The Ministry of the Note

O Blairs, thank you! Isn’t the bride beautiful? Isn’t my hair bad?

Ann Woodall and I were on staff together here at All Saints’ for years.  Ann is hilarious and also deeply gracious though we both had our off-gracious days when I would go to her office and lay down on the sofa and say  “Okay, who’s Bad on Your Nerves Today??” ( The answer was usually Harry! Just kidding, Harry!)

Ann taught me lots of things but the biggest was also the littlest. Small, kind actions mean a lot.  They really, really do. Here’s an example that happened to me this fall.  A man took a few minutes and wrote me an e-mail which just touched me so.  I bet Ann would call this “The Ministry of the Note.” Here’s Mark Blair’s Ministry of the Note to me.  

Dear, Martha,
I hope this finds you well and in joyful spirits.  This past Wednesday was our 25th wedding anniversary and we came down to All Saints for the mid day service.  It seemed fitting to come back to All Saints on this occasion and we enjoyed the service very much.  Imagine our surprise when we inquired about what you were doing these days, only to find out that you were back on an interim basis.  In fact, I think we may have passed you leaving the parking lot as we pulled in.  I am not sure if you remember us from back then, but we wanted to reach out to you and say thank you.  These days it seems not many people make it ten years, let along 25. 
Patty and I have two children now and live in the Cumming area and are members of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit.
 I’ve attached a picture that we took Wednesday. 
A marriage well and deeply lived. Thank you Blairs even more. 
As you can tell, after 25 years we haven’t changed a bit.  Ok maybe we changed a good bit.  In any case, we thought you would like to know that it’s been a very blessed 25 years, not always easy, but rather a constant work in progress.  If I remember correctly, you coached us on that point in the marriage classes.  We have enjoyed many wonderful occasions, have lots to be thankful for and pushed our way through the tough times too.   Thank you for your guidance ahead of time!  We will try to come back down again soon to see you in person.  Many blessings to you.
Mark & Patty Blair
married 9/21/91
The Ministry of the Note is so powerful.  Will you consider writing a small, kind email or note today?  For of such small, kind actions is the kingdom of heaven created.   And see you at the Woodall Lecture, Thursday Night! Ann will be there, too!!  And I bet none of us will get on each other’s nerves AT ALL. 
Martha +

Pet Blesser Every Day


Around this block, Barbara Blender is a presence— Covenant Community, Adult Formation, Vestry, and a gazillion other ministries.  She is kind and patient.  She gets things done, and she loves goofy-ness. This works out so well for all the Saints – two-footed and four-pawed!

Here’s Barbara:

“Four years ago I left the corporate work I had done most of my life thinking I would enjoy the free time to travel and do volunteer work. But a call from an acquaintance who owns a pet sitting company asking if I could temporarily help out a few hours a week changed all that .It’s 3-1/2 years later and I’ve traded business clothes for jeans and high heels for (of necessity) shoes that can go in the washing machine. What I now do many more than a few hours a week is not a job—it’s a ministry of 4-legged children.

Well, most of them are four legged. Riley  has three because he  was abused and lost his leg. He’s nine months old.


Riley is the sweetest, silliest, full of life puppy ever.   He’d fit right in at All Saints’.

So would Coco who looks like she needs to go to confession. Immediately.

I didn’t do it.


It is such a pleasure to watch their unabashed joy in getting a new toy or seeing something surprising like a big butterfly or getting that beloved treat.”

Tater has a little tennis ball fetish!  It’s all good.


The moment, the moment, the moment, the moment, the moment.  This moment looks like a great one for swimming!

Travis dreams of 2020 Olympics!  He’s a butterfly guy.

“Their joy unquestionably gets passed on to me. Otherwise, I may never have noticed this butterfly or that moment.

Ernie is intensely interested in treats. NOW!

And, like children, of course there is some whining (I want more treats) and some stubbornness (I don’t want to go out in the rain).

Gemma: Seriously?

And yes, there is the dealing with sickness and sometimes even the loss of a pet. Along with the sadness when that happens comes my profound gratitude for having been a small part of an animal’s life.  Here are  Blackie, Chessie, and Freddie who have been my home cats down through the years.  They were my teachers.

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A few years ago, there is no way in the world I could have imagined myself caring for such a diverse group of loving, thinking, feeling, barking, meowing kids at this stage of my life or any stage of my life.  But God is good—God is a surprise!

Henry is going to surprise his parents tonight by sleeping with them – like it or not!

 Thank  you, Barbara, for reminding us that God is such a surprise, and that new adventures await around every corner if we will just open our hearts and see who comes bouncing, bounding, galumphing, purring, sneaking, prissing, strolling in! 

And don’t forget the Pet Blessing in Ellis Hall, SUNDAY, OCTOBER 9 AT 9:00.  Bring ’em on!

Martha +











We ARE ALL CUTIE-PIES in this together!


Hugh Owen, Sue Brown (Bown) Sterne, and Yours Truly my deacon year.
This is how dumb I am. In 1988 when I was finishing seminary, Bishop Child brought up All Saints’ and said Harry Pritchett wanted to talk with me about coming there. I said, “But I have got a lot family there. Won’t that be a problem?”

A version of his rather short answer was “NO, DODO BIRD, THAT WILL NOT BE YOUR PROBLEM.  Not with your grandmother-in-law, aunt-in-law, uncle-in-law, and cousins-in-law, who are some of  the best saints in the world!” 

Today, I am just remembering two of them, and there are scads more.

Carroll’s Aunt Bown was a force of nature for the good of the universe.  I’ve told you that she got herself elected the first female vestry person in the state of Georgia by way of a male fellow traveler nominating  her from the floor, and she won by a landslide.

We learned from Bown not to ever talk bad about people I think she trained herself not to even think bad about people. I really do. She did have a way of voicing her lack of enthusiasm for some folks by saying that they were “sweet people”  which coming from Bown was the Kiss of Death.  She called all her nieces and nephews and the people they married and all their children   her “cutie-pies.”  She KNEW each of us as our best selves which is the best gift in the world from an aunt or really anybody else.

Almost to the year she died,  Bown led annual trips to New York with two or three cousins in tow.  At the beginning of the trip, she gave each “girl”  ( most in their sixties!) an envelope with spending money!  Bown  never admitted she was in a wheel chair; she just called it a “transporter.” And Bown never ever missed the Rockettes Christmas Show!

Bown definitely rocked!
Now look below.  Grandmother Sterne (Bown’s mother) looks beatific, doesn’t she?  But I have learned that sweet looking little old ladies at All Saints can be FIERCE FOR JUSTICE. Grandmother Sterne was. 

Bad pic of Bown and Aunt Hannah (darling mother of Ann Pearce and Sue Mobley) but Grandmother does look beatific!
Grandmother was a ‘radical’ meaning she lived and moved and had her being nurtured FROM THE  ‘ROOT’ OF THE GOSPEL!  She was committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever it led May we live that way also!!  Ann Pearce  sent me a great 1925  AP article with Grandmother eloquently arguing for the removal of the word ‘obey’ in the marriage liturgy.  “The word ‘obey’ in the marriage ceremony is as unneccessary and the idea as obsolete as that of the world’s being flat … The word “Love” is the only absolutely necessary vow.” 1925!  Go Grandmother! I just know Grandmother has danced in the stars at all her family’s weddings including her great-granddaughter Ann Stuart’s wedding to Ellen Porter!  Love is all we need. Yes!

Fierce and Beatific!  Good combo!
Grandmother worked tirelessly for decades and decades to end racism and do justice and love mercy. One of the ways she worked was  by gathering a small group of women at her house  in 1941. They quickly became black and white and Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic and Anglican and  Protestant  women together—Atlanta Church Women United—and began strong prison ministries (starting off with serving ice cream and cookies at the prison every Wednesday)  as well as long-term ministry with the mentally ill— both in Milledgeville and in an Atlanta halfway house—by listening more than talking and yes, playing bridge!!  Grandmother knew that women together can do anything.    

A small familial example of her approach: her granddaughter, Ann Pearce,  remembers receiving a telegram from Grandmother,  in Athens,  in 1961, when Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes came to enter UGA  after a brutal (and bizarre on the University’s end) legal battle to end segregation. 

Grandmother Sterne wrote to Ann,  “I know you will do the right thing and remember we are all in this together.” She wasn’t  particularly anxious about her granddaughter; she was trusting Jesus and fierce for righteousness and unity of all peoples!  This was so needed at that time and in our day .  (FYI Here is Ms. Hunter-Gault remembering those same days. She and Dr. Hamilton Holmes, may he rest in peace and rise in glory were REALLY fierce, thank the Good Lord.)

Grandmothers, let’s remember to tell our grandchildren about these kinds of moments!  We really are—in this state and throughout this nation and on this planet—all  called to be in this together.  Pass it on!

Grandmother was not a float-above-it-all saint. She was  wildly competitive and played bridge with gusto!  No telling what the games with the prisoners and the mentally ill were like!  Not to mention her regular Monday afternoon game with the alcoholics at St. Jude’s!   I bet she tried hard to win!

Actually Bown was pretty competitive, too.   Grandmother Sterne died right before her 100th birthday party.  I think the invitations were printed!  Bown was determined to beat her record and she did!! 

Bown on her 100th with a gazillion of her Cutie-Pies including Carroll and me and ours! Bown beat her Mama in the 100th Birthday Party race!
Tomorrow Carroll and I will travel to Greece (though it used to be to Turkey-God bless Turkey in her turmoil)  with a group of Saints and others led by the wondrous Dr. Max Miller of Emory University.  We wouldn’t have timed our trip like this if I’d known that the Good Lord had in mind this season with you, but  around this block we know Grandmother and Bown and all the rest of our rocking procession of Saints—(every bit as fabulous as the Rockettes)—are watching over all of us wherever we are!  Can you sense their presence?  I can, especially in the nave all around us on Sunday mornings. 

Remember, they’ve got our backs always and into eternity. And remember to tell your children and grandchildren as often as you can—WE ARE ALL CUTIE-PIES IN THIS TOGETHER!

Martha +