Updated Sunday Schedule, In Person Worship Resumes

Our Sunday schedule for the fall, starting Sunday, September 13:

9:00 a.m. Outdoor, In Person Morning Prayer – Advance sign up required

10:00 a.m. Online Morning Prayer

11:00 a.m. Church School for Children with Godly Play Story (ages 3-grade 3)

11:30 a.m. Church School for Youth (grades 4 and up)


Protocols for Sunday Outdoor Services

  • Attendance will be capped at 30 to comply with outdoor square footage safety standards. Please sign up no more than every other week.
  • Bring your own portable lawn chair/blanket.
  • Wear your own mask the entire time and keep 6 feet between people of different households at all times, including before and after the service.
  • Check in with the greeter in front of the church building before going to the lawn.
  • The outdoor service will be cancelled if it rains. Enter your cell phone number to get a text on the Sign Up Genius.
  • The restrooms and buildings will not be open yet on Sunday mornings.
  • Anyone with the following symptoms within 24 hours of the service should not attend: fever at or over 100.2, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, and/ or new loss of taste or smell.

Weekly Updates are Paused

Given the weird times we are currently in, we have paused the weekly updates on our blog.

The best way to stay in touch with what is happening is to subscribe to our weekly email updates – CLICK HERE to do so. This includes the information on how to join our weekly Sunday services, as well as other online programs that St. Mary’s and others in our diocese are offering.

If you cannot join our services in real time, you can view recordings on our YouTube Channel by CLICKING HERE.

We are still planning to resume Sunday services at the church in September. More information will be posted as available.

Online Giving Now Available!

We thank all members and everyone else who has generously given to St. Mary’s. You can now do so online at the link below:

I’m writing to let you know you may now donate online to Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church in Newton Lower Falls. There are several different options. Payments may go towards a pledge if you pledge; you may use a credit card or your banking account; you may choose to give once or monthly. You may even choose to absorb the transactional costs. Your support of Saint Mary’s is very much appreciated, and we hope this new, contactless option makes it easier for you to give. Of course you are welcome to continue giving by check via the postal service.

Click here to make an online donation!

Faith cannot make every day easier all the time, nor does it stop bad things from happening. What faith can do is ground us within a larger narrative in order to remind us that we are not alone. Saint Mary’s has been here and active for over two hundred years: through the Civil War, through both World Wars, through the Great Depression, and much, much more. That Saint Mary’s has weathered difficult times in the past is due to the grace of God and the generosity of her parishioners. Thank you for being part of a faithful tradition and community.

Take good care.

Update Letter on Church Services from The Rector and Wardens

Dear People and Friends of Saint Mary’s,

It is difficult to believe that more than three months have passed since we were last together in person for worship. St. Mary’s adapted quickly to remain active: Sunday worship online; Christian formation for all ages; virtual fellowship through Zoom coffee hours, BINGO, trivia, Circles of Care, online meetups, and phone calls; significant contributions to local nonprofits that support vulnerable populations in Massachusetts. Learning to be the church and to do the work of the church in a new way has been a challenge.

Governor Charlie Baker announced that houses of worship are permitted to gather for public worship under strict guidelines of occupancy, social distancing, and CDC outlined cleaning procedures, starting May 18. However, each parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts is under the canonical authority of the Bishop of Massachusetts. In coordination with the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, our bishops and an advisory team released a fifteen-page regathering plan that may allow public worship as early as July 1, provided certain public health criteria, as well as church specific criteria, are met. This document, “A Journey By Stages”, provides four stages for regathering in person. These stages are keyed to public health indicators, rather than to specific timelines. Right now we are in “Stage One” of the guidelines. These stages will stretch on for weeks, months, and maybe even years, in order to ensure that our parishes do not become transmission epicenters like ones you’ve read about in the news.

Most of the Episcopal church population, by virtue of being older, or sustaining underlying conditions, falls into the “high-risk” category for COVID-19. To that end, the protocols are stringent. “Church” as you remember it pre-COVID does not return until “Stage Four,” when a vaccine is developed and widely available; that is probably more than a year away.

By way of illustration, in-person worship in “Stage Two” states the following:

• Higher risk individuals (over the age of 60 or with underlying medical conditions) encouraged to participate online, not in person
• New “reservation” and pew/sanctuary occupancy restrictions
• All attendees and officiants in masks
• New cleaning protocols pre- and post-service
• No congregational singing or choir
• No communion
• No hymnals, Bibles, or Books of Common Prayer in the pews
• No childcare or in-person children’s programming
• No coffee hour or post-service fellowship

In other words, many of the things that we consider to be vital to church, like the choir, congregational singing, communion, nursery, children’s programming, and coffee hour will have to be reimagined and reintroduced. “Stage Three” has modified communion, coffee-hour, and youth group (but no nursery care). There are logistical hurdles to the implementation of each and every stage which will require efforts of many, not a few.

Given the significant logistical challenges of Stage Two, listed above, paired with staff vacation needs, our goal is to open for the first in-person worship service in September. Launching our in-person regathering in September will allow St. Mary’s to learn from other area institutions as they also take steps to come back in-person. A later physical regathering is also aligned with what many communities of worship are doing in the Newton-Wellesley area.

Although Massachusetts has been able to flatten the COVID curve for the moment, the states that have reopened are now experiencing spikes, and the trajectory of this disease remains uncertain. Our job and work ahead is to make sure that the parish survives the regathering process – a process geared toward protecting our current membership. As one of us, Cécile, the senior warden, has heard and repeated: “God will forgive us if we come back together too late. We may not forgive ourselves if we come back together too early.”

Please know that your help, patience, and prayer are necessary. Our in-person regathering will be cautious, deliberate, and thoughtful; also exhausting, and perhaps maddening to some who yearn to be together, right now, the way we once were. However, we must acknowledge that there is a lot beyond our control. Giving one another the benefit of the doubt, being kind whenever possible, and attempting to maintain a sense of humor and community in ways small and large will help us along the way. Know that we too are looking forward to being able to be together again.

“O God our heavenly Father: Increase our reverence before the mystery of life; and give us new insight into your purposes for humanity, and new wisdom and determination in making provision for its future in accordance with your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen” (adapted from BCP 828).

Ann Bonner-Stewart, Rector
Nate Hylan, Junior Warden
Cécile Tucker, Senior Warden

National Day of Mourning and Lament, June 1, 2020

This day has been organized by more than 100 interfaith leaders and is meant “to mourn, lament, and honor the dead, acknowledge the unequal nature of our suffering, pray together for the healing of the nation, and recommit to the difficult work ahead.” It was organized before the events of this weekend and is even more needed and poignant now.

“O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day all who have died. We thank you for giving them to us, and to their family and friends, to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, console all who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

DIY Retreat Day 4

Scripture of the Day

Our scripture today is Luke 10:17-24, in which Jesus thanks God that wisdom has been revealed to the children. The wisdom of God is not reserved for the powerful. The wisdom of God is not reserved for clergy. The wisdom of God is offered to all who would hear these stories as children.

In hearing the stories of Jesus, we become like children. Indeed, we can be led by little children as we hear these stories in a new way. This is why in Church School we always ask questions like “What was your favorite part?” “Was there a part that was most important? “Is any part of the story about you?” With each answer offered by the children, we can hear the story afresh and discover something new.

We can pray this passage by saying, “Jesus, I need your wisdom.” Even these few words can help us know what we are to do. We can also thank God for this wisdom, saying simply “Thank you.” Just those two words are a powerful prayer we can pray when we feel we know which way to go.

Scavenger Hunt

Don’t forget to send in all of your pictures. We’d like to collect them by next Sunday, Pentecost.


Story of St. Julian

Breath Prayers

All Shall Be Well
This tune is a chant based on Julian of Norwich’s prayer “All shall be well.”

We hope you’ve had as much fun with this as we have! Don’t forget that you can still watch any of the videos you missed this week. Have a good week, and peace be with you!

In peace,

Andrew, Kirsten, and Ann

DIY Retreat Day 3

Welcome to the third day of our retreat. If you’d like to read this on the web and see the music, meditation, and stories that have been shared, click here!
Scripture of the Day
The passage for the day is Matthew 7:28-8:4, in which Jesus heals a man with leprosy. In one of our Godly Play stories, in which it says that Jesus’ work “was to come close to people, especially the people no one else wanted to come close to.” Jesus came close to people who were cast out of the community, left alone, and how he did so is a mystery. We can come close to people these days in different sorts of ways, maybe through the internet or a phone call. We can do the same work as Jesus by helping people feel loved.
Today, we can pray our scripture by saying, “Come close to me, Jesus, even when I feel alone.” We can pray this prayer any time, night or day.
I Wonder Why
You’ll notice that with Godly Play stories, we always ask questions at the end.
“I wonder, what your favorite part is?”
“I wonder, is there a most important part?
“I wonder, where are you in this story?”
“I wonder, is there any part we can leave out and still have all the story we need?”
Have you ever wondered why we wonder so much? Our wondering is part of how we engage with the stories, entering them with our imaginations. We can discover new things by wondering like this.
Wondering can be an important part of how anyone can engage with the stories in the Bible. Our imaginations can be a way we meet God. Whether you’re a kid, a youth, or an adult, you can wonder about these stories and discover new things. Try it out sometimes!
Scavenger Hunt
Don’t forget to take pictures for the scavenger hunt.
We hope your weekend is going well. Keep up with the scavenger hunt! It’ll be time to share your pictures before you know it!

DIY Retreat Day 2

Welcome to the second day of our retreat. If you’d like to read this on the web and see the music, meditation, and poetry that have been shared, click here!
Scripture of the Day
The scripture of the day is Matthew 7:22-27, where Jesus tells a story of a wise person who builds their house on a steady foundation. The wise person knows that for the house to be strong, the foundation needs to be strong too. To build without a solid foundation is dangerous because the storms will knock it down. To those who build on a solid foundation, Jesus gives the words of comfort, “I know you. You followed me, and you shared my love with people around you. No matter what storms arise, I know you and am with you.”
Like yesterday’s scripture, we can pray our scripture. We can pray, “Be with me through the storm.” No matter what arises, even a prayer as short as this can help us get through.
Godly Play stories
The Godly Play stories we share here are part of a series called “Knowing Jesus in a New Way.” After the sad events of Holy Week, the disciples discovered that they were coming to know Jesus in a new way. In today’s Godly Play story, the disciples hear Jesus saying, “Go and share my love with others.” Check it out here!
All-church Scavenger Hunt
Part of our retreat will be a scavenger hunt! Everyone is invited to participate, kids and adults alike. Over the next few days, take pictures of things on this list and share them with Andrew (details below). As you take pictures, make sure you social distance and wear your mask when you are around people. Send in all of the pictures this weekend (or at least by Pentecost, May 31). We’ll put the pictures together and share them!
  1. Something shiny
  2. A cool car
  3. A flower you really like
  4. A picture of St. Mary’s or another church building
  5. A reflection of your family in a mirror or water
  6. A bird
  7. Someone making a silly face
  8. A close picture of a leaf
Bonus: Picture of a Bible character. Maybe it’s of Mary or Moses or John the Baptist. How do you think they look? What do you think they would be doing?
How do you submit them? Email them to Andrew. You don’t have to do all of them. Just have some fun taking pictures for everyone to enjoy!
I’m excited to hear about all the fun you have on the scavenger hunt. In the meantime, we continue this journey together. Until tomorrow!
In peace,
Andrew, Kirsten, and Ann

DIY Retreat Day 1: “I am with you always”

Welcome to the St. Mary’s DIY retreat. This retreat is set up so that you can choose which parts you’d like to join. We will have daily prayer, Godly Play stories, meditations, and music. We hope that you find something you can take with you as you go.
Everything we share will be up on the website each day so that you can return to it when you need it. Today, you’ll see some music on there for you to enjoy. Find it all HERE.
Our scripture for the day is Matthew 28:16-20, a passage often called the Great Commission. In this scripture, Jesus offers the disciples, and us, words of comfort. He says, “I am with you always, even until the end of the age.” Jesus had died, but the disciples now discovered that they were coming to know Jesus in a new way. They thought they had lost him, but now he was with them again, just as he is with us.
As you go about your day, think about the scripture of the day. You can even turn it into a prayer whenever you would like. Just saying the words “Jesus be with me” can be a comfort when we feel alone. Try it out!
Starting off our retreat will be Vespers tonight at 7:00 p.m. on Zoom. (Sign up for email updates HERE is you wish to participate.)
It will be wonderful to take this journey with you over the next few days. Don’t forget, you can always return to these scriptures and prayers whenever you need them. Take care, and we hope to see you soon!
In peace,
Andrew, Kirsten, and Ann