A Christmas in Okatie

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It was an incredible year for us Episcopalians in Okatie.  2013 was a real Christmas story.

It began with confusion, uncertainty, the same question Mary asked of the angel:  “How can this be?”  But in a bright light at sunrise on our first Easter gathering, saying Morning Prayer together on a dock on the Chechesee River, came the same blessed assurance Mary heard from the angel:  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”  And our journey began.

Our first steps found us still just like Mary, wandering with Joseph, with no place to stay.  We continued to worship on docks and were battered by storms until our own innkeepers, a Baptist pastor and his congregation, opened their door and invited us in.

No sooner was our birth announced than the shepherds of Christmas began to arrive, keeping watch over us as part of their flock.

First there was our new Bishop Charlie vonRosenberg, whose “Don’t look back; we’re all going forward,” message was the mantra we needed in those sorrowful days.  Then Archdeacon Callie Walpole’s, “Yes, you can! I’ll help!” enthusiasm made us believe that we could go on.  And Fathers Rick Lindsey and Mark Brinkman, stepping right in at our first dilemma, helping, guiding, always teaching.  And the other priests of our deanery and beyond, leading our worship, visiting our sick, meeting our needs.  And Chancellor Tom Tisdale, explaining things legal, interpreting canons, helping with by-laws.  And our role models in Port Royal, inspiring with their patience and persistence, guiding with what they’d learned.  And wonderful new Episcopal friends in our deanery, throughout our diocese, and beyond, boosting our spirits, cheering us on.  Shepherds, all!

And before long the three kings arrived, bearing gifts, traveling a far.  First there was Ginga Wilder, driving prayer books from Summerville when she heard we had none.  And our second king, Pinky, from just down the road.  When this Roman Catholic heard our first service would be at sunrise on Easter, he took out his tools and made us our cross.  And then Father George Moyser, bearing the gift of an altar book from the members of All Saints, Hilton Head, a message of unity when we’d felt so alone.

Baptists, a Catholic, Episcopalians everywhere—all part of Okatie’s first Christmas story.  And in that year’s holy Advent, we sang louder than ever: “Glory to God in the highest!”  For no one but God could have brought our little group of wounded souls through a year that began in such failure and heartbreak to the true blessings of Christmas:  Peace.  Hope.  Joy.  And, Love.

— Nancy Gault, The Episcopal Church in Okatie, Okatie, S.C.