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Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart…For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God… (2nd Corinthians 4: 1, 5-7)

I love these words from Paul empowering and encouraging us, proclaiming Christ’s light that God has planted in our hearts to shine brightly in the world with love, mercy and grace. Echoing Paul’s words, extraordinary things are happening here at The Falls Church Episcopal because it is God’s power working in and through us. So we do not lose heart! But, as Paul also reminds us, we have this treasure in clay jars…

This says two things to me: First of all, there is indeed a necessary vessel for God’s power working in and through us. God’s strong loving presence become incarnate in material things. In Christ Jesus, our lives and creation are vessels of God’s love and presence. The church and her ministries and worship, her leadership organization and functioning, even our sacred buildings and things like chalices, patens and offering plates are some of the important vessels God works through.  

But it’s easy to confuse the significance of the vessels, the clay jars, with the ultimate significance of what and how God works. So Paul’s message also tells me, yes, the vessel is important, but it is not permanent. The vessel changes because we do not put new wine into old wineskins. But let me say again, God and we need the vessels as the Incarnation of God in Christ Jesus shows, as creation shows.  

And so, in the church we acquire new clay jars at times in our life together. This weekend at the Falls Church Episcopal we have an opportunity to hear about the Rector Search Process and how it will bring new life, vision, and leadership. Our Canon to the Ordinary, The Rev. Dr. Mary Thorpe who facilitates transition ministries in the Diocese of Virginia, will be with us preaching and leading the Adult Forum this Sunday. Please join us to hear about new clay jars for the next chapter. This is a time when we affirm God’s extraordinary power and presence continues but we look to new vessels that will serve that new wine and living water. Commissioning our Search Committee begins the process.  

And then the next Sunday, January 26, we have another Sunday to focus on the clay jar, the vessels of new leadership that will emerge as the Holy Spirit leads us to elect new vestry members. At our Annual Parish Meeting we’ll celebrate the leadership of four faithful outgoing vestry members, but also look to God’s extraordinary power working in the continuing vestry and new vestry members to lead our mission forward. We’ll be pouring the new wine of leadership into new clay jars, new vessels.

This is also part of the work of the Interim Ministry I share with you. Metaphorically and literally, we’ll be utilizing some new vessels in our worship and ministries. We tried a few of these at Christmastide utilizing different vestments, adding and subtracting things to worship, and in doing things a bit differently. We’ll be doing some reorganizing and implementation of ministries. We’ll be hiring some new staff. But none of this detracts from God’s extraordinary power in Christ working in and through us at The Falls Church Episcopal. And so we do not lose heart!



I am a cradle Episcopalian who grew up in a congregation that expected you to passively accept certain things as "just the way it is." Janet joined me in my faith, being baptized on the same Sunday as our first child and, I firmly believe, has a stronger faith than I. She helped me explore my own faith in a more serious way. We have found in THIS Falls Church Episcopal a warm, welcoming community...not just a congregation but a Family...that has allowed up to deepen our understanding of Christ and to express our own ways of reaching to through the choir, Janet through altar flowers. The Church Family has supported us, both spiritually and physically, through several difficult medical issues and we have tried to do the same for other members of the Family. All of this has continued for over ten years and is really a central part of our lives. Giving a pledge is a very small way of saying Thank You...and our gratitude really IS "just the way it is."

-Keith and Janet Powell

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." (John 1:5 NRSV) The light changes so quickly this time of year. After the winter solstice, daily light increases quietly, persistently, noticeably. The quality of the light changes, too, softening from the hard, crystalline light of winter to the gentler, caressing light of spring. On the Feast of the Epiphany and in the weeks that follow, we celebrate light --  - the light of Christ that came into the world, - the light of a star that led magi to the Christ child, - the light of revelation that points to Christ in ordinary things. The light shines in the darkness, no matter how murky the night. It shines in the darkness, no matter how fearsome the grief or gloom. How do we learn to see the light, even in the darkest of physical or spiritual nights? We can begin with a simple Epiphany practice of noticing light. Each day between the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6 and Ash Wednesday on February 26, notice something about the ordinary presence of light -- - the way it increases both morning and evening, - the way it filters through trees, - the way it makes puddles sparkle. Look around and notice --

- when the last Christmas lights in your neighborhood disappear, - how the street lights in your community succeed or fail at illumining, - how colors look different on overcast days and sunny days. Take a moment every day simply to notice just one ordinary thing about the extraordinary gift of light. Because noticing physical light in the world and in your life is training you to see the light of Christ that shines in every darkness. Enjoy the light. The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff Bishop Suffragan and Ecclesiastical Authority Diocese of Virginia 


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