Transitioning From “High” to “Low” Church

My first memories of church include the fog of incense and the sound of bells ringing throughout the stone Nave. I grew up going to a high church where smells and bells were the norm and church holidays required pomp and celebration. I was an acolyte beginning at age nine and slowly graduated up the ranks to thurifer in high school. My friends and I would compete for chances to do 360s and argue over who made the church smokier.

One of the hardest transitions for me has been adjusting to church life at St. Andrew’s. I still hear the bells during the blessing of the bread and wine, I’m still shocked when there’s only one crucifer walking both the choir and the clergy to their places. Slowly, I’m adjusting to the services that have different traditions to the ones I grew up with.

I didn’t attend church in college because both Episcopal churches near me weren’t the high church I was used to. Branching out is not a strength of mine; I dislike change yet frequently feel restless if I let my life stand still too long. My time at Grace on the Hill is challenging me everyday. I’m rarely here stagnant, there’s too much to do and see, but it’s forcing me to thrust myself into change and the unknown.

I’m embracing change and learning to appreciate the different traditions and the beauty, tranquility, and history of St. Andrew’s.

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The Episcopal Asset Map: What It Is And Why It Matters

By Erin Monaghan

What does a diocesan intern do? Broad answer: a lot of things in a lot of offices. Specific answer: work on the asset map.

What is the Episcopal asset map? It’s an amazing tool that brings together information about churches from around the globe into one searchable database. It can tell you where the closest food pantry or young adult’s group is, all within the Episcopal Church.

Where can the asset map be accessed? This will take you directly to the map of the Diocese of Virginia. From here, you can either search by ministries and church groups, or look at a list view to find your church name.

When is the asset map useful? In crisis, connection, and creation. When crises occurs, like a hurricane, the asset map is an available tool to see what churches have kitchens or showers to provide to those who no longer have access to theirs. If you have ever wanted to get involved in a ministry, involving immigrations services for example, you can search the map and see the closest church that you can connect with. When creating a new ministry, such as a community garden at your church, you can search if other Episcopal churches have done so before to receive guidance and advice.

Who runs the Episcopal asset map? All of us! That’s what makes it so amazing. Episcopal Relief and Development made this map so that any person in any congregation can update their church’s information by taking a quick survey. The red “take the survey” button can be found in the upper right corner of a church’s profile page. After they take that survey, the diocesan map administrator (that’s me!) will approve of the changes and they will be available for public viewing.

Why does this matter? Because we are the Body of Christ at work in the world. We as individual congregations, diocesan communities, and throughout the Episcopal church are actively doing the work of Christ. This resource connects us all to one another and allows for an open flow of information so that we can keep serving. As we see the map filling in, and begin to understand the ways that or brothers and sisters in Christ are at work, we can know how to pray for and encourage one another as we serve our Lord.


To visit the map and explore ministries around the diocese go to
To visit the St. Andrew’s profile and take the survey visit


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The Bus Route

By Lauren Gustafson

One of my daily duties at Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School is driving an afternoon bus route. There are days that I dread the activity, it makes my afternoon slightly longer and the students tend to be rambunctious and after a long day, I just want to go home. But despite my initial dread, I always enjoy it immensely. Almost every student greets me by name and says goodbye when they get off. They’re so happy at the end of the day that it immediately changes my attitude.

Classes have only been in session for three weeks and I already love these students unconditionally. My bus route, while rowdy, gives me a chance to interact with these students outside of the classroom and see a small sliver of their lives outside of Anna Julia Cooper. Now, I’m not delusional enough to think I know all about their home lives or their lives within their communities, but I do get small windows into their world.

I watched one of the fifth graders get off the bus and run directly to her younger brother, seeing them hug and walk towards home made me smile. One student always says goodbye to me when she gets off and asks if she’ll see me tomorrow. Generally, the answer is yes. Another one decided that his stop was one block up from the official stop (well, as official as an unofficial bus stop can be), just because one afternoon we had to take a detour and that’s where I dropped them off. I’ve interacted with mothers and grandmothers and other relatives, not only through the bus route but also through picking up students who missed their bus or were unable to get to school another way.

One thing that strikes me about these neighborhoods is the volume of stray animals, or just wandering animals. The other day, I watched a dog with matted golden fur cross the street leisurely in front of my bus. A week ago I saw a kitten in the bushes and earlier this week, I saw a white dog (a Westie?) with a dirty belly. I empathize with these strays. This is a time of transition and adjustment for me where I constantly question where I belong and where home really is. I’m struggling with fitting in and belonging to a community that is very different from the one I was raised in, and as I adjust, I know that I am in the right place because I know that I belong at Anna Julia Cooper.

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People are different

By Timothy Nixon.

People are different. We all have different personalities. Different interests. Different opinions. We come from different backgrounds – have different life experiences. There is a wide breadth and beauty to the vast differences we can find among ourselves. There is a richness of humanity that is too large to reside in any single person. An Image of God that spans the human race.

Differences are challenging, though. We like to be with people we can relate to. We are drawn to people who are like us in some way. Often we turn away from those who are more different in favor of those who are more similar. In doing so we create in our social network a bubble of similarity, protecting us from appreciating our differences. This is so very natural and easy to do – I’ve done it myself.

In an intentional community like Grace on the Hill, though, we are challenged to connect with each other regardless of how different or similar we are. We are challenged to see the whole of each person and embrace them as part of our community regardless. In so doing we are challenged to recognize and admire our differences, big and small as they may be. When we leave here, perhaps we will have learned that difference is something to be embraced. Perhaps we will be more comfortable in appreciating the differences we see in the people we will come to meet. Perhaps we will leave here different than the way we came.

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No Plan Land

By Katherine Gaines

We’ve been at Grace on the Hill for just over a month now. Just as we are getting settled into our new way of life, I am reminded that this is only temporary. I started my grad school applications this week and realized that, once again, my knowledge of my own living situation has a finite end date. This is a space that I am quite familiar with since my previous end date was May 2016 upon graduating from college. While it is familiar, it is hardly pleasant unless I am intentional in how I regard this not knowing.

I am a social worker both by degree and by calling, and I am lucky that I am able to utilize my skill set in my worksite placement this year. One of the most important concepts in social work is the concept of termination or the end of a working partnership with those we serve. We are taught that termination starts at the beginning of that relationship. This may take many forms such as “we will have four months to work together” or “we will reevaluate every two months to continue services.” So, I must remind myself that I now have nine months to be a part of this Grace on the Hill community and to do the work God has given me to do.

I mentioned being intentional in this looming unknown. This fits perfectly into the concept of a Theology of Place. I think of Theology of Place as a ripple effect throughout the various systems of our lives. Where I am, who I am with, who I have relationships with, and what I do all affect one another and I believe this to have divine origins. The way I see it, I can live in this space of an unknown future by being intentional about the present. In paying acute attention to being in this corner of the City of Richmond, with the community of St. Andrew’s and Grace on the Hill, with my worksite, with my loved ones in this city, and my actions within all of these spheres, I can hardly feel displaced and that is a welcome feeling.

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Reflection on Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic


Shantavia Beale II, 2012
Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1977). Shantavia Beale II, 2012. Oil on canvas, 60 x 48 in. (152.4 x 121.9 cm). Collection of Ana and Lenny Gravier. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo: Jason Wyche, courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York)

Reflection by Erin Monaghan

Art has always been a beautiful, emotive mystery to me.  Looking back on childhood exposure to art, the strongest memories I have are often accompanied by a sense of wonder, confusion, intimacy, and distinctive separation.  I remember being seven years old and confused about why my friend had a painting of a naked woman holding a hula-hoop vertically around her body at her house.  When I asked why they had it, she told me, “My parents like art.”  I could understand that it was a nice painting, but why someone would want it in their living room was beyond me.  At age twelve I first went to my best friend’s house for the first time and saw a bust of a girl that looked out of place.  Her dad is an artist, so there beautiful paintings of her family all over the house, but this girl I had never seen before.  By this age I had learned to keep my questions to myself for fear of seeming rude or ignorant, but the gaze in her eyes was surprisingly piercing and more intimate than I thought a sculpture could be.  In art club at thirteen, I was able to choose a piece of art to paint on the wall at school.  I chose a photograph of a sculpture set before a sunset.  The pose of the Native American man about to shoot an arrow towards the moon in front of the orange and purple sky was one of the most beautiful pieces of art I had ever seen.  I spent hours looking at that painting, and only saw it with more awe.  Later, while on our class trip to Washington D.C., I saw it in the lobby of the National Museum of the American Indian.  I stopped and stared, jaw dropped, seeing it with new amazement.  I felt visceral connection to that piece, but also the separation through the authoritative respect that it commanded.

Walking into Kehinde Wiley’s exhibit entitled A New Republic was as if I had experienced all of these pieces of art from my past at once.  Walking in, I was awed by the magnitude and grandeur of the each painting.  Each was distinctly ornate and proud.  The juxtaposition between the contemporary people of color, mostly black Americans, and backgrounds reminiscent of traditional European portraits were complex and intriguing.  Then there was the confusion that comes from being outside of your culture.  Because of the heavy focus on contemporary black culture, I was outside of my norm, and outside of my comfort zone.  There was much that I did not understand, simply because it came from a culture that I am not fluent in.  But even though I am an outsider to this culture, seeing A New Republic at the VMFA allowed me to look through a window and catch a glimpse of Kehinde Wiley’s perspective.  I could feel the pride that exuded through every painting, sculpture, and stained glass.  I saw the intimacy of everyday lives that shined through the quirks and personalities of his subjects.  This is what art is.  Art does not necessitate understanding; it is an experience and a window into the life of another.  I am grateful for the opportunity to see things differently.


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Giving Thanks

-Patrick Keyser

As my time with Grace-on-the-Hill comes to an end, I don’t think I quite have the words to capture how I feel. How can I adequately express how I feel at the end of this time that has had such a profound impact on my life? I have grown, failed, and been challenged in ways that I could not have anticipated when I first began this program almost 24 months ago. As my time here comes to a close, the only words I can seem to find to say are “thank you.” There are too many people to thank and too many experiences to name, but I can at least give it a try and trust that what emerges will be a sufficient sign of my gratitude for all that has been in these past two years.

I give thanks for:

  • The opportunity to become part of this beloved St. Andrew’s community, and for the ways that you all have welcomed me into your lives and your own spiritual journeys
  • EfM and all the incredible people I shared my journey with
  • My internship experience at St. Andrew’s- for experience in everything from office administration to pastoral care
  • Space to grow, question, try new things, and fail (and learn that it’s okay!)
  • Loving members of the GOTH community and for the opportunity to share our lives; for meals shared and time spent in prayer; for laughter, tears, and everything in between
  • My mentor Howard and all the wisdom he has shared with me
  • Abbott’s supervision, and for the countless things she has taught me about parish ministry
  • Leading chapel at St. Andrew’s School this year
  • Time for retreat and rest, and for the opportunity to travel twice to SSJE to experience a taste of monastic life
  • The opportunity to lead the Wednesday literacy class using the Bible, and for Kay McCall and her incredible support and wisdom in making this program possible
  • Opportunities to learn how to do liturgy well, and for the opportunity to gain extensive liturgical experience
  • Being a part of the St. Andrew’s softball team

This list feels woefully inadequate, but my hope is that it is but a small sign of the deep gratitude I have for all the experiences and all the amazing people who have made these two years so rich and life-changing. Above all, thanks be to God who led me exactly where I needed to be and gifted me with these two years.

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