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News Category : Ascension Church-Northwoods

Across the divide: a conversation begins between north and south county churches

April 17, 2015

by Dan Handschy, rector of Advent Episcopal Church, Crestwood

In the immediate aftermath of the death of Mike Brown, I wanted to find some way of involving Advent in a conversation about race in St. Louis.  I called Marc Smith, the Vicar at Ascension (I think within a day or two of the shooting), and asked if our two congregations might find a way of doing something together, "once the dust had settled." [Ascension Church is in Northwoods, separated from Ferguson by two small North County municipalities.] We agreed to a series of meetings together during Lent of 2015.

In the event, we met for four Tuesday evenings this past March for a shared meal, and a conversation.  We used the book Mapping Decline to frame the conversation.  Crestwood is a near lily-white suburb (neither inner-ring, nor outer-ring), settled in the 50s and 60s as part of the flight from the city.  I hoped that people in my congregation could learn to see the systemic advantages that had made it possible for them to settle here, and the costs to the city.

About twelve to fifteen people from Advent (ASA ~75) drove up for the four sessions, and about eight to twelve people from Ascension (ASA ~50) attended each session.  The conversations were sometimes uncomfortable, but mostly very good and insightful.  More importantly for me, some of the conversations we have had back at Advent have been very transformative.  People are beginning to "get" white privilege.  Part of our frustration has been that we want to "fix" the problem -- a very white response.

Our last session, we celebrated Eucharist together, in which we offered our discomforts, our gifts, and our willingness to work together to God.  Everyone, from both congregations, who attended the meetings wants to continue the relationship somehow.  We are not yet sure what that will look like, but we will talk again after Easter to figure out what next.

On a recent Saturday, members of Advent and Ascension cooked and served the Peace Meal at St. John's Church in Tower Grove. We had too many people in the kitchen, but that's a good problem to have!

Many hands for Ferguson and North County

April 16, 2015

Do you have expertise with business in planning and operations? Do you have some time to volunteer?

Last fall, the diocese received a $40,000 grant from Episcopal Relief and Development and the Episcopal Church. A portion of the grant is to assist with the economic stabilization and recovery of North St. Louis County and City businesses following the violence in Ferguson and Dellwood.

These past three months, pastors of the four churches nearest Ferguson (Steve Lawler at St. Stephen's Ferguson; Michael Dunnington at All Saints in north city St. Louis; Renee Fenner at St. Barnabas' in Florissant; and Marc Smith at Ascension in Northwoods) have been working with not-for-profit civic, business, and educational organizations. Their goal was to identify specific "at risk" businesses that could benefit from individualized planning and consulting support, as well as from financial grants directed toward their needs.

They are now hoping to identify members of the diocese with business expertise who are willing to offer some volunteer time. Marc Smith said, "We anticipate that longer-term mentoring opportunities also may develop."

This handout describes the initiative and also the areas of business expertise needed. Please share it with members of your congregation. Should you have questions, please contact Marc Smith at (314) 452-3378.

St. Louis Christian Unity Ecumenical Prayer Service: 1/25

January 07, 2015

  • January 25, 2015, Sunday evening at 7:00 PM
  • St. Justin Martyr Parish (11910 Eddie & Park Road, Sunset Hills, MO 63126)

At least once a year, Christians are reminded of Jesus' prayer for his disciples that "they may be one so that the world may believe" (John 17:21). Hearts are touched and Christians come together to pray for their unity. Congregations and parishes all over the world exchange preachers or arrange special ecumenical celebrations and prayer services. The event that touches off this special experience is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

In the era of Christendom's demise, three signs of the Church's life

November 21, 2014

Bishop Wayne Smith
Convention Address and Sermon at the Eucharist
175th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri

November 21, 2014


I used to think that Christianity in North America, across the board, was slowly dying. There are after all only two bodies showing any growth at all, the Assemblies of God and the Mormons. Southern Baptists are shrinking; big box churches everywhere are shrinking; the Roman Catholic Church is shrinking; and yes, the Episcopal Church is shrinking. It looks like Christianity on our continent is slowly fading away.



November's Ordinands

November 08, 2014

In their own words, those to be ordained Deacons share a bit of their history, their calls to the diaconate, and what “Deacon” means. 

Kevin McGrane, Sr.
I live with my wife Catherine on a 10 acre homestead we call Windy Hill. We have three adult children, all married, and have 5 grandchildren, with #6 on the way.

My “Eureka!” moment came during a short “We Believe” course at my home parish Emmanuel Church in Webster Groves. I listened to a video of Bishop Smith’s convention sermon and realized that I was meant to go deeper, go outside, and be sent.

A deacon is called to a life of diakonia, kerygma, and koinonia: sacred servant-hood, proclaiming the Gospel, and creating community.

It all starts with servant-hood: preaching the Good News by our actions, which helps create community. As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words!”

$40,000 grant from Episcopal Relief and The Episcopal Church: background and where the money is committed

September 17, 2014


August 25, 2014. The fatal shooting of an apparently unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9 sparked the outrage of a community in which racial tensions have simmered for decades.  The underlying causes are many, complex and not unique to the St. Louis metropolitan area, including: “white flight” and thede factosegregation of residential housing, public schools and commerce; wide disparities in educational resources and academic performance among area school districts; significant unemployment within the black community, especially among young men; limited economic investment in predominantly black neighborhoods; distrust of local law enforcement and the judicial process; and inadequate access to appropriate health care and social services for the poor.

Although most of our nation’s urban centers are confronted with the same issues, the St. Louis region (the City of St. Louis and eight surrounding counties in Missouri and Illinois) is remarkable not for its historic inability to address them, but rather for the naïve and often self-serving belief that they do not exist.  Unlike other cities which experienced significant racial turmoil and violence during the 1960’s, St. Louis remained relatively calm.  Thus, several generations of residents have come to believe that we are a “post-racial community” or that whatever vestiges of racism remain are limited to individual behavior rather than institutionalized in our community’s social, political and economic fabric.

Ferguson Timeline: an Episcopal community responds

September 17, 2014

August 9 felt like the last weekend of summer, a sunny Saturday before many area schools began. News filtered out that afternoon of a shooting in an apartment complex in a north suburb of St. Louis. An apparently unarmed teenager, male, African-American, was shot dead and the shooter was a white police officer. There were reports that the shots that killed Michael Brown were fired as he held his hands up, reports of a scuffle at the police car, that the body of Mr. Brown lay in the street for over four hours during the subsequent investigation and that grieving parents and family were unable to cross police lines to identify him. All of this happening in the middle of the day in the amphitheater of the apartment grounds.

“I think I first learned of it that Saturday afternoon on Facebook, as many of us did,” said the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Mike Kinman. Traci Blackmon, Pastor of Christ the King UCC Church in Florissant and a leader in the St. Louis metropolitan clergy coalition, issued a call to area clergy. Blackmon also serves on the board of Magdalene House St. Louis, of which Kinman is board president. Both were at the prayer vigil organized for Sunday afternoon at the Ferguson Police Department.

Praying with our feet, serving with our hands

September 03, 2014

September message from the Rev. Marc Smith, vicar of Church of the Ascension in Northwoods, complete text online.

Saint Francis of Assisi encouraged the faithful of his 13th century religious community to, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.” For him, as well as us, the “Good News” of Christ is made known not only through proclamation, but also in faithful, humble service.

Thus, “Praying with Our Feet … Serving with Our Hands” became the mantra of St. Louis’ faith communities – Christian, Jewish and Muslim—as we worked to calm tensions in Ferguson following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, bring peace to streets that had experienced nights’ of violence and seek justice for his family, the police officer who shot him and the entire St. Louis region.

The tragedy in Ferguson also summoned all of us to care for those whose lives and businesses have been directly impacted by looting and violence – delivering food, sharing time with children unable to attend school, providing medical care and so much more. I’m especially grateful for the members of Ascension, St. Barnabas and St. Peter’s Episcopal Churches who delivered food to Ferguson residents and staffed the booth usually operated by St. Stephen’s at the weekly Ferguson Farmers’ Market on Saturday, August 23 to give them time to rest after the stress of the preceding weeks. Together, we raised almost $300 to support its food pantry.

In addition, we’re pleased to be part of the team working to secure funds from the national office of The Episcopal Church to assist with economic re-investment in North County, provide training and employment for young people and expand the ministry of several food pantries. [News of this grant scheduled to be released early next week.]

Much needs to be done in our community in the days, months and years ahead to address the many complex factors which contributed to the shooting of Michael Brown and response to it. We must and will be part of this ongoing conversation to help our region heal and move forward. But, most important, we’ll continue to be the church – praying with our feet and serving with our hands.

Walking the Way of the Cross

March 27, 2014

Fourth Station: Jesus meets his afflicted mother

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

The devotion known as the Way of the Cross, or Stations of the Cross, was first observed by pilgrims to Jerusalem who offered prayers at different locations in the city associated with Christ’s Passion. "Christians around the world have adapted this ancient practice to their location contexts, participating in Christ’s Passion by praying at various 'stations' commemorating Christ's journey to the cross," noted Deaconess Anne House director Jon Stratton.

Several diocesan parishes are including this devotion in their Lenten offerings. All Saints' Church prays the Stations of the Cross every Wednesday, at Noon, during Lent. Advent Church joins SAJE ministry partners St. Elizabeth of Hungary and St. Justin Martyr in hosting Stations of the Cross at 7 PM on the Fridays of Lent (schedule). St. Barnabas' Church prays the service on Lenten Fridays at 11:30 AM.

More churches, such as St. Michael and St. George (7 AM on April 18) and St. Stephen's (Noon on the 18th) will pray this devotion on Good Friday.

This year Deaconess Anne House is leading a Way of the Cross service through stations in the Old North St. Louis neighborhood. Diocesan members are invited. Ascension Church will join them.

For the Least of These: Medicaid expansion in Missouri, parish discussion guide

March 12, 2014

The debate over Medicaid expansion in the Missouri General Assembly will likely continue throughout this current legislative session, which ends on May 16.

The Reverend Dr. Marc D. Smith, vicar of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Northwoods, Missouri and retired president and chief executive officer (1998 – 2010) of the Missouri Hospital Association, has updated his background paper on Medicaid expansion. "For the Least of These" includes the history and legislative context of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion and its impact on Missouri, the faith imperative for the expansion, and a call to action in faith. Smith has also prepared a discussion guide for parishes, with opening and closing prayers, scripture, and four discussion questions.

For the Least of These (PDF)
Discussion Guide for parishes (PDF)

Elected at the 174th Diocesan Convention

November 27, 2013

We give thanks for the many diocesan members who stood for election to governance positions in the diocese. Elected this year were:

Youth from Ascension and St. Barnabas visit Deaconess Anne House

October 14, 2013

On September 23rd, the youth of Ascension and Saint Barnabas ventured to the Old North neighborhood of St. Louis. They enjoyed a hearty lunch at Crown Candy Kitchen and toured the surrounding neighborhood. While touring, they discussed the various development the area had been through and the recent improvement that has occured and how they can contribute to this unique community. Leizel Thomas, a youth of Ascension stated that what she found interesting was the transformation of many of the buildings. Years ago they were demolished, but recently
re-built and are very modern.

17th Gospel Jubilee at Ascension, Oct. 13

October 03, 2013

Episcopal Church of the Ascension will host the 17thAnnual Gospel Jubilee on Sunday, October 13 from 4:00 – 6:00 P.M., followed by dinner in the Parish Hall. Please invite your family and friends to join us for this celebration of our musical heritage.

Free will offering to support the ministries of the church.

Youth ministry updates

August 07, 2013

The middle and high school youth of Ascension and St. Barnabas Episcopal Churches are working August 10 at the Deaconess Anne House in preparation for the arrival of Episcopal Service Corps interns at the end of the month

St. Charles churches spend a year in dialogue with Seeking Our Past, Creating Our Future

July 31, 2013

St. John's AME Church and Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Charles have begun the "heavy lifting" of conversations on race.

Seeking our Past, Creating Our Future is the name of a program and materials developed by the diocesan Dismantling Racism Commission. The commission was asked by Bishop Wayne at diocesan convention in November 2010 to help us as a diocese with the "heavy lifting" of engaging in conversation as a diocese, "examining context around the issue and identifying texts to make sense of it." On Absalom Jones celebration in February 2012, the commission made public a resource with six sets of questions for faith communities to begin this conversation, along with annotated bibliographies, and sample presentations that commission members were willing to make to diocesan parishes.

Trinity's rector Tamsen Whistler explained, "The project invites us to look closely at issues of race and privilege in our history and life as a parish, and should dovetail nicely with what we began in 2011, when an integral part of our 175th Anniversary celebration was to explore our roots as the Episcopal Church in St. Charles." Trinity invited another historic St. Charles congregation, St. John's AME, to undertake this project with them.

Early this summer small working groups in each congregation began discussing issues of race, discrimination, and privilege using the six sets of questions in Seeking Our Past Creating Our Future. Diocesan priest Emery Washington is one of the commission members facilitating the project in St. Charles. In August, Whistler and Washington will speak with St. John's at their Sunday worship; Washington will work with St. John's bible study group facilitating the questions; and a Sunday brunch is planned at Trinity around the topic, "What do we know about us"--presenting the research they've been engaged with the past months.

Next are planned a series of joint meetings for the entire communities at Trinity and St. John's. The first at St. John's, "The Way We Were," for sharing photos and stories about what the communities learned about themselves while working the Seeking Our Past questions. The second at Trinity, "A Painful Legacy," watching together and discussing the film Traces of the Trade, then sharing a potluck meal. A third joint meeting in September at a local bowling alley is planned to share response to conversation findings and additional stories. This meeting will serve as a wrap-up to the study aspect of their work together--to be followed by bowling.

In mid-October it's a planned meeting for next steps: What actions do we want to take together and separately in response to our study? How are we called to make a difference in St. Charles? Both groups hope to report to their judicatories: the annual conference of the fifth district of AME churches in October and the Diocese of Missouri convention in November. Already penciled in for 2014 is a shared celebration at St. John's to honor Richard Allen, founder of the AME church and Absalom Jones, first African American Episcopal priest, who was a friend and fellow worker with Allen in Philadelphia.

Three "pilot" parishes have stepped up to begin working through Seeking Our Past Creating Our Future materials with commission members. Ascension (see article below) has begun conversations, and St. Barnabas' plans to begin in the next calendar year. (Conversations have been previously ongoing at, among other churches, Christ Church Cathedral and Emmanuel.)

Recently our president spoke eloquently about the need to begin to have serious conversations about our issues around race. We are grateful for the leadership of our commission, this diocese, and the Episcopal church, who have been encouraging these very conversations. Won't you join?

The Dismantling Racism Commission meets most first Saturdays from 10-noon at Holy Communion Church in University City, and this August 3 is no exception. All are welcome to attend. Upcoming dates in 2014: Absalom Jones Annual Celebration is on Saturday, Feb. 8, with presenters from Anytown; Dismantling Racism 2-day training in St. Louis on March 14 & 15. The commission would like to hold a 2-day training outside of the metro area in September, and would be happy to hear from congregations interested in being a location. Reach the commission through

To be the church in our time and place: Ascension offers reconciliation service

July 31, 2013

On June 11, 2013, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in support of students from unaccredited school districts being able to transfer to accredited districts. Normandy School District announced they will pay for transportation to Francis Howell School District in St. Charles County.

Marc Smith, vicar of Ascension Church (in Normandy district) continues the story, "Sadly, the response from some parents and elected officials in the receiving districts has fanned the flames of fear, anger, and racism. Thankfully, other residents, led by students within the receiving districts, are now stepping forward with words of welcome and embrace. Nevertheless, tensions will likely rise with the approach of the start of classes in several weeks. As a community of faith located in the heart of the Normandy School District and with parishioners enrolled in and parents who graduated from the district, we have a particular responsibility for Christian discipleship and ministry in the midst of this difficult situation. To be the church in our time and place demands that we proclaim the truth of the Gospel and work to build bridges of love and mutual respect--for our students, our schools and our community."

In addition to meeting with elected officials, Smith and Ascension Church have invited parishioners from throughout the diocese who have students in the receiving school districts to join them for worship, 11 AM Sunday, August 18, followed by a reception in the parish hall and opportunity for conversation with Ascension's students and parents.

"I don’t know if any will join us," said Smith, "But, that’s not the point. What’s far more important is that we, the Ascension community, bear public witness to a God who welcomes all of us--in our churches, as well as our schools. The ongoing task of dismantling racism requires not only parish conversations and diocesan resolutions, but the faithful ministry of each of us as we strive 'to be the presence of Christ for all whose lives we might touch' with the voice of love, calm and hope."

Last month, Ascension began their church-wide conversations on "the impact of race in our lives as individuals, the Church of the Ascension, and the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri," said Smith. These conversations use the materials developed by the Dismantling Racism Commission, Seeking Our Past--Creating Our Future, and have been facilitated by the Rev. Emery Washington and the diocesan commission.

Youth mission news

June 19, 2013

Emmanuel youth returned from their annual trip to Guatemala, where they blitz-built 8 houses in a few days. In total, Emmanuel has built 22 homes in the last 8 years that are home to 22 families. Read more about this year's effort, which began with awareness raising in August 2011, through raising funds for the building and trip in winter and spring, ending with pictures and reports from the site on their Facebook page.

The middle and high school youth of Ascension, St. Barnabas, and All Saints’ (St. Louis) Episcopal Churches are continuing work on refurbishing Deaconess Anne House in Old North St. Louis.

Grace-Kirkwood has offered a youth mission trip each summer for the past 18 years. This year, 13 teens and six adults traveled to West Bend, Wisconsin to work with Habitat for Humanity. Five graduating seniors were a part of this year’s trip and just reported back to the congregation. You can read their Sunday sermon texts online.

Youth news- Summer 2013

June 19, 2013

Emmanuel youth returned from their annual trip to Guatemala, where they blitz-built 8 houses in a few days. In total, Emmanuel has built 22 homes in the last 8 years that are home to 22 families. Read more about this year's effort, which began with awareness raising in August 2011, through raising funds for the building and trip in winter and spring, ending with pictures and reports from the site on their Facebook page.

The middle and high school youth of Ascension, St. Barnabas, and All Saints’ (St. Louis) Episcopal Churches are continuing work on refurbishing Deaconess Anne House in Old North St. Louis.

Grace-Kirkwood has offered a youth mission trip each summer for the past 18 years. This year, 13 teens and six adults traveled to West Bend, Wisconsin to work with Habitat for Humanity. Five graduating seniors were a part of this year’s trip and just reported back to the congregation. You can read their Sunday sermon texts online.

Reflection on our work of discipleship in Pentecost

May 08, 2013

The use of the word Eastertide to denote the 50 days between our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and Pentecost reflects much more than a quaint Anglican custom and affection for the historic and lofty language of the church.  Although his resurrection was, in fact, a distinct event that occurred on a particular day and at a specific point in history, we experience it as a journey--unfolding daily in our lives and the life of the entire world. Like the ocean’s tide, it rushes over us, sweeps us off our feet and carries us to places we could never before have imagined. 

In these “Great 50 Days of Easter,” we’re invited to not only acknowledge Christ raised from the dead and recognize him among us even today, but also to take action--to follow him, to become his disciples, to love one another. These are the challenges which have confronted God’s faithful for more than 2,000 years, and Eastertide provides us with the time, space and perspective to begin our reflection on how we might respond to them in our individual and shared lives as the church, the Body of Christ.

If, among many things, Eastertide offers a framework--an outline--for undertaking discipleship, our celebration of Pentecost on May 19 marks the beginning of the lengthy season in which we explore the work of faith in greater detail. Although many different dimensions of discipleship will be examined in the context of the reign of God initiated by Jesus’ resurrection, one factor will remain constant throughout the season of Pentecost:  action. To be sure, faith is about recognition, understanding, and belief.  But, faith also demands action in response to and in celebration of our belief. Indeed, our faith was born in the acts of Jesus’ self-sacrifice and resurrection. So, too, must our Easter faith now be lived out as witnesses to the resurrection and agents bringing its new life to a world longing for hope. So, dear friends, let’s get to work!

originally published in Ascension Church's monthly letter, authored by Rector Marc Smith. (cc) photo of English Icon for Pentecost.

Get involved with Deaconess Anne House

April 24, 2013

Currently, there are two primary ways that parishes can get involved with DAH.

Adopt a Room at the House. Parishes that adopt rooms:

  • Furnishing the room
  • Do minor repairs or renovations
  • Provide a piece of art that represents the congregation.

Sponsor an Intern. Parishes sponsoring an intern commit to:

  • Provide a welcome basket for their intern's arrival in STL
  • Invite their intern to all parish events and dinners
  • Send their intern birthday and holiday cards
  • Provide their intern a home cooked meal at a parishioner's home 1-2 times during their year of service in STL
  • Be available to provide non-monetary support for intern

Parishes that have adopted a room:

  • Living Room – Metro III
  • Study/Chapel – Calvary Columbia
  • Dinning Room – Holy Communion
  • Kitchen – St. Peter's
  • Bedrooms — Grace Kirkwood, Emmanuel, St. Timothy's, Rockwell House, St. Barnabas and Ascension
  • Bathrooms — St. Mark's, Columbia Campus Ministry

Parishes that are sponsoring an intern:

  • St. Mark's
  • Trinity
  • Emmanuel
  • St. Barnabas'
  • (still looking for six more)

Photo of the bathroom adopted by St. Mark's-St. Louis.


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