Voice of the Vestry: the curmudgeon contingent

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

Vestry member Chuck Wolterink

Vestry member Chuck Wolterink

As Bishop Whayne Hougland might say, “What’s up, y’all?”

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s been a long, cold, difficult winter, and combined with a variety of bothersome ailments, things breaking around the house, and my unreliable internet connection, it has made me even more depressed and frazzled than usual.

I remember reading, when I was a child, that all it would take for another Ice Age to happen is for the snow to last through the summer for three years in a row. This winter has made that improbable threat seem all too likely. You see, I’m one of those who, if I found myself surrounded by stampeding elephants, would slowly shake my head and think, “I knew it. This was bound to happen someday.”

So you can imagine my thrill when I was asked to run for vestry again. It’s true that my first term on vestry was unexpectedly rich and rewarding. But this would be a whole new group of people, many of whom I had barely even had a conversation with before—a daunting prospect for an introvert loner like me. I could almost feel marauders circling.

But it hasn’t been that way at all. I’m proud to have been a part of the decisions we’ve made in our first three meetings. I’ve been a Food Pantry volunteer for over ten years, so I’m especially pleased by the vestry’s support of the Pantry’s upcoming move and expansion. We also sent aid to those who lost their homes to the typhoon in the Philippines. On our retreat in February we prayed, studied,  and discerned together. My fellow vestry members aren’t marauders after all, and I look forward to getting to know them better as we serve this congregation over the next three years. Of course, a boulder will probably fall on the church by then. So let’s do as much good as we can as fast as we can.

It’s the first day of spring, the pile of snow at the end of my driveway is down from about seven feet to five or so, and there’s visible blue sky at least once or twice a week. Maybe spring weather will come; surely Easter will come. Thanks be to God.

Your vestry representative for the curmudgeon contingent,

Chuck Wolterink

(Thanks to my daughter, Elizabeth, for help in preparing this article.)

 

The Daily Office

Posted by & filed under Voice of the Clergy.

By The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Christians have gathered for prayer at various hours of the day from the
time of the apostles. Morning and Evening Prayers have been marked for us
in the Anglican tradition by the prayer book services. They represent a
merging of the morning and afternoon offices of the Benedictine monastic
tradition.

So why do it? By beginning and ending our days in regular prayer and
Scripture, we shape our hearts and minds to the way of God.

The Daily Office can appear daunting at first, so let me just encourage you
to begin with where you are and simplify as much as you need to and add as
you feel ready. It can feel text heavy, so don’t be afraid to stop and just
listen to God breathing in you and let the text sing rather than plod along.

We begin with a sentence of Scripture and confession, then the Psalms and
readings, Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, a collect or two, and a
final prayer of thanksgiving, and blessing to close.

You can find each service in the Book of Common Prayer, at
missionstclare.com, or ask for someone to walk you through it. Like any
practice, the first few times through feel awkward, but after a short time,
it is hard to imagine life without it.

We will have a little workshop after each service this weekend to get you
started if you are new are just need a refresher.

 

6th century liturgy will be celebrated on March 22

Posted by & filed under Voice of the Clergy.

By Pete Clapp

Once a month, Grace celebrates its Saturday evening service with a historical ceremony that uses different liturgical forms from the early days of Christendom.  On March 22, 2014, the 5 pm mass will be a 6th century liturgy from the city of Rome.  The material that follows is a commentary on that ancient liturgy.

Historical background

By 285 ad the Roman Empire was too large to govern efficiently, so it was divided by the Emperor Diocletian into two parts: Eastern and Western.  The Eastern Empire was today’s Greece, Turkey, Eastern Europe, the Near East, North Africa, and some of Central Asia.  The Western Empire included Italy, Northern Europe (British Isles, Spain, France, Portugal, and Germany), and western North Africa.

Between 285 ad and Constantine’s early 4th century rule, which unified the empire once more (as Eastern and Western), there were considerable periods of misrule, corruption, conflict, further division, and struggle against the tribes of various conquered peoples.

Constantine's Conversion, by Peter Paul Rubens (1577 - 1640). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Constantine’s Conversion, by Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

After Constantine declared Christianity to be the religion of the state circa 318 ad, he left his empire to his three sons–Constantine II, Constantius II, and Constans–who divided the Roman Empire between them, but soon fell to fighting one another.  In these conflicts, Constantine II and Constans were killed. Constantius II died later after naming his cousin Julian his successor and heir. Emperor Julian ruled for only two years (361-363 ad) and, in that time, tried to return Rome to her former glory through a series of reforms aimed at increasing efficiency in government. Julian rejected Christianity and blamed it for the decline of the empire. While he officially proclaimed a policy of religious tolerance, Julian systematically removed Christians from influential government positions, banned the teaching and spread of the religion, and barred Christians from military service. His death, while on campaign against the Persians, ended the dynasty Constantine had begun. He was the last pagan emperor of Rome and came to be known as `Julian the Apostate’ for his opposition to Christianity.

Christianity was re-established after Julian’s death, and under the Emperor Theodosius (379-395 ad) pagan worship was outlawed, pagan temples were turned into churches, and the famous Academy of Plato was closed.  These efforts were not popular with more conservative Roman citizens, who saw the pagan pantheon of Roman gods as a stabilizing influence among human affairs, while Christianity removed divine influence to some far away heaven.

During this period and the next 80 or so years, constant wars with the Goths, Vandals, Picts, Scots, Franks, Huns, and the Visigoths depleted the strength of the Western Empire and it slowly declined into confusion and disarray until its end in circa 476 ad with the conquest of Rome by a Germanic king.

(The Eastern, or Byzantine Empire, continued as such until 1453 ad, but was much different in character and culture from the Western section of the empire.  The Eastern Empire was Greek-speaking, while the Western used Latin.  The Eastern Empire was never as centrally governed as the West.

About the liturgy

Today’s liturgy is a product of the Western Roman Empire and its turbulent history of the 5th century.  Amid the ups and downs, twists and turns, fears and doubts of the Western empire’s populace, the Christian Church offered the average Roman citizen a source of stability, a beacon of hope, and an opportunity for spiritual peace while under threat.

This silver paten is one of only four to survive from the first "golden age" of Byzantium (6th century). Walters Art Museum.

This silver paten is one of only four to survive from the first “golden age” of Byzantium (6th century). Walters Art Museum.

What are some of the changes we can see?  The Western liturgy was more fixed . . . that is, predictable and set, partially as a response to theological controversies and also as an antidote to the changes in the civil order and in the culture.  The lessons had been reduced from four to two.  In Rome, preaching as a part of the liturgy was no longer practiced.  The “Kiss of Peace” had moved to the “Breaking of the Bread”.  A formal blessing of the people at the close of the liturgy had become fashionable.

Although some seating would be provided for the elderly and infirm, the congregation would have stood during the rite, and some perhaps sat on the floor.  There would be visiting among the people before the liturgy began, during the administration of communion, and after the exit of the clergy.  During the prayers the congregation would hold their hands in the “orans” position along with the clergy.

The power of the Church had grown as the empire’s civil order was breaking down.  Bishops and clergy became more important in public life, because of their exemplary values and their generosity toward those in need, but mostly because they filled the power vacuum left by the breakdown of the civil order.   But while the Church was a bulwark against threatening change, the liturgy was becoming shorter and more convenient for the people as familiarity squeezed out repetitive parts of the service, and shortened the attention span.  In the next few centuries the liturgy would shorten even more.  For example, the Litany would shrink to just using the Kyrie eleison.

Note what you either do or do not like about this 6th century liturgy.  What social or cultural forces influence our contemporary liturgy today?

Transfiguration: Jesus reflects the glory of God

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

By The Rev. Katheryn King

Katheryn King I had the privilege of knowing Donny when I served in South Dakota.

I hope everyone has the privilege of knowing a “Donny.” Donny was one of the Olsen farmers, who were brothers and farmers for many generations.  These brothers worked hard together. Some were herdsman, some farmed grain and corn.  Donny was one of these Olsen farmers.

One of the things I remember best about the Olsen men were their hands. They had the biggest, hardened hands I’ve ever seen.  You could get lost in those hands. Shaking hands after Sunday service was like slipping my hand into a glove of God’s grace.  Donny was like that. Besides the hands and his strong stature was the smile in his eyes.

I remember one day on Main Street. It was Homecoming and folks were gathering for the parade. Donny never missed an opportunity to socialize. I spotted Donny coming out of the café. He’d been on a trip to Sweden and just returned. I greeted Donny with a big hug I could fit around him.  Donny never let me forget and thoroughly enjoyed every chance to tell me how the Preacher gave him a hug in front of God and most of the town!

I received word that Donny died a while ago and that the whole parish and community mourned. On a bitter winter day the church was full for his funeral.  I hear they even ran out of the open-face sandwiches the ladies always served and every single cup was washed twice. You can’t stand in a Dakota cemetery without something to eat!

I also heard you almost expected to see Donny rambling in for the service or to sing with the men – brothers, sons, nephews, cousins like he had done all of his life.  Oh, how those Olsen boys could sing!

You see, knowing Donny – seeing those smiling eyes and being held by huge hands was, for me, like glimpsing the glory of God. God shining through for all to see.

That’s kind of what the Epiphany season has been.

The theme of the season is God’s glory in Jesus. The light of God in Christ has been growing from babyhood – the visit of the Magi to the time of his last journey to Jerusalem. The light of the first Epiphany was small as a candle but by the time of the Transfiguration, the flame has become the brightness of the sun.

As a babe, God’s glory was seen by the Wise Ones who revealed him as king.

At his baptism, Jesus’ glory is acknowledged by those left to follow him. And during the last Sundays of Epiphany season, we have seen glory and power reflected in his healings and teachings.

Now at the Transfiguration everything comes together.

Jesus reflects in his person the glory of God. The past is fulfilled in the approval of Moses and Elijah, and in a bit of Divine special effects, the voice of God call the disciples to listen and obey Jesus. The truth speaks loud and clear.  Disciples and followers of Jesus have to live in the real world. They can’t stay on the mountain. They can’t live in tents forever.

Jesus and his disciples come down from the Mount of Transfiguration to continue their journey to Jerusalem. Jesus returns – again with God’s approval and assurance.  Peter, James, and John come down with a new understanding of their Lord’s mission and their own mission.

Certain things in Donny’s life were either before or after my time. I never knew his dearly beloved wife. I didn’t know Donny with serious health struggles that finally took him. But people like Donny can inspire us as experiences on the mountain to uplift us. Life is not lived at the top of some mountain.  We must come down. We must go on.

We must walk with Jesus into tomorrows filled with difficulty but also tomorrows of hope and grace.

Six questions about giving

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Stewardship.

Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is the creator of Financial Peace University.

Dave Ramsey’s three big principles are save, spend, and give. We want you to enjoy your saving and spending, but giving is really some of the most fun you can have with money. We get a lot of questions on the topic though, so let’s take a look at the most common ones.

 1 ) What’s the point of tithing?

God doesn’t need our money. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. That’s not why He repeatedly tells us to give and have an eternal view of everything He’s given us. His desire is that we’d experience the kind of peace that comes from a content heart. Having a content heart, managing money God’s way, and avoiding the temptation of materialism frees us to focus on the things that really matter—like family, friends and, ultimately, changing our family tree.

2) Should you stop tithing when money’s tight?

The Bible does not mention anything about putting a hold on your tithing. And it never implies that tithing is a salvation issue. The tithe, which is a scriptural mandate, was not instituted for God’s benefit, because He already has all the money He needs. He does not need our money. So why does He ask us to give 10% to Him? Tithing was created for our benefit. It is to teach us how to keep God first in our lives and how to be unselfish people. Unselfish people make better husbands, wives, friends, relatives, employees and employers. God is trying to teach us how to prosper over time. If you cannot live on 90% of your income, then you probably cannot live on 100%. Something is already off in your plan. And if you do tithe, do it out of love for God, not guilt.

stewardship Tithing 3) Is it right to count my church tithes on my tax returns?

You gave the money to the church. You were biblically obedient in that. The Bible also tells us to be good managers of our money. It does not diminish the sanctity of your gift to take the tax deduction. It is a way to manage the rest of the money. Take the deduction. Later, if you get an income tax refund, remember that this is money that you’ve already tithed. But you can always choose to give some or all of it back to the Lord as additional thanks for His blessings.

4) I’m making more money now. How should I increase my giving above the tithe?

When things are going well, it’s easy to accidentally spend all the extra income. That’s why Dave recommends that you name each of those new dollars in your budget every month. Set up your budget based on your new salary, including your giving, spending, and saving. Then, any additional income is divided among extra giving, extra investing and some blow money.

5) Can’t I also volunteer my time and services as a form of giving?

Absolutely! You can serve food at a homeless shelter, read stories to the elderly at a nursing home, help with parking or child care at your church—the list could go on and on. You can also look for special opportunities to help people in need, like a lady who has a flat tire on the side of the road or a young married couple who just had their first baby. This doesn’t have to be a formula or a checklist of ways to give. All you need to do is start with an attitude of thankfulness, generosity and giving, and that attitude will reflect how you respond in everyday life.

stewardship growing giving6) Can you give too much?

Sure. The Bible says to give a tenth of your income to your local church. Your first goal after the tithe is to take care of your household. Then, above that, to support other ministries with your giving. But you definitely shouldn’t be giving yourself into the poorhouse. When you have a better financial foundation in a few years, you are more free to give above the tithe. Bottom line: Giving liberates the soul of the giver. A giver never walks away feeling badly. Whether through a tithe, charitable contribution or gift to a friend in need, giving not only generates good—it brings contentment. Money is never just about money. It is about so much more. When giving becomes part of our natural way of life, incredible blessings are unlocked in our spirit that we’ve never even imagined! It’s a great way to live!

From Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class. Used by permission.

Food Pantry is moving to the brown garage

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

By Donna Olendorf

Donna OlendorfThe idea is simple.

Move the Food Pantry out of Jubilee House and into the detached brown garage adjacent to the church on the Boardman Avenue rental property.

And it’s a good idea, too.

There will be more space for cars, more room for food, and a much-needed separation between families seeking food and homeless people seeking shelter at Jubilee House.

 But it’s gotten bigger…

Like anything worth doing, this project is worth doing right, and that has transformed a small relocation into a big renovation with multiple phases.

Phase One, and the most important phase, includes remodeling the garage (including site costs for sanitation, water, paving, and walks) and moving the Food Pantry out of Jubilee House.

Phase Two involves Jubilee House improvements. The vacated space in the Jubilee House will be converted into another bathroom, changing room, and sitting room. Both plans will serve the less fortunate in our midst.

Additional phases add a shower room, windows, new flooring, electrical upgrades, and new storage cabinets.

 And the price has gone up.

The first phase of the project will cost around $47, 000 and Grace already has funds in place for that. When Frances Spedding, a parishioner who was part of the first Grace Pantry Shelf Mission Group, died in 2012, she left the church a gift of $35,000 for outreach. The vestry contemplated and prayed about the use of this generous donation: What would Frances do? Her gift is now being leveraged to meet the needs of both the pantry and Jubilee House with the application for a matching grant.

Funds will not come out of the budget, but we hope, in addition to Frances’ gift, they will come from donations within our community of friends and supporters.

If the matching grant is approved, Phase Two will begin in earnest. If not, project phases will be implemented as funding becomes available.

Beyond that, the vestry has approved the kickoff of a $30K Capital Fundraising Campaign for the project, focused on equipping and furnishing the facility.

 We thought about a tear down and rebuild from scratch…

But rebuilding just isn’t feasible due to commercial code restrictions. Once a permit is pulled for a new commercial building, the building codes become more stringent and much more expensive to implement.

 And now we need your help.

Please give generously to support this project. Envelopes with “Food Pantry and Jubilee House Renovation” will be available in the collection baskets for a reverse donation. And spread the word in the community, encouraging donations to the fundraising campaign.

Parish Administrator Ann Hackett contributed to this article.

 

More than just survival

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

By The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Rev. Daniel P. Richards

The opportunities to reach out with time and money are endless it seems. For those who work in the community of Traverse City it is clear that the needs people have are varied and sometimes very difficult to answer.

But then there is toothpaste. Everyone needs toothpaste. The hygiene pantry in the Jubilee House at Grace Church is a simple room. Through it, we are able to touch simple needs directly. Everyone needs toothpaste and deodorant.

I had a man break down in tears one day when I asked him which deodorant he wore because we had several brands. He had been on the streets for a couple of months after losing his job and lease in the same couple of weeks. He is back to work now and comes by to drop off Old Spice Fiji deodorant every couple of weeks.

A mother of two teenage girls came in to ask for help and turned deep red trying to get up the nerve to ask for feminine products of me in a collar on a day when all the women in the office were out. The Spirit elbowed me, and I blurted out, “Let me show you a place where I can let you pick out some basic things that don’t come from a refrigerator.” I handed her a paper bag, and Glenda took her down to take care of her girls.

These things aren’t really life or death. They are life and dignity. They are simple needs, but meeting them makes a profound difference. So we do what we can.

Thank you for supporting more than just survival. Your support means a few teenage girls go to school every week feeling taking care of. It means a man gets to smell like he will make it out of the moment he is caught in. The hygiene pantry means life a little more abundant, and that is what we are all about.

Middle schoolers learn the Jesus Creed

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Amy Richards

By Макаров. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Sermon on the Mount, by Макаров. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.’”All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

This is what the middle school Grace youth call the Jesus Creed. The Grace 7th and 8th graders are learning what I think is the most vital part of our faith: loving God and loving others.

Youth Group is such wonderful time, especially for Jenny and Matt Stadtmiller and me, their leaders. We begin group time by sharing our highs of the week and prayer requests. We try out new activities, like a snowball fight with paper, Bible Scattagory, gingerbread house making party, and then we talk about our relationship with God. Right now we are exploring prayer by looking more in depth at The Lord’s Prayer which Jesus gave us. Lastly, we close our time together in prayer, and once in a while someone other than me will volunteer!

I think about the kids throughout the week and pray for a hurt foot, an upcoming game, school and peer concerns, safety for travel (especially on snowmobiles and horses); and I am connected in a way I never imagined.

One of the most wonderful and rewarding gifts of being involved in this ministry is getting to know some Grace family members who are so cool! It is a privilege to have the opportunity to encourage, teach,

and pray for these kids to realize who they are in Christ and what they are called to in their world. These kids have an opportunity you and I may never have: they are part of a world we are on the fringes of, and they can make a difference.

We are because we sing

Posted by & filed under Ministry of the week.

By Kathy WillChoir_web

Have you ever listened to a young child as they play, unaware of anything but the project at hand. They are often humming or singing to themselves. Many of the earliest games we learned on the playground involved a song or a chant: “Ring-around-the-Rosie,” “London Bridge is Falling Down.” Singing is part of what makes us a human being, and is one activity that involves our head, our heart, and our body working together.

For the Israelites, praying and singing were often indistinguishable from each other. As soon as they were safe across the Red Sea from the Egyptians, they broke out the timbrels and tambourines and sang “I will sing unto the Lord for He has triumphed gloriously!” (Ex. 15:1). The psalmist sang in times of joy and sorrow. Mary’s sang about her joy and trust in God in the Magnificat.

The word “liturgy” comes from Greek and combines the words for “work” and “people.” Liturgy is the work we do together as the people of God. Song allows all of us, no matter what our gifts, to participate fully in that communal worship. Our worship tradition includes chants, hymns, songs of praise, psalms, and much more. When we lift up our voices together in song we are sharing in a natural expression of our faith.

Now, my guess is that neither the Israelites nor Mary were trained musicians. They were not worried about whether they were singing on pitch, or had hit that high note precisely. Instead, they allowed the natural enthusiasm and love of God to pour out of their heart and voice. They sang with the intensity of prayer, and in turn their song became prayer. The next time you have your hymnal out, I encourage you to think about the text, and let whatever emotion is being expressed in that text flow out in song. Our combined song will be beautiful music to God’s ears. Praise God! Alleluia!