Saint Paul's Episcopal Church


Thomas and A Street - Altus, Oklahoma

Priest's Reflections

Dear Parish Family,

The last several months we have experienced have indeed been anything but "the usual" spring and early summer we had grown accustomed to! School was dismissed in late March due to the COVID virus, parents became home teachers as classes went virtual, grocery shopping became an adventure as common items were unavailable, and we were advised to "shelter in place" to help stop the spread of the virus. As health care specialists and scientists try to figure out this new virus our common mantra became: "Wash your hands, social distance, wear your mask and be a good neighbor." Churches were closed for public worship and church leaders scrambled to find new ways to do church and worship. We discovered that modern technology made it possible to stream church services, even with rather limited resources, to our own congregations as well as others. The challenges have been great and I think we have all learned some really important things.

First we learned that we are all in this together. We reached out to one another to help in any way that we might: delivering groceries to those who couldn't get out, calling to "check" on one another, coming up with ideas as how we could provide virtual services to church members, and how we could simply support one another. And with God's help we were able to meet the challenges before us.

On June14th things improved when we were able to come together physically to worship while following a set of very specific guidelines. So, we are making progress but we have not yet finished this strange journey. The challenge of the COVID pandemic is still with us, in fact, it looks as if it might be mounting a resurgence.

But WE ARE STILL HERE as a loving faith community to meet any challenge the virus may present to us in the future.

As I think of the days ahead I was reminded of one of my favorite stories, a story by Claude Pepper. I find it both relevant and helpful to our present challenges. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Claude Pepper (1900-1989) was a crusty politician who served both as Senator and U.S. Representative from the state of Florida. One of his most memorable quotes is: "Life is like riding a bicycle. You don't fall off unless you stop pedaling." As a man of deep faith he once described his life long journey of faith in this most delightful way.

"At first I saw God as an observer, like my judge, keeping track of things I did wrong. This way, God would know whether I merited heaven or hell when I died. He was always out there, sort of like the President. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I didn't really know him at all.
But later on, when I recognized my higher power better, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride, on a tandem bike, and I noticed God was in the back helping me pedal.
I don't know when it was that He suggested we change places, but life has not been the same since…life with my higher power, that is, making my life much more exciting.
When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring but predictable. It was always the shortest distance between two points.

But when He took the lead, He knew delightful shortcuts, up mountains, and through rocky places and at breakneck speeds; it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He kept saying, "Pedal, pedal!"

I worried and became anxious, asking, "Where are you taking me?" He just laughed and didn't answer, and I found myself starting to trust. I soon forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure, and when I'd say, "I'm scared." He'd lean back and touch my hand.
He took me to people with gifts that I needed; gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey. Our journey, that is, God's and mine.
And we were off again. He said, "Give the gifts away, they're extra baggage, too much weight." So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him at first, in control of my life. I thought He'd wreck it. But He knew bike secrets, knew how to make it bend to take sharp turns, jump to clear places filled with rocks, fly to shorten scary passages.

And I'm learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I'm beginning to enjoy the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, my higher power.
And when I'm sure I can't go on anymore, He just smiles and says, "Pedal…"

Blessings always…and keep on pedaling,









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