Thoughts & Updates

News, perspectives and updates from Grace Episcopal Church

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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Christmas Pageant 2014

Christmas Pageant 2014

One of the most popular events of the year is always the children's Christmas Pageant.  While the children are always adorable, they make the point that Mary, Joseph and Jesus were real people.    

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Grace 20th Anniversary Kick Off

Grace 20th Anniversary Kick Off

Sunday February 15 Grace kicked off a year-long celebration of its 20th anniversary with a panel discussion of church founders Marla and Larry Dalton, Sarah Hale, and Jill Allen moderated by the Rev. David Crabtree, Deacon in the Episcopal Church and WRAL News Anchorman.  It was a great morning of stories about the joys and challenges of starting the congregation.  Attendance and spirits were high to celebrate the way God has worked in and through this group of devoted Christians. #graceclaytonnc

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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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Men's Bowling

Men

Bowling is always a popular and fun men's group activity.

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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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Empty Tomb Bulletin Board

Empty Tomb Bulletin Board

Gloria McConnell, a gifted Grace member who works with stained glass, creates banners and paints, uses chalk to make a new bulletin board in the fellowship hall with the theme of Jesus' tomb.  After Easter, the stone will be rolled away.

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Monday, 23 November 2015 07:13
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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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