Thoughts & Updates

News, perspectives and updates from Grace Episcopal Church

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

An American Christmas

An American Christmas

A couple of days before Christmas, I was talking to Mohammed, a Muslim who works at the grocery store near my home. When out of curiosity I asked if he observed the holiday in some way, he replied, “I love Christmas.” He planned to celebrate at the home of Christian friends.

Regardless of political persuasion, race, gender, socioeconomic status or even religion, Americans love our just-completed Christmas celebration. It might be a secular version, simply gathering with family and friends or exchanging gifts, but nevertheless, Christmas ranks as our most popular holiday, one that affects our very economy. While commercial interests have driven this day to the top, and in many ways secularized it, this holiday resonates profoundly because Americans love Jesus. A 2011 Public Policy Polling survey found that 90 percent viewed Jesus favorably, only one percentage point behind the first-place Abraham Lincoln.

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El Instituto Liderazgo: A Dream Come True

El Instituto Liderazgo: A Dream Come True

Like most good things in life, El Instituto Liderazgo, the Leadership Institute, started with a dream. The Rev. Martín Juarez, former vicar of El Buen Pastor, Durham, dreamed of developing Latino leadership for his congregation.  He recognized that while many Hispanics have a deep faith, they frequently lack leadership experience in and knowledge of The Episcopal Church. He wanted them to have opportunities for both.

In 2012, the Rev. Evelyn Morales, diocesan deacon for Hispanic ministry, attended Nuevo Amanecer, a biennial national conference sponsored at that time by The Episcopal Church’s Office of Latino/Hispanic Ministries.  There she learned about the Diocese of Los Angeles’s two-year leadership development program. With the encouragement of the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry and the Chartered Committee on Latino/Hispanic Ministries, the Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple facilitated months-long planning that envisioned two separate institutes: one each in the eastern and western ends of the diocese with a shared goal of developing leadership, knowledge and pedagogy.

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After-school tutoring ministry planning

After-school tutoring ministry planning

A new year has begun!  Hard to believe it's 2015!  Seems like yesterday that we were all in an uproar over Y2K.  What are your resolutions for the new year?  Lose weight? Eat healthier food?  Exercise more?  Get organized?  Make a difference in someone else's life?

I have to confess that all of the above apply to me.  I don't need to lose a lot of weight, but a few pounds would be good.  I definitely need to do better in the diet, exercise and organization areas!  While each of us at the church has different resolutions for the new year, one area that we are focusing on at Grace is making a difference for someone else.

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Miss Bea

Miss Bea

One part of ministry that I enjoy most is visiting with people.  Today I had the honor of eating breakfast with Miss Bea!  Bea is Grace's oldest member at age 91.  She's a lifelong Episcopalian, as I am.  I love to listen to her stories about the church.

One visit she told me that during World War II, when it was announced that the Allies were invading Normandy, many businesses allowed their workers to go to church.  Miss Bea, who worked for Prudential, went to her packed Episcopal Church service on June 6, 1941 to pray for the soldiers and our nation.

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Sermon del santo nombre de Jesus (Sermon for the holy name of Jesus)

Sermon del santo nombre de Jesus (Sermon for the holy name of Jesus)

El sermon al Buen Pastor, Durham NC, por la fiesta del santo nombre de Jesus.

En inglés, mi nombre es John; en español, Juan.  La palabra es de hebreo y significa don o gracia de dios.  Soy el segundo de tres hijos.  Mi hermano mayor tiene 10 años más que yo.  Mi madre tuvo una perdida fetal y un aborto espontaneo entre el nacimiento de mi hermano mayor y yo.  Cuando mi mamá se quedó embarazada conmigo, su ginecólogo le recomendó a mi madre que me abortara debido a sus preocupaciones sobre su salud.  Había un problema con su matriz y el medico creía que ella no fuese capaz de llevarme al término.  Me dio el nombre de Juan para agradecer Dios por el don de un bebe.  Aunque no pienso mucho sobre mi nombre, el sentido y la historia es una parte de mi vida.

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Grace's Vision - Love God

Grace

Grace's Vision

It doesn’t seem like much of one in our rush to get everything done before Christmas day, but Advent is a time of waiting.  One thing is for sure, no matter how much we get done, the celebration of the birth of Christ will be here next week.  Advent, I believe, is a good metaphor for what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  There’s a lot of activity, but in the final analysis it’s up to and all about God.

On December 7, at our Annual meeting, I talked about Grace’s mission to love God, to love neighbor and to change the world.  All three are interrelated.  Loving God means loving our neighbor and changing the world.  Although I am going to look at them as different parts in successive posts, it is important to remember that they are inextricably interconnected.

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A Story Worth Hearing Again

A Story Worth Hearing Again

My Dad passed in February.  One of the things I miss are his stories.  His father built boilers for ships.  I loved the one Dad told about how, when he was little, his brothers stuffed him into a 14-inch wide ship’s gun barrel.  Another favorite was how a boilermaker intentionally hit my grandfather in the head with a red hot rivet.  Even though a small man, he jumped up and beat the daylights out of his attacker.  One more was about pi.  My grandfather started to work in the shipyards when he was a child.  With little education, he had few advancement opportunities.  No one in the competitive yards would tell him the value of pi, essential in shipbuilding.  My grandfather taught himself eventually becoming boiler shop supervisor.

As a child, I groaned, hearing Dad’s stories over and over again.  It wasn’t until I was older that I understood that they told me who my Dad was and who I was.  They taught important lessons.  I learned the value of good natured kidding from the story about the ship’s gun.  The red hot rivet taught me that you had to get back up when life knocks you down.  I understood the importance of learning from the one about pi.  Every society, also, tells its own stories to teach its values and lessons.

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Recent comment in this post
Guest — Sue and Sawyer Manly
I loved the story about your Dad. So sad for his passing, but he is celebrating with Jesus this year!! What a glorious Christmas... Read More
Tuesday, 23 December 2014 12:22
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Advent Collection for Teens

Advent Collection for Teens

Grace's Advent collection for Johnston County teens in need was picked up yesterday.  The Department of Social Services will give them to the young people.  This effort is one of our annual services to the community.  Thanks to all who donated!

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The Birth of Our Thanksgiving Holiday

The Birth of Our Thanksgiving Holiday

This article was published in the Raleigh News & Observer about the pivotal role that Episcopalian Sarah Josepha Hale played in making Thanksgiving a national holiday: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/11/26/4356508/not-your-childrens-thanksgiving.html.

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Are You Engaged in Civic Society?

Are You Engaged in Civic Society?

The Clayton News-Star published the following reflection on our need to be engaged in the world us. Grace is a voting site, which is one way we serve the community.  The picture is from voting at the church during the November 4, 2014 election. Are You Engaged in Civic Society?

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All Saints' Sunday

All Saints

All Saints

Happy Halloween!  While I imagine most of you know, Halloween is short for All Hallows’ Eve.  All Hallows or All Saints’ Day, which is always on November 1, hence All Hallows’ Eve on October 31, is one of the major holy days in the church’s calendar.   Although All Saints’ falls on Saturday this year, we will observe Sunday November 2.  This is the only saint’s day, except for a church’s patron, that may take precedence over the celebration of Christ’s resurrection that we celebrate every Sunday.

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What Grace Means to Nacy

What Grace Means to Nacy

Those of you who have been in military service or even to summer camp as a child will recognize the bugle.  Its notes are bright and clear and can be heard for miles.  The bugle regulates the day, telling us when it is time to eat, when to sleep, when to wake and when to gather.  For me, Grace has become my bugle, helping regulate my days and my seasons.  It tells me when the stark season of Lent blooms into the joy of our risen Lord.  It tells me when Wednesday noon comes around to quietly reflect on the gospels at Fr John’s Listening to God meditative services.  It tells me when it’s Wednesday night  and time to gather with our grief support group.  It’s bright voice calls me on Sunday morning where I know I’ll be uplifted by my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Next,I brought a compass this morning.  Being an American man, I don’t often ask for directions and when I do, sometimes I don't follow them.   But Grace has become my compass.  It unwaveringly points me in the direction I need to go.  While I do my best to follow, I know I often stray off course.  Nevertheless, Grace is always here to point the way for me to bring me back.  All I have to do is listen.

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Prayer

Prayer

What would Jesus teach you?

If you could ask Jesus to teach you one thing, what would it be?  Would it be to turn water into wine?  Would it be to walk on water?  Would it be to heal the sick?  Would it be to raise the dead?  If I had my choice, I would probably ask for something showy, something that would impress others, something along the line of these miracles, but, according to scripture, the only thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray.  The disciples often get the rap of being spiritually slow, to put it charitably, but if we take this as any indication, they were more advanced than they are given credit.

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Transitioning into Fall

Transitioning into Fall

Day at Tucker Lake, Saturday September 6

Milestones are important in life.  This week we will acknowledge several.  The first is our day at Tucker Lake!  I’m excited about this fun time to mark the end of summer and the beginning of the new school year!  I’ve looked longing at the lake for years whenever I drive by on Interstate 40.  Cindy and I have been talking about zip lining, kayaking, paddle boarding and hanging out with our Grace friends.  Invite your friends! 

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Work and Renew

Work and Renew

Labor Day Weekend is here!  Although summer officially end September 21, for all intents and purposes it’s over.  Although no shorter than the others, summer seems to be the most ephemeral almost like the heat waves rising from the pavement on a hot day.  I never hear people say, “I can’t believe winter is over already!”  While almost everyone enjoys the long days, slower pace of life, and time to relax, we act as if work is the most important thing in life.

My mother told me that when I was a small child I asked my grandmother when she was going to retire at the time my grandfather retired from the Prudential.  Before she could reply, I answered my own question, “You can’t retire.  You’re a wife.”  My childish remark aside, women and men today work later and later in life.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this trend dates to the early 1990s, long before the financially induced necessity of the dot-com bubble burst in 2000 or the great recession of 2008.   We Americans work harder than anyone in the industrialized world.  Dean Schabner writes in a May 1 ABC news piece that we “take less vacation, work longer days, and retire later, too.”

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God Our Father

God Our Father

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, granddads, and step-dads in the congregation.  Father’s Day is a time to remember our fathers.  It is also a good time to think about what it means to say that God is our Father.  First and most importantly, God is neither male nor female.  The book of Genesis tells us that we are created in the image of God, male and female (1:27).

God Our Mother

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Grace's Garden

Grace

There’s an old saying that to plant a seed is an act of faith and hope.  There is no guarantee that the seed will sprout, and if it does, there is still no guarantee that it will grow, blossom, bloom and bear fruit. The weather, of course, is a major variable but then there are also animals, disease and insects.  It’s a wonder anyone ever plants anything, but they do with faith and hope.

One of the great symbols of our congregation is our garden!  The idea came from the Abundant Life Project, sponsored by Episcopal Relief and Development, the theme of Grace’s 2011 Vacation Bible School.  Originally, I am told, it was a hay bale garden.  Larry Dalton built a raised bed in 2012 that Jack and Pat Bachelor rebuilt this spring.  I think this garden is a great metaphor for our faith.  Out of the inhospitable asphalt sprout lush green vegetables.  In the midst of life’s challenges, our garden reminds us that with God all things are possible.  The tiny sprouts encourage us to have faith and hope.  The rustling leaves of the growing plants whisper the good news of the abundant life in Christ.

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Moms

Moms

Mother’s Day is this Sunday May 11!  Happy Mother’s Day to all moms!  Mother’s Day is an important celebration for all of us because each of us is or has had one.  I am thankful for my mom, an incredibly vivacious woman, who deeply loved my brothers and me.  She was also a devote Episcopalian dedicated to serving others.  My mom was a great example.

The first Christian might have been a mother.  Some say that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was the first Christian.   Mary was a devout mother even standing at the foot of the cross while her son suffered and died when almost everyone else had deserted him.  Mary has been called the first Christian though not because of her witness at the cross but because she consented to be the mother of Jesus, indeed, as the tradition says, the mother of God, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

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Serving Those in Need

Serving Those in Need

When Cindy and I were returning from our visit to Iowa, we met some folks on the shuttle from RDU to the Fast Park lot.  After they found out where we had been, we talked about the tornados striking the Midwest.  They told us how Raleigh’s 2011 tornado felled trees that blocked their driveway and smashed their home’s roof.  It destroyed the house across from them.  Without knowing that I was a priest, the blonde daughter turned her head, looked me hard in the eyes, and said, “The church did the most to help us.”

Over 2,000 biblical verses talk about poverty, wealth and social justice.  1 John 3:17-18 says, “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  Many call this God’s “preferential option for the poor,” because throughout the scriptures God gives preference to the well-being of the poor.  It isn’t that God loves those who are struggling to survive or trying to break the chains of generational poverty more than others, but that it is all too easy to ignore or worse, scorn, those that are not healthy, strong and well-to-do.

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The Resurrection

The Resurrection

Holy Week is the most important time of the Christian year.  Jesus’ death and resurrection are at the heart of our faith.  While only a few doubt that Jesus lived and died on a cross, many doubt that he rose from the dead.

For me, evidence is found in the change that takes in his disciples after the resurrection. Scripture tells us that the disciples were cowering behind locked doors after Jesus’ crucifixion.  “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders” (John 20:19).  I would have been hiding, too, if I had been one of his disciples.  After all, Jesus had just been publically humiliated and brutally executed.  The disciples had every reason to fear they were next!

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