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Fifty years ago, the very first day of classes for just-opened St. Mark’s Nursery School was September 16, 1968. We celebrated this golden anniversary in church this past Sunday (also September 16), and what a fun time it was! Rev. Jeri led the children (and adults) in song, and we heard from longtime school director M’Lu Colburn, and from Tim Manion. Tim is the parent of a former nursery-school student, and years ago he himself was a student.

In attendance were many students, teachers, former students, former teachers, parents, grandparents, and church members involved in the creation or governance of St. Mark’s School. It was a joyful church service, and a reminder for all of us of the lifelong positive influence of devoted, knowledgeable, and talented teachers—especially for young children.

St. Mark’s Nursery School has waiting lists for most of its classes. I can’t remember the last time we had to advertise to encourage enrollment. We are full, have been full, and it looks like we will continue to be full for the foreseeable future.

This is testimony to the quality and high reputation of the school. And that reputation is ongoing evidence of the extraordinary on-the-ground commitment to the highest ideals of early-childhood education. At a more-basic level, it is evidence of a perfect combination of child-centered enthusiasm and lots of hard work, every day.

It was visionary and risk-taking leadership that brought the school into being 50 years ago. As a result, thousands of lives have been shaped and changed for the better. And this work continues, under current director Anita Hill and a very devoted and talented team of teachers and assistants. I am so grateful for this excellent leadership, both past and present!

Also on Sunday, many of us enjoyed a Puerto-Rican-themed catered lunch after church to support hurricane relief there. Recovery, rebuilding, and storm-preparatory work continue in Puerto Rico under the auspices of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). We haven’t had a chance to add up how much money was donated, but I saw quite a few envelopes being put into the collection bags. The three-course lunch was delicious, and was generously donated to us by Roger Shogan and Tricia Elliot and their incredible catering team. Big, big thanks to them, and to the San Diego Convention Center for use of their kitchen and logistical help.

This coming weekend is St. Mark’s Fall Campout. The overnight spots are full, but you are invited to join the group during the day on Saturday. Information is in this week’s Messenger.

In church this week during Faith Forward we’ll hear from John Zawis of International Re-lief Teams. He’ll tell us about the school that people from St. Mark’s helped to build out-side Tijuana, and he’ll report on upcoming building projects.

St. Mark’s Blessing of the Animals is less than three weeks away! Every year, this is a great opportunity to invite neighbors, friends, and family to bring their animal companions to a fun and meaningful church service. In past years we’ve had dogs, cats, cavies (guinea pigs), snakes, lizards, cockatoos, parrots, hamsters, mice, and other animals I don’t remember. Blessing of the Animals happens at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, October 7 to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis. Representatives of the San Diego Humane Society and other animal organizations will be with us on the patio when the service and Blessing have concluded.

See you in church!