Thoughts & Updates

News, perspectives and updates from Grace Episcopal Church

Thoughts and observations by John Gibson, Vicar of Grace Episcopal Church near Clayton, NC.

Leslie Radford Postulant

Leslie Radford Postulant

Congratulations to Grace member Leslie Radford who has been made a postulant in the discernment process to become a deacon in the Episcopal Church!  The ministry of deacons is an ancient one found in the book of Acts.  They dedicate their ministry to serving those in need.  Leslie returns to Grace after a 10-month long internship at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Smithfield.  She will begin clinical pastoral education in January.  While completing any step does not guarantee ordination, it is important in the journey.

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Financial Health Sermon Series

Financial Health Sermon Series

Most Americans are in debt.  Many live pay check to pay check. Finances are one of our greatest challenges.  Jesus warned us that, "you cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24).  Mammon was an Ancient Near Eastern god of money, revealing money's powerful appeal.  

While we all seek the good life, our pursuit of it through more credit and deeper debt to acquire more things ultimately only enslaves us.  As Proverbs 22:7 points out, "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender."

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Science, Faith and the Life of Wonder

Science, Faith and the Life of Wonder

Episcopalians are an intelligent group open to advances in science and technology.  Nonetheless, at times, we wrestle with how to reconcile our faith in Jesus Christ and mdern science that seems to have no room for God.  We explore this challeging question in our new five-part Adult Ed class that starts this Sunday October 18 @ 9:30 a.m. entitled “Science, Faith and the Life of Wonder.” We will listen to excerpts of conversations with faithful thinkers on differe aspects of this topic from the award winning radio program On Being and discuss on our own points of view in the faith and science debate.  This Sunday we talk about Charles Darwin and evolution.

 

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Blessing of the Animals

Blessing of the Animals

The Blessing of the Animals is one of my favorites of the entire year!  I love meeting people’s pets.  Most people do as a matter of fact.  If you haven’t already done so, make sure you invite your friends by sending this to them or even better sharing the event invitation on Grace’s Facebook page.  It’s also a great way to introduce people to Grace Episcopal.

Over the years that I’ve participated in this service, dogs, a few cats, bunnies, gerbils, horses, snakes, hawks, falcons and more have attended, not to mention their human companions.  While in general, this service is a good time, the blessing has a profound significance in our technological age.

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Learning Church

Learning Church

Learning Organization

My Dad worked for GE his entire working life.  While that was common at the time, it is rare in this day and age.  I read several years ago that the average person now has six different careers.  In part this is because our world is changing so rapidly that businesses, indeed industries, come and go at the speed of light.

I remember in the eighties when VHS was new and Mom and Pop video stores sprouted everywhere.  The industry consolidated in the nineties with large chains like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video pushing out the smaller stores.  Hollywood Video went out of business in 2010 the same year Blockbuster went into Chapter 11.  Its last corporate stores were shuttered in 2014.

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Love of Learning

Love of Learning

I love fall!  It’s one of my favorite times of year.  Don’t get me wrong!  I love summer, too.  The long days and slower pace of life!  But there’s something about fall.  It’s not football.  I like football, but no, I’m not a huge fan.  It’s not the crisp air or the fall colors or hot apple cider, although I like all of those, too, especially the cider!  No, it’s the start of a new school year.

It’s incredibly uncool to say, but it’s true.  I love going to school.  There’s something about it that makes my heart sing.   Remember when Tom Cruise jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch because he was in love?  Yeah, that’s me … about school.  Embarrassing.  I know….

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Great Work, Choir Move and Lighting

Great Work, Choir Move and Lighting

Great Job, Grace!

There is only one word to say, “Wow!”  What a great turn out Sunday to remove the carpet, paint the door frames and to prep the wall for the new cove base!  You were amazing!  One person said at the beginning of the afternoon that there was no way we would get all of that done, but we did!  Great job, Grace Episcopal!  Check out pictures from our work day here. 

The installers put in the new carpet Monday.  They also did an amazing job completing a three-day project in one long day.  It looks great!  I think you will be pleased!

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Great Start and Next Steps for Our Renovations

Great Start and Next Steps for Our Renovations

We’re off to a great start with our renovations.  A huge thanks to everyone who worked so hard and contributed to our effort Friday and Saturday!!  You did a great job!! We've painted the worship space, lobby, hallways and pastor's office. An impressive achievement in a short time!

Paint Tomorrow Thursday Aug 13

Since not everyone can work on a weekend, we’re painting again tomorrow Thursday August 13 starting at 9:00am.  Our goal is to paint the nursery, interior trim, women’s bathroom and yellow metal posts and cinder blocks outside the building.  The posts are rusted and faded and in need of painting.   We want to improve the appearance of the exterior and the interior of our church.  Join the fun for all or part of the day!  Even a few hours makes a difference!

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Church Renovation

My family moved to North Carolina from Roanoke, Virginia, the summer before my senior year in High School.  Whenever a real estate agent would call to say someone was going to look at our house, my Mom or Dad would say, “Red Alert!  All Hands On Deck!”  Everyone in the family would jump into action, cleaning, vacuuming and picking up.

If my parents were here, I know they would be calling an All Hands On Deck, Red Alert.  Next Friday August 7 and Saturday August 8 we will paint our worship space, lobby, hallways, pastor’s office and nursery.  Sunday afternoon August 16 we will move the furniture and pull up the carpet.  Special Effects will install new carpet that week.  Saturday morning August 22 we will move the furniture back for our worship service and install the cove base, the vinyl molding that runs around the base of the wall.  This is the first part of our two phase upgrade.

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Summer Fun School

Summer Fun School

In January, Grace started an afterschool tutoring program for students of West Clayton Elementary School that live in an impoverished neighborhood on Highway 42 a mile or so from the church.  This summer we continue working with these beautiful children.  Members of the church and the community volunteer in this ministry.  This week Trish, who is a Middle School science teacher, taught about water - the different states, the cycle of water and even viscosity!  The children had a lot of fun with this experiment of two parts corn starch to one part water that can be formed like putty only to run like a liquid.

 

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New Planters

New Planters

Thanks to Jack Bacheler, who planted these planters outside the entrance to our parish hall!  They're part of our effort to improve the appearance of our facility.  We will soon begin a two phase upgrade of the interior.  In phase one, we will paint the interior of most of the building.  Our landllords will replace most of the carpeting.  The project will be completed in phase two.  Look for more info to come about our exciting renovatons.

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Time and This Weekend at Grace

Time and This Weekend at Grace

When we moved to North Carolina in 1975, we joined St. Andrew’s, Haw River, a church about the size of Grace.  About once a year our priest Father Griswold, who we lovingly called, Father G., preached a sermon on time.   Fr. G. was a brilliant man who had studied philosophy at Chapel Hill before studying theology at the Berkley Divinity School at Yale.  He knew that time meant more than the passing of one day into another.

This Sunday we begin what is called ordinary time.  Although you might have thought time was already pretty ordinary, we have been living in sacred or extraordinary time.  In the Christian faith, sacred time marks how God has broken into the world dramatically in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  There are two extraordinary times in the church year.  The first runs from the beginning of Advent until the Baptism of Christ, which is the first Sunday after Epiphany on January 6.   The second goes from Ash Wednesday until Pentecost.  Both of these include a period of preparation, Advent and Lent, and celebration, Christmas and Easter.  Both hinge upon dramatic moments – the birth of Christ and the death and resurrection of Christ.  Both also are followed by ordinary time.  

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Pentecost

Pentecost

Pentecost

Happy Birthday!  Sunday is Pentecost, the birthday of the church, not Grace Episcopal Church but the entire church, at least in the Western tradition.  Eastern Orthodox believe the church preexisted the creation, citing an early work called The Shepherd of Hermas that was not included in the Bible and, therefore, not the basis for doctrine in the Episcopal Church.

The celebration of Pentecost predates Christianity.  The name comes from Greek and means fifty, since the feast fell fifty days after Easter.  The Hebrew word is Shavuot, which means “Festival of Weeks” (Exodus 34:22).  Originally it celebrated the first fruits of the wheat harvest.

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Faithful Biblical Women and Creative Women Class

Faithful Biblical Women and Creative Women Class

Women in Scripture

You can’t read the Bible without seeing that women are important.  Although the society of the Ancient World was patriarchal, which is also reflected in the scriptures, women made a difference and not simply because of their children.

Tamar (Genesis 38), Ruth (Book of Ruth), Rahab (Joshua 2, 6:17-23), Deborah (Judges 4 – 5), and Esther (Book of Esther), ranging from a prostitute to a queen, are all notable and strong examples of faith in the Old Testament.  Tamar fights for her levirate right to a child.  Ruth loyally stays with her friend Naomi despite having to leave her home country of Moab.  Rahab daringly hides Hebrew spies, paving the way for the capture of Jericho.   Deborah judges, or leads, the Hebrew people for forty years, during the time of the judges   Esther becomes a queen, who at the risk of her life speaks up to save her people.  This book of Esther, one of two in the canon named for a woman, reads like an ancient version of Game of Thrones or House of Cards.  Esther is the only book of the Old or New Testaments where God is never mentioned.

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Men and Jesus

Men and Jesus

Feminine Jesus

Our pictures say it all: long, flowing hair with equally long, flowing robes.  Jesus hardly appears manly in most modern images of him.  If anything, except for his perfectly coiffed beard, a slight nod to his masculinity, he appears effeminate.

The earliest depictions were quite different.  Ancient artists most frequently showed him as a clean shaven, short haired shepherd carrying a lamb over his shoulders.  He wears a robe in the custom of the Roman Empire, but it is a worker’s tunic with short sleeves and leather thongs wrapping his bare lower legs.  He is dressed for hard work.  In the ancient world, only wealthy men, who did no manual labor, wore long robes such as the toga.  Joseph’s brothers hated him, because his father gave him a long sleeved coat, unfit for work, while they had to tend the sheep and perform the other chores (Genesis 37:3-4).

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Last Call for the Lenten Challenge

Last Call for the Lenten Challenge

I am extremely happy about our observance of Lent this year at Grace.  Out of forty books ordered, I only have two left!  I am already getting a lot out of the daily scripture passage, reflection, questions and prayer in A Journey with Mark: The Fifty Bible Challenge.  Even though we have barely started, already I look forward to the one for the next day.  As a lifelong Episcopalian, with a lot of Lents under my belt, I have found that giving up rather taking on something holds more meaning for my observance of Lent.  This year though is different!

The other difference, I think, is that we are doing this Lenten practice together.  There is power in working together toward a common goal.  The Christian faith is inherently corporate rather than individual.  Throughout Christian history, there have been notable hermit saints, but they are the exception rather than the rule.  Our individualistic society believes we can be spiritual, whether Christian or any other faith, by ourselves.  There is a certain truth to this belief, because God created us as physical and spiritual beings, but our spiritual life is far weaker by ourselves.  The spirit of the risen Christ lives, moves and works through the body of Christ, of which you and I are members.

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20th Anniversary Kick Off

20th Anniversary Kick Off

Giving Thanks

I have been thinking about thanksgiving this week, not the holiday, but the Eucharist because I have been writing that section of our new website.  Eucharist comes from a Greek word that means thanksgiving.  This word is used in the New Testament that was originally written in Greek.  The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:23-4, “the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks (eucharisted), he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’”

Our worship service, the Eucharist, is a thanksgiving for all that God has done and shown to us in and through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.   Our central act of worship is Eucharist, giving thanks to God.

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Mildred's Progress

Mildred

One of the children I have had the privilege of working with in Grace's after school tutoring program is Mildred, pictured with her mother's permission.  Mildred is a bright girl who works hard every time she attends this ministry.

One area we work on is reading and writing English.  Mildred's parents help with math, but, since English is not their mother tongue, they cannot assist her like they want to with this subject.  Mildred does not let that stop her.  She challenges herself.  I was impressed the first day when she read aloud The Emperor's Egg.  This week she brought in a book entitled Hummingbirds that had an even more advanced vocabulary.  Mildred's hard work is paying off.  Last week she tested four reading levels higher instead of the expected three.

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A Growing Faith

A Growing Faith

The books arrived last week for our Lenten Challenge!  I eagerly thumbed through A Journey with Mark, pausing to read the reflection for one of the passages.  Each day of our 50-day journey has two to three pages with a passage from the Gospel of Mark, a reflection, a couple of thought provoking questions and a prayer.  I am excited about our challenge to read Mark and to worship every Sunday, because it will help us grow spiritually as individuals and a community of faith, which I pray for daily.  According to all the research that I have seen, daily scripture reading and prayer are essential to growing in the Christian life and faith

At the annual meeting in December, I talked about the importance of growing in our faith.   Although it is an oversimplification, there are two basic models of faith.  The first and, perhaps, more common, is static.  In this one, people think that once baptized or confirmed, they do not need to grow in their faith.  I am a Christian and that is that!  I was guilty of this as a teenager.  I never went back to Sunday School after I was confirmed at age 13.  Thankfully, with the encouragement of my college chaplain, I started learning about my faith again through taking classes, reading the scriptures, prayer, spiritual direction and other practices.  These have made a huge difference for me spiritually although I still have a long way to go.  While you might not think this at first, part of the excitement of the Christian journey is that we have a long way to go; in other words, God is not done with us!  The Holy Spirit continues to work in your life and mine in amazing ways.

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Take the Lenten Challenge

Take the Lenten Challenge

Take the Lenten Challenge

It’s hard to believe, but Lent is less than a month away!  Ash Wednesday falls on February 18 this year.  The forty days before Easter are a season of spiritual renewal, a time to refocus our lives upon God.  While people frequently choose an individual spiritual practice, I have thought for years that we should offer a church-wide practice that would unite us and help us to grow spiritually.  This year there will be a Lenten Challenge for all of us!

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