School of Prayer – The Daily Office for Episcopalians

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

By The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards
Rector

The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Our children are off to school! Backpacks and lunches in hand, they piled back through doors of plate glass and steel. Excitement, joy, and trepidation all showed on those young faces at Eastern Elementary last week as we waited for the first day to begin.

So when we think of the School of Prayer, do you feel all those same things? It was years into ministry before I realized that not everyone was spending their nights reading Evelyn Underhill and trying out obscure Eastern Orthodox prayer forms. As I hung around ministry students, priests, pastors, and a few deacons and monks, it never occurred to me that most lay people would not be doing this kind of study.

Now that I have three kids and a career, it seems naïve that I did not realize that regular people leading busy lives would not be studying scripture. But, if we can have a school of prayer, is there a home-learning version?

The answer is “yes.” It is called the Daily Office, and like school, it does not cover everything. (You should hear clergy lament all the things they don’t tell you in seminary.) But it does teach you the basics and get you grounded.

The Daily Office is a condensed version of the daily hours of the monks and nuns set out in the Rule of Benedict. They gather still for seven set times of prayer throughout the Christian world. Monks, nuns, and priests in the Roman church are required to keep the monastic offices (office means requirement). When the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer and others put together the first Book of Common Prayer, they condensed the seven offices into two main hours of prayer, the Morning and Evening Offices that we continue. They also set aside a list of assigned readings, sequentially going through the Bible in a year and the Psalms in a month.

Today we still continue with the Daily Offices as one of the two pillars of our Common Prayer life. Morning and Evening Prayer are as essential to our life as Anglicans and Episcopalians as the set hours of prayer were in the deserts of fifteen hundred years ago. We have added back in a noontime prayer service and Compline, essentially the same as Noon and Compline in Benedict’s Rule. They are all in your Book of Common Prayer.

But we also have some new tools that can keep the parents of children, grandparents, busy singles, retired people and students on track with their Offices.

One is a Contemporary Office Book available from Church Publishing that runs $150 or so. There are several variations of Prayer Books from other Anglican churches and a particularly good Breviary (Office Book) from the Saint Helena Community (Episcopal).

Even more convenient are a couple of apps and websites that I want to share. First off, I have used all of these apps on my Iphone, and I refer to the websites on a regular basis. Second, these options do not exhaust all of what is available in print, on the web, or for your personal device.

cropped-breviarium41The website and app that I use daily (or very close) is from http://missionstclare.com. They have been around since I first came into the Episcopal church providing a simple, straight forward and very full version of the Daily Offices. The website is effortless to use with a button for the current day and dozens of options, including downloaded months for Kindle and Nook readers, which I use when I am traveling without internet access.

The app from Mission St. Clare is very good, just as intuitive. You push a button and then scroll down to read the Office. These options do not include Compline or Noonday, though the website has both in the various offerings, but they are just as easy to read in the Book of Common Prayer.

Forward Day by Day is a popular little devotional here at Grace and around the church, and it’s available in both an online version and an app for phones and tablets. I have used it occasionally, and it does offer some customization. You can pick Rite I or Rite II. You should try the website for a whole set of options. I like it, but I usually end up at Mission St. Clare for the simplicity. The biggest benefit is that it has the Forward Day by Day devotional built right in.

There are a couple of Book of Common Prayer apps and the new one from the Episcopal Church is pretty good, very complete, and deleted from my phone. I carry the BCP everywhere with me, so I tend not to need the online version.

The other two websites are primarily for the Sunday lectionary readings. The first one I use every week to link from the sermon blog to the readings referred to is simply www.lectionarypage.net, and it has the readings on a calendar with the Collect and options when there are options. We usually take the first option if you start following this tract. The second page is very complete and has tons of resources besides. It is located at www.satucket.com/lectionary. This site carries files of the various Book of Common Prayers and is a tremendous place to learn more about our faith. Along with anglicansonline.org you could cover miles of territory without leaving your desk.

There are other resources, and we are just scratching the surface of what is available. This is the age of information. But, if you are looking for a simple way to get grounded in the Offices of our church, I suggest Mission St. Clare and Forward Day by Day. If you search for these two websites or apps, you will find a online great school of prayer.

Every school has its complications. The Offices can be a bit wordy when holding them alone. Feel free to pare down as necessary. I often skip the Canticles when traveling, but not as much as I used too. I do not always do every Collect offered and usually spend a great deal of time in quiet thinking and praying about and with the Bible and silence. Make it your own. And if you need a tutor, call the church, and I will be happy to walk you through our school.

Let today be your first day of class.

 

Open invitation to Gift Planning session October 21

Posted by & filed under Events.

By Dave Eitland
Stewardship Committee

Have you ever thought of giving to the Parish beyond regular weekly offering? Have you ever thought of giving a bequest to the Church? Have you thought and prayed about how your legacy of giving might look? Will your legacy giving reflect your values as a Christian disciple?

The Grace Episcopal Church Foundation is sponsoring a gift planning session for Monday, October 21 between 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm in the Parish Hall. Foundation Board members Ward Kuhn and Dave Eitland will be leading this session to help church members think through their giving in extraordinary ways. The Very Rev. Daniel Richards will also be in attendance. The session will help people think about their giving through using the tools of planned giving and giving to the Church.

Besides serving on the Foundation ministry, Ward is an attorney at Kuhn, Darling, Boyd, and Quandt, PLC . He has helped people in estate planning as one of his legal specialties since 1976. Dave is currently the Development and Gift Planning Director for the Grand Traverse Pavilions and brings over 15 years in planned giving for individuals and charities.

Fall Giving Program – “Giving by Grace, Growing in Joy”

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

Stained glass windowBy Dave Eitland
GEC Stewardship Ministry Committee

The goal of the stewardship ministry is to help God’s people grow in their relationship with Jesus through the use of time, talents, and finances that God has entrusted to them.

The Fall Giving Program will give people of Grace a biblical overview of giving and specifically speak to the financial giving of people to the Church.

Our theme this year will be “Giving by Grace, Growing in Joy” based on 2 Corinthians 9:7:  “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. “

Beginning on October 19 & 20, we will begin a five-week program in prayer and education to give a broad perspective in giving to the Church. Our weekly themes will feature:

  • Week 1: Gratitude
  • Week 2: Prayer
  • Week 3: Faith
  • Week 4: God’s Dream for Grace
  • Week 5: Celebration & Commitment

You will hear inspirational messages from members. You will be provided a weekly guide featuring the theme, facts and information, and more importantly a devotion to help you reflect and pray.

You will hear about Grace’s ministry and our dreams for the future. There will be articles, blog posts, activities, and worship.

You will be asked to reflect on what kind of giver you currently are. You will be asked to consider pledging. You will be asked to consider tithing as a practice of discipleship.

You will have access and receive all the information in many a varied ways and formats you need to make a commitment .

May God move you during this time of reflection and action to fulfill God’s will for us.

Dreams bring messages from God – Dream Group ministry minute (9/28/13)

Posted by & filed under Ministry of the week.

The dream group is not widely publicized at Grace, so I am pleased to be reporting on its presence and purpose as the Ministry Minute September 27 and 28. I am Sue Brightheart and I have been facilitating that group since September of 2010. I started working with dreams years ago in an informal way so when our fellow parishioner, Glen Williams, gave a presentation about Carl Jung’s ideas, especially as they related to the unconscious and dreams, I was excited. The next step was to earn a dream leader certificate from the Haden Institute in North Carolina.

Since that time, working with dreams has become an important part of my spiritual life and sharing that knowledge with others has become a passion for me. I was greatly encouraged in this pursuit when I came upon this quote from the early Christian theologian Origen: “Dreams are the primary way God speaks to his people.” I have found working with dreams has been a significant step in deepening my spiritual development. That our primary written book of faith, The Bible, is full of God communicating by dreams tells me this is a trustworthy gift of the divine. So I am eager to bring others to a knowledge of this additional spiritual practice.

Each dream brings us “messages from God,” to quote Bob Haden. These “messages” are barely in our awareness, or sometimes completely unconscious and come as brand new information surfacing into our consciousness. Dreams can also bring us comfort during hard times. I have had beautifully luminous dreams that have brought me great comfort when I am going into a dark period. When our body, mind or soul becomes unbalanced, a dream can point the way to restoring balance. Dreams can be full of puns, confusion, terror, but always in service of our healing and health.

Our dream group meets during the school year every other week on Tuesdays from 4:30 to 6:00 PM. We take a break in December and in the summer. Once a year I present an introduction to dreams and working with them. That serves two purposes: First, to teach the basics of dream work, so all are able to work individually with their dreams at home. Secondly, to allow the attendees who wish to continue exploring dreams at greater depth to join the ongoing dream group. This introduction will give them enough information and techniques to be comfortable and able to jump right into the group.

The next introduction to dreams will be on two consecutive Monday nights (October 28 and Nov 4) at 6:30 to 8:30PM at Grace Church in LL5. If you have any questions or want more information, contact me at suebrightheart@gmail.com or call 231-271-3052.

 

 

 

 

Ministry Minute: GEC Website (9/8/13)

Posted by & filed under Ministry of the week.

Our website (http://www.gracetraversecity.org) is an online channel for information about Grace Episcopal Church. We promote discipleship by sharing stories by and about Grace members whose lives reflect their commitment to Jesus Christ. The website features regular updates from key ministries, including the rector, the vestry, the education director, and former Sr. Warden Barb Klugh, whose weekly Engaging the Word blog parses out the lectionary in terms we can all understand.

From August 1, 2013 to September 2, 2013, 496 people made 772 visits to the website. Anyone who has a faith story to share is invited to submit articles to webmaster Donna Olendorf at dolendor@gmail.com.

 

 

At Jubilee House, God’s love flows in all directions

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Bill Hankins

Bill Hankins, Jubilee House volunteer

Bill Hankins

Sure, I had noticed the modest Victorian style house west of the church, but knew nothing much about what went on there. It was just part of the neighborhood.

I hadn’t seen the line stretching out to the sidewalk on weekday mornings waiting for someone to open the door. I didn’t know that there were washers and dryers waiting in the cement floored basement to be used, that the coffee pots would soon be brewing and the sign-up board would be filled with names of guests needing showers. Like many things that go on at Grace Episcopal Church, it was beyond my radar.

It was a cold December night two-and-a half years ago that I signed up to help at Safe Harbor. I didn’t know much about Safe Harbor, either, except that homeless people could come for a dinner and somehow they would be allowed to spend the night out of the cold. I was a bit uneasy about getting into this, but Ken Andrews seemed to know the ropes and that made me less anxious. Things were well organized and the homeless arrived, knowing what to do and how to behave.

Then, two guys came in supporting a third, who was obviously in pretty bad shape. He slumped into a chair and passed out. Ken, without hesitation took care of this guest with such kindness and grace that I knew I needed to take some lessons. Jubilee House was my opportunity. I decided to help out each week on Monday.

Jubilee House

Jubilee House photo by Don Olendorf

Again, there were concerns about interacting with “street people” from 10 am until 2 pm, but Ken’s wife, Glenda, with her wise, easy manner showed me around and gave me a packet of information to read.   Again everything was so well organized and rules of behavior so clearly stated that it wasn’t much different from any new experience. Slowly, my opinion of the homeless changed and I came to really understand that we are all God’s children.  And that God loves them as much as he loves me.

Encountering the homeless has always presented a moral dilemma for me. What can I do for this person? What can I say that won’t make them embarrassed? If I get involved, how far do I want to go to help out? Volunteering at Jubilee House resolves problem for me.

Through the celebration of Eucharist we are reminded that we are the body of Christ and are sent out in peace as living members to do His work. I have heard this message thousands of times and have accepted it as my core Christian value without fully putting it into practice. My involvement with Jubilee House has given me the sense that I am making some progress in this direction.

If you want to see why I love Grace, just drop by Jubilee House. It is a shining example of what it means to be a Christian. The door is open, Maxie’s soup is in the kitchen, food in the refrigerator, and the house is full of God’s love flowing in all directions.

 

Voice of the Vestry: What matters now?

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

Keep of the Vestry Kerry Nelson

Kerry Nelson

By Kerry Nelson

As part of our monthly Vestry meeting we spend 15-30 minutes on study. This could be reading this week’s scriptures followed by discussion or Daniel reading a passage from the latest book he is studying and asking a pointed question. No matter what the topic, the ensuing conversation is thought provoking and wide-ranged. At our September meeting our study topic was to review the vision and purpose of Grace Episcopal Church. We defined our vision and purpose by asking the following questions:

Why do we exist? To Make Disciples in the Episcopal shape of Jesus’ Way. This led to a discussion of what is the “Episcopal Way”? Our answer was that it’s a practice based faith with a balance between Daily Office and weekly Eucharist and parish based. Parish based means we serve those within our church walls as well as the extended community in which Grace resides.

How do we behave? Ethic of Hospitality, Ethic of Reverence, Ethic of Wonder and Wisdom, Ethic of Presence. Our discussion added one word to this answer – joyful. We felt it should say “Ethic of Joyful Reverence”. We want to show our joyfulness for all that God has given us.

What do we do? As Episcopal Christians we worship at home daily and together weekly; study the scriptures, our tradition, and what it means to be a disciple today; we serve our families, our parish, and our world in the name of Christ. Everything we do is done with an ethic of Welcome because we are only here by Grace. These words are visible everywhere in the written materials of Grace. We feel they represent the essence of what Grace Church is.

How will we succeed? When we make disciples, when our ethics are intuitive, when our love is tangible. We felt this is an ongoing process with successes along the way.

The last question asked was “What is most important right now?” Our responses: To rejoice! Spiritual stability. Stop what we are doing and sit at Jesus’ feet. Unity and common purpose.

The one common theme of our purpose and vision is the word “we”. Grace is a community of people working together for the glory of God. Everyone has a part. What is yours?

Jesus grabbed my heart

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Connie Meyers

Connie and Denny Meyers

Connie Meyers with her husband Denny.

I am Connie Meyers, a disciple of Christ….well, at least I am trying to be a disciple of Christ! You would think that a person that has been a Christian, an Episcopalian no less, since six weeks of age would have been spiritually formed by now. Several years ago I realized that I had been going nowhere in developing my spirit or a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I was not changing.

Sure, I was the one that was active at church all the way through high school. In college I actually got up Sunday mornings and walked to church. But something was missing in all those years and the years that followed. Who was I serving? What was my focus? I heard all the ‘talk’ but wasn’t “walking the walk.” I listened to sermon after sermon but did not hear. I followed the path, but did nothing but stray off course. I didn’t believe that I had any gifts to offer.

Something did happen, I am not sure exactly when or where it was, but Jesus grabbed my heart and I began to get caught up in His word. I am constantly overwhelmed by His message and daily cleansed by my own tears. It may have been the realization that I am indeed aging or that I was grateful for all that I am, all that I have been blessed with, and all that there is yet to be. Regardless of what it was, it doesn’t matter. I have spent the past few years digging deep into knowing Jesus better.

I have found that when I begin each day in the quiet, devotional reading, and filling my heart with “his story” my soul is more anchored in God and I love better. When I wander away (which can be often) I work hard at quickly come back to a life centered on Christ. I am willing and enthusiastic to commit myself to Jesus, all of God’s children and to further the Kingdom of God here on earth. Daily, I pray that the focus on myself is taken away, that I may love actively and that my words and thoughts be in the name of Jesus.

I see myself as a disciple when I play for a worship service for dementia patients at the Pavilions, when I am working with the children upstairs on Sunday, helping to care for my mentally impaired sister-in-law, or helping to care for my grandchildren. Now that I have begun to grow spiritually I know these things:

  • I can be quiet. It is good to be quiet. Honestly, I don’t even say a word! I can listen better to God’s voice instead of hearing my own!
  • I know that if I do not know the Son, I do not know the Father.
  • I am a happier and more positive person when I focus on Jesus and not myself.Ÿ
  • I am blessed by choosing the “blessed path” (Psalm 1)
  • I am reminded by Dallas Willard, a favorite teacher of mine, That when I think that I have made it; I have not, that I will never get to a place where I can stop seeking. For seeking is a way of life.
  • I seek the kingdom of God everywhere. I try to find him in everything, everywhere I go.

I now know that the door is open for me to enter. Being grateful and thankful for everything draws me closer to God. When I am attentive to God’s presence and recognize God’s generosity to me I want to return the favor by praising, loving and serving God and to help others. I want to get out of the pew and do what Jesus would have me do!

I am working at becoming a disciple of Jesus. In the beginning of his ministry Jesus chose the most unlikely men to follow Him. I share some of the same characteristics that those first disciples had…weakness, betrayal, denial, fear, doubt. I even fall asleep sometimes when I am in prayer or I practice “drowsy discipleship.” Rob Bell, a pastor, once said that “the disciples were not the best of the best. They were like a young ‘B’ team, or the Junior Varsity!” I can be a disciple. I will continue to seek spirituality and a deeper life of prayer. More than ever, as my spirit is molded and formed I find myself in the hands of God. I like being there!

 “It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands.” –Pedro Arruyse, Superior General of the Jesuits, 1983

 

God acts when I slow down…

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

By The Very Rev. Daniel Richards
Rector

The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Since the Reformation, Christianity has been mired in major debates about faith. That isn’t news; it is history. We often talk about how the Anglican tradition is poised to be revolutionary and, in fact, the Episcopal church has been in the forefront of several controversial issues that are reshaping the church and our nation.

Are we ahead of the cultural milieu or just another product in lace? More importantly, are we doing what God wants us to do?

It helps to understand that we are a unique branch of Christianity. We are pragmatic and flexible. This all stems from a core characteristic of Anglicanism: we are a practice-based faith.

We are not creedal exactly. We are not really hierarchical. We have both creeds and creedal statements. We have a hierarchy. But those things do not fundamentally define our faith.

Burning of Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer, architect of the Protestant Reformation, was burned at the stake because of his beliefs.

We are defined by what we do. Ever since Thomas Cranmer conceived that the center of the Eucharistic act was the receiving of the bread and wine, we have centered our self-understanding in our practices.

In academic circles we call this “orthopraxis” or right practice as opposed to “orthodoxy” right belief. The simpler truth is that we really should be orthodox, but we allow greater range than other traditions, not out of hubris, but rather we are so focused on our actions that we just aren’t concerned enough to fight.

This has been in turns frustrating and liberating as a non-cradle Episcopalian. I grew up a Southern Baptist, focused on theology and in love with the history and beauty of theology. It was the poetry of Bible and theology that drew me back week after week. But, it was the embodied theology of the liturgy that drew me to the Episcopal church.

I learned there that our outreach flowed from the pages of the Gospels. The formation in the daily chapel deepened my experience of the Eucharist where we read the Bible, we recite the creeds, we care for the poor, we take part in the sacred dance, but we rarely talk about predestination versus free will, much less pre-millennial dispensationalism. We are a people of actions.

There is much to be said about this, but it can be put really simply: we “do” our faith. We do the Office Daily, we do Eucharist weekly, we do meals and food for the hungry, we do welcome. But we also need to balance our doing with thinking.

This is about following Jesus. We do what we do because he asked us to. So as we head into the next year, I will be offering a course on a book I had the vestry study five years ago when I came, Becoming a Blessed Church by Graham Standish.

Becoming a Blessed Church by N. Graham Standish

Becoming a Blessed Church by N. Graham Standish

The book is about seeking God’s direction and will for us before we act. It is a simple thing to stop and pray, but a profound thing nonetheless.

If we are going to say that we follow Jesus, obey Jesus, then we have to ask what he wants us to do, where he wants us to go, and how to be along the way. We do that in prayer.

This is where the Holy Spirit enters into our life. Jesus told his disciples that after he had ascended to his Father, he would send the Holy Spirit to teach, instruct, and guide them. If we are to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, then we have to pay attention to the spiritual dimension of life.

We have to slow down and listen to the Spirit speak within us. God in the Spirit will direct us. I have found that to be a subtle but reliable truth. I don’t always listen, but when I do I discover that my actions have consequences that go beyond my intentions and that my words have the potential of speaking the Word into other lives as well as my own. God acts when I slow down; God speaks in my silence.

So we do. As Episcopal Christians we do a lot; let’s make sure that it is what God would want us to do. Stop. Pray. Listen. Act.

 

 

 

The Divine Economy – the more you give, the more you receive

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Dave Eitland
Stewardship committee

We pray each Sunday, “All things come from you, O Lord. And of your own have we given you. Amen”

As some of you know, Katheryn and I have just moved again. We have a lot of stuff. Not as much as we once had, but as we move it and unpack it again, it is more than I want it to be. Sometimes I wonder if I want to be “blessed” by all of this stuff, but being raised by a generation not so far from the Great Depression and living through the Recession of the past years, I am sometimes hesitant to get rid of my stuff. So I put my stuff into a storage bin that I drive to when I don’t have room for my stuff in the house or garage I now have.

And everyone has stuff. The cable show Storage Wars tells me of a whole industry built around people abandoning or not able to afford their stuff, which gets sold at auction. And I admit it is fascinating to watch the “treasures” people store in their bins and what they are worth. We as a nation have a lot of stuff.

When I pack and unpack I continue to ask “Do I need all of this stuff?”

If all things come from you, O Lord, and you give me many things and stuff, I need to get rid of the stuff before you bury me in your blessings. I can’t believe the amount of stuff I have recycled or given away to Goodwill or the thrift stores.

I believe there is one Divine Economy where part of my ministry as a discipline is to make sure the stuff God gives me gets put to use. I have found more and more that God is so generous He gives me stuff that I can’t use and that I need to pass along into the Divine Economy so that others might use these treasures God once gave me, so that others can have these treasures and experience the abundance of God.

God gives me more than just stuff in God’s Diving Economy. According to Martin Luther writing about the phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” says,

“God gives us food and drink, clothing, house and home, a body, helps us manage our household, gives us and still preserves a spouse (partner), children, work, vocation, craft or occupation, faithful neighbors, good friends, good government, protects us from all harm, wisdom, strength, prosperity, and all we need from day to day.”

In the Divine Economy, God gives us all things that makes life good and protects us from the bad.

In thinking about my giving and all that I have been given, I need to constantly remind myself that I return only a small portion of my time, talent, and financial resources in order for God to do God’s good work in this Divine Economy. How much stuff can I give away to be a blessing for others?