Teacup Votives

In the Episcopal Church (and in others), we do not simply throw away what has been blessed. There’s more than one sermon I could preach on that topic, since one of the primary things we bless is people. Quite literally, however, we avoid throwing away candles, vestments and other objects that we have blessed for use in worship. Instead we “return them to the earth” by burning and/or burying them.

As a result, many Episcopal Churches have a cabinet or closet somewhere that is filled with candle stubs, from the skinny little hand-held tapers we use at Christmas and Easter to the larger candles that grace our altars. These are the remains of candles we have prayed over and around, again and again. We are reluctant to throw them out, and yet we never quite get around to finding something constructive to do with them.


Photo Courtesy of Randy OHC, Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, New York.

Larger still are the Paschal Candles we bless and light for the first time at Easter each year, keep lighting throughout Eastertide, and make a point of lighting on the occasion of baptisms throughout the church year. Because these candles are meant not only to start out large and impressive but also to remain that way through many burnings, they often have more than a foot or two of wax and wick left when the time comes around to start a new candle. These too get put in the closet or cabinet.

At Holy Trinity, we had our own candle stubs that we experimented with melting down into new altar candles. When word got around that we were trying this, other parishes started handing off boxes and bags of their own candle stubs.  Alas, our candle making skills were not quite up to the task of making altar-quality candles! Next we tried re-filling the glass, 7-day votive lanterns we keep on our Mary, Joseph and Therese altars (we use a plastic, 14-day votive for our presence lamp). Alas, a standard 7-day votive wick is not up to the sustained heat generated by the beeswax we were melting down and contained by the glass lanterns.

Still determined to keep this reclaimed wax within the circle of prayer for which it was first harvested, we started looking for a more suitable container. Noticing that teacups are attractive but often left behind when folks buy dishes from charitable resale shops (most of us drink our hot beverages from mugs these days), we decided to up our reclamation game and try these cups out as votive holders. the results delighted us:Bluerim

  • the wide, open tops of the teacups allowed enough heat to escape that our wicks were no longer getting burnt to a crisp.
  • teacups (and the punch cups we quickly added to the mix) come in a variety of sizes and styles, suitable to many different tastes.
  • teacups are made to hold hot liquids, so the hot wax does not crack the cup
  • teacups are made for stability, resulting in less danger of a knocked-over candle.

We now have a lovely 4-6 hour votive candle made almost entirely from reclaimed materials. At present, we are still using newly-purchased wicks, but we are starting to experiment with reusing at least some of the wicks reclaimed from those candle stubs we started with!

PlaidRunner1Our hope is to sell these teacup votives as fundraiser for our continued ministry on the West Side of South Bend. These are not professional-grade candles. They are made in our parish kitchen, often in the midst of parish meetings and neighborhood events that allow the slow melt-down of candle stubs to be supervised (in the sense that the church doesn’t burn down in the process!). The sharp of eye will detect flecks of evidence that this wax comes from candles that have been burnt before. We see these things as features rather than flaws, since they are signs of the ongoing life of our church. Our hope is that as you burn this candle, you would feel our past and present prayers surrounding you with the power of God’s love.

Marriage Policy for the Church of the Holy Trinity

On May 5, 2019, the vestry of the Church of the Holy Trinity voted unanimously to approve a formal Marriage Policy, in keeping with the canons of the Episcopal Church regarding marriage and the policy of our local diocese that such policies be adopted through a prayerful process of consensus building. That policy outlines the conditions under which any couple may be married in our parish church. Those conditions include important items such as mutual consent, legal eligibility and timely notice so as to allow time for premarital counseling. They do not include limitations regarding the genders or orientations of those seeking the sacrament of marriage.

In the event, little consensus-building was necessary, because the process was simply making explicit what has long been the will of the congregation. Lacking a particular occasion for enacting a policy, we had been attending to other issues in our parish life. When a diocesan survey raised the question of our standing on marriage equality, however, it was time to put the matter to a vote. We circulated a draft policy among vestry members, and held our meeting as a part of coffee hour so that other members of our worshipping community might voice their opinions as well.  As one of those present remarked, “I have to ask myself what Jesus would do, and I think He would have chosen to honor the love of two people for each other.”

2019 Clean Sweep


Morning Activity


It’s A Neighborhood Cleanup!
Saturday Morning, April 27, 2019 – 8:00 AM – 11:30 AM

  • Meet-up (Rain or Shine) At Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, 915 N. Olive Street 
  • Arrive at 8:00 AM – Light Refreshments Served
  • Volunteer – family, friends and neighbors.

Help us remove the trash scattered across our streets, yards and lots along Olive Street (from Lincoln Way to Washington St.) and along Fredrickson Street (from Olive Street to Bendix Drive – Dress comfortably – Provided (bags & gloves)


Afternoon Activity


It’s A Community Party – Work Hard, Play Hard. Let’s Celebrate!

Free Food. Fun. Games and more. (Rain or Shine)!
This year the newly formed, Bendix Park Neighborhood is partnering with Near West Side Neighborhood Organization for a Celebratory


Where: Tippecanoe Place
Location: 620 W Washington Street, SB. IN. Time:Sat. Afternoon, April 27th at 1:00 PM

Please feel free to contact the event organizers via text: Marilyn Gachaw – 1 574 261 8878 – Bill Merryfield – 1 213 483 3232

DONATE TO OUR “GO FUND ME” ON FACEBOOK gofundme.com/clean-sweep-two-neighborhoods-one-goal

Holy Week at Holy Trinity

Palm Sunday Solemn Procession with Palms

and Eucharist

April 14, 10am

(Service begins in the Parish hall)

Maundy Thursday

Foot Washing, Eucharist &

Stripping of the Altar

April 18, 6:30pm

Solemn Liturgies of Good Friday

April 19

12pm—Passion Readings, Sermon & Solemn Collects

1pm—Adoration of the Cross

2pm—Mass of the Pre-Sanctified

Holy Saturday

April 20

10am—Liturgy for Holy Saturday

10:30am – 3pm Parish Clean-Up Day

with Pot-Luck Lunch

Joint South Bend/Mishawaka Service

for the Great Vigil of Easter

8:30pm at St. Michael and All Angels

Easter Sunday

April 21


Do You Feel Safe Here?

Our church is in a tough neighborhood, and every once in awhile I get asked whether I am concerned for my safety at Holy Trinity. I usually respond with some combination of the following:

  1. We know our neighbors, and they know us. When I walk around the neighborhood during the day, I exchange greetings with people I know. I make a point of acknowledging people I don’t know with a nod and smile so that they know I mean them well (without suspecting that I want something from them!). No, I don’t feel unsafe.
  2. After dark, N. Olive is both well-traveled and brightly lighted, so I’m unlikely to be mugged on the way to the car that I park under a street light. I park there, by the way, because that’s the furthest point from either of the two main doors, and I want to leave the closer parking spaces open for those with less mobility. No, I don’t feel unsafe.
  3. Yes, we have had car mirrors knocked off by speeding cars and windows shot out by BB guns, same as folks in many different types of neighborhhod. Looks like there are reckless people everywhere. No, I don’t feel unsafe.

I should note at this point that I’m not quite as stupid as I look. I do keep the doors locked when I’m at the church alone. If I need to meet with one other individual, I arrange to do so in a public space or at the diocesan office where there will be other people around. I do not allow children into the building when I am the only adult present—even when this means having mass on the front sidewalk! I should note, however, that these are steps I would advise any parish priest to follow, as much for the safety of others as for the safety of the priest.

Last Thursday was unusual, though. It was Maundy Thursday, and earlier in the day I was making pastoral visits. One of the elderly gentlemen I was visiting asked me whether I was concerned for my personal safety at Holy Trinity. I responded as I have indicated above.

That night, as everyone else left after the service, I stayed around to set some things in order and then to pray at the Altar of Repose. As I was going around turning out the lights afterwards, I remembered the earlier conversation and smiled to myself. There I was, alone in the building late at night, and I did not feel unsafe.

I walked to my car, got in, and started to drive home. I needed to turn left onto Prast, but someone on Prast was pulled over too far into the middle of the street. I swung wide to get around the other car, misjudged the location of the curb, and blew out my tire. I sighed deeply, pulled over at the corner of Prast and Elmer, and pulled out my AAA card.

Are you in a safe location? The voice on the other end of my phone call asked me? They always ask that. I thought about it. I was in my in my car at a lighted street corner. I could walk back to the church if I needed to. I had just called my husband to let him know I would be late. He was coming to sit with me. “Yes, I’m in a safe location,” I replied.

When the roadside assistance guy arrived around 9:45pm to change my tire, he remarked, “you sure picked an uncomfortable spot to have a flat tire!” I noted that I was the priest of a church a block away, that I knew my neighbors, and that I did not feel unsafe. He just shrugged and said he had moved out of the neighborhood because “I know what goes down here.” I didn’t argue with him—it had been a long day.

Then, this morning, I was driving to the church to pick up something I needed. It was broad daylight, and I was driving down Lincoln Way West. The pavement was wet, and I’m still driving on my spare tire, so I was careful to drive the speed limit. The white guy in the late model SUV behind me did not appreciate that. He tailgated me for several blocks, and when I slowed to a stop at a yellow light rather than speed up to go through, he screeched to a stop behind me and was waving his hands at me. When I gestured to the light, he started shouting and kept waving his hands.

At that point I did something stupid. Wanting to shame him with the knowledge that it was a priest he was harassing, I got out of my car and went to his window. He rolled it down so he could shout in my face. I said to him, “I was driving the speed limit and stopping for a red light. Get the F— off my tail!” I then turned around and returned to my car. Probably not one of my more pastoral moments.

The light had turned green, so I started my car and continued down the street. The guy sped up close behind me, then swerved around me to pass me on the left—where there was no lane. I slowed down, to put some distance between us, then realized I should get his license plate number. I took out my phone to take a picture. I’m assuming he saw me, because when the traffic light at Olive turned red, he pulled over into a parking spot on the right side of the road so that I did not pull up behind him. I assumed we were done.

I pulled into the left turn lane to go to the church.  Suddenly he crossed into the left lane behind me. At this point, I did not feel safe. I started to weigh the options of parking where I normally park or of pulling up to the convenience store across from the church. At the church I might hope for a neighbor passing by. At the store, I am known to the Muslim owner and manager, and there are video cameras, so I figured I’d be safe if this guy decided to menace me. As it was, he did not follow me through the turn but instead swerved back into the main line of traffic. I was safe once more.

How ironic that the one time I felt unsafe in the neighborhood around Holy Trinity, the cause of my anxiety was a white guy who had followed me into the neighborhood from a “better” part of town! Thanks be to God for neighbors around the church upon whom I could rely in a moment of danger! And next, time, may God give me the wisdom to stay in my car and keep my mouth shut.

Reading Our Palms

At 10am on March 25 (Palm Sunday this year, and therefore not the Feast of the Annunciation), we will gather in the parish hall rather than in the church. After reading the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem, we will bless palm fronds and distribute them to the congregation. Singing “All glory, laud, and honor” and then reciting Psalm 118:19-29, we will process outside, down the sidewalk around the church and then into the church.

Once we have entered the church, however, our song of triumph quickly turns into a groan of remorse as we begin our week-long contemplation of Jesus’ betrayal at the hands of his friends and suffering at the hands of those who considered themselves defenders of the faith. If you are afraid to take a good hard look at yourself, Palm Sunday is a good day to stay home in bed, for even as we wave our palms, we know that our cries of “hosanna!” will soon turn to cries of “crucify him!” There’s a reason we burn our palms to make ashes for Ash Wednesday—we are only human, and to dust we will inevitably return.

I am particularly mindful of the mortality of our intentions this year as many of us make plans to attend rallies against gun violence on March 24th. These March(es) for our Lives in Washington DC, Indianapolis and South Bend are a response most recently to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14th that left 17 dead and 17 wounded. More broadly speaking, they are also a response to the stream of shootings that has plagued this country in recent decades, a response that demands an end to gun violence.

In our own neighborhood, gun violence has taken the lives of Tysiona Crawford, D’Angelo Jennings, Tyshawn Taylor, and  Daekwon Tobar. This is just to name the deaths of teenagers in the first months of 2018 in South Bend. Draw the circle wider, and the numbers climb. A 13 year-old was shot (but blessedly not killed) just a few blocks from us a couple of days ago. These are our children  To say that we who march are mindful of our own mortality and that of our children is a gross understatement.

Let us also be mindful, however, of our own inconstancy. If there is anything we learn from “reading” our palms throughout Holy Week, it’s that we humans are easily distracted from our firm intentions, by fear, by fatigue and even by boredom. We rally when it means a road trip with our friends on a Spring Day, but we sometimes pass on the chance to share our views with hostile family members and friends or to go to the polls on a rainy day. Or we may vote, but base our votes (at the polls and in the legislature) on other values that seem more important (or more efficacious) at the time.

The fact that not everyone who marches in March will vote in May and November might incline us towards cynicism and despair. Before we give up on humanity, however, let us remember the most important lesson of Holy Week—that God has embraced us in all of our inconstancy, taking on all the implications of our mortality. Knowing ourselves to have come within the reach of that saving embrace, let us act in hope for our common humanity.