A thoughtful sermon, looking forward and exploring the mission of the Church of England.
I’m not the Bishop.
And rarely would I suggest myself as an alternative to Bishop Gates’ preaching. The events that have taken place after he recorded his sermon: George Floyd’s death and the subsequent wave of violent protests across the country have made the need for a live sermon more urgent and more immediate.
I want to take a step back and tell you where I think we are as a county.
This slide – ah, the advantage of online worship – shows the arc of emotional health during the lifecycle of a disaster. You see the moment of impact, followed by the heroic phase. Everyone wants to do well and rise to the occasion. This lasts for a while, and then
We fall off the cliff into disillusionment as the reality of the situation sinks in. In the case of covid-19, the heroic phase may be corollated to the stay at home orders and most people making that sacrifice of working from home, online schooling, and only going out for essential services and items.
Now, with 40 million people unemployed, no national plan for managing the pandemic, and social distancing and masks the best we have to slow the spread at the moment, with the prospect of the economic aid packages expiring, and the threat of evictions looming, I think we’re in the disillusionment phase.
Eventually, we will get back to where we were emotionally, but this one is likely to be a while.
This is the context in which George Floyd’s death happened. As a First Responder Chaplain, I am outraged by the actions of the four individuals responsible for his death and by their callous indifference to human life. They will have to answer for their actions and face the consequences.
The actions of these four individuals revealed, unabashedly, the sin of racism, personal and institutionalized, of our country. And they show, in all its ugliness, the consequences of demonizing and dehumanizing ‘the other’.
The protesters are legitimately angry about Mr. Floyd’s death. And they should be. We all should be. And about Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and Christian Cooper, and all the people whose lives have been damaged, diminished, or ended by racism.
Reacting with violence, though, is not the answer. Reacting by vilifying the police in general, is not the answer. Rage and Violence will not end racism by themselves.
Instead, I think that we as Grace church are called to work with others to dismantle the edifice that creates and perpetuates institutional racism.
We, as members of Christ’s body, are called to respond. First, we are called to look at ourselves and assess whether we. Knowingly or not, are racist in any way. If we are, we need to stop it and begin over so that we aren’t. That’s the first step. The second is to work with others.
We have reached out to the president of our local NAACP chapter to see how we can support them and work together; we are convening the Burgess Committee to formulate a meaningful response, and we are reaching out to the Diocese and the wider Church to see how we can help.
As a start on this Pentecost Sunday – the day when the Spirit of God ignited and inspired the disciples to spread the message of God’s unyielding and unending love for each person, black, brown, yellow, red, white, - everyone. – I want to read Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Word to the Church that he issued yesterday: It’s called
When the Cameras are Gone, We Will Still Be Here
May 30, 2020
“Our long-term commitment to racial justice and reconciliation is embedded in our identity as baptized followers of Jesus. We will still be doing it when the news cameras are long gone.”
In the midst of COVID-19 and the pressure cooker of a society in turmoil, a Minnesota man named George Floyd was brutally killed. His basic human dignity was stripped by someone charged to protect our common humanity.
Perhaps the deeper pain is the fact that this was not an isolated incident. It happened to Breonna Taylor on March 13 in Kentucky. It happened to Ahmaud Arbery on February 23 in Georgia. Racial terror in this form occurred when I was a teenager growing up black in Buffalo, New York. It extends back to the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955 and well before that. It’s not just our present or our history. It is part of the fabric of American life.
But we need not be paralyzed by our past or our present. We are not slaves to fate but people of faith. Our long-term commitment to racial justice and reconciliation is embedded in our identity as baptized followers of Jesus. We will still be doing it when the news cameras are long gone.
That work of racial reconciliation and justice – what we know as Becoming Beloved Community – is happening across our Episcopal Church. It is happening in Minnesota and in the Dioceses of Kentucky, Georgia and Atlanta, across America and around the world. That mission matters now more than ever, and it is work that belongs to all of us.
It must go on when racist violence and police brutality are no longer front-page news. It must go on when the work is not fashionable, and the way seems hard, and we feel utterly alone. It is the difficult labor of picking up the cross of Jesus like Simon of Cyrene, and carrying it until no one – no matter their color, no matter their class, no matter their caste – until no child of God is degraded and disrespected by anybody. That is God's dream, this is our work, and we shall not cease until God's dream is realized.
Is this hopelessly naïve? No, the vision of God’s dream is no idealistic utopia. It is our only real hope. And, St. Paul says, “hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). Real love is the dogged commitment to live my life in the most unselfish, even sacrificial ways; to love God, love my neighbor, love the earth and truly love myself. Perhaps most difficult in times like this, it is even love for my enemy. That is why we cannot condone violence. Violence against any person – conducted by some police officers or by some protesters – is violence against a child of God created in God’s image. No, as followers of Christ, we do not condone violence.
Neither do we condone our nation’s collective, complicit silence in the face of injustice and violent death. The anger of so many on our streets is born out of the accumulated frustration that so few seem to care when another black, brown or native life is snuffed out.
But there is another way. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, a broken man lay on the side of the road. The religious leaders who passed were largely indifferent. Only the Samaritan saw the wounded stranger and acted. He provided medical care and housing. He made provision for this stranger’s well-being. He helped and healed a fellow child of God.
Love, as Jesus teaches, is action like this as well as attitude. It seeks the good, the well-being, and the welfare of others as well as one’s self. That way of real love is the only way there is.
…Opening and changing hearts does not happen overnight. The Christian race is not a sprint; it is a marathon. Our prayers and our work for justice, healing and truth-telling must be unceasing. Let us recommit ourselves to following in the footsteps of Jesus, the way that leads to healing, justice and love.
On this Pentecost Sunday. The day on which God’s Spirit of love animated the disciples and spread throughout the earth.
On this day of Pentecost. On the day on which God's love for everyone was made manifest. Let us recommit to following in the footsteps of Jesus. The way that leads to healing, justice, and love.
 Presiding Bishop Curry’s Word to the Church: When the Cameras are Gone, We Will Still Be Here, Michael Curry, May 30, 2020. Downloaded May 31, 2020 from https://episcopalchurch.org/posts/publicaffairs/presiding-bishop-currys-word-church-when-cameras-are-gone-we-will-still-be-0
April 24, 2020
My Friends –
I write on this rainy Friday to wish you well, say that I’m thinking of you , and that I miss you all. As we approach the end of our sixth week of virtual church, social distance, school closure, and staying at home, I congratulate each and everyone of you for getting to this point. Well done!
Now might be a good time to check in with yourself and with those in your household and friends to see how you are emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally. I have started to put resources for coping on the parish’s website, https://www.graceepiscopalmv.org/under the heading, “Health Resources”. The biggest intervention you can make if you are feeling anxious is to call or talk with someone you trust and talk honestly about how things are going.
If there is something you need or someone to run an errand for you (shop, pharmacy, post office, bank, etc.), please call the parish office at 508-693-0332.
By now you will have discovered that creating a structure to the day is helpful. Whatever yours may be, a little time spent visiting the websites of the museums, opera houses, churches, etc. of the world expands one’s horizons enormously. Realizing this morning that I could choose between the Vatican Museum, the Hermitage, the British Museum and others was liberating and made me feel like a citizen of the world.
I also want to share my thinking about re-opening, Lobster Rolls, and how long covid-19 will affect us. My opinion is that It is likely to be with us for the next two years and maybe a third, based on the reports from the epidemiologists that project 12-18 months before a vaccine will be developed.
We are extraordinarily fortunate to be on the Vineyard at this time. The measures put in place by the towns, Boards of Health, and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital are working and have kept the number of positive cases well below what the rest of the commonwealth is experiencing.
The question everyone wants to know is how long will the staying at home and social distancing conditions continue. The short answer is that nobody knows. On the church side, we are likely to follow the direction of our Bishops and our town as to when it will be safe to open Grace Church for worship again. The current guidance from our Bishops is ‘not before May 31’, but we should be ready for the May 31 date to be extended further into the summer.
The Vestry is determined that Lobster Rolls will happen this summer when it is safe to do so. We will be following the guidance of Tisbury’s Board of Health, but we are not certain when or what this summer’s Lobster Rolls will look like.
The question ‘when can we go back to normal’ is out there as well. I don’t believe we will go back to how things were but that a new normal will emerge. My hope is that it will be a better normal, one that places a higher value on people than profit; one that provides essential services to everyone; one that is more just and more equal; one that prioritizes responsible stewardship of our planet.
I believe that we, together with others, can imagine and then shape the new normal based on our reality and our aspirations. Our first priority is to keep each other safe and to support each other. But in those moments of reflection, why not identify the qualities and values we most want for our post covid-19 world and begin to work together to make it happen.
It is wonderful to see so many of you at 10am on Sunday and to share worship with you online. Many thanks to all of you for your presence and for your ongoing support of Grace Church.
God bless you,
The Reverend Stephen Harding
My Friends –
Congratulations on making it through another week of staying at home and the schools being closed! Judging from the phone calls, the Parish seems to be doing ok. Thank you for staying in touch with each other. Please continue to call each other and to let others know if there is something you need. The Parish Office number is 508-693-0332, and we continue to be open, even if the building is closed to everyone but church staff.
Please note the following:
Holy Week and Easter; Virtual Coffee Hour
+1 253 215 8782 US
+1 301 715 8592 US
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
Meeting ID: 660 225 0844
Daily Message on the website
Adult Education: Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Thank you all for your support and your prayers – I hope to see you at Virtual Coffee Hour this Sunday!
God bless you,
My Friends –
I hope that you are all well.
You will have seen Governor Baker’s order that closes the schools until May 4th, and you may have seen our Bishops’ March 25 covid-19 update, in which we are advised that we now plan for no in-person public worship services until May 31. The Bishops also provide a number of liturgical resources for individuals at home.
Both the Governor and the Bishops’ extensions have the intent of reducing exposure to the virus, but the extension of school closings and delaying public worship until Pentecost is a shift in thinking of isolation and social distancing in terms of months, rather than weeks.
The prospect of continuing on as we are may be difficult, and the emotional impact of hearing this may give rise to anxiety and a certain sense of endlessness. All of this is a normal response to an abnormal situation, and I can tell you that, eventually, distancing and isolation will end. The precautions we are taking are our part to slow the spread of the virus, and ultimately to overcome it – we’ll get there.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if this is of interest to you and I will send you the syllabus. Day and time tba; the first assignment is to watch the movie “Bonhoeffer” (2003) on Amazon Prime.
As always, please call the Parish office at 508 693-0332, if you would like someone to run an errand for you or if that there is something that we can provide.
In the meantime, stay safe, and God bless you,
March 23, 2020
My Friends –
You will have seen Governor Baker’s emergency order declaring a stay at home advisory and directing all non-essential services to close as of noon tomorrow. For us on the Vineyard, this means what most of us have been doing already: social distancing, staying at home, making food and pharmacy runs, and going for walks when we can.
Workers at places of religious worship are deemed essential workers under this order. This means that Grace Church will continue to offer our online services, phone support, and carry on in general.
We continue to have a group of parishioners who are willing and ready to run errands for others, shop, and be available for phone calls as needed. Please call the parish office at 508 693-0332 if there is a way they can be helpful to you.
I am reminded of the words of St. John and St. Paul: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5) and “We do not lose heart.” (2 Cor 4:14).
We will get through this. And we will get through it together. As we continue to follow social distancing, wash our hands, and make sure that we and our neighbors have enough food and medication, we are doing our part to mitigate the virus’ effects.
Once we’ve done all we can do, then let’s get on with things and pay attention to those around us. The building is closed; we are open.
Please see the following items and updates below:
c/o Linda Besse
15908 East Cooper Road
Mead, WA. 99021
God bless you, faithful friend, and thank you for everything you have given us.
I know Firefighters and EMS personnel in NYC who are working in the midst of their difficult situation; and I know churches in NYC and in London who would love to hear from us. If you’d like to write a card to NYC First Responders, Church of the Ascension or St. Pancras, please let me know, and I will give you the contact information. Please make sure that you put your name, c/o Grace Church Vineyard Haven and the church’s address as the return address.
As always, this comes with my prayers for you. God bless you for your strength and for your goodness.
My Friends –
Congratulations to each of you for making it through the first week of closed schools and social distancing!
I write to remind you that our service tomorrow will be here on our website. Please join us here and not in church. Thank you to Wes Nagy, Jan Hyer, Annie Palches, Akia Sharp Barbosa, and John Hickey for being the Choir, and to Karen Huff for being videographer and editor for the service!
Bishop Gates has issued another update on the coronavirus, which can be found by clicking here. As you will read, all in-person public worship services for Holy Week and Easter Sunday will not be held this year because of the coronavirus situation. I know this is disappointing, but there are still things we can do to celebrate the Resurrection and new life. Plans are already underway for various online options for Holy Week and Easter Day.
Please note Bishop Gates’ advice that the situation is changing rapidly. This is normal for the situation that we’re in and we’ll adapt, as we have been doing, to any new situation as it arises.
Common sense would suggest that, without panic and without hoarding, now may be a good time to make sure that you have enough food, supplies, and medications for you, your family, and your pets.
Thanks to our band of intrepid volunteers, Grace Church provided fifteen takeout meals to members of our community last night. Our plan is to finish out our Community Supper season by offering the same drive-through takeout plan next Friday. Many thanks to Leslie, Bo, Jennifer, Lily, and Hannah for making this happen and for your help!
I would like to thank our Sexton, Chris Berry, for his outstanding job in keeping all our surfaces disinfected and clean – thank you Chris!
I will be thinking of all of you tomorrow, and God bless you.
Good morning from Grace Church on this rainy Thursday, March 19.
This morning I’ve been feeling a little bit like I do in winter – when my world can feel a little more limited and I have to stay inside.
As we enter the fourth day of social distancing and isolation, I’m reminded of something that Viktor Frankl wrote in his book, ‘Man’s search for meaning’, which is that we have the freedom to choose how to respond.
Social distancing and self-isolation are intended to reduce the transmission of the covid-19 virus, but it doesn’t mean that we’re helpless of powerless: there are things we can choose to do to help ourselves and others at this time.
Later today, Maureen will send out the weekly email with a copy of our Parish directory as an attachment. This has been in the works for a while, but has become more important because of the coronavirus.
I encourage you to use it, to have as a resource; to call someone to see how they’re doing. A reminder that the number and meeting code for our noon call is on our website in my March 17 email.
A card to the hospital staff, First Responders in your town, the teachers at your school or the high school, or the Board of Health in your town, to thank them for the work they’re doing, would be well received.
However you choose to respond, remember that you are not alone but are part of a wider community.
God bless you,
I bind unto myself today
the virtues of the starlit heaven
the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
around the old eternal rocks.
St. Patrick’s Breastplate – Hymnal 1982 #370
March 17, 2020
My Friends –
A Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone!
I am impressed and proud of all our parishioners who called to say that they were not coming to Church in order to self-isolate. Thank you for your care for yourself and others.
Our list of Volunteers to run errands, shop, go to the post office, etc. is growing. Thank you for your willingness to serve others!
I remind all of us that this is a time to come together as the Parish of Grace Church.
Following the example of the Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE), and paraphrasing them,
“[our current situation] may compel us to be dependent on the care of others. This may conflict with our pride and challenge our notion of self-sufficiency. We are called to let go and accept the service of others gracefully…Those who care for [others] should cherish this opportunity of service and realize that their caring may be the chief means by which [another] experiences the companionship and love of Christ.”
Adapted from the SSJE Rule of Life, Chapter 46
If you are self-isolating and there is something that you need, please call the Parish office at 508 693-0332 between 9am and 2pm to let us know. We will put you in touch with a parishioner who will help.
These are the current updates from our Bishops and from the Parish:
Public Worship Services: Effective immediately, all public worship services, Sunday School, and Coffee Hour are cancelled through April 5th, which is Palm Sunday. It is unknown at this point whether Holy Week and Easter services will be affected.
Sunday services at Grace Church: There will be a streamed service of Morning Prayer on Sunday on our website https://www.graceepiscopalmv.org. The intent is to offer a service in which everyone can participate at home. A bulletin for the service will be prepared and posted on the website in advance.
Parish Meetings: All in-person Parish meetings are cancelled effective immediately. Plans are being developed for on-line meetings where appropriate. The Men’s Group, Tea, Prayer, Healing, and Depression Groups are cancelled, as is the Burgess Book Group.
12 Step Groups: The Vestry voted last night to continue to offer meeting space to 12 Step groups, subject to their following Governor Baker’s limit on the number of people in one place.
Daily Phone Call at 12pm noon: In order to reduce isolation and loneliness, there will be a daily video teleconference phone call for parishioners at 12pm through Zoom. To join the call, simply click the hyperlink in the invitation below. To join by telephone, dial 1 929 205 6099 , and enter the meeting id, which is 925 898 479, and press the pound sign. If directed, press the # sign again, and you will be in the meeting!
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 925 898 479
One tap mobile
+19292056099,,925898479# US (New York)
+13126266799,,925898479# US (Chicago)
Dial by your location
+1 929 205 6099
Enter the Meeting ID: 925 898 479
Press the # sign and press it again if directed.
Telephone contact: In order to stay connected as a Parish, a phone tree is being created for the Vestry. We would also like to send you a copy of the Parish Directory so that we can stay in touch with each other.
I close with my prayers for you and your families, and with St. Patrick’s words:
I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken, to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.
God bless you all,
March 13, 2020
My Friends –
The coronavirus covid-19 virus situation continues to change rapidly and remain an extremely fluid situation. This is normal for any kind of unfolding major event, and our strategy at Grace is to plan for one or two steps beyond the present, be flexible, and incorporate and adapt to reliable information as it is known.
At this time we are continuing to hold services and our Friday Community suppers with appropriate precautions. (See below).
You will have seen the latest email from Bishop Gates (March 13), which follows on from the Bishops’ March 11 letter in response to the covid-19 virus.
At Grace Church, in order to continue our preparedness and to provide as many options to our congregation and our neighbors as possible, we have implemented the following initiatives:
To reduce the sense of isolation, a daily call-in telephone call will be held at noon, beginning tomorrow, Saturday March 14, for anyone who is self-isolating, feels isolated, or lonely.
The telephone number and dial-in information for tomorrow is as follows:
If you need someone to shop or run errands for you, please contact the Parish Office between 9am and 2pm Monday through Friday, and we will be glad to organize that for you.
If you are feeling sick and your symptoms are not severe, call your medical provider instead of going to the hospital.
If your symptoms are severe, call your medical provider and go to the Emergency Room.
If you are in the high risk category for covid-19 as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the strong advice is to stay home and avoid public gatherings. If you do, please call the Parish Office at 508 693-0332 to let us know and so that we can make arrangements for a pastoral visit.
Tonight’s Community supper will be held at the usual time with the following guidelines:
We will make a decision next week whether next Friday’s Community Supper (3/20/20) will be held.
We are attempting to video the 10am service, using Zoom and broadcast it on our website or some other media in order to make corporate worship available to as many people as possible during this time.
Check our website for updates - https://www.graceepiscopalmv.org/, and remember that our goal is to provide a safe space to be with God, maintain a sense of community in a time of isolation, and to serve one another.
These are troubling times but not insurmountable. Let us remember that we are stronger together and face the future with confidence of God’s love for us and for the world.
God bless you,
My Friends -
As the coronavirus Covid-19 situation continues to unfold, our goal as a Parish is to be prepared and not anxious.
This email outlines (broadly) who is likely to be at risk of getting sick because of the virus; medical care if quarantined or self-isolating; and resources (national, state, and local) to answer questions and provide suggestions of things to do to be prepared in advance.
If you are self-isolating or become quarantined, please call the Parish Office at 508 693-0332 and let us know this. If needed, we will put together a team to shop for you, run errands, and provide general support to you and your family during this time.
Please read the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) flyer on People at Risk of Serious Illness from Covid-19 (click here) or download it as an attachment to this post.
The CDC describes peopple who are at higher risk of getting very sick from Covid-19 as including:
If you fit one or more of these criteria, please follow the CDC's preparation guidance in the above-mentioned flyer (click here).
If you self-isolate or become quarantined, let your medical provider know immediately. Self-isolating and quarantine do not mean that medical treatment stops: call your medical provider, who is then responsible for your medical care. If symptoms of the virus develop, she or he will direct the course of your treatment, as they would with any other medical issue.
On the Island, our Town Health Officials, First Responders, and the Hospital have been working to develop a response plan to the Covid-19 virus; I have been in touch to make sure Grace Church's plan is in conformity with theirs. Please visit the Town of Tisbury's website (click here) and see the attached Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) sheet prepared by the Martha's Vineyard Hospital for more information on our local response.
Going forward, reliable sources of information are the Centers for Disease Control (CDC); the Massachusetts Department of Public Health; and the Town of Tisbury website.
Grace Church has already implemented a number of preparedness measures to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19. We have a plan of phased steps we will take if the risk of infection on the Vineyard increases.
These are challenging times. Our faith, and experience of coming through other adversities will help. Remember that this is a virus and that we can take measures together to mitigate its spread.
Let us take a deep breath, exhale, and carry on together.
God bless you,
March 6, 2020
My Friends –
I am writing in response to the coronavirus, to tell you what we’re doing at Grace Church, to remind you of basic health precautions, and share what is being done in the wider Martha’s Vineyard community to be ready if we have cases of the coronavirus here.
The virus is spread by respiratory droplets. Precautions therefore follow the same for any other respiratory droplet infection.
At Grace Church, following the guidance from the Diocese, Episcopal Relief & Development, and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, we have implemented the following precautions:
• We are wiping down the backs of the pews and surfaces in the parish hall and kitchen;
• Bathrooms are being cleaned and wiped down;
• In the church, we have placed hand sanitizer on the piano and at the back of the church for you to use;
• We ask that you refrain from hugging or kissing at the Peace;
• If you feel uncomfortable shaking hands at this time, put your right hand over your chest and exchange the Peace with a smile;
• All Eucharistic Ministers will clean their hands using hand sanitizer before the liturgy of the table;
• Receiving the Sacrament in one kind (the host) is perfectly acceptable and implies reception of the second.
• To reduce any potential transmission of respiratory droplets, we ask that if you intinct the Sacrament, you hand the Eucharistic Minister the wafer so that they can intinct it for you and place it in your hand.
• If you do not feel comfortable coming to church for services, please call the parish office to let us know – it will be our honor to bring you Communion and visit you in your home.
• If you do not feel well, stay home, go see your physician, Nurse Practitioner or the hospital’s Emergency Room as you would normally do.
• We are talking with the leaders of the groups that rent our space to coordinate common guidelines for cleanliness and use during this time.
Guidance from Episcopal Relief & Development (https://www.episcopalrelief.org/what-we-do/us-disaster-program/faith-based-response-to-epidemics/):
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough and throw the tissue in a trash can.
• Wash your hands (20 seconds with soap and water) after coughing, sneezing, handling diapers, preparing food or using the bathroom.
• Stay home if you are feeling ill.
The Press Release regarding preparations and plans on the Vineyard is attached below as a separate document.
Individually and as Church, we have gotten through other events before. I am confident that we will get through this too. The big thing on the coronavirus is to take care of yourself and those around you. If you don’t feel well, stay home, seek medical care early, and call the Church office to let us know how we can help.
God bless you,
A function of the Church in our time is to build relationships; to bring people together; to foster the sense of community among people of differing beliefs; and to assert our common humanity. Too many in our country are actively promoting hatred, fear, and suspicion in an attempt to sow division and fragment our society. We model a different way: one of inclusion that acknowledges and celebrates our diversity.
We entered a covenant - an indissoluble bond with God - at Baptism: that we would love our neighbor as our selves, seeking Christ in all persons, and that we will strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being.
This does not mean that we have to agree with everyone - far from it. What it does mean is that we are honor-bound to seek the divine in everyone and respect them as a human being. It means that we are to model a behavior that listens to understand, to disagree civilly on the substance when we do, to see our selves in each other, and to explore the nature of our humanity together. It means that we are to work for the common good.
On Martha's Vineyard, we all live on the same island. As citizens of the United States, we share one nation, and our future is inextricably linked with each other, and as citizens of the world, we all share the same planet. We believe that solutions to complex problems that face all of us are better resolved through relationships that unite people with different ideas and opinions.
As part of the faith community, we are called to aspire to the best of who we can be. Modeling respect, having difficult conversations, and never forgetting for an instant that the person in front of us is just as much a child of God as we are, is part of who we are called to be.
A colleague of mine told me about a story-telling website. "It's called the Moth" he said. "People get up and tell their own stories, and its become very popular. Maybe we can do something similar here." After a while, I finally checked it out (https://themoth.org) and now I listen whenever I can.
What further caught my attention was the sentence in the sign-off at the end of the broadcast: "The Moth Radio Hour is co-produced by Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts and presented by PRX."
This is close to home!
I went to the website and found the section that offers Storytelling Tips & Tricks. Perfect, I thought, maybe this will help my preaching.
There, in their guidelines, is the reason that I keep listening to the stories of so many different people: Stakes. "What do you stand to gain or lose? Why is what happens in the story important to you? If you can’t answer this, then think of a different story."
I don't know what I stand to gain or lose when I preach - I haven't thought much about it until now, although I have told some vulnerable stories from the pulpit. Just asking the question is to inject a sermon with immediacy and urgency, as does 'why is what happens in the story important to me'.
Now, as I listen to other peoples' stories, I listen to the content. And I listen for the why. So that when I tell our story from the pulpit, you will know that something is at stake and hear the why as well.
Our core values are to to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves; and to strive for justice and peace among all peoples, and respect the dignity of every human being.
Far from being offensive to Christians, we believe that the Rainbow Pride Flag and the inclusivity it represents are right in line with our values.
Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, sent this message to the entire Episcopal Church on June 12, 2019:
Jesus said: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
In my years of ministry, I have personally seen and been blessed by countless LGBTQ sisters, brothers and siblings. Dear friends, the church has in like manner been blessed by you. Together with many others you are faithful followers of Jesus of Nazareth and his way of love. You have helped the church to be truly catholic, universal, a house of prayer for all people. You have helped the church to truly be a reflection of the beloved community of God. You have helped the church to authentically be a branch of the Jesus movement in our time.
Your ministries to and with this church are innumerable. I could speak of how you often lead our vestries, and other leadership bodies in the church. I could speak of how many of you organize our liturgies of worship, lift our voices in song, manage church funds, teach and form our children as followers of Jesus, lead congregations, ministries and dioceses. But through it all and above it all, you faithfully follow Jesus and his way of love. And in so doing you help the church, not to build a bigger church for church’s sake, but to build a better world for God’s sake.
During June, Americans and people around the world observe Pride. Today, as we mourn the 49 people who were murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando three years ago, I am mindful that Pride is both a celebration and a testament to sorrow and struggle that has not yet ended. Especially this month, I offer special thanks to God for the strength of the LGBTQ community and for all that you share with your spouses, partners and children, with your faith communities, and indeed with our entire nation.
downloaded 6/1/6/19 from www.episcopalchurch.org/posts/publicaffairs/presiding-bishops-pride-month-statement-honors-lgbtq-episcopalians
I invite you, therefore... to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. (BCP p. 265)
I find myself wanting more than television or the internet can provide. I click through amazing amounts of channels and sites and the sheer volume available does not provide or guarantee any product of the quality I am looking for: something absorbing, something that will make me think; something that will offer a new insight into my way of being or that of humanity's.
When I put my phone down, when I turn away from my computer, when I turn off the television, I have time to breathe; to sit, read, and absorb that which is emerging in me. I am more connected with myself, those around me, and with God.
Thinking about Lent after this morning's 8:00 sermon, it's a journey of exploration that includes the presence of God along the way, a God who's alive and who shows up in unexpected places and times. In our own Lenten journeys, if we take the time, I think we experience the humanity of God - in us. At the end of Lent, Holy Week offers all that it means to be human, and to feel all the emotions as we make the switch from Jesus being with us to our being with Him on His journey to the Cross, His tomb, and the inexplicable wonder and mystery of His Resurrection.
Lent is not a time to be clicked through or rushed. If rushed, one misses the silences that allow new possibles to be glimpsed and engaged with. The one thing I would suggest this Lent is to use its time well.
I invite you, therefore, to take the time to go on your Lenten journey and explore where it takes you.
God bless you in this Lenten season.
“…the self God loves, the self God is in relationship with, is your actual self. God isn’t waiting for you to become thinner or heterosexual or married or celibate or more ladylike or less crazy or more spiritual or less of an alcoholic in order to love you.
Also, I would argue that since your ideal self doesn’t actually exist, it would follow that the “you” everyone in your life loves is your actual self, too.”
Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shameless, (2019), pp. 180-181.
"Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free..." 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
It may be a coincidence that this passage will be read in Church tomorrow morning, but maybe not. The Annual Parish Meeting is tomorrow - the meeting where we look back on the the accomplishments of the past year and define our goals for the coming one. That we have accomplished much and come far this past year is due to the dedication, commitment, and hard work of the members and friends of Grace Church. Without your participation and support, we would not have gotten to this point. Thank you.
Building on the accomplishments that Grace - through you and my predecessors - has achieved, the Vestry and I have been looking ahead to 2019 and beyond. Recognizing that Grace Church is not a static entity but one that is dynamic and constantly changing, the Vestry has authorized the development of a three year strategic plan to guide us toward our end-goals of financial sustainability, growth, maintaining our property, and continuing to be relevant in the lives of our Island and wider communities.
The plan's development will be an ongoing process that will involve developing a plan, assessing the effectiveness of its implementation, and improving it as we go - and I am writing to invite your participation in the process of identifying our goals and developing a plan for Grace's future.
The underlying model for the process is know as the OODA Loop. It was developed by Colonel John Boyd, USAF, who wanted to know why the United States' planes could outfly the technically superior Russian MIGs. The OODA acronym stands for: Observe a situation; Orient oneself within the situation; make a Decision; and Act upon that decision. Based on one's decision and action (and other's decisions and actions in response to yours), the situation will change and the OODA loop continues its cycle until the situation is resolved.
I find all this enormously exciting as it applies to Grace Church. I am looking forward to learning your goals and hopes for Grace Church's future and to working with you to develop a plan to achieve them.
God bless you,
Last Thursday I discovered that the Wise Men did not tidily take a week to arrive at the manger. It probably took about a year, or maybe two, for them to arrive. I am struck by the addition of time to their journey and can only marvel at their determination to follow what they knew to be true.
I realized their guide for their journey, the star, only appeared when it was dark, and I appreciate the metaphor for our own journeys.
I read T. S. Eliot's poem, "The Journey of the Magi" as part of today's sermon and am providing it below. You may also enjoy his "The Cultivation of Christmas Trees" and its sense of wonder.
Happy Epiphany, and God bless you.
Journey Of The Magi
T. S. Eliot
'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
It all looks different in the morning. Last night was all about the Angels, wonder, and the mystery of the birth of God’s son in a stable, in the dark, and without medical help.
In the clear light of day, the angels have withdrawn a little, the swirl of Heaven’s focus has dissolved, and we are left blinking at a child, improbably real; and, in the way of newborns, totally mesmerizing.
So soft. So small. So perfect. The Lamb of God and the hope of the world:
God’s Son, right…there.
I found myself on our porch one afternoon last week, wrapping tiny lights around the top of the railing. The wire stuck and twisted repeatedly, and the whole experience was becoming annoying instead of pleasurable. The second half went more smoothly. At present our lights are shining in the darkness, adding something to the season and perhaps brightening our corner of Woodlawn Avenue.
Watching these small spots of colors is strangely compelling - there is no other light source on our corner – and our lights look like jewels shining against the absolute night.
Into this space drops the thought that it has been a long time since I believed I had a future.
I served as a Chaplain as part of the Recovery Effort at Ground Zero in the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001. I have rarely felt the Presence of the Divine as strongly as I felt it there. Being there always felt sacred: the prayers of the world were centered on the site. It was holy, and I felt safe there. After the site closed, and I could begin to let myself feel, I discovered that part of the attacks’ impact on me was that any sense of the future had been taken away.
Everything became short term. The idea of making plans more than a month in advance was impossible, because I didn’t know if I would be there. I made my bed, did the dishes every morning, and kept my apartment neat, in case family or someone official might have to enter. It has taken me seventeen years to be able to look ahead and plan to do something five years down the road.
Looking at the sunlight streaming through the window behind the organ in Grace Church last week, I was taken with the word “hope” in a small little panel at its base. The word itself is about two inches long by one inch high – it’s not very big. And it’s the thumbnail at the top.
I write this post to say that hope, no matter how small, shines like the tiny lights on our porch in the absolute dark, in the midst of trauma and its aftermath. Christmas this year is about the presence of light and the presence of God shining in the darkness. This Christmas, Jesus’ birth is bringing light to the world and restoring hope for the future.
I wish you a Christmas of wonder, joy, and hope.
God bless you,