A holistic approach to stewardship

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Tammy Devine  

I wonder: Might Christ be turning the money tables upside down?

I wonder: Is Christ inviting us to steward a deeper relationship with God one where we are listening and attentive to caring and nurturing all that we have been given?

Grace Holistic Stewardship colorsThrough the waters of baptism we are called to live as whole and holy people of God. We are gifted, named and claimed to steward all that God has given us—ourselves, creation, our time and our talents. What does it look like to live well as whole people of God?

Living well means knowing who you are and remembering whose you are. It is God’s desire that we honor, celebrate and share with delight and wonder the unique creation we each are for the sake of ministry in the world. Wholeness (as illustrated by the Wholeness Wheel) reminds us that we are multi-dimensional people – physical, emotional, social/interpersonal, intellectual, vocational and financial and in, around, and throughout each of these dimensions is our spiritual well-being.

As whole people, the choices we make in one dimension shapes another and yet another area of our lives. Similarly, how we choose to steward our health, environment, time and talents impacts the rest of us. We are a community—the body of Christ. Each member of the body is vital to the health and well-being of the whole.

But, as a society we live fragmented and individualistic lives. Consider the way we seek care for our bodies. System by system, gifted specialists focus on a portion of our body—neurologists, urologists, gastroenterologists, orthopedists … We further divide our lives through a lens of work life, home life, or church life. We tend to fend for ourselves with “it’s all about me” attitude.

Slowly, we are recognizing the interconnectivity of our actions, thoughts, and habits. We now know the impact inadequate sleep has on memory and weight loss, not to mention, mood, and creativity; and the impact unmanaged stress has on our health, healing, and productivity. We are seeing the effect nutrient poor soil has on the nutritional value in our food supply.

Our choices as individuals affect one another now and into the future. How we steward our resources will impact the next generation. Leaving our children and grandchildren to wrestle with climate change, changing food supply, costly health care …

I wonder: When the church will reclaim its call to steward all of creation. Stewardship leaders are quick to name we are to steward “all of creation” but quickly focus the conversation on finances.

I wonder: What has caused us as Christ’s church to adapt this narrow definition of stewardship?

I wonder: Are we afraid that the church doesn’t have “enough” money? I wonder: How much is enough, and enough money for what?

I wonder: Might Christ be asking us to consider a holistic approach to stewardship? One that considers how we care for our whole selves, connect with our neighbor, care for creation near and far, steward the resources of the whole church not just our congregation. Steward resources of our whole city not just our community. Steward our whole world not just our country?

I wonder: Might stewarding begin with our relationship with God and God’s invitation to live centered lives? When we are in right relationship with God we are much more able to live well, attentive to God’s desire for us, our congregations, communities, and world. We are attuned and responsive to sharing our gifts of time, talent, or financial resources. I believe, stewardship begins with our spiritual well-being and moves throughout the various areas of our lives where God is inviting, even nudging us to be healthier for the sake of sharing our gifts with others. One small step at a time we grow in stewarding what God has given us—so that we can be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.

About the Author

Tammy Devine is the Wellness Manager for the ELCA and a diaconal minister, serving through Portico Benefit Services. Devine is a strategic and systemic whole-person promoter of well-being through education and inspiration throughout the ELCA. She collaborates with thought leaders to facilitate and motivate whole-person lifestyle choices and serves as an external wellness consultant and coach to integrate well-being throughout the ELCA. Devine is a registered nurse.

Originally published by Center of Stewardship Leaders, Luther Seminary, St Paul, MN, http://www.luthersem.edu/stewardship/

Join Meredith and David on a pilgrimage in the Holy Land

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Voice of the Clergy.

June 25, 2014

Dear Friends in Christ,

In September 2015, a little over a year from now, David (Lillvis) and I will be flying to Jerusalem in order for me to serve as Chaplain at St. George’s College from September through December 2015. This means that I will be on each course offered by the College to provide devotions and spiritual reflections. I would like to invite you to consider joining David and me on this pilgrimage to the Holy Land by enrolling in one of the courses offered during our time there.

The Website link is: http://sgcjerusalem.org where you can read the description of each course, see photos, and obtain all the necessary information to register. The course fee includes room and board. You must provide your own airfare.

The courses that are being offered during my tenure as Chaplain are:

Palestine of Jesus September 08 – September 21 $3050 14 days
Ways in the Wilderness October 01 – October 14 $5500 14 days
Palestine of Jesus October 21 – November 03 $3050 14 days
Palestine of Jesus November 10 – November 19 $2260 10 days
Optional Jordan Excursion November 20 – November 23 $700 3 days
Palestine of Jesus December 09 – December 18 $2260 10 days

The basic course, the “Palestine of Jesus” provides the best introduction to the Holy Land in a 10 or 14 day study tour with both educational and devotional aspects. This course has been the most popular and most requested program at St. George’s College Jerusalem. Each day includes superb lectures on the themes of the day given by the Course Director and visiting scholars.  We also have on site spiritual reflections by our chaplain, group reflections and meaningful worship. We begin in Jerusalem with an overview of the Old City.  We visit the Holiest Sites of the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism’s Western Wall, Christianity’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Islam’s Temple Mount.  We take day trips to Bethlehem, and the visitation in Ein Kerem. In Jericho we see the oldest city in the world and reaffirm our Baptismal vows at the Jordan River where John baptized Jesus. The course goes north to Galilee stopping at Caesarea Maritima where St. Paul was imprisoned and Mt. Carmel where Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal.  Then on to Nazareth to visit the Church of the Annunciation, the village in which Jesus grew up and the Synagogue where he was rejected.  We pass Cana on our way to the Sea of Galilee and Capernaum, Jesus’ home base for three years.  While staying 2 nights in Galilee, we visit the Mount of Beatitudes, the place of the Multiplication of the loaves and the Table of Christ where Peter was reconciled to Jesus after his denial.

We visit Caesarea Philippi, where Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ, along with Bethsaida and Kursi (the Gerasene Demoniac) before returning to Jerusalem after stopping at Mt. Tabor, the place of Transfiguration. There is an optional trip to Masada, Qumran and the Dead Sea. The course concludes with a Holy Week walk from the top of the Mt. of Olives to the Holy Sepulchre. The last morning begins with a prayerful walk along the via Dolorosa, concluding with Eucharist at Emmaus.

People come from around the world to St. George’s. The courses are for anyone in good enough health to do some daily walking, and for anyone who wants both to learn about and as well as experience the Holy Land. There are opportunities to meet people of all three faith traditions and from both Israel and the West Bank, and the Anglican Church of Jerusalem is actively involved in interfaith, intercultural, and peace dialogues in the area.

David and I sincerely hope that you will consider finding a way to have this invaluable experience by joining us in 2015.

Sincerely,

The Reverend Canon Meredith Hunt
The Reverend David M. Lillvis

Engaging the Word: Readings for 7/6/14 (4th Sunday after Pentecost)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

By Barbara Klugh

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67; Song of Solomon 2:8-13; Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30. Go to www.lectionarypage.net for the weekly lectionary text.

This week we have the story of Isaac and Rebekah, poetry from Song of Solomon instead of a psalm, Paul’s internal conflict between sin and grace, and Jesus’ invitation to find rest for our weary souls.

Eliezer and Rebecca by  Giambattista Pittoni (1687 - 1767). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Eliezer and Rebecca by Giambattista Pittoni (1687 – 1767). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Genesis: Since last week’s reading, many years have gone by. Abraham’s wife Sarah has died, and Isaac is now around 40 years old and unmarried. Abraham wants Isaac to marry a woman from his own kinfolk, and instructs his servant, probably Eleazar, to go to his hometown to find a wife for Isaac. The servant loads up ten camels with gifts for the future bride and her family. He travels to the city of Nahor, and sets his camels down by the community well. He prays that the appointed wife for Isaac will be the one who offers him and his camels a drink of water. Even before he had finished praying, beautiful Rebekah comes to the well as an answer to his prayer. The servant finds out about Rebekah’s lineage—she is the granddaughter of Abraham’s younger brother Nahor—and he worships God in thanksgiving for God’s guidance.

This week’s reading continues the story with the servant’s meeting with Rebekah’s brother Laban and her father (and Abraham’s nephew) Bethuel. The servant recounts the story about Abraham’s directions and God’s divine intervention. The family agreed, “The thing comes from the Lord….take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.” They then ask Rebekah, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.” The family sends her off with a lovely blessing.

Rebecca and her maids went with the servant. When the caravan approached their destination, Isaac was in the field. Rebekah saw Isaac, and asked the servant who he was. The servant said, “It is my master.” As was the custom, Rebekah covered herself with a veil. After the servant told Isaac the whole story, “Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”

Song of Songs by Gustave Moreau (1826-1898). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Song of Songs by Gustave Moreau (1826-1898). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Song of Solomon: Song of Solomon (Heb “Song of Songs) is a series of lyric love poems about how glorious it is to be in love, and they celebrate God’s gift of human sexuality. Although they are attributed to Solomon, scholars think it’s because of references to Solomon in the poems, and that the author is unknown. It’s entirely in dialogue, with the speakers being a man, a woman, and a kind of chorus by the women of Jerusalem.

Until the nineteenth century, the book was presented as an allegory, between God and Israel, Christ and the church, or Christ and the individual believer. Modern scholars agree that there is nothing in the text to suggest they were written as allegory.

Our selection is the woman’s first long speech. The woman thinks of her lover as a gazelle, or a young stag, and she relates the words spoken by her beloved: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land… Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” I love this passage, especially since my husband recited it to me when we were dating. I was so stunned and overwhelmed that all I could do was reply, “Okey-dokey!”

Romans: Sometimes Paul seems pompous and self-important, but not in this week’s reading. “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” I can relate to this ongoing battle. It’s the struggle between duty and desire. What we do know is that the law tells us what is good, but it doesn’t empower us to resist sin. Paul gets it that when he wants to do what is good, “evil lies close at hand.” Paul (and we) have another force within ourselves, “making us captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” And, of course, Paul knows the answer: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

SHead of Christ by Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Head of Christ by Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Matthew: This week’s reading follows the missionary discourse. Jesus is frustrated with the crowd (“this generation.”) They don’t follow the ascetic prophet John the Baptist because they say he has a demon. Then Jesus comes and he eats, drinks, and hangs out with outcasts, so they say, `Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ They find excuses to follow neither John nor Jesus. However, in the end, Jesus will be vindicated by his deeds.

Jesus thanks his Heavenly Father for revealing spiritual truth to “infants,” (those whom the religious establishment considers to be ignorant) and for hiding it from those who think themselves wise. Jesus knows the Father intimately and he is the only one in a position to reveal the Father’s character and purposes.

Jesus then invites the weary and the over-burdened to find their rest in him, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In The Message, Eugene Peterson paraphrases, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Good advice.

There’s a place for you at Grace this summer

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Stewardship.

Hackett_AnnBy Ann Hackett
Parish Administrator

What, in God’s name, is going on?

It’s Monday night in the summer at Grace Church and the parking lot is full. What did you miss?

· A music group, Grace Harmony, rehearsed in the sanctuary after first studying the scriptures for the week. Their study points to what music will be sung at the weekend service.
· A men’s group, STAG [St. Theo Amity Guild] gathered for evening prayer, a simple meal and some fellowship
· A women’s group settled into the Jubilee House for fellowship and a book discussion before taking a break for the summer.
· A group met in the sanctuary to offer grief support to each other
· Two community groups filed into meeting rooms in the lower level to continue their ministry – Narcotics Anonymous and Science of Spirituality

It’s Tuesday in the summer at Grace Church and the parking lot is full. What did you miss?

· The finance committee gathered at 7:30 am to hear a report on the status of the Outreach Renovation Project and review the financials to date.
· St. Fiacre, the garden guild, pulled in to take advantage of the cooler morning temperatures and to tend the beds in anticipation of showcasing our gardens for the Friendly Garden Club Walk in July.
· Jubilee House volunteers opened at 10 am to greet patrons needing showers, laundry facilities, computer time or respite.
· An office volunteer stepped in to answer phones and assist with staff needs.

I could go on and on for each day of the week.

It’s summer and the pace is somewhat relaxed, and the mission and ministry of Grace Episcopal Church continue to thrive even though you may not be here.  But as a disciple what can you do in your absence from this physical space? How can you live out our prayer: “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord…” (Book of Common Prayer)

I offer some possibilities.

Welcome: In the Rector’s absence, we’ve been challenged to have fun – gather with others in fellowship in a house, at a park, on a boat or a bike. Who in the church have you been meaning to get to know? No agenda. Just fun.

Worship: It’s always a challenge with company in the house to get to church. But bring them along to worship. Come as you are. Try a Saturday night service which will allow you to capture most of a day of play. Or skip the week end service. Wednesday Eucharist is conversational and right on the altar and Holy Communion is administered from person to person.

Study: Sit down at 9:00 am on Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and listen in on the Bible group as they reflect on their reading for the week. Join in one of two study groups just begun. The books are powerful and short.

Serve:
Pull a weed. Sweep the entry. Clean the tunnel. Water the entry pots. Organize the church school classroom. Empty the dishwasher. Step into the pantry or Jubilee House to volunteer.

Stewardship:
Keep up with your pledge and giving to Grace Church. All summer the lights are on, the water is still irrigating the lawn and the staff is here supporting the work of this place called Grace. Try the DONATE button on our website or mail in your contribution if you won’t be at a service. Establish a six month pledge now for the rest of the year.

What is God nudging you, you and your partner, you and your family to do in this grace-filled place?

Voice of the Vestry: Sharing our love

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Voice of the Vestry.

By John Strickler

Vestry member John StricklerSeveral weeks after his passing, Nan and I continue to grieve the death of Grace parishioner Bill Hankins. I know many of you do as well.

The strange thing is that we’ve never known Bill and Helen well, or at least not intimately. Although we lived not 10 miles from each other in suburban Lansing, we didn’t meet until both couples moved to Traverse City. We began to connect with Bill, a faithful volunteer at Jubilee House and Helen, a lector at Grace. Until now, I’ve never told Helen this, but when our oldest daughter, a high school English teacher, visits us, she always hopes to hear Helen read from scripture. She loves to hear that lyrical English accent as it passes God’s word to us.

At Jubilee House, Bill was a rock. Nan and I constantly marveled at his calm demeanor as he interacted with our patrons. We never heard a harsh word come from his mouth. When one of our patrons was suffering, or acting out through the influence of alcohol, drugs or depression, Bill would sidle up and offer a comforting and calming word. And whatever tension was in the room would quietly disappear. That was Bill; intelligent, quiet, understanding, and utterly without ego. My regret is that I never shared these thoughts with him, or with Helen.

Nan and I have been graced to enjoy many decades together on this earth, God’s wonderful creation. Don’t wait to share your admiration of friends, neighbors or loved ones. Constantly reaffirm your love with those you know well, or casually, even those you’ve only recently met.

I know Bill’s spirit resides with God. My hope is that I may share my admiration with him in a later life.

Engaging the Word Readings for 6/29/14 (3rd Sunday after Pentecost)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

By Barbara Klugh

Genesis 22:1-14; Psalm 13; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42. Go to www.lectionarypage.net for the weekly lectionary text.

This week’s readings are about our relationship to God. We are reminded that God provides, that we are freed from the power of sin by God’s grace, and that our simple gestures of loving service are precious to God.

Genesis: In last week’s reading, Abraham banished Sarah’s slave Hagar and Ishmael, the child of Hagar and Abraham. In this week’s reading, Abraham is called to sacrifice Isaac, his other son.

Sacrifice of Isaac, by Rembrandt (1606 - 1669). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Sacrifice of Isaac, by Rembrandt (1606 – 1669). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac [did God forget about Ishmael?], whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” Without any arguing or resistance (Abraham argued with God over Sodom and Gomorrah), the next morning Abraham cut the wood for the burnt offering and set out for Moriah with Isaac and two servants. When they arrive, Abraham has the servants stay back while he and Isaac journey up the mountain. Isaac carried the wood and Abraham carried the fire and the knife. Isaac said, “Father!…The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”

Abraham built an altar, bound Isaac, and placed him on the altar. As he took the knife to kill Isaac, an angel appeared and said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” Abraham saw a ram in a thicket and offered the ram as the burnt offering.

This is a heartbreaking story and has many questions, interpretations, and reasons. It’s hard for me to believe that our loving God would ask Abraham (or anyone) to perform such a horrible act, even as a test. Not in the lectionary, but reading further, I thought it was interesting that the text doesn’t record Isaac returning with Abraham. In fact, the Bible doesn’t record Abraham and Isaac ever speaking to each other again. Abraham gives Isaac an inheritance and arranges a marriage, but there is no face-to-face encounter as far as we know.

God provides. Through Abraham’s total obedience, God renews his promise to Abraham. And we thank God for the gift of his Son, whose willing sacrifice was a perfect payment for our sins. But still… My personal take is that Abraham was mistaken that it was God’s voice telling him to sacrifice Isaac (maybe he was becoming senile in his old age). Then God sent an angel at the last minute to prevent Abraham from doing the horrific deed.

Psalm: This week’s psalm is an individual lament attributed to David, and it moves from despair to hope. Four times the psalmist asks the Lord, “How long…?” Then he asks that God will answer, so that his enemies will not prevail over him. In the closing verses, he expresses his hope that he will thank God for his saving help: “I will sing to the Lord, for he has dealt with me richly; I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High.”

Paulus St Gallen, from an early 9th century manuscript version of Saint Paul's letters. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Paulus St Gallen, from an early 9th century manuscript version of Saint Paul’s letters. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Romans: Our reading continues Paul’s teaching on how to live as new creations in Christ. Our new life doesn’t mean we will no longer be tempted to sin, but we must not allow our mortal bodies to be used “as instruments of wickedness,” but used instead as “instruments of righteousness.” We need to be committed to living a new kind of life.

Paul reminds us we cannot serve two masters. We have the power to decide whether we will be slaves to our sinful impulses or obedient to the gospel of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. God’s is gracious and loves us as sinners, but we have been set free to walk on the road to holiness. The reward is eternal life. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Matthew: This week’s reading concludes the missionary discourse. Earlier, Jesus told his disciples about the difficulties of following him—they will face trials, suffering, and persecution. In this week’s reading, Jesus speaks about the rewards of the discipled life. Here is the entire reading:

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple– truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

 In Jewish custom, it was considered that to receive a person’s agent or messenger was the same as to receive that person. Prophets were God’s messengers, and those who welcome a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. A righteous person someone who is mature in faith, and those who welcome him or her will gain the same reward. “Little ones” could have multiple meanings. It could refer to children or to those who were new in the faith.

So we need not be prophets or saints because all service on behalf of the kingdom, whether great or simple, is equal in God’s eyes. That’s good news!

Eight by Eight: Another way to share a meal

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Mike and Irene Cotter

Mike_Irene_CotterIn Daniel’s parting remarks last month before he left on sabbatical, he invited each of us to share our blessings over a meal together. As we reflected on this idea, we realized that yes, we could do this, and maybe it might provide the opportunity to know on a few of our fellow Grace parishioners on a deeper level.

So, with that in mind, on Sunday June 29th at 6:00 P.M. we would like to share a meal in our home with six fellow parishioners…(singles or couples) who might like to get to know each other better.

We have only two requests of those who choose to join us:

 1. To bring a dish to share with eight people.

 2. To “Pay It Forward” by opening your home and sharing a meal with six or seven other fellow Grace parishioners sometime over the summer.

 Because Reverend Katherine saw a similar idea at work in a previous church in which she served, we’re taking the name they used for it: “Eight by Eight.”

A sign up sheet for our dinner will be posted in the commons beginning Saturday June 14th. Hope six of you will join us. And if anyone else chooses to start another “Eight by Eight”…you have our blessing!

Thanks!

What’s for dinner? – Sharing summer hospitality

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Barbara Klugh

Maybe it’s not quite on the calendar, but it sure feels like summer. As most of you know, Daniel encouraged us to share summer hospitality by hosting dinners for folks at Grace.

Cooking together can be silly.

Cooking together can be silly.

He suggested a mix of those we know well and those we’d like to know better. I thought eek! This sounds like a great idea, and maybe some exceptionally gifted and talented people can pull it off, but what about the rest of us?

How can it really work without adding a ton of stress for people who may be already frazzled and over-scheduled, live in cramped quarters, inexperienced with cooking, have unruly children and/or dogs, think their house is too cluttered, work long or erratic hours, are on a very tight budget, have a reluctant spouse—well, you get the idea.

Cooking together can be messy.

Cooking together can be messy.

Then, how do we cope with the issue of dietary restrictions or preferences of the guests—gluten free, no soy products, vegetarian, low-fiber, no dairy, no spicy, allergic to nuts, no seafood, no carbohydrates, no grapefruit, low-fat, no raw fruit or vegetables, no beans, salt-free, no Aspartame, caffeine-free, no mushrooms. How can we accommodate everyone without going crazy?

If the purpose is to socialize and get to know one another better, how can we make it happen in way that’s fun for everyone?

Eating what you've cooked together is always fun!

Eating what you’ve cooked together is always fun!

One idea is to have monthly potlucks at Grace with everyone bringing a dish they themselves can eat, and share it with the group. If we could gather the recipes, we can make up a booklet that will help us in the future. Could we make it a rule that you need to sit by folks you don’t know very well? A monthly potluck would make it make it possible for people to get acquainted with the folks who attend other services, too.

Maybe we could celebrate the monthly birthdays and anniversaries. Potluck picnics? What do you think? What are your ideas? Please share your suggestions and comments on the website, or email me at litlrivr@chartermi.net. Let’s find a way, or several ways, to share stress-free hospitality and socializing this summer.

Voice of the Vestry: We blossom with new life

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Voice of the Vestry.

By Dixie Stephen

Vestry member Dixie StephenAs I ponder the writing of this month’s Voice of Vestry, a rain storm, complete with thunder and lightning, is carrying forth. I am reminded of the significance of renewal. We have “weathered” a difficult winter and a spring that has struggled to break through the throes of the past six months.

As a gardener, I awaited the growing season with impatience; aching to get on my knees to work the soil around the sleeping plants – hoping that the winter kill was minimal. It has been rewarding over the last two weeks to see that nearly all of my precious plants have survived.

This morning, with a freshly brewed cup of coffee and my dog, Lucky, I walked through the gardens. The thrill of seeing the plants pushing through the soil and fresh layer of “moo-poo” is a confirmation of the blessed renewal. I am in awe of this newness. Spring always comes – why is it such a surprise and delight? The tulips and daffodils are ecstatic to have broken free of the frozen earth to replenish them and us. The lime-colored leaves of the coral bells practically sing for joy. The deep blue shoots of a hosta next to them provide a comforting balance.

This morning’s garden excursion provided the opportunity to see the plants as they begin their journey through the year. Right now, we can see each of them clearly before they burst forth in a riot of leaves and blossoms. As we traverse this spring and coming summer, pray that we “burst forth” with new life; that we continue to grow in our walk of discipleship. It is the way of Grace.

Remembering Bill – a quiet powerhouse who listened but never judged

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Jubilee Ministries.

By Donna Olendorf

Bill Hankins, Jubilee House volunteer

Bill Hankins (1933 – 2014)

Bill Hankins was already retired by the time I met him. Maybe that’s why he seemed to have all the time in the world, to never be rushed or harried, and to always be fully present in the moment. But, somehow, I don’t think it was retirement that calmed Bill down. I suspect he was a quiet powerhouse all his life – the guy you go to when you need someone to listen and not to judge.

In recent years, Bill had embraced Jubilee House as his passion. The respect and concern he brought to the homeless population enriched them both. Bill passed away on May 23 after a brief hospital stay. At 81, he had lived a full life, but the people of Grace and the patrons at Jubilee House keenly feel the void left by his absence.

That’s because Bill’s love for people was the closest thing to the good news of Christ that most of us will ever experience. Bill’s love for humankind was sacred.

Where others saw drunkenness, Bill saw pain that men sought to drown out with drinking. Where police saw a public nuisance, Bill saw a people in need – like the time he rescued an alcoholic from the snow bank in front of Jubilee House where a cop had dropped him off and took him to the Emergency Room.

The medics knew the man and weren’t too happy to see him. The cops had no place for him either. The person with the big heart was Bill, who recognized that all people deserve care and respect, no matter what their circumstances.

And so, every week without fail, Bill would check in with the Jubilee volunteers and do what needed to be done. If there was no fresh fruit in the house, Bill would drive to the store to pick up bananas, so the patrons could have a healthy snack. If there was a local fundraiser, Bill was on the scene to help set things up. He served food at Friday lunch, cleaned up messes, distributed supplies, and lent a sympathetic ear to anyone who needed to talk.

I said goodbye to Bill the day before he died, and even though he was physically unconscious, I felt a strong connection to his beautiful, loving spirit, which has now been set free.

We will miss you more than words can say. Rest in peace, Bill Floyd Hankins.