Pray for the City of Houston Today

Out of the darkness we cry to you, O God. Help us to trust your care for us, even in the midst of fear and anxiety and violence. Surround with your loving-kindness those who have been injured or traumatized by today’s shooting near West University Place, including the first responders and the troubled soul who caused this pain and was killed. Assure them and us that we do not walk alone though the valley of the shadow of death, but that the light of your divine love dispels our night; through Jesus Christ, who is the Morning Star. Amen.

Several of the victims are being treated at the Texas Medical Center across the street from Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church.

From the Houston Police Department:

The shelter in place that was issued earlier this morning for the area of Bissonnet & Weslayan due to the active shooter has been lifted. Please continue to avoid the area as there is still an active police investigation.

The suspect is dead on the scene. He injured a total of 9 people.

Additional updates will be posted as the information is confirmed.

Anyone with information about today’s shooting should please contact the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600.

From the Rector #22

Weekly thoughts from the Rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, where these words remind us that Jesus’ peace goes with us into the world.

Peace I Leave with You

Palmer’s 11:00 a.m. liturgy on Sundays uses the traditional, poetic language of Rite I. Adorning those beautiful words is the music of Healey Willan as we sing “Glory be to God on high . . .” and “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts . . .” Incense is always used at this service, a fragrant offering that, like our prayers, rises to the heavens on the Lord’s Day. And like the 9:00 a.m. liturgy on Sundays, part of the Great Thanksgiving is usually chanted, a sanctus bell is rung to draw attention to the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, and the adult choir sings the words of the psalm in addition to the anthems while bread and wine is brought to the Lord’s Table and at the beginning of the administration of Holy Communion. It is not only dramatic but also spiritual.

Today there are three noteworthy additions to that traditional liturgy. The first is the Summary of the Law, which is said near the beginning of the service and recalls the commandment of Jesus to love God and to love our neighbor.  The second is the restoration of what are known in the Anglican tradition as the Comfortable Words:

Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him.

Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.    Matthew 11:28

God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.    John 3:16

This is a true saying, and worthy of all to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.    1 Timothy 1:15

If anyone sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the perfect offering for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.    1 John 2:1-2

These are four sentences from the New Testament that are said after the priest has declared forgiven the sins of the people, including his or her own. For those who are familiar with Twitter, think of them as four tweets that put into just a few words the good news of the gospel of forgiveness and acceptance. Lastly, the prayer that will be used as our general confession is the shorter version that is allowed by the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer. So come and be renewed in your faith at 11:00 a.m.

— The Rev. Neil Alan Willard, Rector

From the Rector #21

Weekly thoughts from the Rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, where these words remind us that Jesus’ peace goes with us into the world.

Peace I Leave with You

If you walk into the pulpit in the church, you might notice a small brass plaque on top of the railing that is engraved with these words: “. . . we wish to see Jesus.” Those words were spoken to a disciple of Jesus by what the Gospel of John describes as “some Greeks” who had come to worship in Jerusalem. They may have been Jews from the diaspora. They may have been Gentiles, foreshadowing the fact that the message of Jesus would eventually reach the ends of the earth. At the end of the day, however, these Greeks represent you and me. We seek the presence of Jesus here.

The Rev. Liz Parker, our new Associate Rector, will be in that pulpit for the first time today. I’m grateful for her presence on our clergy team and for the wisdom that she brings to the table for all of the church staff. I’m also grateful that she counts herself among those who seek the face of Jesus. For us, this happens though the eyes of faith, as promised to us in the words of Jesus to Thomas at the end of John’s Gospel:

Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

So pray for the preacher this morning, who is on the same pilgrimage of faith as the rest of us. And come to the Rector’s Forum this morning at 10:15 a.m. in Room A102, when I’ll be interviewing our preacher about her journey with the God of surprises from Pennsylvania and New York City to Abilene, Amarillo, and Houston.

— The Rev. Neil Alan Willard, Rector

On the Road with the Rector #6

Added LaneLiving in the City of Houston provides us with incredible opportunities to participate in cultural and intellectual events. Throughout the year, I’ll invite you and your friends and neighbors to join me in some of these activities that might either strengthen or challenge us as Christians.

The next “On the Road with the Rector” event is a panel discussion entitled “Islam and Public Life: Addressing Stigmas and Stereotypes,” sponsored by the Religion and Public Life Program at Rice University with support from Rice University’s Boniuk Institute for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance. Pamela Prickett, a Religion and Public Life Program postdoctoral fellow, will moderate this conversation among three panelists: Imam Wazir Ali, director of the Mercy Community Center and resident Imam of the Houston Masjid of Al-Islam and Masjid Al-Qur’an; Craig Considine, lecturer in sociology at Rice University; and M. Hasna Maznavi, founder and president of the Women’s Mosque of America.

Click here to register for this free event on Thursday, September 15, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Room 100, Herring Hall, Rice University. Click here for a campus map that shows Herring Hall’s location near Fondren Library and Brockstein Pavilion.

From the Rector #20

Weekly thoughts from the Rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, where these words remind us that Jesus’ peace goes with us into the world.

Peace I Leave with You

Today is the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks against the homeland of the United States on September 11, 2001. On that morning, four passenger airliners were hijacked and turned into instruments of death, killing nearly 3,000 people and causing the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.

There are two community events that are opportunities to reflect more closely on those terrible and frightening memories today as we commemorate those who were murdered and those who lost their lives as first responders while rescuing others.

The first event is an annual 9/11 memorial concert at Rice University. This year’s “Concert of Hope” will be held this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. in Stude Concert Hall, which is located inside the building that houses the Shepherd School of Music (near the Turrell skyspace). The Rice Chorale and Houston Masterworks Chorus directed by Thomas Jaber will be offering a performance of the Requiem by Gabriel Fauré.

The second gathering is an “Interfaith Service of Prayer, Readings, and Song” this evening at 6:00 p.m. at Christ the King Lutheran Church, which is located at 2353 Rice Boulevard. Representative leaders and faith community members of the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist traditions will participate in this event as our community considers the historic global changes since 9/11 and renews our dedication as a people committed to the healing of both our nation and the world.

— The Rev. Neil Alan Willard, Rector

From the Rector #19

Weekly thoughts from the Rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, where these words remind us that Jesus’ peace goes with us into the world.

Peace I Leave with You

In the days leading up to this Labor Day weekend, I was perusing the website of the Theology of Work Project, which reflects on the high calling of our daily work. There I found a prayer that I’ve adapted for us to ponder on the eve of this holiday. Perhaps these words will become your own words in worship today and in leisure tomorrow:

Generous God, just as we love because you first loved us, we give because you first gave to us. Out of gratitude we bring gifts of money to be used for your kingdom work in our churches and in the city and its neighborhoods that surround them. With these gifts we also pledge to you our whole selves.

We give you our bodies as living temples; may we be the hands and feet of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We give you our minds; may our thoughts support the needs of others and reflect on your goodness. We give you our time; may our presence encourage others within and beyond these walls. We give you our relationships and our friendships; may our interactions be a light to the world. We give you our work; may we always strive to do our best and help those around us to do theirs. We give you our play; may our recreation be a reminder to us of the joy and wonder of childhood. We give you our hopes and our dreams; may our goals be directed to your mission.

Use these gifts, great God, through the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

— The Rev. Neil Alan Willard, Rector

From the Rector #18

Weekly thoughts from the Rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, where these words remind us that Jesus’ peace goes with us into the world.

Peace I Leave with You

This week Steven Patterson retires as Palmer’s Business Administrator after having worked for this congregation in more than one role for almost 16 years. Many of you have interacted with him about calendars and room set ups and, yes, even the temperature inside the church. I will greatly miss his unique sense of humor in the church office! Blessedly, it will continue to be present in the pews on Sundays.

Today we also bid farewell to Yuri McCoy, who has served over the last two years as Palmer’s Associate Organist. That’s been a part-time position. He will soon begin a full-time position just down the street as the organist at South Main Baptist Church. It’s a wonderful opportunity and a natural next professional step for him to take.

Gracious God, we thank you for the work and witness of your servant Steven, who has tended the activities and the buildings on this campus, and your servant Yuri, who has filled this church and adorned our liturgies with beautiful music to glorify your holy Name. They have each strengthened this community of faith and shared their gifts with us. Now bless and preserve them at this time of transition. Day by day, guide them and give them what is needed, friends to cheer their way, and a clear vision of that to which you are now calling them. By your Holy Spirit be present in their pilgrimage, that they may travel with the One who is the way, the truth, and the life, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

— The Rev. Neil Alan Willard, Rector

From the Rector #17

Weekly thoughts from the Rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, where these words remind us that Jesus’ peace goes with us into the world.

Peace I Leave with You

Today we welcome the Rev. Liz Parker as our new Associate Rector! We will pray for her new ministry with us, and I hope that you will greet her warmly when you meet her after worship. Look for her in the church office, beginning September 1.

Today is also Serve Sunday! At the end of our liturgies, we will be sent out as teams to serve the community that surrounds us. There will even be opportunities to serve right here on Palmer’s campus between the 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. services, including kid-friendly ones that families can do together. It’s an invitation to be the church in the world around us. After all, this place is not a destination in a life of faith but a starting point as we are sent out in the name of Christ.

Today we also return to our regular Sunday worship schedule with Holy Eucharist at 7:45, 9:00, and 11:00 a.m. in the church and 6:30 p.m. in St. Bede’s Chapel. While that evening service is organized by the Episcopal chaplain for the students and faculty of Rice University, it’s open to all of us and, in fact, recorded in our parish register. If you enjoyed the use of incense in worship over the summer, consider coming to the late morning service, where incense, like our prayers, rise in the liturgy year round. So choose a service to attend that best fits your schedule each week and join us!

— The Rev. Neil Alan Willard, Rector

Palmer’s Refreshed Cross & Palm Logo

Where did Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston get its name? What does that have to do with Palmer’s logo? Does Palmer have a feast day like most other Episcopal Churches? I recently answered those questions here. I also mentioned that there would soon be a refreshed version of the symbol for Palmer. So here it is:

unnamed

This next version is the same except with green lettering instead of gold:

unnamed-1

Finally, for most bulletins and stationary, here it is in classic black and white:

unnamed-2

From the Rector #16

Weekly thoughts from the Rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, where these words remind us that Jesus’ peace goes with us into the world.

Peace I Leave with You

This church, which was originally a chapel for students at Rice University, is named in memory of Edward Albert Palmer. He was only 25 years old when he lost his life while trying to save his sister Daphne from drowning. While he did not survive, she did. Later, as Daphne Palmer Neville, she gave the money for this holy space to be set aside for Christian worship. Their family name — Palmer — has also historically referred to someone who had returned from the Holy Land with a palm frond or leaf as a sign of having undertaken a pilgrimage. It’s a wonderful metaphor for our life.

That’s why the image that represents Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church is a cross with a palm frond. In the coming weeks, you will see a refreshed version of that powerful symbol on our written materials and a new church website that will be unveiled at the end of this month. Where it appears in color, you will also notice a shift from black and red to green and gold, which is, in fact, an earlier color scheme for printed materials about this church. I wish to thank Palmer’s own Ashley Tucker who worked with a friend to make the idea of a refreshed logo into a reality.

There will be many opportunities to reflect on that iconic symbol in the coming year, including a real pilgrimage to the Holy Land this fall with Palmer’s own Stuart Kensinger. More details about that will be forthcoming. But the exciting thing that I wish to share with you now is the fact that Palmer will finally have a proper feast day, a time of worship to celebrate our name and, in an intentional way, to reflect on who we are as the people of God. Our feast day will be Palm Sunday, as we, carrying our palm fronds and singing our hosannas, follow Jesus Christ and proclaim him as King of kings. “Let these branches be for us signs of his victory . . . Amen.”

— The Rev. Neil Alan Willard, Rector