The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
‘Going to church’ in a boat
I NEVER WOULD have thought you could “go to church” on a lava field in the Congo, in a convention hall in Indianapolis, or in a boat that’s parading along the shores of Colonial Beach.
When I was growing up, “going to church” meant spending time in a building with wooden pews and a steeple on top. I still love visiting houses of worship of all kinds, exploring the architectural designs that help connect us with something bigger than ourselves.
But in recent years, I’ve discovered that the most vibrant “church” I know is the one that’s out in the world, working with refugees in Africa, pounding out resolutions on matters of economic justice and, yes, blessing a boat parade that’s part of the Potomac River Festival.
My change in perspective undoubtedly has a lot to do with my ongoing training to become a deacon in the Episcopal Church. The ministry of deacons focuses on connecting the community of faith with the larger community—bringing the needs of the world to the church, and sharing the prayers of the church with the world.
That’s why I’m particularly excited to have begun this month a half-year internship at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Colonial Beach. It’s an opportunity for me to spend my Sundays learning more about becoming a deacon, and doing ministry in a parish other than my home church.
I couldn’t have picked a better spot. My supervising priest, the Rev. Ron Okrasinski, has not only been rector there for 31 years (almost a third of the church’s existence), he’s also become a fixture in the cozy, funky riverside town. I’ve learned you can’t go anywhere in town with him without one person after another saying, “Hello, Father Ron.”
Also, though I’ve known Colonial Beach as a journalist for decades, I’m learning more and more about its hidden charms—that to-die-for pastry shop near the church, the thriving arts community in town and, to be sure, the annual Potomac River Festival.
Though I missed the Firemen’s Parade and the fireworks this month, my wife, Peggy, and I were right there on a recent Sunday afternoon in the command boat of the parade, as Father Ron blessed the two dozen or so boats on a blistering hot afternoon.
It was a beautifully crafted prayer, offering a few moments of reflection and grace amid the fun and games of a beach resort on a sunny weekend.
Moments of reflection were definitely part of the diocesan mission trip I took to the Democratic Republic of the Congo last month. It’s tough to process the joy you find in beautiful children when they’re living in a makeshift camp on a lava field near an active volcano, with no electricity and no water supply other than rain.
I’m hoping for more moments of reflection and grace next month in Indianapolis, where the Episcopal Church will convene its triennial gathering called General Convention.
During one of the largest legislative sessions in the world, I’ll work once again on the opinion journal, Center Aisle, published by the Diocese of Virginia.
Our mission is to analyze and reflect on the business of the church with enthusiasm and energy, but also with a commitment to the common bonds that unite us despite our differences on certain issues.
Civility and patience are rare virtues in a world that has become more and more polarized and coarse. That’s why it will be a relief to “go to church” in Indianapolis.
Ed Jones: 540/374-5401