. She made sure each community member had a birthday party on the Wednesday closest to her birthday. To a lot of elderly people this might become the only time someone remembered their birthday. Betty also made sure that Canon Lloyd Carson had an egg salad sandwich at the lunch that followed every week, since he is a vegetarian. Betty was the epitome of the care and love that came from the Wednesday Healing Service community.
We remember with fondness these attendees and others who came. All who worshiped on Wednesdays felt this service was an important part of their spiritual life. God bless all the people who have attended and been part of this community at any point in time.
SsAM, Matt Shipp, and Sojourners’ Place
by Alice Smith
In July, we celebrated the life of Matt Shipp who graced our community in so many ways. For some of us, the last time we got to see Matt was during the Zoom presentation in April, made by Robyn Beck-Gott regarding Sojourners’ Place – one of SsAM’s community partners.
Robyn was able to give participants background on the founding of Sojourners’ Place, which is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary. Matt Ship and the late Max Bell were instrumental in founding the firehouse ministry, also known as the “shelter of last resort” for the homeless in Wilmington.
Sister Jeanne Cashman entered the picture with a vision to provide a comprehensive program where homeless individuals could find not only shelter and meals, but also an array of services designed to address the root causes of their homelessness. The program was established at 2901 Governor Printz Boulevard. Sr. Jeanne became the executive director, and Matt Shipp was the founding board chair.
The current executive director, Robyn Gott-Beck, recalls having lunch with Matt to discuss the strong relationship he had with Sr. Jeanne. Matt also mentioned this camaraderie at the Zoom meeting that resembled a “Long Ranger and Tonto” relationship.
As Sojourners’ Place begins its next decade of operation, they intend to keep the same over-arching goal which Matt and Sr. Jeanne espoused in 1991: to CHANGE LIVES! To date, they have served over 1800 individuals. SsAM is grateful knowing that Matt Shipp was instrumental in this important mission.
As part of the April Zoom call, Robyn Beck-Gott mentioned several needs of the organization that individuals at SsAM might want to provide, especially in memory of Matt Shipp.
1. Donation 2-3 hours per week answering the phone
2. Helping residents with job searches in the organization’s computer lab
3. Providing used clothing and linens for the residents
4. Providing lunch or dinner on weekends for about 30 individuals
5. Drop off cleaning supplies, COVID supplies, charcoal, or snack foods
You can contact Robyn Beck-Gott at 302-764-4713 (or Michelle Johnson).
Click here to watch a video about Sojourners’ Place on YouTube or search for Sojourners’ Place – Hope for the Homeless – YouTube.
8am Sunday Chapel Service at SsAM
by Alice Sawyer
It was with the amazing grace of God that Geoff and I found ourselves in the chapel on Sunday mornings. We were “filling in” for Phil and Susan Murphree, who had been leading the service. That was about 25 years ago, and WE really never left until COVID.
The Chapel Service followed the Friendship House breakfast, a breakfast for those experiencing homelessness and hardship. Our breakfast guests were invited to join us in the Chapel to nourish their spirits after nourishing their bodies at breakfast. Our philosophy was “radical welcome, come for what you need.” We often had a few who would come to get warm or cool, or to get a little sleep. I was never offended when folks slept through my homilies as long as I could talk over some occasional snoring!
It was all fine. The idea was to create a space of welcome and love. We used to say the Chapel and SsAM are a “No Label Zone” — the only label we gave anyone is “precious child of God!”
Our services were interactive and that is where the magic happened. People told their stories; I learned so much from our folks about faith, about struggles won and struggles lost. I learned about hope and the power of the human spirit and the Holy Spirit working together.
Together we created a caring spiritual community. We checked in with each other; we celebrated our successes, and supported each other through the darker times. We sang together often without accompaniment, sometimes blessed by a piano player or two. (Thank you Linda Jackson and, in memoriam, Robert Holloway.) We had a visiting poet, Pharaoh, who would read us his powerful work, until he and Jessie moved on in their journey, like so many of our chapel friends.
We were and hope to be again a community that cares but does not judge. We welcome all to SsAM events and services, and always coffee hour, too, after the 10:30 a.m. service upstairs. The chapel is often the first place where our folks feel welcome and then go onto other services in the church.
We are so grateful for our co-leaders, Susan and Phil Murphree and Linda and Ron Jackson, who took a Sunday each month. And for Pam Peters who was always willing to fill in when we were away. We were also indebted to our own Christina Brennan Lee who, along with her husband, were the first (I believe) leaders of the Sunday morning chapel services.
The chapel service is still on hiatus due to the intimacy of the chapel and COVID-19. There is also no full Friendship House Sunday Breakfast right now either. We miss our chapel friends, although I have kept up with some of them through texts, calls and a few visits.
We close almost every service by singing “Amazing Grace” to keep us inspired for the week ahead and grateful for our time together. And so it will be that we shall gather together again in our Holy Chapel place to pray, to tell our stories, to care about each other, and to marvel at the amazing grace of God.
Street Parties at SsAM
by Peggy Shane
Working in the SsAM Archives, I ran across material and photos telling the story of the 10th Anniversary Celebration. In 2006, outdoors and indoors, SsAM hosted a fun and food event for the parishioners and community. The men’s group fried fish and grilled hot dogs. Music was provided on a stage erected in the parking lot. A Trackless Train was hired to give kids (young and old) rides around the block. A good time was had by all.
So, in 2013, the SsAM’s Organization and Design Committee, following an inventory of SsAM art and artifacts, discovered a treasure trove of items. We revived the 2006 event and invited the community in to enjoy and perhaps purchase items from SsAM history.
This “fall event” became the Community Fun Fest. We partnered with Christina Culture Arts Center to build the SsAM and CCAC franchise as a family-friendly center for spiritual and artistic expression. In subsequent years, ECW provided baked goods; we had a smoothie bike, danced zumba, the SsAM Drum Circle performed, Wilmington Children’s Chorus led a sing-a-long, and Rita’s provided water ice. We painted faces and played games. The community joined us: St Michael’s School and Nursery, Lutheran Community Services, Home Depot Kid’s Workshop, Delaware Children’s Museum, Delaware Art Museum, duPont Environmental Center, Habitat for Humanity, Environmental Justice Ministry, Wilmington Fire Truck, Wilmington Police Department, NCCo Community Services — and The Trackless Train was back!
Our survey of participants overwhelmingly agreed that we should do this again! God willing we will.
The Blessing of the Animals at SsAM and Calvin, a Cradle Episcopalian
by Wanda Smith
I always enjoy telling people about how Calvin, my 85-pound black Labrador Retriever, became a part of my life. Calvin was originally going to be my son’s dog, the puppy going with my son to college. I don’t know where my son got that idea. It did not happen! You know the speech, “You won’t have time to take care of a puppy and study!”
At the time, I already had my son’s first dog, Hobbes, an elderly terrier. I was not looking forward to taking care of that dog and the new puppy, so I tried to sell Calvin. Many who called said they were interested, but didn’t call back. I think Calvin knew what I was trying to do and he was on his best behavior, with very few accidents. That’s hard for a puppy!
You know that old saying about being careful for what you wish for. I prayed that whoever came for Calvin would provide a home full of love. And God answered, “He already has that home!” Thus began my 14 1/2 year long journey with Calvin, my cradle Episcopalian puppy, who attended SsAM for all of the Saint Francis services for the Blessing of the Animals.
At those annual services, held on the first Saturday of October, the Saturday nearest to St. Francis Day, October 4, my cradle Episcopalian dog, Calvin, joined other animals throughout the community of Wilmington. Some of the other animals like Calvin “belonged” to SsAM, but others were animals whose owners felt the need of a blessing for their pet, and came specifically for the blessing.
The Blessing of the Animal services were short, good for Calvin, who was always happy to see other animals and — since he was big and sometimes loud — he could scare other animals. He never meant to do that, he just wanted a new friend.
In the services, the priest blessed each animal in turn, dogs and cats mostly, but there was an occasional bird or other pet. The priest then gave the pet a treat and a medal with the likeness of St. Francis. There were other prayers for the priest and the owners to say, then we were free to go after a blessing for all. The blessing helped keep Calvin healthy for most of his 14 1/2 years.
Calvin gave me countless days of unconditional love, play, happiness and humor, milliseconds of frustration, priceless walk memories, and of course, pet blessings.
I’ve had many dogs before, but Calvin was special; he was my companion, my roommate, my shadow, a truly sweet gift. There isn’t a day that I don’t think of Calvin through a photo, a memory shared, or even some funny mannerism.
However, all of this comes with a catch; one day I would have to say goodbye. I read where losing a pet can make you stronger, that the process of acceptance and letting go builds the resilience necessary to navigate through an array of life‘s obstacles. Our pets are part of the everyday fabric of our lives in a way that few human relationships are. The loss of a family pet can remind us of how vulnerable, precarious, and precious life is.
THANK YOU, CALVIN! And thank you SsAM, for the years of Pet Blessings, that helped keep Calvin as happy and healthy as he was.
SsAM of the Future: Summary of Youth Programs Gateway
by Bob Young
During the Spring and Summer of 2021, the SsAM of the Future Subcommittee conducted surveys and interviews with the youth of our parish and their parents.
Setting aside the budgetary and manpower constraints that may limit implementation, the attempt was to ascertain what the youth really wanted in their church experience, building from past successes and projecting into the future.
Summary of an Interactive Forum
On Sunday, August 29, 2021, an interactive forum was conducted via Zoom to do an even deeper dive into the interests and desires of our youth from their own voices and directed to the church at large.
Some of the major themes to emerge from these interactions are as follows:
- Children’s Chapel was a big hit with the youth of all ages, either as a learning experience, an opportunity to socialize and make friends or an opportunity for older children to mentor and read to the younger ones.
- There is, however, a need for more consistent and predictable leadership of Children’s Chapel so that youth can bond with the leader and will know what and whom to expect when they arrive.
- There was a strong desire for activities over lectures, including reading of biblical stories, biblical re-enactments, arts and crafts, baking and icing cookies, singing, drumming and outdoor movies.
- The youth also showed interest in community outreach projects that serve those less fortunate.
- There was a desire for youth outings, such as ice skating, hiking, and escape room experiences.
- For the older youth, there is stronger interest in acolyte service, ushering, a college night, interest groups like chess, hiking, biking clubs, etc., involving youth at other churches when possible.
- Some desire was expressed for fireside chats with the elders.
- Interest was also expressed in taking classes at church like those offered at Christina Cultural Arts Center in dance, art and music. A partnership arrangement might facilitate this.
The subcommittee asks that the Vestry and the Transition Team to use this gateway input in our church profile and in planning and budgeting for the future. On the August 29 Zoom teleconference, participants were asked to stay tuned for more input from our youth as we move forward. Our children are the SsAM leaders of the future, and we want them to feel like an integral part of the church now.
Our 10th Anniversary Was A Snow Day
by Ken Francis
I arrived at church in our 4×4-wheel-drive vehicle in time to photograph our 10th anniversary service only to learn that the church service was canceled due a severe snow storm.
James Thomas (sexton) was shoveling the sidewalk entrance ways. The Rev Rod Welles, David Christopher (music director) and the Rev. Canon Lloyd Casson were there preparing for the church service and had to cancel our 10th Anniversary service.
Here are some photos from that morning. Click on either image to see it full size.
Behind The Scenes of
SsAM’s 25th Anniversary Celebration
by Linda Jackson
How blessed I have been to serve as the Convener of the SsAM 25th Anniversary Committee!
I was charged with bringing together a committee of parishioners, SsAM staff, and Father David to clarify our purpose, and to collaborate and plan activities celebrating our 25th anniversary year.
Our meeting agendas have included SsAM’s Past, Present and Future subcommittees. Those meetings focused on what events were to take place and who would be involved in the events, narrowing down event specifics. This included identifying, during this COVID pandemic, where events would take place, deciding how events would be structured, and determining when they would take place. Although our meetings always started and ended with prayer, our discussions were businesslike and productive.
It wasn’t long before it became clear that our tasks served and continue to serve as a catalyst for renewed commitment to our ministries and and to the spiritual growth for our faith community. As each event has been planned, I was blessed to witness committee members sharing their love for other SsAM members past, present, and future; for our ministries; and for our presence in the community.
Members of the 25th Anniversary Committee have listened, encouraged, supported, and prayed for SsAM and each other as we explored ways to celebrate SsAM’s rich legacy.
This generous spirit and commitment to SsAM translated into renewed energy that was on display during the Anniversary Launch Party and Past events.
This same spirit impacted our Present Committee in the manner their survey was conducted and follow-up group discussions.
I witnessed this same contagious spirit when our Future Committee held its Zoom teleconference focusing on young people from the congregation. From them, SsAM will continue to grow in faith and love.
I am a witness to committee members celebrating their faith, and their desire to preserve our SsAM legacy of rich traditions and strong spiritual foundations.
I thank God for this opportunity to see God working among us.
Remembering Wreaths for Greening the Church
by Jenna Christy
Gosh, I don’t remember when we first started making wreaths to green SsAM but it’s been quite a while. Surely more than 10 years, maybe closer to 20!
Folks would start bringing cut greens to church in mid-December and the piles would grow in the Garden of Praise next to the kitchen door. The Saturday before the last Sunday of Advent, a group of people would gather in the auditorium. The greens would be brought in, often wet from ice or rain. Then we’d get busy, spending about an hour cutting the greens into similar lengths and making piles of similar species — white pine on one table, fir on another, privet or boxwood on yet another until we had an organized mess over most of the auditorium.
We’d get started making wreaths after a few instructions to those who were there for the first time or a quick refresher. The goal was for each person to make at least two wreathes so that they’d match. Each person’s wreaths would look similar in style but different from others.
The biggest two would go on the outside of the red front doors. Others would be on the side walls of the sanctuary, along the back wall, on the doors leading toward the elevator, in the Chapel, and other places near the office and auditorium. Holly branches and conifers were used in huge urns placed in the window sills at the top of the steps in the Narthex. Holly could be used only if the stems were in water because the leaves shrivel quickly.
One year we had fewer greens than usual, so we made swags instead of wreaths and SsAM still looked beautiful for the Christmas season. We’d try to make about 18 wreaths in all. The crosses and the lectern eagle also got small swags of greens tied on. The remaining cut greens were left for window decorations. The wreaths were stored in the stairwell until after the 4th Advent service.
Here I won’t thank those who generously donated greens and/or their time to make the wreaths as I’m sure I’d omit someone. Let me just THANK YOU to all who trudged outside in the cold to cut greens and deliver them to SsAM. Also THANK YOU to those who came only once or who came for many years. We enjoyed working together, eating some pastry or sipping on a coffee when taking a break from getting sap on our hands while creating the wreaths. As a Public Service Announcement, Dawn dishwashing detergent works best for getting hands sap-free.
Coming Home to SsAM
by Mary Lou Edgar (along with Dan & Moni)
As we read about the experiences people have had during the last twenty-five years at SsAM, it is heartwarming to see how committed so many are to this parish.
Our family has only been here a short time, but we have come to feel so much a part of this community. Soon after we started coming, life changed enormously because of the pandemic. And yet people still reached out to us and made us feel welcome.
I have loved reading the experiences of others. I must admit, I feel as though we have been here for a much longer time. So many of you have beautiful memories about SsAM to share. I read them and feel at home in them. We have met so many wonderful people and feel as though we have known them for a long time.
We first came to this church on Christmas Eve in 2019 at the invitation of a close friend, Chuck Bean. Although the pandemic started soon after that, I still think of that Christmas Eve as the best Christmas gift I have ever gotten. I was truly lost and had been without a worshiping community for a very long time. About four years ago, I realized I desperately needed the liturgical celebration and, even if I was not aware of it, I also needed the community.
I found all of you — Fr. David, Emily, David Christopher, D-L (we really haven’t met Canon Casson yet) — and everyone we met to be very supportive. We came to SsAM that evening because our daughter, Moni, wanted us to come. I immediately felt as if I belonged. We’ve been here ever since.
I am writing this because I know everyone hasn’t been here for a long time. I believe there are many who share my experience and are warmly welcomed without judgement by this parish community. I didn’t want to wait twenty-five years to write this (and I doubt if I’ll still be here anyway), so I thought I would reach out at the beginning of my journey with SsAM.
I am grateful to the groups that have opened their hearts to me and my family. Although I originally said I would tread lightly, our family has become involved in a number of ministries. There is a feeling here that makes you want to be a part of it, makes you want to contribute, makes you want to help others. So, I hope it is okay that I haven’t been around that long, that I am a newbie. I guess the Edgars are your new neighbors — we have come home and we are here to stay!
25 Years of the SsAM Choir
by Pat Hampton
THE CHOIR MINISTRY HAS EVOLVED OVER THE PAST 25 YEARS TO BECOME AN ENSEMBLE OF SINGERS WHO REPRESENT THE MUSICAL CULTURE OF THIS CHURCH.
THE FIRST LEG OF THAT JOURNEY WAS BEING INTENTIONAL ABOUT OUR VISION, MISSION AND GUIDING PRINCIPLES SPECIFICALLY AS WE RAISED OUR VOICES IN PRAISE TO THE AWESOMENESS OF GOD’S ACTION IN THE CONSOLIDATION PROCESS.
SECOND, WE COMMITTED TO PROVIDING A EUCHARISTICALLY-CENTERED LITURGY THAT IS MISSION DRIVEN AND VARIED IN FORMAT.
THIRD, TO HONOR AND CELEBRATE OUR HISTORICAL ROOTS AND DIFFERENCES IN WAYS THAT MOVE US TOWARD OUR VISION.
FORTH, WE WILL MODEL A MULTI-CULTURAL COMMUNITY IN EVERYTHING WE DO.
AS A RESULT OF THESE COMMITMENTS, THE LITURGY AT SsAM AND THE CHOIR HAVE PROVIDED A VARIETY OF MUSICAL OFFERINGS DURING OUR WORSHIP SERVICES; BUT ALSO MUSICAL PROGRAMS OPEN TO AND ATTENDED BY MEMBERS OF THE BROADER WILMINGTON COMMUNITY.
VARIETY AND DIVERSITY
WHEN LOOKING AT THE “WELCOME TO SsAM” PICTURE, IF WE ONLY SEE SKIN COLOR, THIS DOES NOT FULLY REPRESENT THE PEOPLE OF SsAM. WE ARE MORE THAN SKIN COLOR… WE REPRESENT A VARIETY OF ETHNIC GROUPS AND CULTURES, SPEAK DIFFERENT LANGUAGES AND COME FROM OTHER COUNTRIES. THE PEOPLE OF SsAM ARE ALSO DIVERSE IN THEIR MUSICAL PREFERENCES AND EXPERIENCES.
THE MEMBERS OF THE CHOIR ALSO REPRESENT A DIVERSITY OF PEOPLE, MUSICAL ABILITIES, TALENTS, TRAINING AND EXPERIENCES. WE POSSESS A LOVE OF MUSIC AND THE DESIRE TO SING ALL MUSICAL OFFERINGS WITH AUTHENTICITY AND QUALITY. WE HAVE NOT ONLY SUNG IN ENGLISH, BUT LATIN, GERMAN, GREEK, SPANISH, AFRICAN, FRENCH AND HEBREW. OUR MUSIC REPERTOIRE HAS EXPANDED TO INCLUDE A DIVERSITY OF COMPOSERS AS WELL AND OTHER MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS TO SUPPORT THE OVERALL WORSHIP EXPERIENCE.
WE COULD NOT HAVE DONE THIS ALONE, SO WE NEED TO THANK THE FOLLOWING:
ROY SOUKUP, OUR FOUNDING ORGANIST/CHOIR DIRECTOR ;
QUINTEN LANE, ORGANIST/CHOIR DIRECTOR; AND
DAVID CHRISTOPHER, ORGANIST, CHOIR DIRECTOR AND LITURGY ASSOCIATE (FOR THE PAST 20 YEARS).
THE SsAM CHOIR IS A WONDERFUL MINISTRY AND WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR NEW MEMBERS. IF YOU HAVE ANY INTEREST, PLEASE CONTACT DAVID CHRISTOPHER.
Thank You for the Best Twelve Years of Ministry With You
by Father David
A couple of months ago, Pat Saunders, a member of the 25th Anniversary Committee, invited me to write a reflection about my time as rector to conclude this series of weekly reflections offered by members of SsAM over the last few months.
First let me thank Pat and members of the Committee for their faithful stewardship of the past year’s celebrations by Zoom and eBlasts. Each event highlighted why this parish is so special and why it has been so impactful for me and Emily the last twelve years.
To be honest I can’t possibly put down all that I feel in one eBlast, but I will try to share some of the highlights of the past twelve years.
Who will ever forget my first Sunday being canceled because twenty-seven inches of snow fell on Wilmington, February 6 and 7, 2010?
The following weekend was Carnival Sunday and even though I may have looked like a deer in the headlights, I loved every minute and felt like I was home.
What I will treasure most is all of you and the community of SsAM, specifically the Eucharistic community that gathered every Sunday morning. It will be difficult to find any parish that is so welcoming and warm to member and stranger.
I will always remember Sunday morning breakfast and marveling at the pastoral care and sensitivity of Bill Perkins who knew everyone who came to be fed by their first name and his emotion when he announced to those gathered the news of someone dying. There is no place like SsAM!
I will hold close to my heart the care and sensitivity as I planned Sunday and special liturgies with David Christopher and D-L Casson. Who can forget the funeral services for Chris White, Alex Tyree, Winifred Primo, Victoria Martin, Kitty Easterly and Rod Welles. There are others to name and I ask your forgiveness for not being able to mention everyone by name here.
Code Purples on cold winter nights, Good Friday stations of the cross through the streets of Wilmington, Tenebrae, DCA concerts. The capital campaign for the renovation of the kitchen and the Easterly pipe organ. Where do I end? There is so much.
The time has come however to say goodbye. I will miss this community greatly and my heart is full of love and gratitude for all of you. Please continue to love one another as Christ loves us. Continue to strive to be an inclusive and diverse parish that is generous and loving to all who come through the doors at SsAM. You will remain close to my heart as you begin to discern the next chapter of your bright future.
With deep affection,
The Rev. David T. Andrews, Jr.+
2nd Rector of the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew
A Million-Dollar Renovation in 2000
by Bob Richmond
At the turn-of-the-century our attention focused upon the condition of our facilities. They had not been enhanced or augmented since the major section of the Parish House was constructed in 1954.
One minor deficiency was access to the Garden of Praise from inside the building, which was inconvenient, especially for burials from the church. In 1998 we commissioned an architect to design a ramp which was constructed, together with the door opening and benches. $25,000 was quickly raised from donations for this project.
A Master Plan
A gross deficiency was a lack of accessibility by people in wheelchairs to the twelve different levels in the combined buildings. In 1999 or 2000 we engaged the services of a well-known architectural firm in West Chester, Pennsylvania and a task force was formed known as the Facilities Master Planning Committee. The architects produced a visionary master plan which far exceeded our expectations and financial means to support it. One of the features of the plan, for example, was a steeple on top of our flat-roofed bell tower.
After the master plan was modified, it was presented to the parish members. After it was approved, we embarked upon a capital campaign called “Lighting the Way” and over $1 million dollars was raised to support the facilities renovation. That renovation was accomplished under two different contracts, the nuts and bolts of which were provided by an architectural practice in Wilmington. The sanctuary was renovated first, with a temporary wall erected about halfway down the Nave from the rear entrance, and our services continued without interruption throughout the construction phase.
Renovation included enlargement of the Chancel with a new altar rail and refinishing of the pews and some of the woodwork. The baptismal font was relocated from the alcove (now serving as a private devotional space) to the rear of the Nave. A marble panel was laid on the floor to accommodate and enhance the the placement of the font. Now, symbolically, the font is aligned opposite the altar, reflecting the two major sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, the former leading to the latter.
The Second Phase
A few years later we initiated a second phase, which was the very challenging renovation of the Parish House. One of the greatest accomplishments was reducing the number of inaccessible levels from 12 to 3. Now it is possible for someone in a wheelchair to gain access to every portion of the buildings with the exception of the Chapel, Sacristy/Chancel floors, and the Education Suite on the top floor of the Parish House. Incidentally there are five levels in that structure and five in the Church.
I encourage readers to click here to read an article I wrote for the VISION newsletter in 2004 entitled “The End is Near”. It details the renovations at a time when they were nearly complete.
A Bubbling Font
by Canon Casson
The font in the Garden of Praise came from St Matthew’s. I believe it goes back to French Street at least and maybe back to Chippey Street. I know for sure that it was at 7th Street for its entire time.
When I was rector at SsAM, I asked that it be placed in the Garden of Praise. My vision was for it to be a bubbling fountain. To start that ball rolling I connected one of my own fish tank pumps to it, running the tubing from beneath the base up to the bowl from a water supply and plugging the pump into the socket nearby, circulating water over and over. I used to turn it on during interments.
I loved plugging in that little pump and meditating there to the sound of living water.
I imagined it one day sitting in or at the edge of a pond as its circulating water source. I didn’t follow through on the project after the old little pump had seen its days and as greater priorities emerged.
Every Vicar and Rector of St Matthew’s baptized people at that font beginning with Father Horseley, Father Wilson, Father Primo, myself, Father Jackson, Mother Duncan, all the way to Father Kirk. When I was about to be confirmed (1950?), I was not certain that I had been baptized and so was Conditionally Baptized in that font with other members of my class. My guess is that some other current SsAM members have been baptized there as well..
At SsAM, the font was centered at the rear of the nave beneath two very tall glass windows. It’s the first thing you saw upon entering the nave from the narthex.
— Canon Casson
Adult Christian Education
by Christina Brennan Lee
As we approach the end of our 25th Anniversary Celebration, and the conclusion of Father David’s time with us, I want to offer just a few words about one aspect of SsAM’s life that has meant much to me: Adult Christian Education. As some of you know, it is one of my passions and it has been a critical and long-held focus of my professional, educational, and personal work for more than 30 years.
In SsAM’s early days, Canon Casson gathered us each Sunday to teach and share the many and varied aspects of Christian Education and how integral it is to true Christian Living. Father Rod Welles and then Father Fred Guyott were also part of this great endeavor and I did little bits here and there.
It was Father Fred who convinced Canon to change the time of the main service from 10:00 am to 10:30 am to have the time from 9:00 to 10:15 on Sunday mornings to explore so many aspects of this many faceted “Christian Way” of Life.
Canon, Fr. Rod, and then Fr. David added to the bounty of this exploration and, for those of us involved and/or participating, the takings were rich, deep, fun, lively, and opened us to want more.
Biblical exploration, the theology of the Seasons of the Church Year, spirituality, Contemplative Prayer, the theology and mechanics of the Liturgy, the themes of Creation through Season of Creation, Church History, diving into the theology of the sin of Racism, even looking at popular films through the lens of Christianity, theological reflection on the parables of Jesus, small group discussions on a variety of topics including the study of the writings of Trappist Monk Thomas Merton, have all been part of our studies and interests.
Recently on Zoom, Rabbi Douglas Krantz has enriched the lives of those who joined him as we learned more about our Rabbinic and Jewish ancestral roots through his eyes and teachings as we studied the Book of Genesis from a Hebrew perspective and translation.
It is my fervent prayer that we will continue to offer and encourage continuing opportunities to know more than just familiar recitations of prayers on Sunday, but that we will know why we say them and how we came to have them, among other topics.
I pray for more exploring of the Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How of Christian Living through Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. (Now there’s a topic for study!)
Thank You For The Memories!
by Pat Saunders
Here we end the memories about the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew covering our last 25 years, 1996-2021. Thank you to all who contributed. Because of you, we have a sampling of what it was like to be at our beloved SsAM during this time.
We also thank Shannon Faulk, who has graciously consented to put these writings in booklet form so that there will be a hard copy for the archives and the time capsule.
But most of all, we thank Danny Schweers, who week after week worked his magic to make all the writings look so wonderful when published in eBlasts and posted on the SsAM website. Click here to see them all.
It takes a village, and once again, we see that our village at SsAM is comprised of an amazing group of people.
My thanks to you all,
— Pat Saunders