St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Fernandina Beach, Florida
“Give and it will be given to you.” Luke 6:38
ST. PETER'S MISSION STATEMENT
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church seeks to be a warm, welcoming community of people called to know, love, worship, and serve Jesus Christ and His people. We believe that Christian life is a journey. We invite God’s people to journey with us.
One of the hardest parts about having a church as large and as varied as ours, is that many people do not know what the other people in the church are doing. These "other things" are often exciting and inspiring ministries that show our dedication to the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through word and works. We as human beings tend to see what is right in front of us but not all that is going on around us.
In the pages that follow our team of writers, photographers, and editors have sought to open up for our Church some of these ministries. We are working to publish one of these magazines a year and each year will have a different theme. This first issue we have sought to highlight the many outreach ministries of our Church. This is not a report or series of announcements. It is not a tool to ask you to sign up for something. These are the stories of our people, told through the eyes and ears of fellow parishioners. May they inspire you to deepen your commitment to serving the least of these in our world.
Blessing and Peace,
Dear People of St. Peter's
Painting by Bill Maurer
NOTE FROM THE RECTOR
2 From Slavery to Bishop
4 Rising Against Hunger
6 The Gospel Through Razor Wire
8 Caribbean Missions "Raise the Roof"
10 A Miracle in Ethiopia
12 Youth Grow in God Through Service
15 A Dream of Accessibility in Two Parks
17 Parish Milestones
From Slavery to Bishop
by Rob Hicks
The history of St. Peter’s spans nearly sixteen decades. In so many years, it stands to reason that the church has seen its share of remarkable people. Indeed, some of these historical figures have made significant contributions to our global community while at the same time, establishing the traditions St. Peter’s holds so dear. An example of this is seen in the works of Reverend Owen Thackera and Henry Beard Delany.
Delany was born to slave parents in nearby St. Mary’s, Georgia in 1858. Following Emancipation, the family moved to Fernandina where his father worked in carpentry and masonry. The family quickly became prominent in the local community, and Henry’s father, Thomas, was the first black official elected in Nassau County. He held the office of Voter Registrar. Henry learned his father’s skills in construction but also was more formally educated in a school operated in conjunction with St. Peter’s for the children of freed slaves. At this time, Owen P. Thackera served as Reverend for St. Peter's. Thackera was actually the third rector called to serve the newly formed church in the late 1850s, but he was the first who held any real tenure.
The first two rectors lasted just a few months each. Thackera served St. Peter’s for 28 years and remains our longest serving Reverend. He came to Fernandina from St. Augustine in part to answer a call from Episcopal Church leadership that priests take the opportunity to serve more rural areas where they might minister to a more diverse population including blacks and Indians. Records from the goings on at the grade school that Delany attended are scant, but we know that at some point he and Thackera formed a bond. Delany recorded the significance Thackera had on his life in his later writings:
I selected the mason's trade, and was apprenticed for seven years. During this time I found a special friend in Rev. O. P. Thackara, D. D. who afterward proved my greatest benefactor. It was through his great kindness and constant interest in me that I finally decided to put aside the independence my trade then gave me, and, in 1881, to come to St. Augustine's School.
My trade, however, began advancement here, for by it I made myself of value to the school. I first became acquainted with the church, and the foundation was laid for my future work in the ministry through instruction from Dr. Thackara who, having formed a class for the instruction of colored ministers of different denominations of the town, was pleased to select, for reasons best known to himself, two young men to join this class, of whom I was one. In encouraging me to attend the school it was his hope that I would decide to enter the ministry.
Reverend Henry Beard Delany, Archdeacon of the Diocese of North Carolina, ''Notes On My Life." Augustinian, Vol. VIII, (January, 1990), 1-2.
Thackera’s hopes were realized. Delany entered the ministry, and is best known today as the first African-American elected Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States. No doubt, one can credit Thackara for setting him on that course. In 1881, Thackara arranged for Delany to leave Fernandina and attend St. Augustine’s School in Raleigh, North Carolina. The school, now St. Augustine’s University, had been established 14 years earlier by prominent North Carolina clergy to educate freed slaves in the ways of the Episcopal Church.
Delany graduated from St. Augustine’s in 1885 and immediately joined the school’s faculty. He taught his skills in carpentry, masonry, and architecture. In fact, he served as the school’s unofficial building supervisor and designed and oversaw construction of several buildings on campus. He was ordained a priest in 1892 while attending Raleigh's St. Ambrose Episcopal Church and served on the Episcopal Church’s national Commission for Work Among Colored People. In 1918, he was unanimously elected suffragan bishop for Negro Work at the North Carolina diocesan convention. He also worked with other bishops throughout the Carolinas in establishing separate black parishes under harsh Jim Crow laws in the area. Delany died in 1928 and is buried in Raleigh.
One footnote here is that Henry’s niece, Emma Beard Delany, was significant in her ministry as well. She was not associated with St. Peter’s, but was a Fernandina product. She was the first female African-American to go to Africa as a missionary and spent several years there establishing churches and schools.
While it is true Henry Delany spent his adult life in North Carolina and is most notable for his work there, we know he came back to Fernandina from time to time to visit family. Reverend Thackera died in August of 1887, just two years after Delany graduated from St. Augustine’s School and before his career and prominence grew so large in North Carolina. Thackera is buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery and Delany must have taken the time to pay his respects to his old friend and benefactor on one of his return trips home. After all, Delany chose to honor the Reverend when he named his own son Lemuel Thackera Delany.
Thackera established a legacy of outreach to the disadvantaged at St. Peter’s in Fernandina. That legacy was held in others, like Henry Beard Delany as he went on to provide his outreach to the newly freed blacks who sought to worship in North Carolina and even within his own extended family. That Outreach remains a cornerstone of St. Peter’s that was laid in its earliest days.
The Reverend Owen P. Thackara
Commemorative Plaque in St. Peter's Sanctuary
Rising Against Hunger
by Lena Watson
Imagine people of all ages, from those only toddling around to those slightly stooped, gathered together at tables in an air-conditioned room measuring out rice, dehydrated vegetables, soy, and nutrient packets into individual bags. Teams measure out the meals, teams weigh the meals, other teams heat-seal the bags, and other teams organize the sealed meals into boxes. Runners ranging from 4 years old to middle age move baskets of these meals from station to station and those with the strongest backs continue to replenish the packing teams’ supplies. What seemed a daunting task (10,000+ meals!) becomes an easy task with eager workers, music playing, and great organization.
Whether it’s in a church’s parish hall, a town’s rec center, or a local high school cafeteria, this scene is the result of people with means and compassion coming together to help those in need have something healthy to eat.
As the name suggests, Stop Hunger Now (recently rebranded as Rise Against Hunger), aims to end global hunger. It differs from other hunger aid efforts in that it is a meal packaging event organization. Local and grassroots organizations raise funds, invite Rise Against Hunger in, and host meal packaging events in their areas in which thousands of meals are packed and then shipped to impoverished areas most in need.
Rise Against Hunger operates on three different approaches: “mobilizing a global network of hunger champions, responding to crisis -- both natural and manmade -- and empowering grassroots communities by bolstering agricultural production and incomes through programs promoting improved agricultural methods, business skills, and market access.”
As explained on the website, www.riseagainsthunger.org this program is more than hunger relief, but also works on many levels to create sustainability in areas most impacted by poverty and crisis.
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church has been involved with Rise Against Hunger for the last several years. Father Stephen Mazingo began working with Stop Hunger Now in North Carolina in 2008, and spearheaded our first meal packaging event here three years ago. Under his leadership St. Peter’s has organized one local event each year. The number of meals and the number of volunteers have grown each consecutive year. This past spring St. Peter’s moved the event to the Fernandina Beach Recreation Center to host the biggest event thus far, packaging 20,000 meals, using 175 volunteers from the community. Father Stephen says, “I feel it is a wonderful way to have a hands-on impact on hunger and a blessing to be able to follow Christ’s command to feed the hungry.”
Last fall, global hunger awareness spread even to the local high schools. Following Hurricane Matthew, teachers and students came together wanting to do something for those most tragically impacted by the storm’s damage. Yulee High School and Fernandina Beach High School decided to raise funds as a competition between the schools culminating in a community meal packaging event with Rise Against Hunger. As with any healthy rivalry, the schools had fun working to see who could raise the most money for this cause and students learned the real winners were all those who got involved. Rise Against Hunger came to YHS in December 2016 for an event where students and teachers from both schools and friends from the community worked to package 10,000 meals. These meals were sent to those in need in Haiti to help in the relief efforts following Hurricane Matthew. Many teens had such a great time working the event they later chose to participate in the April 2017 Rise Against Hunger event at the Recreation Center.
Having participated in each of the St. Peter’s Rise Against Hunger events and helping organize the RAH event hosted at Yulee High School, I can attest to Father Stephen’s statement above. This organization provides opportunities for communities to use their time, talents, and treasure in a meaningful way to help others. If this isn’t what Christ meant when He commanded we feed the hungry, what is?
It costs roughly $3,200 per 10,000 meals. The fund raising and organization for next year’s event is on-going and St. Peter’s plans to ask more volunteers to help package 25,000-30,000 meals. This event will be held January 27, 2018, and will be open to the community.
Offerings towards this cause can be made to St. Peter’s anytime, designated Rise Against Hunger. Volunteers for the event will have opportunities to sign up closer to January.
CLERGY AND STAFF
The Rev. Stephen Mazingo
The Rev. Marcia King
The Rev. Brian Alberti
The Rev. Carolyn Murdoch
The Rev. Evelyn Payson
Jan P. Smith
Director of Music
Director of Youth
Director of Children's Christian Formation
The Gospel Through
by The Reverend Stephen Mazingo
I am not in control. This was the first thought I had as I checked my pockets one last time to make sure that my cell phone, wallet and anything else had been emptied and left in my car. I then presented my driver's license to a woman behind bullet-proof glass and waited my turn to walk through the metal detector and finally to be escorted through a thick metal door into a small room. The door slammed shut behind me, and after going through another metal door, and three chain-link fence gates surrounded by razor wire, I’m in prison.
The first time I went in, I remember thinking to myself “I’m not getting out of this place in a hurry if something goes wrong.” What I heard and remembered: Matthew 25:36 - “I was in prison and you visited me.”
The call to carry the Good News of Jesus Christ into the world is something given to every Christian. However, this particular call, to go into the prison and visit, is a truly difficult one. Yet every year, these men that I had come to know, leave their freedom behind and for three days they do nothing but talk to prisoners about Jesus. An ecumenical program, Kairos, brings together Christians from many denominations including Episcopal, Baptist, Lutheran and even Non-Denominational. In a world where we divide ourselves by what we disagree on, in Kairos we focus on the 95 percent we agree on and our common purpose is to change lives. Our mission is to follow the scripture from Jesus.
While clergy are present and give some talks and offer counseling, the real work is done by the Kairos team. The leader of this particular Kairos weekend was named Joe.
Something you have to do when participating in Kairos is to begin to test your own ability to believe in the forgiving Grace of God. It does not take long to be challenged, as our own leader for the weekend was once a prisoner himself. We talk about forgiveness in the church all the time and we say we believe that Jesus will forgive our sins, but how often are we faced with putting that into practice in such a powerful way? As a first time participant in Kairos, I often felt as though I just did whatever someone told me I needed to do next and tried not to mess it up. So on Saturday night when a member of the team came over to me to asked me to do something I wasn’t really that surprised, that was until he informed me what I would be doing.
"Okay, so next we are going to have the washing of hands service. The men have written down what they would like to be forgiven for and people they would like to forgive. They are going to put their hands in water and then walk over to you and you will pray with them and then wash their hands. Sound good?"
This was the entirety of the instructions I was given before this incredibly emotional service began, a mere five minutes later. In Kairos, you learn to rely on the Holy Spirit and wow, did the Spirit ever show up! As I washed these hands with water, I thought about all the things for which these men had used those hands, and all that hands had done to these men in the course of their lives. Their hands were dirty, as our hands are, and the water of the spirit washed them clean.
Clean -- to someone who has only three outfits to wear; to someone whose three outfits all look the same; and to someone who is given used underwear on day one of prison. Clean is a VERY powerful image.
Clean is what each of these men experienced. On the last day, as they stood up one by one and poured their hearts out about how God has changed their lives, it struck me that those metal doors, gates and razor wire, as strong as they may be, are incapable of keeping back or stopping the Holy Spirit.
The transformation of and for these men was incredible to witness. This transformation felt even more amazing because, in our own brokenness and in the cheap paper name tags, God made all of it beautiful, even in prison.
The Gospel Through
The mission of Kairos Prison Ministry is to share the transforming love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ to impact the hearts and lives of incarcerated men, women and youth, as well as their families,
to become loving and productive citizens of their communities.
"I was in prison and you visited me." Matthew 25:36
Participants and Team members for the Kairos weekend in June 2017 at Baker Correctional Institute
You have heard about the mission trips to the Caribbean that take place every two years, but you may not have heard how it began, who was the “mastermind”, and how it has evolved over the years. In searching for answers, I went to the people who were in it from the beginning -- Mary Thweatt, Jim Corbett, and Dan Roach.
The first “missionary” was Bill Thweatt, the late husband of Mary Thweatt. Mary recounts that Bill was inspired by his Baptist friends who took mission trips to Honduras; he even accompanied them on one of their trips. When he returned, he thought, "Why can't Episcopalians do that?" When he travelled to Dominica with a friend researching business, they tried to attend the Anglican church. It was closed from hurricane damage, and the Anglican services were being held at the Catholic church. After the service, Bill talked to the priest about his church and the prospects for repairing it, perhaps with the help of a group he could bring down from Florida. The priest told Bill to talk to Bishop Orland Lindsay of the Diocese of NE Caribbean and Aruba, to arrange any work trip. So Bill called Bishop Lindsay, and insisted he be pulled from a meeting to speak to him. The Bishop told Bill that, at that very moment, he had been meeting to decide if they should tear down the damaged church.
By the time Bill arranged for that first mission trip to Dominica, a Canadian group had replaced the missing roof. What they needed now was for the inside to be painted, and for electric lights to be installed.
Accompanying Bill on that first 1985 trip were Billy Gass, Chip Wood, Dick Hopper (deceased), and Jim Corbett. Paint and florescent lights accompanied Bill to Dominica a day ahead of the rest of the group, on a very small plane from Puerto Rico to Dominica---so small that the florescent lights had to be laid in the aisle of the plane to fit. The cases of paint were put in the unpressurized cargo space, and tops started popping off when they got to altitude. And the lights were 110V instead of the island's 220V. But the men didn't let these obstacles stand in their way. They made the lights work by using converters, and they bought more paint when in Dominica. This trip also began the legendary mission trip stories -- like ordering Mountain Chicken at a restaurant, only to find out later it was frogs.
In recounting the history of the mission trips, Jim Corbett noted that Fr. George Burns was the reason the trips continued. He advised the group to keep it going, to hold fund-raisers to pay for building supplies, and to stay in touch with the priest and diocesan bishop. And that’s exactly what they did. In trying to come up with a fundraiser, Bill thought of the many years he had attended the Partin Family oyster roasts (Mary is a Partin). He believed that St. Peter's could do the same thing by hosting an oyster roast and charging for tickets, with the first one held at Bill and Mary's house. The group raised about $500. That roast was followed by more lucrative oyster roasts and silent auctions, until it evolved into today's low country boil with John Cotner and his team standing watch over Camp Weed's “cauldron”.
Since that first trip, 89 different people have participated in at least one of the 16 trips to islands in the West Indies every other year. Jim Corbett has been on all 16, with Dan Roach a close second, with 15 under his belt, and 19 people have been on five or more trips. In the past, it wasn't just the men -- 18 ladies have braved the task too, some of whom went on multiple trips, including Mary Thweatt. Non-parishioners have numbered 19, and included friends and others from throughout the diocese. Over the years, St. Peter's has sent several father/son duos and even a grandfather and grandson duo. Many times the jobs they are asked to do are related to hurricane damage; more often than not, it has involved roof work. John Cotner -- as he does with so many projects -- offers his talent, expertise and presence to assess the needs to complete each mission build. He goes down early to make sure the group is prepared for the task at hand, and ready to complete the work to (almost) perfection. To outsiders, it's amazing the accomplishments that were performed in such a short time. It's also pretty amazing how many stories of significance come back. Of course, those stories include both humor and hard work.
As the years go by, the roof work has become harder for the “aging” workers. Some men in the group are having a few more aches and pains than they did before, but they seem determined to carry on the tradition started all those years ago by Bill Thweatt. They recruit younger men and continue to reach out to our Anglican brothers and sisters in the West Indies.
They also continue with the common denominator of prayer. Prayer has kept these trips going. It has sustained the workers, and it has put people in the right place at the right time. Prayer even provided generators during one of the early trips. God's hand has been in this endeavor from the beginning. While many churches that go on mission projects in Cuba, Honduras, or Central America, are usually working under the umbrella of a much larger organization, St. Peter's mission group is a totally “homegrown” effort -- completely organized, funded, and accomplished by our parishioners through prayer, planning, and extremely hard work. Support them whenever you can. Bill will be smiling when you do.
"Raise the Roof"
by Joanne Roach
Her story verges on the miraculous, but maybe she really is just Fernandina’s Oprah.
Brenda Commandeur says she had no clear vision, but she joined the Peace Corps in 1965, learned Amharic, finished Peace Corps boot camp and was sent alone to Bonga, Ethiopia where she met up with four other volunteers. In her house in Bonga, she lived with 15 boys because they lived too far from the school where she taught. While there, she fell in love with the people, their culture and of course Ethiopian coffee.
Afterwards, she married and had a family and taught for 40 years back in the States in Duval County. In 2003, she reconnected with Ethiopia by a chance meeting with Saba, a former Ethiopian student, and her family. Because of that meeting and an urge to go back, Brenda returned to Bonga, Ethiopia, only to find that the school buildings where she had taught in the Peace Corps were in great disrepair. The buildings were made of mud with mud floors. There were no windows and no toilets. The roofs could not hold back water. The Swedish government had come in and built two new buildings, but because the locals were not involved in the process, nobody cared because those buildings literally weren’t theirs.
During that trip, Brenda decided a way forward. This time, her vision was crystal clear. The work to restore and expand the school had to be a partnership. The people of Bonga had to be involved at every step. They had to provide money, labor, and, maybe most importantly, planning. Funds from the United States would be the last piece…a true partnership. No new buildings or restoration would be done until the people of Bonga had bought in. Her belief continues to be that long-lasting help has to come from a community itself. Local people have to take the lead. Since then, Brenda’s restoring-Bonga’s-school project has used St. Peter’s as a fiduciary conduit. Brenda insists that this Ethiopian project would not have happened without The Rt. Reverend George Young. She knew that for generous people to step up to help, they would need a non-profit, but the 501(c) 3 status came later. The Rt. Reverend George Young found a way to get started in the meantime.
With much help from the people of St. Peter’s, Brenda’s Peace Corps school which had been in total disrepair, now sports bathrooms, a library, a teacher planning building, two new classrooms, a computer lab, a restored auditorium, and a kindergarten. They now have ninth and tenth grades and with two more years, students can proceed to the university. Since 2005, St. Peter’s parishioners and others have given over $200,000. Money is no longer needed for buildings, but now St. Peter’s members and others are helping two Ethiopian university students and students from kindergarten to university. These students are chosen by the town council. They are orphaned and are extremely poor. Plus, they have to account for every penny. The orphans are helped with tuition, uniforms, books, school supplies and housing only if they attend school.
Here is how this story is a miracle or how Brenda Commandeur is Fernandina’s Oprah: Five parishioners from St. Peter’s contribute monthly. Plus St. Peter’s Outreach Committee often awards our Ethiopian Mission via its mini-grant process. In this partnership, Grazmach Paulos Secondary School has become OUR jewel in Ethiopia. The goal is to make it a college prep school. Government regulations require that the school have a physics lab and four classrooms with technology. Ninety to 120 orphans are helped by us each year. You too can be heroes for these children by joining other St. Peter’s parishioners in a monthly pledge or in a one-time gift. Make checks payable to St. Peter’s and include ETHIOPIAN MISSIONS on the memo line. You can also email Lee Watanabe at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a monthly donation. Every U.S. dollar goes a long way in Ethiopia.
A Miracle in Ethiopia
by Carolyn Phanstiel
St. Peter's Youth Ministry
Finding God One Project at a Time
by Patricia Davenport
Ah, summertime: no school, sleeping in, the beach beckoning, or perhaps doing nothing at all. St. Peter’s Episcopal Church has another idea for our youth -- an opportunity to participate in mission trips. The purpose of the mission forays is to train the youth for community service, encourage personal growth, and learn to love all kinds of people — wherever they find them. Two separate week-long trips, to two different locations, take place each summer. One trip is for middle school youth; and, the other is for high schoolers. St. Peter’s Youth Director, Tiffany LaMotte, works with YouthWorks — an organization that connects teenagers to God, each other, and communities — to develop these trips. YouthWorks has established relationships with various cities and towns, including locations chosen for St. Peter’s youth. Tiffany coordinates the mission trips, works with the youth and their parents to set rules, packing lists, travel, and expectations, and also travels with the teens on the trips. The mission trips are popular at St. Peter’s, and the teens are excited about participating. This summer, 18 middle school students participated, with 10 returning and eight new to the experience. The high schoolers also brought 18 also, the majority of whom had gone on previous trips. One St. Peter’s teen, David Beal, participated in mission trips while in middle school and high school. David’s first trip was to Raleigh, N.C. He was initially surprised by the contrast between the community served and the rest of the city. In Raleigh, the majority of the mission work involved daycare for the children, who were picked up each day at their homes. David said that although the communities and missions on other trips were varied, each community showed its appreciation for the youth’s work. He also noted that he learned a lot about himself from these trips, and was even more thankful for his home life, having realized that he and the other mission teens had been living in a bubble. This summer saw David’s return to mission trips, this time as a chaperone and leader. He watched as the teens became more open-minded and more willing to help others, and saw himself from years past in the middle schoolers.
The communities in which the youth served in 2017 are Bayou la Batre, and the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Bayou la Batre is a fishing village along the Mississippi Sound on the Gulf of Mexico in south Alabama, with a population of less than 3,000. The Eastern Shore of Virginia, on the other hand, is a 70-mile-long peninsula separated from the rest of Virginia by the Chesapeake Bay. The terrain is flat and the rural area consists of cotton, soybean, vegetable and truck farming. The community the teens served is mostly Hispanic migrant farm workers and their families.
Service opportunities in both communities were varied.
Work projects included painting, cleaning, yard work and other simple work projects. The teens also served at “kids club”, engaging the children with crafts, games, sports and reading. Other service included: a food pantry, clothing closet and visiting people in nursing homes. The teens had the opportunity to participate at each of the service sites during the week. In addition to their service, the youth attended local churches.
Mission Trip Blog Highlights
To inform those back home in Fernandina Beach, a trip blog was emailed daily. The blog allowed the students to express their experiences by answering three questions: Where did you serve today? What was the most exciting thing you did today? Where did you see God today?
The following highlights of the mission trip blogs reveal that the teens lived the goals of love, growth and service. From the middle school students at Bayou la Batre:
Declan served at kids club and the most exciting thing to him was hanging out with the kids. He saw God in the kids that had less than him, but were still happy.
Maddox B served at Dixon Middle School and helped paint the walls in the nurse’s office. He saw God in Jake when he helped Maddox paint the high parts of the walls.
JB served at the kids club and thought the most exciting thing was playing basketball with kids who didn’t care what other people looked like or how they talked; they were just there to have fun with each other.
Cole served cleaning at the elementary school, and saw God in the two janitors who were very nice and grateful they had help with their work.
Livi served at a nursing home and the exciting thing for her was how the residents were excited to see them when they walked in. Livi saw God as she painted the nails of one resident and they talked together.
Laney served at a convalescence home and saw God in a 17-year-old boy named Allan who had been bedridden his whole life, but seemed so happy to be alive and to be around other people.
Emmie served painting a house in the community and that was the most exciting thing she did that day. While they worked, they played music and sang.
Clay was excited to go to a different church and play basketball with the kids. He saw God in all the adult leaders because they gave everyone kids meals. Clay thought that was really cool.
From the high school students at the Eastern Shore of Virginia:
Wells’ most exciting thing was playing soccer at a community cookout and learning you do not have to speak the same language to make new friends. He saw God in the soccer game when, despite the differences, the entire community came together.
Chloe served at a church kids club with about 40 very happy children. She saw God in the children who never complained, had fun playing and were loving.
Addison served at an old church working with her group to restore it for a children’s day camp. She saw God in all the teamwork and how their hard work benefited the community.
Jenna served at a tutoring site to help children, raised in Spanish-speaking homes, be in an English-speaking environment. She helped them with reading comprehension, forming words and spelling. The tutoring in English helps the children from falling behind in school. Jenna saw God in Veronica, the founder and leader of the tutoring site, and how her program benefited the community.
Laura served an elderly woman, Ms. Fannie, by scraping paint off the porches of her house, repainting the porches, power-washing the house and cleaning the doors. Ms. Fannie cares for four of her grandchildren every day. Laura saw God in RJ, one of the grandsons, when he told her how good the porch looked, which made all the hard work worthwhile and reminded her why the teens were on the mission trip.
Emma Katherine served by painting at a school that is now a community center where local artists work and other festivities are held. Later, she and the mission teens went to the beach and she saw God in its beauty and in her friends.
Harris painted at the school, too. He saw God in all the people he worked with and made the work fun, even though he would not normally get to know them.
Nathan served at a nursing home and kids club. Spending time with the children was the most exciting thing for him that day. He saw God in a baby boy he held during dinner. Holding and watching the baby laugh brought joy to his heart and showed him God’s love through the baby’s gestures.
Zack was one of the St. Peter’s team working at the abandoned school painting the floor. He saw God in the foot washing ceremony that night. It reminded him of how amazing the youth group is, and how much he is loved by God, Tiffany, and all the St. Peter’s members.
These mission trips did more than provide a diversion for the teens’ summer break. The youth traveled to new places to work and engage with the community, and also learned to cope in an entirely different reality. The students met the challenges presented (as evidenced by the blog highlights), and returned home with a new, broader understanding and acceptance of the world, Tiffany, and all the St. Peter’s members.
A Dream for Accessibility in Two Parks
by Leigh Coulter Beal
Once you make the dream come true and achieve the goal...are you finished? If you’re Aaron Morgan, Trey Warren, and Cotner Associates' John Cotner and Benjamin Morrison, you’re DEFINITELY not finished.
“About 10 years ago, Aaron saw a story about an accessible playground,” Trey began, “and wanted to bring that same inclusiveness and safety to Fernandina. He found a group that had built a universally accessible playground in the Tampa area. He researched ideas, began to raise funds from friends, families, and the community at large.”
Over time, Aaron and Trey and the board of Freedom Playground (which later became 8 Flags Playscapes), realized that Fernandina Beach didn’t need the same size playground as Tampa. The board also thought it unlikely to secure sufficient funding from the city and other local sources. So the group scaled back, secured land, and went about asking (mostly) St. Peter’s parishioners to help. The team raised money through individual donations, charity walks, springtime beach concerts, and small grants. “We couldn’t have brought this playground to fruition without the people of St. Peter’s,” Trey and Aaron agreed. “We saw that our fundraising, even after a couple of years, added up to about 5 percent of the cash costs. That's when we scaled back the size and started looking for ways to get to 20 percent cash. We came up with a version of a capital campaign, and most of the folks we reached out to were
St. Peter’s parishioners. We held cottage meetings and small events, and called on our contacts within the church community. We raised 20 percent — and maybe more — in a few months. After that, we knew we could move forward and that’s when the next St. Peter’s saint came into the picture.”
The group approached John Cotner with, what Aaron and Trey said was a tiny bit of money and a big ask. John didn’t take the money, but he made good on the ask. The two said that John pulled in surveyors, builders, and landscapers -- key folks for building a playground -- and enabled the push to success.
The other push came from general contractor Clayton Buchanan, who gave the playground and its board hundreds of hours and even more contacts. The next set of saints, again from St. Peter's, showed themselves. Aaron, in making a presentation to Sunrise Rotary, was "taking pictures, shaking hands, and watching folks leave.” But after this picture, “two people came up to me. John Myers told me that his company would move earth, and fill dirt and the like, and Nick Gillette told me that he and Asa donate engineering. Both MTS and Gillette and Assoc. have made MAJOR donations to both projects. The St. Peter’s effect on 8 Flags Playscapes is amazing.”
“Of course, other folks stepped up too,” Aaron added. "In-kind donations of more than $50K and grants totaling more than $250,000 came from the NFL, Jaguars, Dana and Christopher Reeves Foundation, CSX, FIS, IPA Foundation, FPU, Texas Roadhouse, Heal Foundation, Jacksonville Community Foundation, Rayonier, et al."
Pirate Playground came to fruition in May 2014 when it opened, welcoming all children, even with developmental or physical disabilities. But, the 8 Flags Playscapes team didn’t sit still. Instead, they said “What else can we do for our community? What other differences can we make?” and this time, they had success on their side. The city committed $170,000 to building Egans Creek Park’s accessible dock and kayak launch. With the pro bono gift of time from Cotner Associates — specifically church member Benjamin Morrison — the group reached out for the $350,000 needed to complete the park.
“We didn’t need another city to inspire us this time,” Trey said. “We had Benjamin Morrison. John gave him the time to lead on the project, and he jumped in with both feet. He designed and estimated the park; found key cash donors of $5-10,000 and in-kind donations; coordinated contractors and subs; convinced FPU to donate and install $40,000 in lights; and DOT to build accessible parking access from Atlantic Avenue." Aaron continued, saying "Because of his work, Benjamin won the 2017 Elsie Harper Volunteer of the Year Award for the city. He did all of this while staying true to the mission of 8 Flags Playscapes. The Egans Creek Park is a model of accessibility and affordable fitness, ease of use and beauty for citizens and visitors. St. Peter’s parishioners and their contacts made it a reality. Some of the biggest are Myers Tractor Service, Rayonier Advanced Materials, and many youth and adults for work days. The community also donated time and talent: a Troop 89 Boy Scout designed and built his Eagle Scout project; a Trail Life Group installed a bat box; conservationists donated a tree and helped water trees until stabilized; and, local gardeners the beautified landscape. Overall, it was a true collaborative effort."
“Egans Creek, like Pirate Playground, wouldn’t have happened without St. Peter’s and our parishioners,” Aaron said. “Every time I look at it and its complete accessibility — the fitness trail, fit stations, dock, launch, Labyrinth — I know how fortunate I am to be a member of such a loving, giving church and local community.”
With all of the great stories Trey and Aaron tell about John, Benjamin, Johnny, Nick, Asa, Clayton, and many others, the only story that is hard to get out of them is any credit for themselves. Two enormous projects have benefited the community immeasurably with these two beautiful, accessible, parks. Through those years of meetings, fund-raising, and construction, they and their wives, Melissa and Inga, have kept working, raising six children, and still volunteering at church. St. Peter’s is indeed fortunate to have them in our community.
For information on 8 Flags Playscapes, how to donate, and companies and individuals who made the playgrounds possible, visit https://8flagsplayscapes.org/.
Grayson Carl Mathewson, Jr. February 10
Finn Jameson Grace July 21
Reid Daniel Roach August 16
CONFIRMATIONS, RECEPTIONS AND REAFFIRMATION OF BAPTISMAL VOWS
Declan Frederick Bell
Clayton Walton Buchanan, IV
Jennifer Smith Buchanan
Jess Patten Elliott
Annabella Sarah Evans
Maddox McCarron Gillette
Marjorie Hale Kilpatrick
Janet Linda Lynch
Beverly Dean Payne
Tristan Lee Peevy
Laurel Altee Pinckney
Virginia Katherine Rogers
Ethan Christopher Ross
Delaney Grace Sjuggerud
Hampton Daniel Tanner
Sullivan Marie Warren
Denice Christine Zitelli
Chloe Ann Lavin April 16
Grayson Carl Mathewson, Jr. May 21
Jasper James McMaster July 23
William Jacob Michaelis August 20
Anne-Marie M. Lemis and
Kyle C. Smith February 18
Lindsey C. McCall and
Douglas S. Gies May 20
Leonard Magnus McNutt January 31
Kennie McKown Day, II February 27
Shirley P. Hutchinson March 18
Mildred V. Mills March 18
Jesse MacDowell Sellers, Jr. April 6
Michael James Lovejoy April 29
Ronald Bernard Alvarez May 22
Nora Jeanette S. Sherwood June 10
Alan Frank Brodnick June 17
Christopher C. Hackney July 11
(through August 25)
St. Peter's Magazine Staff
The Rev. Stephen Mazingo
Jerry Torchia, Editor
Leigh Coulter Beal, Asst. Editor
Trey Warren, Photographer
Patty Lanier, Designer
Leigh Coulter Beal
ST. PETER'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
801 Atlantic Avenue
Fernandina Beach, FL 32034