Thoughts & Updates

News, perspectives and updates from Grace Episcopal Church

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

Christian Formation Upgrades for All Ages Begin This Sunday

Christian Formation Upgrades for All Ages Begin This Sunday

I dropped out of Sunday School when I was in fourth grade.  My teacher wanted me to memorize the Apostles’ Creed.  Embarrassed the next Sunday that I hadn’t, I never went back.

One of my greatest desires is that Christian Formation will be a different experience at Grace.  I believe this year will be the best, yet.

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Bring a Friend

Bring a Friend

Markell brought it to my attention this summer.  I wanted to bring it to yours before Cindy and I leave to visit her son Travis and his wife Lauren in Pittsburgh.

It’s Back to Church Sunday on September 18.  Thousands of congregations across the country are making a concerted effort to invite people without a faith community to attend their church that day.

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Renovation Phase II

Renovation Phase II

Thanks to all the people who stayed Sunday to clear out the classrooms and church office!  We are off to a great start in the second phase of our renovation project.  This phase requires less work since we frontloaded the project last year.  Our goal this week is to paint these rooms and the men’s bathroom before our landlord installs new carpet and tile.  The women’s bathroom was painted last year.  It will also get new tile this year.

Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. we will spackle, remove the paper borders, sand and do the other prep work necessary for painting.  Saturday morning starting at 9:30 a.m. we will pull up the carpet and paint all of these spaces.

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Orlando and Sunday Worship

Orlando and Sunday Worship

Early Sunday morning a lone gunman committed the worst mass shooting in American history.  This atrocity of course was not isolated.  San Bernardino, Charleston, Fort Hood, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Columbine and many more massacres have been seared into our memory in recent years.

While the United States has only 5% of earth’s population, it accounts for more than 31% of the world’s mass shootings.  Mass murders have become routine in the U.S., most involving a rifle or pistol.  The FBI says that in the last 164 days there have been 136 mass shootings (4 or more victims), leaving a bloody swath of dead bodies, wounded persons, grief stricken families, friends, and co-workers and traumatized communities.

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Youth Sunday

Youth Sunday

This Sunday we’re celebrating our children and young people with our end-of-school year youth and children’s Eucharist.  Young people will take roles normally done by adults – reading the lesson, ushering, chalice bearing, etc.  Our service will also be different since children have different attention spans.  For example, there will only be one lesson.  Since children need to move, they will be invited to join in the Gospel process and to gather around the altar for a special Eucharistic prayer from the Anglican Church in New Zealand.  This is still a service for adults!  While there are differences, we won’t be watering down the Eucharist or talking down to our children.  You will find this Eucharist meaningful!

 

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Moms, Pentecost, Yard Sale and Cookout

Moms, Pentecost, Yard Sale and Cookout

We have a lot going on the next two weeks!  Check it out!  Get involved!  Have fun!

Moms’ Group

While Mother’s Day was last Sunday, we’ve extended the celebration at Grace.  Shelly Kraft, a counselor with Triangle Pastoral Counselors, will be with us this Sunday to facilitate a discussion/support group for Moms, Stepmoms, and Grandmoms in the Fellowship Hall from 9:30 a.m. to 10:20 a.m.   This group is an opportunity to support and to learn from one another’s challenges, struggles, sorrows, joys and successes!

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Litter Cleanup Sunday for Earth Day

Litter Cleanup Sunday for Earth Day

Resting lightly among the brown leaves, it almost looked as if it belonged there.  After walking about two miles on paths through Camp Caraway, Asheboro, during this year’s clergy retreat, I marveled at the lone, unused, unsoiled, tan paper napkin by the trail.  Instead of an aberration, however, the napkin heralded more litter.  Walking about ten feet further, I saw a brown, glass bottle, a crumpled and twisted Little Caesar’s pizza box, a green, plastic Mountain Dew bottle and other trash that seemed to cascade down the embankment from the highway above where every now and then a car roared by despoiling the quiet beauty of the bare, winter woods.  

In the 1960s, Lady Bird Johnson led efforts to clean up America’s highways that were increasingly dumping grounds as more Americans drove cars, thoughtlessly throwing used coffee cups and other garbage out their windows.  Lady Bird believed her efforts were an integral part of her husband’s Great Society programs.  "Getting on the subject of beautification is like picking up a tangled skein of wool," she wrote in her diary on January 27, 1965. "All the threads are interwoven -- recreation and pollution and mental health, and the crime rate, and rapid transit, and highway beautification, and the war on poverty, and parks -- national, state and local."

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Renew Your Soul on a Walk with God

Renew Your Soul on a Walk with God

 

Arms pumping, clinched fists swinging to head height, eyes fixed straight ahead, striding furiously, a colleague power walked toward me on a dirt road at the Camp and Conference Center ten or fifteen years ago during an annual clergy retreat.  I slowed my already slow pace and stared as the person passed without acknowledging my presence.

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Easter Season Worship

Easter Season Worship

 

The explosion of flowers, new leaves and yellow-green pollen tell us that we’ve left barren winter and entered budding spring.  Each of our four seasons has its own rhythm and characteristics that reveal the natural cycle of life.   The same is true for our liturgical year whose cycle opens the Christian spiritual life to us.

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Spreading Peace

Spreading Peace

Bleary eyed, half asleep, I turned the TV on at 5:30 a.m. this morning only to be jolted awake by the news from Brussels.  Once again, we all reel from a terror attack, making us wonder when this war will end.

Easter takes on greater meaning this year as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection that shattered the power of the forces of death and destruction.  While those forces at times may still seem to reign, we who follow Christ know through the resurrection that the power of God’s love is greater than their ability to incite terror.  We also know that the peace of God, a peace which isn’t the absence of violence but the presence of God’s love, only happens one person at a time.

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Great Cloud of Witnesses

Great Cloud of Witnesses

Their memory flooded my heart and my mind while I walked down the dirt path.  In the bare woods, under the warm sun at Camp Caraway, near Asheboro, during the clergy Lenten retreat, I remembered the faithful lay people, priests, deacons and bishops that I have known over my 25 ordained years in the diocese.  I thought what a privilege it has been to have known them.

Those faithful women and men made such a difference in my life and in the lives of so many others.  They taught me about Jesus through their example and words.  I am thankful for the difference that they made in my life and grateful that together we are part of the great cloud of witnesses, as the book of Hebrews says (12:1).

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Lenten Challenge II

Lenten Challenge II

Last year, Tom Hunter took it all!  Will he, again?  Will others win a Skyline's gift certificate this year?  It’s Lenten Challenge II!!  (The Super Bowl abandoned Roman numerals, but we’re sticking with them, at least until we reach Lenten Challenge 50.)  For those who were not at Grace last Lent, the challenge is to worship in church every week during this holy season.

It’s easier this year, because we’re offering a half-hour communion service with the BCP every Wednesday.  Our mid-week Eucharist is at 6:30 p.m. to make it accessible for working people.  If you miss a Sunday, attend the Wednesday Eucharist.

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The Gift of Forgiveness

The Gift of Forgiveness

Forgiveness.  Over the years it’s something I have struggled with.  When I was in seminary, a woman, who I planned to marry, broke up with me.  Ultimately, it was a blessing or I would never have met Cindy, but at the time I felt devastated.  I struggled for more than two years to forgive.  While there are some who seem to forgive immediately, many wrestle with it.

In some ways, our faith seems to make forgiveness difficult.  Jesus teaches us to pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12).  As if that were not enough, he tells Peter to forgive seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22).  Forgiveness can seem like an order to climb Everest.  But what if forgiveness weren’t an order from on high but a gift?

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Guest — Alfonso Cadena
Muy interesante el articulo y nos da como siempre un util consejo
Tuesday, 09 February 2016 16:21
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My Journey on Homosexuality

My Journey on Homosexuality

I grew up in a traditional, conservative family.  My Dad worked for General Electric for thirty-nine years and my Mom worked at home.  When I was a child in the sixties, gay meant “happy.”  We didn’t talk about homosexuality.  That changed when we moved to Mebane, North Carolina in 1975.  At Eastern Alamance High School, we whispered about a P.E. teacher who lived with another woman.

The priest at our new congregation, St. Andrew’s, Haw River, was Father Griswold, a publicly professed celibate.  Father G, as we called him, was a brilliant, extremely conservative man.   I wondered from time to time about his sexual orientation, but we never discussed it.  Years later, an openly gay man confirmed that Fr. G was a closeted gay.

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Guest — Bob Hunt
Enjoyed your article today. I am sorry Margsret cannot be at the class on Sunday. We are at the coast
Friday, 05 February 2016 14:56
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The Struggle of Gays for an Equal Seat at the Table

The Struggle of Gays for an Equal Seat at the Table

Last evening I started watching Carrier, a 10-part PBS series on the USS Nimitz’s 2005 deployment during the Iraq War.  I was impressed by all the women serving on the warship even flying strike fighters.   Women had come a long way since 1976 when I went to the U.S. Naval Academy in the first class with only 81 women.  They have come even farther since Carrier.  At the beginning of 2016, the Defense Department opened all combat roles to women, including Marines, Green Berets, SEALs, and Rangers.  While no one wants to be in harm’s way, women in the military have long struggled for this goal, because they would only be equal with their male comrades-in-arms when they could serve in all areas of the armed forces.  Since 9/11, 146 American servicewomen have given their lives in combat theaters.

Gay people have similarly fought for decades to serve openly in our military.   In 1942, Army psychiatrists said homosexuals were unfit to fight.  The Department of Defense (DoD) mandated in 1982 their dismissal from the service.  DoD modified this regulation with 1994’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”  The US military in 2010 permitted open service for gays.  At least three openly gay men and women have died fighting for the United States since that year.  Air Force Major Adriana Vorderbruggen made the ultimate sacrifice in December when she died in combat in Afghanistan. leaving a wife and young son.

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Gays and the Anglican Communion

Gays and the Anglican Communion

On Thursday, January 14, the Anglican primates, the heads of the independent churches which constitute the worldwide Anglican Communion, including The Episcopal Church (TEC), announced that for three years TEC would not represent the Communion or participate in its decision making because of the Episcopal Church’s 2015 decision to permit weddings for gay persons.  The difference goes back to the 2003 consecration of Gene Robinson, an openly partnered, gay man, as Bishop of New Hampshire.

Michael Curry, former Bishop of North Carolina and now TEC Presiding Bishop, told the assembled Anglican leaders, “Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all.  While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ.”

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Massacres and Annual Meeting

Massacres and Annual Meeting

This Sunday we will have our annual meeting at Grace.  After the massacres in San Bernardino and Paris, such an event might seem trivial even banal.  I think though that in the shadow of these tragedies our meeting takes on even greater importance.

Yesterday, I read that a young woman intentionally went out walking in the deserted Paris streets the day after the horrific attacks there.  When a reporter asked her if she were afraid, she replied, “Yes, but we must accept that we live in a world where such attacks may occur.  We live in a different war in which they attack us unexpectedly to paralyze us, to sow terror, and that’s why I went out.   It is my way to combat fear.   Telling those who want to hurt us that we are here and continuing to live life is my best weapon against fear.”

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Guest — Alice Mundia
What a wonderful way to connect your annual meeting and the world we live in today John.
Wednesday, 09 December 2015 14:11
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Heaven and Hell Sermon Series

Heaven and Hell Sermon Series

Yesterday, the world was stunned once again this time by the brutal attack in Paris.  We seem to live in a time when we are repeatedly assaulted with mass killings.  Death, though, as we all know, is not only in the news, it’s personal.  My father died last year and my older brother and a beloved cousin this spring.  Sooner or later, we all confront the loss of a loved one and our own mortality.

Our culture avoids talking about death.  We Americans after all are an optimistic, life-affirming people, but it’s there.  We all know it.  And we wonder what happens after death.

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Yard Sale and Jesus

Yard Sale and Jesus

Saturday Oct 31 from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. we hold our annual yard sale, an important fundraiser for us, particularly since we won’t have another one this fall.  The yard sale though is more than a way to pay rent, bills and salaries.  It’s a way to tell people about Jesus.  

Don’t get me wrong!  We won’t be ambushing people between the clothing and toy tables, asking if they’ve said the sinners’ prayer.  We’re Episcopalians!  We’ll simply be handing out brochures about Grace and inviting people to attend the church.  It’s low key and most importantly relational.

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Social Media Sunday

Social Media Sunday

In some Episcopal churches, Social Media Sunday (SMS) would be just short of the Apocalypse.  Thanks to the leadership of Becky Smith last summer, Grace participated in the first, a primarily Episcopal event.  This Sunday, October 25, SMS goes ecumenical.  

SMS15 encourages church goers across the country to check in, post, tweet, pin and use any other social media before, during and after Sunday’s service.  While this is different for many, including me!, I’m still learning about social media, we’re truly only following the example of Jesus’ apostles who used the technology of their day, letters, to tell others about Christ’s life changing power.

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Norman Smit
Remember too that the entire service is online on the Grace Clayton website, so you can follow it on your smartphone or tablet. Yo... Read More
Friday, 23 October 2015 11:48
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