Advent at Grace Upstairs

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Visit from St. Nicholas

A visit from St. Nicholas deepens the mystery of Advent.

By Catherine Turnbull
Christian Education Director

Jerome Berryman, the theologian whose work we rely on in our storytelling upstairs, says that we need Advent because the mystery of the Incarnation is so big that it takes several weeks to get ready to enter it. He reminds us how common it is—how easy—to walk right up to this Mystery (or even through it!) without noticing any mystery at all.

Welcome to the modern Christmas season, yes?

During these four Sundays of Advent, because we know the temptation to let the season swirl past us, the adults upstairs will be gathering with the children around the slow journey that leads to Emmanuel. Each week, we’ll tell just a part of the Advent story and mark it with the lighting of an Advent candle. The following week, we’ll start at the beginning and add another part, until we’ve lit all four candles and Jesus is born.

The mysterious Incarnation is a fine opportunity for wondering, and not just for children, of course. Along those lines, I offer you this excerpt of a song by a guy named Peter Alsop. It’s called, When Jesus Was a Kid. Perhaps a list of questions like these would be fun to generate at Coffee Hour?

It’s Christmas time again and the mall is really weird
Everyone gets stressed out Christmas shopping every year
I have to stop and wonder, looking at my Christmas list
When Jesus was a kid, would he be doing this?

I know he was a baby, but did he ever cry?
Did Jesus wet his diapers or were they always dry?
Did he use a bottle before he used a cup?
Did Jesus throw things on the floor for Mary to pick up?
Did Mary ever spank him? Does the Bible say?
Did Jesus scream and holler when things didn’t go his way?
I know he was a baby, but I wonder what he did
When he was about, my age, … when Jesus was a kid?

Did he have birthday parties? I like to think he might
But then I have to wonder, well, like, who did he invite?
Were there other kids in bathrobes who played tag the
way we do?
Was he bummed out when his birthday gifts said “Merry
Christmas” too!?
Did Jesus put on sunscreen, or did he wear a floppy
hat?
Living in a desert, you can sunburn just like that!
And he prob’ly hated eating “camel milk with mushy peas”
Or can saviors just get out of eating gross things when they
please?

(copyright 1991, Moose School Music)

Helping the homeless: Jubilee House Ministry (12/08/13)

Posted by & filed under Ministry of the week.

By Glenda Andrews

Jubilee House photo by Don Olendorf

Jubilee House photo by Don Olendorf

The doors of Jubilee House opened in October 2006 for two days a week with an average of 13 people a day. Today, Jubilee House is open five days a week with an average of 43 people a day. The need is great and Jubilee House is filling that need. By the end of December it is expected there will be over 10,000 visits for the year. Visits could be new people using the facilities for the first time or a person who uses the facilities everyday; to each they are served by dedicated, loving volunteers from Grace and the community at large.

The services offered at Jubilee House for the homeless or under employed are many. Hot showers and toilet kits are offered, laundry facilities complete with laundry detergent, computers with wi-fi, personal US mail delivery, personal secured storage bins, warm emergency clothing, and–for the hungry–warm food. Jubilee House is also an extreme weather emergency location. When the forecast is for 10 degrees or lower for an extended time or a blizzard warning is present, Jubilee House will open in the morning after Safe Harbor closes for the day and stay open until Safe Harbor opens again at 6:00 in the evening providing a safe and warm shelter from the life threatening cold.

Grace Episcopal Jubilee House mission statement is “an outreach ministry providing daily living needs, support, and ministry that promotes dignity and respect for all we welcome through our door.” The hours of operation are Monday – Friday 10:00 am – 2:00 pm.

 Matthew 25:35

“I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me into your home. I needed clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick and you took care of me.”

 This is the heart of Jubilee House.

 

 

Stations of Advent

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

Johnathan Randall Grant

Johnathan Randall Grant

In 2011, Grace Episcopal Church asked artist Johnathan Randall Grant to paint four meditations for Advent. Each is inspired by various texts in the prophets- and there is a painting for each of the weeks in Advent. The paintings are on permanent display on the lower level opposite the music room.

Grant is an artist from Northern Indiana. As a child he would sneak across the street to Catholic Mass. He learned to value creativity, imagination and his own faith at a very young age. Since then Grant has attended Asbury University, U.C. Berkeley, Indiana University and is indefinitely avoiding a masters degree at Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Grant’s passion is to assist artists. He thinks that helping artists become whole and connected within The Church is the first step toward healing the Church… and healing the world. Pretty big ideas. Grant collaborates with churches, hosts spiritual retreats and workshops, and travels around like a wandering gypsy.

 

Stations of Advent_Hope and ProphecyHope and Prophecy

 Station # 1 Artist’s Statement

 Bible References: Isaiah 19:20, Jeremiah 15:21, Jeremiah 39:18

 Themes: Crying out. Desperate for deliverance. Hunger. A cry for a savior. Freedom from oppression. The chains being broken. Years of war and pain. Hope for renewal.

For the first station I wanted to explore the themes of oppression and deliverance. I painted very vague figures… are they people? are they past? are they present? are they us? one of the figures is a bishop… or an alien… or? There is a smaller figure holding a machine gun. That is a direct reference to the child soldiers in Uganda. I painted chains and arrows… broken. arms reaching out- or uplifted? hearts heavy, hungry, grateful? I wanted this painting to be tribal and raw and difficult. I painted it in a few hours… after months of pondering over the themes- contemplating our hunger for God- and for peace- inner- and outer- and the link between. Advent Starts with Hunger.

 

Stations of Advent_Root of JesseRoot of Jesse

 Station #2 Artist’s Statement  

 Bible References: Isaiah 11, Isaiah 9:6-7

 Themes: The Dawn of a New Era! Out of the stump of Jesse…a shoot will grow… Old powers over-thrown… Out of the chaos of the past grows a      forest of new life. A past of abused power and struggle is redeemed.

The second painting was the most difficult for me. I kept thinking of the passage about the stump of Jesse and the shoot rising up I tied some verses together- Stump of Jesse- mixed with the vine and the branches. Basically I ended up with the idea that a forest is growing out of this old system of death and oppression. It is still a young forest- but forests are alive and hopeful- and full of life. the stump is growing out of this old dirt. I filled the dirt with all sorts of power-structures and religious symbols, even a few critters. I wanted it to look like an excavation- digging up the past- examining what was before. the good perished along with the bad… but always this new and beautiful life growing out of it. Advent is about a new system.

 

Stations of Advent_Mary With ChildMary with Child

Station #3 Artist’s Statement

Bible Reference: Galatians 4:4

Themes: Offering . Expectation . Motherhood . Growth . Connection

Expectation was interesting for me to create. I talked to mothers- my own- and especially to Miriam Pico- about birth and about expectation and that process. Miriam talked about light and about offering and creation and a gift. I let all of it stew a bit… mixed in with texts from the prophets about “the fullness of time” and the earth as in labor pains. It all combined to create this image. I don’t really know what it means- but at its root it is about Advent- about expectation and about offering ourselves and our bodies. I really enjoyed hearing the perspective of Grace’s youth about this one- they talked about connection- about blood- about mythology and the earth. Be sure to ask them about what they think this painting means. Advent is about bodily sacrifice… and waiting.

 

Stations of Advent_Baby Jesus The New AdamBaby Jesus: The New Adam

Station #4 Artist’s Statement

Bible References: 1 Corinthians 15:20, Romans 5:17

Themes: The new Adam . As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness- so must the Son of Man be lifted up. Victory . Abundance . Shelter . Provision . A child that will heal the world and redeem the fallen state. Adam prefiguring Christ.

The last painting is perhaps my favorite of the four. Christ as the New Adam. When I was at Chartres Cathedral a few years ago the historian Malcolm Miller pointed out to me that the windows there always mirror biblical stories- there will be an Old Testament figure paired with a New Testament figure. Most of the combinations I had never even considered- and it helped me view each story with new intensity. My favorite pairing was Christ and Adam. Tidy bookends of the Bible. One man brought sin- another ended it. I wanted to portray Jesus in a new way- prefiguring the cross- but referencing the fall… so I painted Christ as a child hovering in front of the cross. He holds an apple- not bitten out of- but whole. The serpent still waits. (There is a passage in the Bible about the serpent waiting to devour the child as soon as he is born). My nephew was a year old when I painted this- and his hair was slightly ginger- so I basically painted him as Christ. (Please forgive me if that offends you- he was the only baby I really knew.) The Child appears victorious- surrounded by four green elements. Laurel is the Roman symbol of victory, Wheat is the traditional symbol of provision and sustenance, Grapes the symbol of bounty and celebration, and basswood- which to me symbolizes shade and shelter and protection. I wanted to continue the themes from painting #2 in describing Christ’s reign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voice of the Vestry: What are we thankful for?

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By Mike Cotter

Vestry member Mike Cotter

Vestry member Mike Cotter

At the opening of every Vestry meeting, each member takes a turn bringing fellow Vestry members up to date on what has been happening since we last met. Most times, this involves a mentioning of something we are thankful for. This is a very prayerful process and when we all have had our turns to speak, I silently thank God for the privilege of being included in this group and the gifts I receive back for participating. When I hear what other Vestry members are thankful for, I usually am reminded of something in my life I may have taken for granted. This is a very welcome wake up call to remind me of all the blessings God provides for all of us.

As we enter the upcoming holiday season commencing with the beautiful celebration of Thanksgiving Day, I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Vestry to thank the entire Grace Church community for the amazing and record breaking response to our annual financial giving campaign “Giving by Grace, Growing in Joy.”

Thank you from the Vestry to the Stewardship Committee made up by The Very Rev. Daniel Richards, Dave Eitland, Bob Foote, Bill Foster, Ann Hackett, Barbara Klugh, Bill Montgomery, and MaryLee Pakieser for all their prayerful, thoughtful, determined and organized hard work in presenting the campaign to the Grace community.

Thank you from the Vestry to all at Grace, who listened, answered and pledged their support to the call of stewardship. Your generous pledges, along with God’s blessings, make all the ministries of Grace able to continue and new ministries be created. With your remarkable help, Grace Church is able to be more than the beautiful Episcopal Church on the corner of Washington and Boardman in Traverse City. With your selfless giving Grace is able to expand its parish boundaries and reach out with our resources to facilitate funding to many in need in the greater Traverse City community, the nation and the world.

Thank you!

 

Grace offers repose inside sanctuary – Columbarium ministry (11/23/13)

Posted by & filed under Ministry of the week.

Over the centuries, Christians have laid the dead to rest in churches, where they are remembered and their remains safeguarded. Burial within the church itself or in the adjacent churchyard was once a common practice. In recent years, cremation, rather than burial, has become more common. In this way, the remains of the deceased can stay on at the church that played such an important role in their lives.

In keeping with this tradition, Grace offers the opportunity for parishioners’ ashes and those of their loved ones to repose inside the sanctuary in a “niche” in the wall of the columbarium. Ashes may also be interred in the Grace Memorial Garden for those who wish to bury the remains in the earth within the parish grounds.

Grace Memorial Garden in spring.

Grace Memorial Garden

The columbarium at Grace Episcopal Church currently houses 112 covered niches, each sized at 9″ square on the front by 14″ deep. Each niche accommodates an inner box that can hold one or two sets of remains, depending on the box size. Because of church rules regulating ownership of church property, subscribers are technically granted a permanent “license” rather than actual ownership of their selected niches. Niches are selected at the time of the payment of the license. You may purchase a license in advance to reserve a niche.

Licenses are offered at a cost of $500 each for the first interment and an additional $100 for a second committal in the same niche. This covers the cost of the niche, the standard brass name plaques and perpetual care. If desired the church can supply a hardwood box to hold the remains inside the niche. These cost $100. Otherwise any rigid container may be used that fits inside the niche.

We inter remains in the memorial garden directly in the earth without containers. The church office maintains a map of the locations of remains. We also place a plaque on the garden memorial board just inside the North door of the church. Donations to the garden should be in the form of monetary contributions rather than plants, markers or other physical additions.

If you are interested in subscribing, have any questions or wish to visit with our burial director, please contact the church office, at (231) 947-2330.Burials and interments are subject to our policies and the Rector’s discretion which are available from the office.

Advent taps our spiritual roots

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Dixie Stephen

The observance of Advent and the Nativity is one of mankind’s most significant events. They are an observance and celebration that provide us with a sense of connectedness – a communal event that taps our spiritual and emotional roots.

When our sons were three and six years old, it became apparent that they had uncovered the secret of Christmas – THE mother-lode – a letter to Santa Claus. Kent (6) spent hours “surfing” the toy section of the Sears catalog. He made lists of the items he wanted for Christmas. He included specific catalog numbers for each item.

Chad (3), being especially crafty, figured out the system and filled sheaves of typing paper with a jumble of numbers and letters for his must-haves. (As I recall, one of them was an articulated figure of the Lone Ranger.)

It became apparent that we had to bring some order to the chaos in the weeks prior to Christmas. We wanted them to understand the significance of the birth of Jesus.256px-Adventkranz_andrea

We began by setting up an Advent wreath. The wreath was displayed in a prominent spot in our dining room. The wreath was constructed of fir branches. It was decorated with sprigs of rosemary, lavender and thyme to represent the herbs and grasses that Joseph may have collected to replace the soiled hay in the manger on the night of the Christ Child’s birth.

The wreath had the traditional three purple candles and one pink candle. The Christ candle was placed in the center of the wreath. We also set up our Nativity scene on the first Sunday in Advent. The baby Jesus was tucked away awaiting his arrival on Christmas Day. The Wise Men were placed some distance away along with their gold covered packages and little bundles of frankincense and myrrh. They still had a ways to travel before Epiphany.

Be prepared for the wear and tear the Wise Men’s’ travels will wreak on your Nativity figurines. The boys regularly moved them from shelf to cupboard to window seats in an effort to bring them to the Christ Child.256px-Weihnachtskrippe

The Baby Jesus figurine suffered a greater toll. He was “re-hidden” frequently prior to Christmas Day. One year, neither of the boys could recall where the baby had been stowed. They salvaged Christmas morning by placing one of their matchbox cars in the manger! (Probably a better choice than the Lone Ranger.)

Each evening, we said a prayer and one of the boys would solemnly light the candle (or candles) for that week. (Solemn being relative to having two small boys, a Labrador retriever and matches in the same place.) A portion of the Christmas story was read and the candles extinguished.

The boys’ favorite activity was the opening of the “windows” on our homemade Advent calendar. The calendar was constructed of felt with small pockets for each of the days in Advent. The pockets were stuffed with pieces of candy or little trinkets. We took turns opening a calendar day.

The saint’s days that occur during Advent provided additional opportunities for celebration. On Saint Nicholas day, the boys received small gold chocolate coins in a bag to represent the dowry given by St. Nicholas to poor brides. On Saint Lucia’s day, we used a kaleidoscope to represent light and sight. The wreath lighting on her day was conducted by candlelight.

While we have changed as a family, and some of our traditions have changed too, our celebration of Christmas retains a sameness. Now, when one of our grown sons rises from the dinner table to light an Advent candle, I know that they have taken these traditions for their own. And, I know that these symbolic celebrations have provided them with the reality of Christmas.

 

Finding hope at the holidays

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By Kathryn Holl

It is okay to be sad when someone you love dies. This is especially true during the holidays when fresh memories arise, when tradition, fellowship, and love–all once delightful expectations of the season, now bring sadness to the surface.

If you feel overwhelmed, remember to be gentle with yourself and with others. Take time to reflect, to write, to walk, to heal, to pray. Share with those who understand, be it friends who have also had a loved one die or with a professional who is trained in grief counseling. Rituals are supportive to the healing process. They can be a simple and created in the home or at a meaningful location. Or it can be a community ritual where services of remembrance and honoring are offered.

Recently I met with Daniel on the subject of grief during the holidays and whether Grace would be holding a “Blue Christmas” service. He reminded me of the All Saints tea, a ritual to remember those who have died. I appreciated his thoughtfulness on the subject. Daniel acknowledged the compassion needed for those who are grieving a loss. Church, where so many sacred memories are created, can be a trigger for tears.  “We put our lives in the context of worship and that includes our joys and our griefs,” he said, wisely. Together we live with all the fabric of our lives, tough stuff and the good stuff.

A dear friend of mine died one week ago after a short battle with cancer. Though we do not live in the same city we did keep in touch and have many mutual friends. I still find myself wrestling with the fact that he is no longer physically here. I can relate to the need to take time alone, to reflect, to write him a letter about how he imprinted on my life and to pray. I know the helpfulness of seeking out those who understand as I humbly accompany many who grieve on the daily journey of just getting by.

At Grace, the 6 pm Christmas service and the later services are more reflective. After the services, there is the offering of food and fellowship in the parish hall; no need to rush home alone. It is okay to be sad when someone you loves dies–bring tissues and join the community who holds together through “our joys and griefs.”

 

 

A time for faith-filled commitment

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

By The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Advent is coming! Time to get out the candles and recommit ourselves.

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Ignazio Stern (1679 - 1748). Public domain from Wikimedia Commons.

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Ignazio Stern (1679 – 1748). Public domain from Wikimedia Commons.

The darkness is growing, and there are days when that is not just a tilt-of-the-earth reality; our world seems to pass under shadow. It is precisely now that we are reminded by the church year that we have a vocation in dark times, a vocation of waiting and bearing the Light of Christ.

In our Gospel today, Jesus is talking about the collapse of what his hearers knew as their world, politically and religiously, and their persecution. In the middle of it, he says, “Don’t get defensive, I will give you the words to say. Don’t worry, be faithful.”

We form who we will be in times of crisis by how we train ourselves in times of peace. We practice the life we are called to when we hold out peace with each other, when we work out the small frustrations and changes of community life. If we lose our ethics when people talk about us, what will we do when they actually persecute us? If we are thrown off when the room we are assigned to meet in changes, what will we do when there is no institution?

This Sunday is about commitment. We pledge ourselves to this community financially in prosperous times of peace. We tithe. It is a primary way of marking our lives as people of God. It is not easy; commitments never are. But it, along with prayer and gratitude and faith, marks us and shapes us as disciples of Jesus.

Commit and be shaped for the days ahead.

Give thanks: it changes everything

Posted by & filed under Voice of the Clergy.

By The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

The Very Rev. Daniel P. RichardsGiving thanks is primary, a first act. It is so basic that it determines everything else in our lives, our personalities, our relationships to God, others, even ourselves.

When someone is shaped by a primary gratitude, that is they are given to realizing that whatever comes their way is a gift a nd deserving of thanks, their relationship to God is easier and more open, more likely to include repentance and also generosity because there is recognition of God’s grace and their own need and therefore others’ needs.

Dry, huh? Look, when you make a practice of giving thanks for everything, you begin to see how you relate to God and others more honestly. There are things you should not give thanks for, granted, but a basic gratitude makes it more likely that you will experience you life more positively.

But it is a discipline. It takes practice.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15 – 17

Learning not just to give thanks when the thought strikes, but to make thanksgiving primary has been a long practice for me. It is not the giving thanks, but rather the realizing that I should be thankful in the first place that has been hard. I just accept things coming the way they come and move on. But when I stop and realize (count my many blessings, count them one by one) I am profoundly changed.

I am put in right relationship with God. I am deeply grateful to others, and I find myself much more likely to offer gifts to others in simple gratitude. It takes that first work of paying attention. It is a discipline of grace.

Give thanks. It changes everything.

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