Wednesday, November 28, 2007


If you are tired of the commercialism of Christmas or want to make a statement with your gifts of your Christian commitment to justice and peace, here are some opportunities to give non-traditional gifts:

Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) has a catalog of gifts in a range of prices for purposes such as assuring clean water supply in a village in a developing country, providing for child nutrition, mosquito netting and anti-malaria medicine and much more. Certificates of your gift are provided in exchange for your donation. ERD also packages and sells fair trade “Bishop’s Blend” coffee and coffee gift baskets. The ERD website is You can also call Episcopal Relief and Development to order a catalogue at Phone: 800-334-7626, ext 5129

A similar way to make charitable giving fun is by giving to the Heifer Project. They use your donations to provide animals to alleviate hunger and help people become self-sufficient. You can give something as small as a hive of bees or as large as an ark and they give you attractive acknowledgement cards to give to people. Their website is or you can call for a catalogue: (800) 422-0474.

A local opportunity for “alternative Christmas shopping” is at Plow Sharing Crafts, a ministry of the Mennonite Church which works with disadvantaged crafts people around the world who are paid a fair wage for their work. (Plowsharing Crafts is part of Ten Thousand Villages). You can find them online at: Ten Thousand Villages is online at There are two locations in St Louis, one in Kirkwood at 151 W. Jefferson (314) 909-9401 and the original location in University City at 6271 Delmar (314) 863-3723.

Another fair trade option is MacroSun International. They have a location here in St. Louis at 1310 Washington Ave., 63103 (314) 421-6400, or visit their website at

Trinity Food Ministry is selling Christmas cards for $1.00 a card or if you make a donation in honor of someone, they will send an attractive card as an acknowledgement. For more information on that, call Trinity at 361 4655.

Dr. Mark Manary, a Washington University physician and a member of Gethsemane Lutheran Church, has started an organization called Project Peanut Butter, a ministry with undernourished children in Malawi. He uses a high nutrient food to stabilize starving children which uses peanut butter (made from locally grown peanuts, so the project also supports farming in Malawi) as a base. $25 will feed 2000 starving Malawian children. Donations may be sent to: Project Peanut Butter, 7435 Flora, St. Louis 63143. They also send an attractive thank you card if you make a donation in someone’s honor. You can find out more on their website

Magdalene is a two year residential program working with women in Nashville with a history of prostitution and drug addiction. As part of the rehabilitation of the women and as a financial support Magdalene began "Thistle Farms" a line of bath and body products. These are natural products that are as kind to the environment as they are to the body. We showcased these products at our Holiday Luncheon this year and samples for viewing in the parish hall. Please check out their website at .

And of course you can always buy fair trade coffee, tea, cocoa and chocolate here at St Mark’s or make a donation to St Mark’s or one of its ministries or funds like the organ fund or access fund, in honor of someone you love. We’ll be happy to send a letter to your friends or family telling that a donation has been made in their honor.

Friday, November 02, 2007

All Souls' Day

So today is November 2, All Souls' Day, a day when the church remembers those who have died. More and more we blur the line between All Saints' Day-- when we remember those particular heros of the faith who have been outstanding examples in one way or another or whose lives have shaped the Christian tradition-- and All Souls' Day. We blur that line because we know that only God knows what kind of hierarchy of saintliness there is among us, how much each life matters to the coming of God's kingdom. And we blur that line because we have people in our lives who have been examples of wisdom and courage and faith who will never be "officially" saints for the whole church but who have been holy examples for us. And we blur that line because we believe that God makes us holy by our baptism in to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and calls us all to holy lives.
One of the difficulties about keeping a church blog is that many of the really amazingly wonderful moments in ministry are about being privileged to be part of the lives of other people -- I get to hear people's stories, to journey with people as they seek new direction in their lives, as they search for the sacred, as they make commitments to service in the world, as they face disappointment and setbacks, as they struggle with disease and approach death. But mostly, this is material that is not appropriate for a blog. I know there are people who blog about the most intimate details of their relationships but I don't think that a priest can write that kind of stuff about parishioners. But I thought I would post the homily I preached at a memorial service on October 19th on my moribund sermon blog. You can also listen to an old sermon there. Maybe more will appear to join it soon... Maybe not. Here is a quotation from Frederick Beuchner which a friend sent me yesterday

On All Saints Day, it is not just the saints of the church that we should remember in our prayers, but all the foolish ones and wise ones, the shy ones and overbearing ones, the broken ones and whole ones, the despots and tosspots and crackpots of our lives who, one way or another, have been our particular fathers and mothers and saints, and whom we loved without knowing we loved them and by whom we were helped to whatever little we may have, or ever hope to have, of some kind of seedy sainthood of our own."

- The Sacred Journey p.74