We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we respect and honor with gratitude the land itself, the legacy of the ancestors, and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Spirituality of the Apollo Space Program

July 20 always brings back memories of the moon landing of Apollo 11. On that day in 1969, Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on the moon.

A unique book about the space program “To Touch the Face of God 1957-1975” by Kendrick Oliver, published in 2013 is about the role of religion, with the astronauts. How did religion and faith affect the astronauts during the flight and later as they tried to reflect on it? Highly recommended!

5 examples and quoting liberally from the book without quotes. It was clear that the missions affected everyone differently and some more than others. I have chosen those where there was a definite response.

1. Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11 was an elder of Webster Presbyterian, where Glenn had also worshipped; he taught Sunday school at the church, as did his wife Joan. Aldrin marked his arrival on the moon by serving himself communion, “symbolizing the thought that God was revealing himself there too, as man reached out into the universe.” Finally, in a television transmission as the crew was headed back to earth, Aldrin reflected on the “symbolic aspects” of the Apollo 11 mission and quoted from Psalm 8: “When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained, what is man that Thou art mindful of him?”

2. Standing on the porch of his lunar module during the Earth-orbital mission of Apollo 9, Russell Schweickart was unexpectedly afforded five minutes to register his position in the universe while his crewmate Dave Scott attended to a problem with his camera. “Now you’re out there,” he later re-called, “and there are no frames, there are no limits, there are no boundaries. You’re really out there, going 25,000 miles an hour, ripping through space, a vacuum

Eventually, by the end of the mission, his sense of connection had come to encompass the whole of the earth. “And somehow you recognize,” he stated, “that you’re a piece of this total life. And you’re out there on that forefront and you have to bring that back somehow. And that becomes a rather special responsibility and it tells you something about your relationship with this thing we call life. So that’s a change.”

It was to this planet, and not some starry futurity, that he now knew that he belonged, “a piece of this total life.”  Many years later he reflected about his experience. “It has in many ways given me the opportunity to initiate things, whether that was forming the Association of Space Explorers or starting the B612 Foundation, protecting the Earth. I’ve been able to do a lot of things because I flew in space that have implications for the future that weren’t part of Apollo 9 per se

3 For Frank Borman on Apollo 8, a lay reader in his Episcopal Church the voyage to the moon offered proof of man’s dependence on God: the earth was a “miracle of creation,” and everything else was “eternal cold”. While in lunar orbit, Borman also recorded a prayer to be played to his church during its Christmas Eve service, in lieu of the lay-reader duty he had been scheduled to perform.

4 Apollo 14 lunar-module pilot, Edgar Mitchell. “Now, in an “ecstasy of unity,” as he coasted between moon and earth, he rapidly arrived at an understanding of what this cosmology really meant: that everything was connected. “It occurred to me,” he wrote, “that the molecules of my body and the molecules of the spacecraft itself were manufactured long ago in the furnace of one of the ancient stars that burned in the heavens about me.”

5 When James Irwin, lunar-module pilot on Apollo 15 had a problem erecting the power generator for the various scientific experiments that he and Scott were to leave on the moon, he prayed for guidance and immediately came up with a solution. The next day, he spotted a strange, light-colored rock sitting on a base of gray stone, almost, Scott recalled, ”as if it had been placed on a pedestal to be admired.” Scott wiped away some of the dust covering the rock and saw that it was composed of large, white crystals, an indication that it had once belonged to the moon’s primordial crust. “I think we found what we came for,” he told mission control. Later the rock would be dated at more than four billion years old, close to the age of the solar system itself, and given the name Genesis Rock. To Irwin, the peculiar placement of the rock—“it seemed to say, ‘here I am, take me’ ”—was evidence that its discovery had been the will of God.

[He wanted to hold a service celebrating the beauty of his surrounding but couldn’t interest his partner who reminded him of their tight schedule”]. Irwin offered up instead one of his favorite lines of scripture, from Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” He sensed, he later wrote, “the beginning of some sort of deep change taking place inside me,” from the shallow, fitful religious faith that had marked his life before the moon to a new confidence in the power and agency of God

Sermon, Pentecost 7, Proper 10, July 16, 2023

Beginning this Sunday and for the following two Sundays, we have the privilege of hearing Jesus tell four parables.    

In Matthew’s gospel, as Eugene Boring notes in his commentary, the words, deeds, and mission of Jesus have caused quite a bit of conflict with and rejection by the leaders of Israel, and right before the passage that we just heard, Jesus is even in conflict with his own family.  Jesus says that his family is not necessarily made up of his “blood kin,” as we say in the South. 

Instead, the family of Jesus consists of the ones who hear the word and then do God’s will. 

So according to Boring,  Jesus tells the four parables that we find in the 13th chapter of Matthew in order to comment on the meaning of his rejection by the leaders of Israel and the founding of the new community of God, the community made up of those people who do God’s will—not necessarily the religious leaders of the day, or even his own family.

In today’s parable, Jesus, the sower, sows God’s Word, or the seeds, out in the world, with mixed success.  Many of the seeds are lost as they fall on pathways so well-trodden that the ground is too hard to receive the seeds and so the birds eat the seeds up.   More seed is wasted as it falls onto rocky ground.  Even though some of the seed takes root, it withers away because there’s not enough soil to keep the roots moist.  Other seeds come up but get choked out by the thorns that have also grown up alongside the seed.  Finally, some of the seed falls on good soil and produces a harvest that is abundant beyond imagining. 

So someone hearing this parable might come to understand that despite all the conflict and rejection with the leaders of Israel, a new understanding of God’s kingdom on earth will take root and produce an abundant harvest.  This parable, as Boring points out, shows us the “mysterious, concealed working of God, who miraculously brings the harvest.” 

The parables that Jesus tells start in a familiar world, but as the story goes on, those listening find that their usual expectations get challenged, and new understandings begin to take shape in their hearts and minds. 

Imagine what would happen if Jesus were among us today, and wanted to tell a parable to us, to get us to consider what it means to do God’s will, to reconsider who is God’s family, and to ponder what an abundant harvest, brought about by the mysterious working of God, will look like. 

Read more

Recent Articles, July 16, 2023

Sunday Links, July 16, 2023, Pentecost 7

  • Web site
  • YouTube St. Peter’s Page for viewing services
  • Facebook St. Peter’s Page
  • Location – 823 Water Street, P. O. Box 399, Port Royal, Virginia 22535

  • Summer splendor

  • Sun. July 16, 2023, 11am Eucharist YouTube 823 Water St. Port Royal, VA 22535
  • Lectionary July 16, 2023, Pentecost 7, Proper 10, Pentecost 6

  • Ecumenical Bible Study, Wed., July 19, 10am-12pm, Parish House Reading Lectionary for July 23
  • Wed., July 19, Village Harvest, 3PM-5PM
  • School supply donation due July 16
  • July, 2023 Newsletter
  • All articles for Sunday, July 16, 2023

  • A Wild Sunday! A downpour in the morning that probably affected attendance. Brad Volland, our organist called in sick but two in the choir, Denise on piano and Larry on guitar filled in the prelude and offertory. The offertory was an impromptu trio with Denise, Larry and Ken. We may want to call on them again.For such little practice they did well. YouTube audio stream failed but we posted separate videos here of the key points. Catherine’s sermon was a high point!

    Van Gogh’s Sower

    “The Sower” – Jean Francois Millet

    For three years Van Gogh (1853-1890) single mindedly pursued his calling to the ministry, first as a student of theology and then as a missionary to the coal miners in Belgium. Deeply moved by the poverty surrounding him, Van Gogh gave all his possessions, including most of his clothing, to the miners. Van Gogh admired Christ’s humility as a common laborer and “man of sorrows” whose life he tried to imitate. The church came to see Van Gogh suffering from excessive zeal and he did not preach well. He left the church in 1879. “I wish they would only take me as I am,” he said in a letter to Theo, his brother. He wrote,” I think it a splendid saying of Victor Hugo’s, ‘Religions pass away, but God remains’.  He saw Jesus as the supreme artist  By 1880, he had abandoned a religioous career and turned to art helped by brother Theo. In the next 10 years, he would move  10 times, his life characterized by periods of depression and periods of a sort of mania.

    The sower was inspired by Jean-François Millet’s ‘Sower’ from 1850 which was inspired by the Matthew 13. Van Gogh had tried several times to produce a serious painting on the same theme and then abandoned it. Van Gogh’s early work comprises dour portraits of Dutch peasants and depressing rural landscapes

    Read more

    The Sower’s background

    Like any story, a parable is a window into the mind of the author. People describe only what they can imagine; and imagination depends on what a person has seen, heard or read about. In this case the agricultural image of sowing seed indicates the rural perspective of both the speaker & original audience.

    The parables were a favorite teaching device of Jesus. People loved the stories that Jesus created and told. His stories were drawn from every day life, from the simplicities of every day life. Jesus did not use theological abstractions as the Apostle Paul did. By telling a story, Jesus created pictures of those abstract ideas. The abstract idea became concrete and visual.

    Jesus wanted his original twelve disciples to begin thinking in the logic of parables, in the symbolism of parables, in the possibilities of the parables. Jesus wanted his first disciples to look for and find the “heavenly meanings to his earthly stories,” and Jesus wants us contemporary disciples to do the same.

    In this first parable of Jesus, he chose the most common of experiences from the everyday lives of people: “seeds, sowers, hard paths, rocky soil, thorny soil, good soil.” These were as common as scenes as possible, but in the commonness, Jesus saw illustrations about God and his kingdom. In the soil and the sower, Jesus saw signs about how God works in this world.

    Read more

    Lectionary, Pentecost 7, Proper 11, Year A

    I.Theme –   How we carry out our work in the world

     "The Sower" – Van Gogh, 1888

    The lectionary readings are here  or individually: 

    Old Testament – Isaiah 55:10-13
    Psalm – Psalm 65: (1-8), 9-14 Page 672 or 673, BCP
    Epistle –Romans 8:1-11
    Gospel – Matthew 13:1-9,18-23  

    This week the emphasis is how we play our stories in the world.

    The New Testament readings provide guidance on reacting to Jesus ministry and work with our own. It is empowered by the spirit to be about the spirit. We must be careful to seek that world – the world according to the spirit and not the flesh

    Those whose lives are motivated and powered by earthly goals and passions, no matter how "good" they may be, are in opposition to God. Those who offer the Gospel to the world often seem to squander so much of their time and resources with little chance of a return but we can be assured that Jesus has invested in each one of us as his disciples. We become life giving to each other as God has been to us.

    Perhaps here the sower is anyone who tells the good news. Growth represents receptivity. It could be you or me. It could be God. It could be Jesus. The sower scatters his seed generously and seems to waste so much of it on ground that holds little promise of a rich harvest. Those who offer the Gospel to the world often seem to squander so much of their time and resources with little chance of a return but we can be assured that Jesus has invested in each one of us as his disciples. He too seemingly squandered his time with all sorts of people, outcasts of all hues and yet the harvest has already been a good one. Surely a great encouragement for us all!

    For Paul if we promote God’s teaching and goals as agents of God then we are acting according the spirit. If we look selfishly to our own then we are not.

    Are we brave enough to step out of our comfort zones? Do we hold on rather too tightly to our resources, making sure we have something in reserve for the proverbial rainy day or should we imitate the sower in our own generosity?

    The sower seems to lead to the idea that disciples are not always the chosen. It seems that these will often be the most unlikely candidates; the people that the world does not rate, the goats rather than the sheep, the tax collectors and the prostitutes rather than the respectable. These are the ones that will go ahead of the religious leaders of the day into heaven! And what of the disciples? Is there hope for them too? Time and again they are found wanting in understanding, in faith and in courage but the encouraging thing for all of us is that Jesus doesn’t give up on them. In fact, he continues to invest in them, even to the point of entrusting the future of his mission to them. The disciples will bring others to Christ

    It may take time for results to appear as Isaiah seems to say. It’s the environment that causes the sowers crop to eventually turn into bread as Isaiah says. God will make the peoples’ religious lives fruitful, as he has done for their land.

    God’s presence is shown as powerful, gracious, and life-giving in the Psalm. The dangerous features of nature are pacified, and the rest of nature comes to life with joyful exuberance. God’s presence is shown as powerful, gracious, and life-giving in the psalm. The dangerous features of nature are pacified, and the rest of nature comes to life with joyful exuberance. As with the sower’s seeds, results don’t happen over night and patience is a must. As Walter Bouzard writes about the Psalm, “The motion of the psalm from quiet, expectant waiting to a summons for the creation itself to join the choir of praise suggests that the journey from expectation to exaltation is just that — a journey. Many of us, perhaps most of us, find ourselves somewhere in the middle of the journey.” 

    Read more

    Notebook Paper Collection for Caroline’s Promise School Supply Distribution

    Sunday, July 16th is the deadline for St Peter’s to collect 8.5”looseleaf, hole punched notebook paper for Caroline County school children, to be distributed by Caroline’s Promise on Saturday, July 29th.   Our goal is 200 packs of 8.5×11 looseleaf notebook paper, 3 hole punched .  There is no specific quantity (200, 500 sheets, etc) to purchase. Most of them have been 150 sheet packs

    [As of July 9 we have collected 37 packs of notebook paper. One week to go. ]

    Bring your donation to church and place it in the back pew.  If you’d like to make a monetary donation toward this project, write a check to St Peter’s and put Notebook Paper/Outreach on the memo line. 

    We have frequently partnered with Caroline’s Promise for school supplies. (Last year it was markers). Caroline’s Promise works to help young people in Caroline County to succeed by providing a healthy start and future, one of their five promises.  You can read more about Caroline’s promise at

    this link.  https://www.carolinespromise.org/

    Their distribution July 29, 10am-12pm

    Caroline Middle School
    13325 Devils Three Jump Road
    Milford VA 22514

    Mary Magdalene, July 22

     “Noli Me Tangere” (Touch Me Not)
     – Correggio (1534) 

    In Bishop Curry’s book Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus, he writes “We need some crazy Christians like Mary Magdalene and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Christians crazy enough to believe that God is real and that Jesus lives. Crazy enough to follow the radical way of the Gospel. Crazy enough to believe that the love of God is greater than all the powers of evil and death.”

    Mary Magdalene, known as the “Apostle to the Apostles,” holds a special place in Christian history. Her devotion to Jesus was legendary. Mary was ever faithful to Jesus while others dropped away. She was there in the key moments of his ministry. She was a witness to the worst on Holy Week, his death on Good Friday and then first on that first Easter Sunday, the best. She was a leader in the early Church

    Facts from Living Discipleship:Celebrating the Saints and The Anglican Compass:

    • We know Mary was from Magdala in Galilee (thus the surname “Magdalene”).
    • Luke reports that Jesus cast seven demons out of her (8:2). After her healing, rather than returning to her home, Mary Magdalene followed Jesus for the rest of his life and ministry. While she followed Jesus, she also helped provide financial support (Luke 8:1-3). Unlike most of the other disciples, she was present at his crucifixion, remaining faithfully with him as the others fled and hid (John 19:25). She then accompanies Jesus’ mother to bury the body of Jesus (Matthew 27:51); she is the only one of his followers who is there when his body is laid in the tomb (Mark 15:47).
    • Read more

    Videos, Pentecost 7, July 16, 2023

    Rain before Church!

    Larry Saylor – Prelude

    Gospel Matthew -The Sower

    The Sermon- Rev. Catherine Hicks – a Modern Parable

    Offertory – Choir Trio – “Nearer, My God to Thee”

    Van Gogh’s Sower and Stewardship

    One of the best illustrations of the Parable of the Sower, this week’s Gospel from Matthew 13, is Van Gogh’s The Sower with Setting Sun from 1888. Look at it—a seemingly simple, rural summer scene of a farmer distributing seed. But look again at the composition and colors—the painting is unique in that the sower is almost overshadowed by the huge sun in the center and the ploughed earth.

    Van Gogh had a special interest in sowers throughout his artistic career. All in all, he made more than 30 drawings and paintings on this theme. The sower in particular was a figure that Van Gogh saw in terms of representing the eternal cycle of agricultural life, of honorable endeavor and tradition, and symbolized these qualities to the artist.

    Van Gogh studied to be a priest so his pictures often include religious themes. Color always provided a particular meaning for Van Gogh. Here, Van Gogh used colors meant to express emotion and passion. He assigned the leading roles to the greenish-yellow of the sky and the purple of the field. He painted the sun in his favorite color citron, a very intense yellow, which made up the sun and was used in pure form without being mixed. This is the color of God. The bright yellow sun looks like a halo, turning the sower into a saint. Here he has created a great orb of light, from which short precise brushstrokes radiate outwards so that the whole sky becomes bathed in golden rags

    Read more

    Summer films

    1. The Letter

    Interfaith Power and Light is partnering with the Laudato Si’ movement to bring the documentary film about climate change, “The Letter,” to congregations this summer.

    The Letter tells story of the Laudato Si’ environmanals encyclical letter by Pope Francis issued in 2015, through the eyes from frontline leaders battling the ecological crisis across continents. Laudato Si means “Praise be to you” which is the first line of a canticle by St. Francis that praises God with all of his creation.

    Featured in the film are a variety of speakers on the topic: Arouna Kandé, a climate refugee in Senegal; Cacique Dadá, an environmental defender and leader of the Maró Indigenous territory in the Brazilian Amazon; Ridhima Pandey, a youth climate activist from India; and Greg Asner and Robin Martin, biologists studying coral reefs in Hawaii.

    The film features exclusive footage from their encounter with Pope Francis, alongside the personal stories and scientific findings throughout the documentary.

    Full film

    2. Sabbath

    Read more