Saint James 2020 Advent Calendar

Countless Gifts of Love

December 24

Fr. David, Theo & Cordelia

This year we give thanks for the gift of a home. The Christmas readings tell us that the Holy Family struggled to find shelter in Bethlehem. As we end 2020 we are more aware than ever of the daily struggles of many families in this country to maintain a home. As a family we have been blessed by living in the rectory these past 12 years. We rejoice that part of the Countless Gifts of Love Capital Campaign includes its renovation. A renewed rectory for our family is a sign of everyone at Saint James ministering together in the city of Lancaster. Merry Christmas!

December 23

Lisa Groff

The saving grace for me during this pandemic has been having Compline every night that I can turn to to calm myself and feel God‘s presence before sleep. I have been blessed by Fr. David introducing this to me back in March when the storm of this pandemic made me very uncertain and fearful.

Saint James has been a blessing with all the programs that have been available virtually. I feel very lucky to be in community with parishioners from afar but in reach every night.

December 22

Rich & Louise Konrath

During this Advent season, we feel blessed by connections with our Saint James community. The virtual Sunday services are uplifting and bring peace, and a walk through the festively decorated churchyard is always a delight.

Louise, “Personally, I am so grateful for the Saint James Mindful Yoga group which has been meeting on Zoom every week for these many months. Our yoga practice helps us stay healthy in mind, body, and spirit. We are sustained in these times by the small pleasures that greet us each day. Life is a gift!”

December 21

Kari & Drew Hermeling

Despite enduring a year of separation and anxiety, we rejoice in the healthy and safe arrival of our son, Oskar Dana, born on November 23. He reminds us of God’s faithfulness, and that out of darkness—even a pandemic—can come the light.

This Advent certainly feels melancholy coming at the end of a year without our families’ physical presence, especially through an entire pregnancy and birth. But our sorrow propels us evermore toward the Church, especially to its liturgical traditions that connect us to the past, reminding us of brighter days, and also to its fellowship and encouragement found in our friends and neighbors nearby.

December 20

The Rev. Shayna Watson

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve Saint James Episcopal Church and The Urban Well and the community of Lancaster. When I think about friends and family who have died or experienced tragedy in 2020, I am humbled, and consider each day a gift. I live for myself, but more importantly for God, the Church, and for those who are not here.

I am sustained during this Adventide by Saint James offering low-risk outdoor events every weekend. These exhibits are literally”ministry without words,” just lights, figurines, and gentle quietude. We are truly an Urban Well.

December 19

Deborah Fast & Menno Wiebe

We are grateful more than ever for the love and support of our family near and far, and for their health and safety in this time.

Our dear Saint James friends are a wonderful community of faith. Thank God for electronic communication and the occasional backyard visit to sustain these relationships during this time of isolation!


December 18

Lissa Olson

For sure, I have countless gifts of love in my life, but one which has especially uplifted and sustained me these past few years has been the strength, faithfulness and support I have received from my “sisters” in our Daughters of the King Chapter. Sharing times of sorrow and times of joy, praying together and individually on a regular basis has helped me develop spiritual practices and kept me growing.

Knowing and experiencing God, doing in my life what I cannot do myself, keeps me anchored in my faith.

December 17

Kristy & Gene Clark and Family

One major countless gift of love in our life over this season of time is the birth of our fourth son, Andrew John. He has completed our family and has made this pandemic timeframe have much purpose for our family! The slowed-down pace of life has been very welcome!

In this season of Advent it is a time of celebration for our family with the birth of our son, but more importantly the excitement of Jesus’s birth! It is a good reminder to us and to the boys to prepare for the true reason for the season. Despite all that is going on around us, keeping Christ in the center and all that Saint James offers allows us to prepare. Also, we can’t wait for the virtual Christmas pageant!

December 16

Patti & Andy Woolworth

We are so thankful that three of our parents have been alive for a combined 270 Thanksgivings! They are a blessing in our lives each day.

This Advent we feel challenged by Saint James’ leaders to find ways to build out God’s Kingdom.


December 15

Damon Myers & Efrem Magtagnob

It is hard to narrow to just one from all of the amazing gifts of love for which we are thankful every day, but our new baby Polly is one gift from God for which we are particularly thankful this year. She helped heal our wounded souls after the loss of our baby Hana last year, and she has taught us so much about resilience and gratefulness in a year when we sorely needed these lessons.

We put up our Christmas decorations two weeks before Thanksgiving because we wanted to hasten the excitement and feeling of renewal that Advent brings. And our Saint James family, especially our mission group friends and the great work we have done both in Puerto Rico and locally with Habitat, has provided a deep feeling of belonging and purpose.

December 14

George Murphy

God’s greatest gift of love to me will always be my wife, Inge, and my children and grandchildren whose love I experience every day.

Personal prayer and watching the livestreamed services from Saint James and sometimes services from the National Cathedral and Canterbury Cathedral help me prepare for Advent.


December 13

Mel & Patty Lucht

We dearly miss seeing others in person, but we are so grateful for technology. It has kept us connected to friends and family (including our new grandson), and to our community at Saint James. Virtual services help ground us, and we look forward to them weekly. Thank you to all of the staff.
Daily prayer and meditation also sustain us as does the beauty of nature we have enjoyed during hikes, walks, runs and rides in the country. It is hard not to be affected by these times of division and so we try to pay attention…and lean into love.

December 12

Ginjr Robinson

I am grateful for my faith, my family & friends and my health especially during the pandemic. I am more aware of the gifts we missed this year. Jack and I had a terribly quiet and tidy Thanksgiving missing a couch full of kids, grandkids, noise, sticky faces and hugs.

My faith sustains me. During this difficult time Saint James as kept me drawn to my faith by providing connections to church, Father David, Mother Shayna and our parishioners. I am grateful to begin many of my mornings with Zoom Contemplative Prayer and end each day with a peaceful Zoom Compline. How lucky I am to Zoom daily with so many fellow faithful friends, both new and old, at Saint James!

December 11

Fr. Glenn Miller

I’ve been asked to pick just one gift right now to reflect on, and so I happily choose the gift of my new position at Saint James. Throughout the last two decades of serving in institutional executive calls to ministry, it’s always been important for me to also have a place to exercise my priesthood, which is so much at the core of who I am. That’s included mostly interim assignments. Until now. The Spirit has clearly been at work, bringing me first to Lancaster at St. John’s in 2018, then into a beautiful friendship with Fr. David, and now to this extraordinary parish at the place I get to call my spiritual home. And it happened right in the midst of 2020 – the year we all think of as being about loss – this “wondrous thing” that God has done!

I am very grateful for this new gift in my life. I’m grateful for what I can bring to Saint James’ ministry, and I’m grateful too for the wonderful opportunities – born out of this year of adversity – for what I’m receiving – for the chance to be connected to Christ and to Christ’s body the church in this time and place.

December 10

Debbie & Jerry Keys

God has blessed our family with countless gifts of love. We are thankful for so much, but especially that our family is healthy and growing. We have gained a wonderful son-in-law, a precious grandson, and an amazing daughter-in-law. We give thanks for our anticipated second grandson in February 2021.

Ryan and Julianne grew up knowing the benefits of a strong church family! Saint James has been the bedrock of our family’s spiritual growth. The relationships we have developed with our incredible clergy, fellow volunteers, and Saint James friends have sustained us through 2020 and bring added joy to our home this Advent season.

December 9

John & Nancy LeVasseur

One of God’s greatest gifts of love in our lives is His grace embodied in our adorable Shih Tzu, Gracenote (center)! Every morning, Gracie greets us with unbounding joy and love. She reminds us that each new day is an adventure in trusting God for his continued grace and love in our lives.

We remain committed to our faith and to Saint James because of the sense of community we feel. We love the relationships we have formed in the short time we’ve been members, and we are grateful to be able to share our gifts with Saint James not only for our local community but for those whom Saint James reaches throughout the world.

December 8

Jeannie Keener

I have been blessed in many ways to rejoice this holiday season. While decorating my home this year I reflected on past years of wonderful family Christmas celebrations, with the hope of things being more normal next year.

The gifts of love that I am enjoying during this Covid crisis are connections with family and friends by phone, texts and Zoom. I am so grateful for my Saint James parish family. The lovely online worship services, evening Compline and my Daughters of the King sisters are so helpful in keeping my faith active and joyful.

December 7

Chuck and Missy Smith

Blessedly through God’s love and direction, we were led to Saint James at a time when our family was going through transition with our marriage and the blending of two families. Quickly, we realized our family had grown even larger as Saint James became an integral part of our lives. God and our Saint James family has steadfastly been there with us through great joy and great sorrow. It’s a bond that we cherish.


December 6

Pritchett Shaw Family

Our three children are one of God’s countless gifts of love in our life. Despite the sometimes hectic nature of raising three young boys, especially during a pandemic, they bring a tremendous amount of love, joy and excitement to our everyday lives. To watch them grow and learn together is a true blessing. We feel fortunate that we’ve been able to stay connected to Saint James, especially through the opportunities offered for daily prayer together as a virtual community.

We are excited for the return of Godly Play, St. Nicholas returning to Saint James, and the upcoming Christmas Pageant for the boys. We also find it important, especially during this time of Advent, to make time each day for reflection and prayer as a family in our home. It is as simple as lighting a candle, talking about what we are grateful for at the end of the day, saying the Lord’s Prayer together, or reading a short story about the life of a saint.

December 5

Bruce Nickles

My wife Becky has been a wonderful gift during this pandemic. Because I’m working from home and she is retired, she has to spend an inordinate amount of time with me (not an easy task!); yet she has remained cheerful, helpful and encouraging throughout it all.

While I deeply miss in person worship and the eucharist, I do enjoy the weekly online worship time to keep me connected.  But mostly, while bad news continues to pile up, I cling to a verse in Hebrews 6:19 – “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  And that hope is Jesus.

December 4

Jo Anne & Ron Plutnicki

We cherish God’s gift of our blended families and the joy of our grandchildren.

During the darkness of this pandemic, we treasure the Light of Christ to keep us moving forward on our spiritual journey.


December 3

Deb Dickinson & Marge Binner

God’s gift of love, keeps on giving through our children and grandchildren. This love sustains us during this time of isolation. We are blessed to have the technology to be in contact with them and to know they are well.

Our faith has never wavered even with the Covid confinement. We remain attached to Saint James via virtual services, small prayer sessions and when allowed, in person worship.


December 2

Karen King

Countless gifts of love: As imperfect as I am, I have friends and family who seem to enjoy listening, chatting, and running around w/me. I have a husband who loves me and I have a dog and two cats who love to cling to me (especially on cold evenings). I have my health. In this time of loss, I am grateful that I have my job here at Saint James.

At the beginning of the pandemic and being told everyone should stay home, it felt like the end; very eerie feeling. But I came to work because God’s word and love are still here and aren’t going away. I needed to be here to help in any way I could by answering the phone, by chatting w/anyone who called, by making face masks for anyone who needed them. I love the people at Saint James and I serve (even though I do earn a salary) because my heart is here. We are a beacon of light and hope in this small part of the world.

December 1

Sandra Pickering

God’s gifts of love are shown in many ways. I am blessed to be able to live in a safe and loving environment. I have friends and family who care about me and I care about them. I am also blessed with the means to share with others and have been given many opportunities to do so.

Through God’s gift of love in all of the many ways, my faith has been steadfast. I cannot explain how or why I am drawn to my faith–I just am. And Saint James has been a physical and spiritual example of opportunities to express God’s love and the means to express and strengthen my faith.