The Annunciation Icon.jpg
The Nativity Icon.jpg

The first thing you see when you walk into many Roman and Greek Catholic church sanctuaries are ICONS...(picture/images) the name for moveable religious paintings. They are a flat picture of Christ, Mary or many of the saints.

At the Episcopal Church of the Advent, twelve Icons line the walls on both sides. And one graces the front of the altar. Right now it is the Annunication which tells the story of the Virgin Mother receiving the word that she will bear the son of God.

St.Luke , the physician, was the first iconographer. By tradition, an Icon is an unframed wooden panel about one in. deep in size onto which the surface is created in a definite style. Icons tell a story. By tradition they are called WRITTEN not painted,

Our Icons have been written by Barbara Thornton, a member of our parish over the past 15 years. She was raised in the Greek Catholic Church and “even at 5 years old” was fascinated by Icons. Though she had always wanted to have art training, it wasn’t until after she was married in the Episcopal church in Phoenixville that she began spending time learning about Art. She worked in Acrylics, drawing from a kit and joining Quaker State painters. This method is very popular today because the paint dries fast.

Fifteen years ago she received a call from our church secretary who said she had heard of an Icon training workshop in Asheville, North Carolina at the Kanuga Episcopal Conference Center. Every year since Barbara has joined artists there to focus on Icon writing which tells the story being created on a birchwood panel.

The birchwood is sanded many times, covered with gesso (a thick rabbit glue) and topped with burlap or a pure linen representing the shroud. It is said that the sanding is done about 10 times or until it is stabilized and smoothed out. Egg Tempera paint is then applied in layers. Tempera paint is dry pigments added to one egg yolk, mixed with vinegar and distilled water. The dry pigments are very expensive about $85 for a small amount. For example Lapis Lazuli, a dry blue mineral, is composed of small pieces of the lazurite mineral and small quantities of other minerals to produce the ‘azure’ color.

The format at the Center’s workshop each February is very spiritual. Barbara tells us: “Each morning we start with the Eucharist, then after breakfast, we proceed through the woods to the studio where we have a short prayer and a priest places the sign of the cross on our hands with sweet smelling chrism. It permeates the air with its sweet smell before we begin. There is a short lecture on the first stage of the Icon...then the music...Gregorian chant...and silence as we work. To begin we make the sign of the cross and ask God to guide our brushes on the smoothly sanded board.”

The afternoons are then spent in creating one of two Icons, one that is for beginners, and another for experienced artists, This year will be The Good Shepherd

and the other Elijah and the Raven.

According to Barbara the secret of icons is that they are like a prayer without words.

Our focus should be ”on sitting still and listening. Icons are a way to let God speak to us. They hold a divine mystery. If we sit long enough and listen to them closely, we may hear God’s voice as he speaks to us.” So the study of Icons allows us cultivate the awareness of God’s presence in our lives.

These are the Icons displayed on Advent ‘s walls: The Nativity, Moses Healing the Blind Man, St. Barbara, St George, Mother of Tikvin and Child, Three Faces of Mary (Bethany, Nazareth, and Magdalene, St Nicholas, The Mother of God, The Annunciation and the Crucifixion.

Christ the Pantocrator (creator of the universe) is in our children’s chapel. I have one at home given to me by my brother when he was in Rome, and another of Mary and the Christ child, which I bought at the Vatican.

On The Rev. Dr. Richard Kirk’s anniversary of his 60th ordination to the priesthood, I commissioned Barbara to create an Icon in his honor. It is St. Gregory of Nyssa. Rev. Kirk, rector at Advent for 17 years, wrote his master’s thesis on St. Gregory. It is on the small altar in our sitting area.

During this upcoming Christmas season, when you feel the need of silence, follow Barbara’s innstructions and receive the peace of the Lord through the written Icons we have here at Advent.

*JANICE KIRK has been a member of Advent for 28 years. After her first husband died, she came here to sing in the Messiah and ended up singing in the choir. The following Fall she joined the church and has been active as a Eucharistic visitor for 12 years. As a journalist most of her working life, she has written two books while here...Love Anew ( a primer on recovering from spousal grief with her husband Richard Kirk, whom she married in 1993) now in its second printing) and Diary of a Eucharistic Visitor (on her 12- year ministry). She also has been a guide at the Brandywine River Museum for 34 years and written many articles on art.


Getting to write this “Checking In” article at Thanksgiving feels like winning the lottery! We all have so much to be thankful for. Advent’s facilities are beautiful and conducive to worship and fellowship. Our clergy are caring and inspirational. Our Vestry is skilled and dedicated. Our staff and volunteers are helpful and friendly.

You may not feel directly responsible for these blessings, but none of this is possible without the free will offering of your time, talents and/or treasure. YOU matter! So I am mostly thankful for each of YOU and our entire church family. Thank YOU for being present at this time in this congregation. Thank YOU for financially supporting our church community.

This is also the time of year to reflect on 2018 and plan for 2019. Your pledge contributions have allowed us to fully fund our programs this year. We have consolidated parish operations in the Church building, allowing future rent from the PCOC to be put toward capital maintenance projects. If you know of anyone seeking to rent a house, please have them contact Collis Townsend.

Thank YOU for your prayerful consideration of your pledge for 2019. If you have not yet made your pledge for next year, please do so right away to assist final approval of our 2019 budget. Remember that your pledge can be changed at any time. Thank YOU for your continued support!

Endowment Checking In

Highlights of Advent’s Endowment History 

From Advent’s establishment in 1882 and throughout Advent’s long history, the generous gifts of many saints created and supported the beautiful church we enjoy today.  Some of the names are known to us but many are not.  Even when the names are memorialized in stained glass windows or on plaques around the church, we know few details about the lives of these saints.  But what we do know is that their gifts mattered—they mattered then and they continue to have an impact today. 

Some of these generous saints made gifts to the endowment.  In 1959, The Hadley Fund was created pursuant to a bequest of $5,000 from Harry C. Hadley.  Today, the Hadley Fund is valued at about $50,000.   

Advent’s endowment really grew in 1993, when Dick and Sheila Sanford established The Sanford Family Endowment Fund for Christian Youth Education with a gift of $1,000,000.  Now valued at about $1,400,000, the fund contributes about $44,000 annually to the budget for youth formation.  It is the reason Advent is able to support youth education so robustly and will continue to do so for generations to come.   

Major gifts to the General Endowment Fund by Frieda McMullen in 2005 and 2006, and by Gus Schroeder in 2012 greatly expanded the General Endowment Fund which is currently valued at about $850,000.  Annual proceeds of about $37,000 from the General Endowment to Advent’s budget are unrestricted which enables the vestry to use the funds as needed.   

Over the years, other saints have contributed to the endowment with smaller gifts that have really added up.  One example is the Peterson Endowment for Leadership established in 2012.  Many individuals contributed gifts to this fund whose balance now stands at $26,000 and supports leadership training and development.  Many other saints have contributed to the Memorial Garden Endowment, currently valued at $27,000, which will continue to generate funds to maintain the beauty of this sacred resting place.   

All of these endowment gifts continue to benefit Advent because every year, 5% of the endowment balance goes to support Advent’s programs, while 95% of it remains invested and continues to grow.  The endowment contributes about 11% to Advent’s annual budget. 


Endowing Advent’s Future 

Now that you know a little of the history of Advent’s endowment and understand the impact it has each and every year, you too may feel gratitude for the many saints whose gifts have transformed Advent into the beautiful church we cherish today.  If the idea of giving a gift that will perpetually support Advent’s future appeals to you too, please consider making a gift to the endowment.  There are many ways to do so that are tax-wise including gifting from a required IRA distribution and gifting appreciated stock that you don’t want to pay capital gains on.  Gifts of any amount are gratefully welcomed, appreciated, and most importantly, will have an impact far into Advent’s future.   



 Kim Hoeschel for the Endowment Committee: Pete Peterson, Ann Dome, Larry Bosley, Penn Yeatman and Stuart Davies; and Collis Townsend, Development Warden 


Making Christ Visible

On the Saturday of the Fall Rummage sale, it was dark and pouring rain. People were lined up waiting patiently for our 7:00 AM opening. Some of these people were die hard yard sale shoppers, but there some people who shopped for clothes and items that they needed. One grandfather got his new grandchild the baby things that his daughter couldn’t afford.

Jesus told us that when we feed a hungry man we feed Him. When we clothed a man, we clothed Him. Church of the Advent has had the Rummage Sale for over 50 years. I have worked the Rummage Sale twice a year for 22 of those years. When I do this, it is a part of living my faith. Each time a person who tells me the sale is a lot of work, I want to ask how can living out the words Jesus spoke to us be hard work? I have seen the Bible come to life in meeting the folks who come to the sale.

The next sale is the day before Mother’s Day. If you want to see the words of Jesus come to life, come and work the sale, meet the people and your faith will take on a new dimension.

Tori Robinson

Something to Think About

When you rise in the morning, 

what fills your head? 

Are you thinking of a 

food and drink, 

the pleasures ahead? 

Are you planning 

the work you must do,  

the labor ahead? 

Are you fearful of 

snares and dangers, 

the evils ahead? 

Are you hopeful of  

all you’ll achieve, 

the successes ahead? 

Let all those worldly thoughts 

swirl in your mind; 

Then let them flush away, 

like dirt in a river. 

Empty your head; 

Let your brain be at peace. 

Quietly, calmly, serenely 

Offer the day to God. 


-- Robert Van de Weyer. 1998. 

    Celtic Praise, Hunt & Thorpe. 



As we think about Stewardship,  

let us strive to be  

good stewards of our time.   

Let us be mindful and aware of  

how we use this precious commodity.   

We only have it for an instant.