December 23, 2015Volume 6, Number 17
In This Issue

This Sunday's Lections
First Sunday After Christmas
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Varner to Serve as Youth Missioner 
Bishop Benhase announces he is calling the Rev. Joshua Varner to serve as Diocesan Missioner for Youth while continuing part time as Vicar of St. Patrick's, Pooler. Bishop Benhase said, "Joshua brings the right balance of skills and experience that will assist the Diocesan Youth Programs in making disciples."

Varner will continue to serve as the Vicar of St. Patrick's, Pooler. Since his arrival in March of 2012, the congregation has tripled its attendance and giving. While working toward that goal, the mission is not at the point of being able to compensate a full-time priest. Working on Diocesan staff will offer enough flexibility so that the growth of St. Patrick's can continue under Varner's leadership. 

Varner grew up in Chapel Hill, NC, and is a lifelong Episcopalian. He attended Sewanee-The University of the South, majoring in religion and music, and then earned an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School and an M.Div. from Virginia Theological Seminary.

He served three years as Assistant to the Rector at St. Luke's in Durham, NC. Then he served Holy Trinity in Greensboro, NC, for seven years. In both parishes Joshua had particular responsibility for ministry with children, youth, and their families. In the Diocese of Georgia, Varner has served as a spiritual director to summer camp sessions and led youth mission trips both in the U.S. and to our Companion Diocese of the Dominican Republic.

He met his wife, Elizabeth at Sewanee. Elizabeth grew up at Trinity Episcopal Church in Statesboro, Georgia and was active in the youth programs of the Diocese of Georgia. 
Married for 15 years, they have two children, Benjamin (11), and Laura (8). 

Varner begins his work as Missioner for Youth on April 15, allowing for overlap with Rebekah Stewart, the Interim Missioner for Youth. Bishop Benhase said, "We are grateful to Rebekah for maintaining healthy, forward motion with our youth programs throughout the search process."

Questions about Youth Programs still go to Rebekah Stewart through April 15th: [email protected]
Diocesan Office Update    

Diocesan House will be closed December 23-26.
Bishop's Visitation 

St. Anne's, Tifton

Bishop Benhase and the clergy with those baptized, confirmed, and their sponsors. Below are two photos from the confirmations. More photos are online here: St. Anne's Bishop Visitation Album.
Advent Discussion Concludes with Prayer
As the Advent 1Book1Diocese conludes its study of Rowan William's Being Christian, the Rev. Helen White offers her reflections on Prayer at our website. Her reflection is part of our diocesan engagement with the book as each Sunday in Advent, we add a reflection on the section for the week to the 1book1diocese website. You can also take part by adding your comments on that reflection as well as your thoughts on the questions Williams poses at the end of the chapter. 

Georgia Public Radio
Two Georgia Dioceses Sponsor Radio Broadcast
In keeping with a long tradition, the Episcopal Dioceses of Atlanta and Georgia are sponsoring the Georgia Public Radio broadcast of Lesson and Carols from Kings College. The liturgy will once again be broadcast live:
Listen tomorrow, Christmas Eve, at 10 a.m.
on your local Georgia Public Radio station.
In 1918, the then-new dean of King's Chapel, 34-year-old Eric Milner-White, wanted to try something innovative and beyond the standard liturgy of the Church of England. So, he wove together scripture and song, called on readers of various ages from school and town, and made up this truly magical progression that carries us from prophecy to fulfillment, from Old Testament foretelling to a birthday celebration. The service was first broadcast in 1928 and, with the exception of 1930, has been broadcast annually, even during the Second World War, when the ancient glass (and also all heat) had been removed from the Chapel.
The 2015 booklet may be downloaded here:
"And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us at this time remember in his name the poor and the helpless, the cold, the hungry and the oppressed; the sick in body and in mind and them that mourn; the lonely and the unloved; the aged and the little children; all who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love." 
-Bidding Prayer, A Festival of Nine  
Lessons and Carols, King's College Cambridge
Oak Street Episcopal Mission
An Advent Full of Activity in Thomasville
The Oak Street Episcopal Mission picked up the pace of events as they worked toward Christmas with programs to benefit the neighborhood around Good Shepherd, Thomasville. Members of All Saints and Good Shepherd Churches in Thomasville provided a Christmas meal, music, and fellowship to the residents at the Scott Senior Center (pictured above).

Students in the after school program have been learning about Advent. They've made long leaf pine cones into ornaments that look like Christmas trees. Once completed, the kids took a portion of their pine cones and gave them to the volunteers who work with them as a thank you. The students took the remaining ornaments and sold them within the three Episcopal congregations in Thomasville. The students have decided that they're going to use the funds they raise to purchase playground equipment for Good Shepherd. The goal of this project was to teach them about their gift of giving at Christmas. The staff and volunteers report the students the amount they were able to raise overwhelmed the students who took pride in being able to make their own money. The fundraiser was very empowering for them. 

On Christmas day meals will be distributed to the twenty shut-ins identified in the Oak Street neighborhood, many of whom are elderly.

The Oak Street Mission's team recently had a board retreat led by the Very Rev. Denise Ronn. During the retreat, the Board saw how much they have grown and also discovered more fully how they are a part of the Diocese of Georgia, not just their own three parishes.

About the Oak Street Mission
The Oak Street Mission is a ministry of the three Episcopal churches in Thomasville-All Saints, Good Shepherd, and St. Thomas. A result of the Campaign from Congregational Development's emphasis on creating Signature Ministries, the mission was founded as the Episcopal Development Agency of Thomasville (EDAT). The Oak Street Mission continues to foster the development of the Oak Street Community surrounding Good Shepherd Church.
Advent Events Around the Diocese

St. Nicholas Party and More in Radium Springs
The St. Nicholas party at St. John and St. Mark's is an annual event held for the families in the Radium Springs neighborhood on the Saturday closest to St. Nicholas Day (December 6). Families are invited for cookies and hot chocolate. The Church provides an assortment of gifts and wrapping material, and the kids of the neighborhood families are invited to select gifts to wrap and give to their parents.

The congregation is also been partners with the Poor Clare Sisters at Neighbors in Need in Albany. They focused in Advent on a collection for the people they serve. Each Sunday of Advent was designated to a particular clothing item, particularly warm clothing items. They designated First Advent as sock Sunday, Second Advent as undies Sunday, Third Advent as hats, gloves, and scarves, and Fourth advent for jackets and blankets-taking seriously the words of John the Baptist, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none."

Critter Christmas in Martinez
Sixty persons attended the Critter Christmas which invited pets into the church for worship. Seventy percent of those attending did not have a church home. The event was sparked by church member Heather Schneller, who attended a parish in Fayetteville, Arkansas, that allowed pets each Sunday. At Holy Comforter, attendees were asked to bring dog toys that were donated to a local animal shelter. The event was attended by dozens of dog owners, including Georgie Blackburn and her three therapy dogs, Cheyanne, Reinee, and Sidney. Blackburn said, "It means the world to bring them places during the holiday season. It always amazes me how happy it makes people whne they get to pet a dog - especially for individuals who don't have family around this time of year."

Reaching out with Music on Isle of Hope
On Isle of Hope in Savannah, St. Thomas' clergy and parishioners reached out through its music ministry, the Tour of Homes, its Angel Tree, and music ministry. The Isle of Hope Christmas Tour of Homes gives money back into the Savannah Community to fund organizations helping women and children. The annual "Angel Tree" this year is dedicated to providing for some of the needs of the Community of St. Joseph, the Diocese of Georgia's new ministry for Homeless persons. The church's 8-member praise band, The Screaming Hamsters, visited several nursing homes to lead the residents in singing Christmas Carols. They play at the first Saturday service (a contemporary Holy Eucharist), the 10 am Sunday Eucharist, as well as for nursing homes, and by request at special events such as the Isle of Hope Baptist Church Revival, the IOH Christmas Tree Lighting, and the Community of St. Joseph Services. This December, the band made special visits to Riverview, Azalealand, and MarshHaven. Purses with Purpose for the battered women's shelter- "Safe Place" are a project of the Daughter's of the King. These are new or gently used ladies handbags filled with small personal hygiene/grooming products

Thinking Outside the Manger in Tifton
For the second year, parishioners in Tifton wrote an Advent email devotional, called Think Outside the Manger. Folks have been forwarding these creative words of comfort and wisdom far beyond the parish. Learn more at

This year's Angel Tree is dedicated to collecting gifts of clothing for nursing home residents. Once the gifts were collected, they were brought to the residents with Christmas carols and love. The church also packed Suitcases for Kids collecting gifts and necessities for under-served youth in the area.

Christmas Surprises in Valdosta
Christmas cheer went out with a regular food program of Christ Church, Valdosta. The congregation provides a sack lunch two Saturdays a month to 120 low income children in the community. The children received a special surprise on December 5. Each child received a new wrapped toy, donated by Christ Church parishioners.

A "Yard Free" in Savannah
On December 15th, the congregation hosted a Yard Free (a very affordable yard sale). Items like clothing, small appliances, dishes, linens, and more were either free or no more than a quarter. The congregation served coffee and donuts. Many guests of the Yard Free are also returning guests of the St. Michael's Food Pantry "I AM." So far this year, the St. Michael's Food Pantry has distributed over 1,976 bags of food to 5,502 people, some of whome live in tents only steps from the church's front door. Everyone at St. Michael and All Angels is involved in the hospitality ministries of the church in some way, from bringing food, to volunteering as a greeter, preparing and bagging food, book keeping, and praying for the guests of the food pantry.

The Savannah Children's Choir sings at Christ Church Savannah's Carols for a Cause.
Advent Around the Diocese 
O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Greening of the Church at Christ Church, Cordele.

Decorating of the Parish Hall tree at St. Albans, Augusta. 

At left, a Christmas Tree at St. John's, Savannah, decorated by their youth group and at right, children at St. Philip's, Hinesville, decorate a Christmas Tree.

Blessing of Toys at St. John's, Bainbridge. A representative of the Salvation Army attended the blessing and received the toys for local children.

The Christ Church Community Meals at Christ Church, Augusta held a special Christmas meal with Santa and his elves Keejon and Deacon Larry Lesion.
Minister of Music Sought in Brunswick
St. Athanasius' Episcopal Church, Brunswick has an immediate opening for an experienced organist and choir director for the position of Minister of Music.
The duties of the Minister of Music are:
  1. Play for all Sunday Services working under the direction of the Rector - Sunday Services are at 11:15 am.
  2. Work weekly with the choir - Thursdays at 5:30 pm.
  3. Meet monthly with the Rector to plan the music program
  4. Be available for occasional seasonal services
If you feel called to apply for the position or would like further details, please contact The Rev. Iané Sastre, Rector of Saint Athanasius' Episcopal Church by email [email protected] or by calling (912) 342-8461.
Prayers for Weekly Liturgies
Our one-year prayer cycle combines prayers for every congregation in the Diocese of Georgia with prayers for our ecumenical partners and for our Companion Diocese of The Dominican Republic. The 52 weekly prayers are available in one document: 

Prayers for December 20-26
In our diocesan cycle of prayer, we pray for Diocesan Youth Programs, Columba House Savannah, and our Episcopal Campus Ministries at Valdosta State and Georgia Southern Universities. We also pray for our ecumenical partners, especially those in Springfield-St. Paul's Lutheran Church and St. Boniface Catholic Church. In our companion diocese of the Dominican Republic, we pray for Jesus the Master (Jesús Maestro) in Tamboril

Prayers for December 27 - January 2
-In our diocesan prayer cycle, we pray for Honey Creek for the Order of St. Helena and all religious order in the Episcopal Church. We also pray for our ecumenical partners, especially the Catholic congregations of Our Lady of Guadelupe in Sandhill, San José in Twin Lakes, Holy Redeemer in McRae, and Holy Cross in Pembroke. In our companion diocese of the Dominican Republic, we pray for Diocese of the Dominican Republic Parochial Schools.
Christmas Joy

The cast of the Nativity for the Lessons and Carols liturgy at St. Andrew's and St. Cyprian's in Darien poses for a photo outside the church doors. An album of photos is online here: Lessons and Carols photos
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Diocesan Staff                             
The Episcopal Diocese of Georgia