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!


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.

Consider legacy giving

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Stewardship.

By Dave Eitland

For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:7

give thanksAt Grace, we have two ways of giving legacy gifts:

· If your desire or calling is to make a gift to current ministry, then make a bequest or beneficiary designation to the Grace Episcopal Church, Traverse City, Michigan or any amount or percentage of your estate. The Vestry will decide the best use of your gift for ministry.

· If your desire or calling is to make a gift that will last forever, your gift can be placed in a permanent endowment with the Grace Episcopal Church of Traverse City Foundation, a separate religious charity set up for this specific purpose. Proceeds from the endowment are transferred annually to the parish for its ongoing ministry.

For more information, please contact Ward Kuhn, president of the Foundation; Dave Eitland, secretary of the Foundation, or other Foundation board members to help you with this kind of giving. The Parish Office also has information for your legacy gift.

Our Big-A%$ Diocesan Convention – Photo Blog

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Photo Gallery.

We are the desire of God’s heart – Report from the Diocesan Convention

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Michael D. McManus

Mike McManus

Mike McManus

I attended the 140th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan on May 2 and 3. This was my first experience at this gathering and I had no idea what to expect; I wondered if there would be a lot of ‘rubber-stamping’ and was happy to see that this was not to be.

There was a good sense of friendship and spirituality; we had daily Morning and Noonday Prayer, together with Eucharist at Grace Friday afternoon.

The Rev. Martin Smith gave the Keynote Address Saturday morning and it was well received. His topic was Spirituality and Mission and the need for both. He emphasized the need for an Experiential Experience of God in each of us and the need to arouse such a spirituality in ourselves and others (Mission). We should welcome others into the experiences we have had.

Father Smith developed the theme of the three dimensions of God: Father, Son and Spirit. I will not try to develop this as Father Smith did but will merely state some of the notes that I made for myself (the italics are mine, as is the interpretation):

The Rev. Martin L. Smith

The Rev. Martin L. Smith

We have had an image of a vengeful Father who is concerned with ‘sin’, rather than a Father, who wants to be in out lives and to live within us. We are the desire of God’s heart.

Sin is the fear of intimacy with God. We need to be aroused by Christ, and acknowledge that we are part of Christ’s mission into the world. The Eucharist is Christ inside of us as we are within Christ—Christ’s embodiment in the world, in its joys and suffering.

The Spirit is God’s presence in our hearts—an inner presence, which asks: What shall we do together? We are co-creators with God!

 In summary: God desires me to be aroused by his desire for me.

When I offered to be a candidate to represent Grace at the Convention, I wanted to have the opportunity to get to know our new Bishop, Whayne. I was not disappointed!!

Bishop Whayne M. Hougland

Bishop Whayne M. Hougland

The Bishop is warm, direct and caring, with a good sense of humor. He addressed us at the beginning of the convention and spoke of the fears that he hears from the churches: decreasing numbers, decreasing contributions and the aging of the church—in essence this all leads to a fear of survival. Has the church failed? He felt that change is here but there are things that still need to be done:

Be a people of Prayer, a people of daily community prayer—listen to each other and the Spirit, stay in community and, as Henri Nouwen said: to pray is to live. Be intentional in our relationship to God and our community–be our Authentic Person.

The Bishop would like to see a revitalization of the Diaconate as a Ministry in itself, not just a ‘helpmate’ to the Priesthood. He calls us to raise up Deacons from our churches and to have this person(s) serve those in need in our communities—be the face of God and the church for them. Therefore, practice a Ministry of Outreach.

A second wish of the Bishop is to develop a strong Young Adult Ministry within our diocese and local churches—as noted above a whole generation has been lost to the church and we need to be available to them—they will not seek us out on their own.

Grace Youth Delegate, Abbie Crick spoke about the need for tolerance towards young people not like ourselves.

Grace Youth Delegate, Abbie Crick spoke about the need for tolerance towards young people not like ourselves.

It was very educational for me to hear about some of the activities in the Diocese, such as the Youth Group, the Mission in the Dominican Republic, local missions and reading camps and a new Elimination of Racism initiative (in partnership with the other two Episcopal Dioceses in the Lower Peninsula).

We were also educated/informed about various outreach grants that are available for Congregational Development and Mission and a new Congregation Development Initiative; there is also a taskforce, which is studying a possible restructuring of the National Church. There was good discussion on the issue of the need for attention to a Young Adult Ministry—since the Church is missing a whole generation of persons and there is a the need to go to them and not expect them to come to us.

Two recommendations for changes to our Canon were proposed; one was defeated (a new process for the Assessment Committee to use when churches have declining revenue—it was felt that this is already covered by our present Canons) and one was referred for further study (what part of each Church’s Principle in savings can be used each year). There were several other items that were passed by acclamation; one thing I noticed was that there were no choices for some of the offices/committees; this corresponds to my experience with Grace’s Nominating Committee—-sometimes there are few who wish to commit to a committee, vestry, etc.

In summary we have a warm, strong, Christian person as out Bishop; he reaches out to his parishes and has stated the desire to visit each parish at least once every 18 months—and he is well on his way to completing his first go-around. We have a leader in Whayne who listens and guides and we are fortunate to have such a person of God.

(PS. A strong vote of Thanks to Ann and Erica for the work they did. After the Eucharist there was Bar-B-Q in a large heated tent in the parking lot and this was followed by a dance in the Park Place Dome. Grace and the many volunteers involved were thanked profusely and Daniel said it was just an every-day type of party for Grace. We Rock!)