2022 began with a return to full communion with the common cup being approved by the diocese and the anticipation of an in-person diocesan council for the first time in two years. Ukraine was the focus of our corporate prayers. Unfortunately, before the end of January, Covid once again reared it’s ugly head and we saw enough of an uptick in cases to cause Diocesan Council to be held online and we viewed the goings on from the comfort of Grace Hall. Thankfully, this was a much smaller surge than expected and we soon found ourselves almost back to normal with a full slate of Lenten activities including weekly soup suppers, wonderful teachings by Fr. Mike, and a Seder meal for the first time since 2019. What a glorious Easter celebration we had! We continue to offer online church and have realized that this has really increased St. Philip’s presence outside of Uvalde. Attendance has continued to be a main concern and topic of discussion for the vestry this year – what does regular church attendance look like in our post covid time?
Then came May 24th – WE were rocked to the core by this tragedy right alongside the entire community and the world. St. Philip’s quickly became a hub of activities, a center for prayer in the community, and we began receiving donations and prayers from all around the globe. We held a Taizé service open to the community and for the first time we had to deal with having to ask people to stay out of our church – we asked reporters to leave our sanctuary and our front steps. We lit 22 luminaries for 22 days and rang the church bells every day at noon. We looked for ways to support the community and became instrumental in helping distribute blessings and monetary donations from around the country. We opened our space to an amazing book distribution that gifted every child from Robb elementary with an amazing bundle of books and then offered the teachers of Uvalde and surrounding areas as well as all other students from town an opportunity to build their personal libraries. We offered our facilities for a blood drive through the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center and people to help with the creation of tiles for a memorial wall that will be installed in the community. We have also offered our church home to the Children’s Bereavement Center of San Antonio. Philip’s closet has been relocated across the street to the Presbyterian Church thanks to their generosity and share in our vision of helping others in need. Fr. Mike has been instrumental in the community response to May 24th from the beginning. He was at the hospital comforting families in the first hours after the tragedy and has continued daily to be involved in the community healing process.
We did not cease to be St. Philip’s in light of everything else. We continued with our yearly traditions including the Pet Blessing, a Bishop visitation complete with a baptism and confirmation, and a Día de los Muertos Taizé service that was amazing. The holiday season came with joy and anticipation. The annual greening of the church was attended by more than ever before. We topped off our holiday festivities with our traditional children’s pageant the last week of Advent. Christmas was glorious, complete with the lighting of the church grounds with 500 luminaries placed by the “Secret Society”. We also completed some long-term projects including the re-carpeting of Grace Hall, updating of the rectory kitchen and increasing the size of the columbarium by the addition of several in ground niches.
What will 2023 look like? Hopefully, continued and increased outreach in our community, nation and the world. I ask for everyone to prayerfully considered what you can do to be an active member of St. Philip’s this year…. Step up and Step out!