In this season of Epiphany that begins for us on January 6, we celebrated the light of the star that guided the Gentile Wise Men to see the Young Jesus. And we celebrate other ways that God is manifest in this world. It is a season of light, even in the midst of one of our darkest winter months.

On December 14th, we celebrated two shining lights of St. Peter’s by-the-Sea: Mary Alice Bailey and Mary Frances Milsted. I recently discovered through casual conversation with Mary Frances that she has served on the St. Peter’s altar guild for 50 years this year. Mary Frances told me how Mary Alice brought her onto the altar guild when she first moved to St. Peter’s 50 years ago, which made me realize that Mary Alice has served on altar guild for over 50 years! The altar guild is the group that takes care of the holy things of the church. They set the altar carefully for every service. They wash and iron the altar linens. They make sure that the candles are filled with oil. The do their work quietly and behind the scenes. I determined that 50 years of work behind the scenes was more than enough to warrant our celebrating these two bright, shining lights of St. Peter’s by-the-Sea and to thank them for their extraordinary faithfulness and commitment to this place and her continued worship through the years.

In closing, I invite you to pray this prayer of thanksgiving for the service of these two faithful women. I give thanks for their faithfulness, their presence, and the many things they have patiently taught me.

Most gracious Father who has called your children to serve in the preparation of your Altar, so that it may be a suitable place for the offering of your Body and Blood, we give you thanks for sanctifying the lives of Mary Alice and Mary Frances and for consecrating their hands so that they may worthily handle those Sacred Gifts which are being offered to you. As they have handled holy things, we thank you for illuminating and blessing their lives, that they may continue to be shining lights of faithfulness in your honor in this place. In the name of him whose body and blood is our hope and our strength, Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.