Updates from Grace's Senior Warden
(newly elected David Barbrow)
"You can count
the seeds in an apple, but you can't count the apples in a
Sorry, I just get
philosophical around times like Senior Sunday. Not to mention choked up. Also
Yes, this Sunday
we offer our prayers and thanks for and with our graduating seniors. And the
week after that we end the so-called "program year", from September to June.
But we've just entered a season that all the hip theologians call
"ordinary time", the weeks between Pentecost and Advent.
Quite a lot is
happening and will happen in this ordinary time. The Christian Education
committee has three candidates so far for our CE Director position. We're busy
phone screening and scheduling interviews.
discussed the results of the two meetings we had on "what do we want in a
rector", and we have scheduled a special additional meeting to analyze and move
forward. Vestry will meet on Wednesday, June 19th. Expect to read and hear
more before that date.
Over the summer,
a number of Grace people will once again show "effective compassion" when they
work with the B-Safe program on July 15th-19th. Please consider volunteering
and if you're able please contact Lisa
Here's one final
idea - you can do it right now before you do anything else. Put a little
reminder into your cell phones to pop up this Sunday at noon, right after the
service. The little reminder should say "Go to the office and sign up for one
thing over the summer". Easy!
Guess that depends on what we do with it.
What do you
This past Sunday Paul Wong and I went to a very interesting meeting of Newton Episcopal Church wardens and clergy. Paul was attending in David’s place, as David was out of town, and Margaret was en route to a conference in Colorado. Churches represented at this meeting were Messiah, St Mark’s, St Paul’s, Trinity and of course Grace.
I want to let you know what we discussed--the question of whether Newton churches might be interested in working together on a Mission Hub, and what that would involve.
To start with some background, one initiative of Together Now, the Diocesan campaign we participated in during Lent, is the establishment of as many as six “Mission Hubs” over the next five years. Mission Hubs are defined as regional partnerships among congregations (at least three). Working together, individual churches’ missions might be extended. The aim is to identify unmet needs in the community and to work collaboratively with other groups and agencies to meet these needs. A first step will be to meet with community leaders, perhaps the mayor and the city’s social worker, for example, to learn what they see as unmet needs. One need already highlighted is the many people who have housing issues and need help filling out complex housing applications.
Mission Hubs are meant to be outward facing. There was a lively discussion at the meeting with many possible areas we could focus on: hidden hunger; violence, including domestic violence; poverty; housing; the environment, “caring for God’s creation”. All of these problems are problems in Newton. In fact, a current report from the Brookings Institute says that more poor people now live in the suburbs than in urban areas, and that suburban cities are ill equipped to handle the surge.
Mission Hub grants can range from $250,000 ($50,000 annually for five years) to as much as $1,250,000 ($500,000 annually for five years). When the grant comes to an end the Mission Hub must be sustainable (able to carry on without outside support).
Paul and I, along with everyone else present, feel that we all want to be involved in working together toward the development of a Mission Hub. (Working together at this point does not commit us to participating if Grace Church decides against it.) The next step is to develop a drafting team of two members from each participating parish to work on discerning the scope and substance of such a Mission Hub, and then putting together a proposal to the Diocese. The deadline for applications is September 1, so this team would need to work intensively for probably six weeks, starting at the beginning of June, to allow time for vestry and parish approval before submission of the proposal.
To me, this sounds exciting, and a chance to work together with some of the other parishes on some of the mostly hidden needs in our city, but also a bit daunting. What do you all think? Are you interested in helping to get this project started? Please let me know!
Carolyn Sprich (617.244.2071,firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sunday Grace middle schoolers Charlotte, Jonah, and Zoe went on a field
trip to Archangels' Greek Orthodox Church in Watertown, along with
Gayle Larson and me.
Orthodox service runs nearly two hours, and you'd think our kids (and
their adult compatriots) might have found it overlong or tedious, but it
was an extravagant time. The sanctuary was ringed with icons of
saints, as you might expect. But the whole experience of chant and
incense and motion made this a rich act of worship.
your senior warden has always been a language fanatic. So the fact
that at least half of the service was in Greek - instantly cool. If you
transported a first century Christian into the 21st century, they could
follow the service at Archangels' Church. That we were hearing the
epistle and gospel and Lord's Prayer as originally written down -
if you don't speak Greek you could feel pretty lost in parts of the
service. Yep, that would be me and Gayle and our middle schoolers.
What is it like to hear prayers lifted up which you don't understand?
An almost impenetrable barrier seems to exist between people who don't
speak the same language. Come to think of it, do any two people in
this fallen world speak entirely the same language?
then - the Orthodox prayerbook has the English text on each page
opposite the Greek, and see, the Divine Liturgy is very familiar to us!
Of course. Not only does our liturgy (even our word "liturgy") come
from this world, but it turns out that all Christians have been taught
to pray by the same Lord. We have common needs inherited as brothers
and sisters in a single humanity.
Obvious lessons? Not so obvious when we actually feel a
failure of communication. When we feel unable to connect with someone
we want to connect with. Or when we don't get what we need to make
sense of our world.
we're wise to remember - if we had a translation of other peoples'
"prayerbooks" (metaphorically speaking), we'd realize how close we are
so much of the time. And between us at Grace Church, who are knit by
ties of friendship as well as faith, please always keep in mind that
communication is occasionally hard, but is always the work of the whole parish. You can help me to know what it is that you need to know, and to tell priest and wardens whatever it is that you need
to say. Make a note - I'll be speaking about our ministry search and
other topics at Grace Discussion on June 9th. Come and participate.
Why, this Sunday is Pentecost (at least in the Western Churches!) On
this day we celebrate the undoing of the Tower of Babel and the
reuniting of all people across barriers of speech. As it says in the
Office of Morning Prayer (itself translating from the Greek original) -
"for with your blood you have redeemed for God
from every family, language, people and nation
a kingdom of priests to serve our God"
Lastly, I want to thank the middle schoolers and fellow teachers Lisa and Margaret for a tremendously fun Walk for Hunger last week. We covered ten miles - and Lisa accompanied three of the kids on an additional five miles! All to raise money for those in need. And there's always an opportunity to sit in on a class with these great kids on a one-time or occasional basis as a doorkeeper or second adult. Ask any Sunday School teacher or Fiona or me.
This week we're going to play "guess the theme of this week's From the Warden".
Here are some clues.
First, we had excellent open meetings in the Large Hall on April 21st and April 28th. Many of you shared your thoughts about what Grace Church needs in a future rector. The vestry spent some time last Sunday reading through those remarks, and we will be scheduling a special session to spend several more dedicated hours to studying what you all said in those meetings. It's not at all too late to speak with or email either warden with anything you'd like to share.
What's up with Property? After some issues with the electronic lock on the door outside the office, we decided to change locksmiths to get better after-hours coverage. Thanks to Marian who took care of this for us.
Our sexton Jeff, with architectural help from Scott, is going to install a handicapped-accessible entrance to the Riverside Counseling building. I'm so grateful to both of them.
We have estimates from three contractors for masonry work and slate repair (an annual thing for a slate roof). All three estimates are many thousands of dollars less than the last time we had a masonry estimate for the same work some years ago. We'll do the work shortly.
The Property Chairs of all the Episcopal congregations in Newton will be meeting on May 13th at St. John's for a joint session sharing information and common concerns. This will be our second joint property meeting.
The Finance Committee met about two weeks ago with three new members, who bring a strong background in finance and fresh eyes overseeing good stewardship of our endowment. Thank you, Jennifer, Susan and Todd as well as all you faithful ongoing members.
Ok, now guess the theme.
You're absolutely right! All this good activity around "things seen" are outward and visible signs of "things unseen" - the love of God moving in our midst. Unearned, yet lavished so freely and generously. Rockin'!
In today's Grace Today, our head of Christian Education shares her plans for the fall. Fiona's opening a program for kids who aren't being well served by their schools. That's a big deal - she and some colleagues have been lining up space, personnel and program. She's going to give this program her all, just as she's given Grace her all.
I've taught with Fiona these past two years, and let me tell you - she's dynamic in the classroom and a very thoughtful theologian outside the classroom. She's tremendously talented and the kids love her. It would sound "corporate" for me to say that it's been a privilege to work with her, but... well, it's been a privilege to work with her! She's a colleague, fellow teacher and friend.
Now, here are two important facts you need to know.
First, the Christian Education committee's hard at work on finding a new Christian Ed Director. Margaret Crook, the committee chair, with help from Fiona and Susan Keefe have written a job description. We've already posted our opening with the diocese and nearby seminaries (including EDS and Andover Newton). We'll be posting it on our website by the end of this week. We'll be actively following up in the weeks ahead.
Second, we're going to have a fun, vigorous and engaging program in the fall. I and other teachers will be back. The act of sharing enthusiasm for good works with our kids and growing together in the faith is reborn at Grace every week. This September will be no exception.
I'm so grateful for every family that worships at Grace Church. You are awesome and your kids are unbelievably great.
Lastly, I have a request - this means you! Please take a second right now and pray for Fiona's new program, that she and her colleagues spread their talents wide to the benefit of as many kids as need them. Thanks, Fiona, for everything you've done for Grace Church.
David Barbrow Senior Warden
From FionaIn October of 2011 I was invited to Grace Church for a three -month consultancy to assist lay leaders in restoring the Christian Education program to full strength. This led to an agreement to remain as Interim Assistant of Christian Education for the school year, and when I was invited to remain for a further year, I said yes, because of the wonderful relationships I had made, because of the commitment of so many parents, and because I knew that after two years, Grace's Christian Education program would be not only up and on its feet, but "ready to run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith." (Hebrews 12:1)
But now, it is with a heavy heart that I must let you know of my intention to leave the post at the end of June of this year. This has been a very hard decision. I have loved the time I have spent at Grace. It has been a pleasure getting to know the children, their parents, those who give their time and energy to teaching, our wonderful staff, and the wider community. Over the two years the Christian Education program has grown in numbers, in organization and in strength. We have restored the tradition of an all-age celebration of Mardi Gras, improved the Christmas Pageant script and made new costumes, taught ongoing Sunday classes for three age-groups, have all children in 5th grade and above signed up as acolytes, established a Christian Education Committee, and much more.
But now I am leaving to begin a new and exciting project, opening an educational resource center for home-schooled teens, and I know that this is something that will take all my time, and then some! I am therefore announcing my departure to give Grace the time to find the ideal person to continue working with the children and their parents in providing a full and welcoming Christian Education program.
We do not need to begin saying goodbyes yet! I look forward to several months of continued commitment to the program, with all the usual end of year events, and some surprises along the way. I thank you all for your kindness and prayers over the last two years, and ask that you will pray for me, and for Grace Church, as we make this transition together.Fiona
through Wednesday, all the priests in our Diocese are at a retreat on Cape Cod.
Now that they've left us lay people unsupervised for several days, what
kind of theological mischief can we make?
Grace is in a
great position to think about this. Last Sunday we had a meeting in the Large
Hall where many of us shared our thoughts about what Grace will be looking for
in a future rector. If you missed that meeting, we'll hold another one this
coming Sunday, the 28th. We'll meet in the Large Hall right after
are lay led and involve the whole congregation. According to our bylaws, it is
the membership of Grace as a whole who has the authority to make a call to a
rector. (Most other parishes delegate that to their
Think about this.
We are the ones to decide on behalf of ourselves and for future
worshipers - people we have yet to meet. We are responsible for being careful
and wise and open to surprise or growth. Now more than ever, we have to be
able to hold in our minds views other than our
Every Sunday we
hear the words "wherever you are on your faith journey, you are welcome at
Grace's altar". Several times a year we promise to "respect the dignity of
every human being". If we really mean these words, we have to mean them
Those of us who
use the phrase "born again" when we talk about ourselves are no more nor less
members of the Body of Christ at Grace than those of us who
Those of us who
love Thomas Tallis or other traditional music are no more nor less members of
Grace than those of us with Chris Tomlin or up-tempo "praise bands" in our
Those of us who
get our news from one cable news channel are not loved by God more than those of
us who get it from the politically opposite channel.
Admit it, we
sometimes think this way. But deep down we know that we have no authority to
limit the breadth of God's love in any way. The Gospel story really doesn't
work that way.
What are these
points of view that we don't all share? Come on Sunday and find out! Come to
listen, come to contribute, come to grow. If you can't make any meeting, please
email or call your wardens, David and Carolyn.
session will last an hour, and there will be hearty snacks to allow us
to stay focused. For those with kids, childcare and a kid-friendly
lunch will also be provided. You'll be on your way at 1:00pm.
first session will take place on April 21st right after church (in
place of coffee hour) in the Large Hall. The second session will
happen on April 28th, also right after church in the Large Hall. Please
come to one of the two sessions if you can - whichever is more
convenient for you.
most of us know, Grace Church is in a time of interim ministry. What
that means is that Margaret, our priest, is officially an interim priest
rather than a "rector". (The word "rector" has a fascinating history,
but in the American Episcopal Church it's simply a priest elected by a
parish with the consent of the bishop to lead that parish for an
open-ended period of time.)
In discerning God's will for our future, what does Grace Church do next? One immediate next step involves you. Your vestry asks everyone to participate in information gathering sessions titled "What Is Grace Looking For In A Rector?"
These sessions will be carefully led to ensure that everyone's
thoughts are fully heard, for the building up of the Body of Christ at
Grace. Next week your wardens will email a set of questions to the
whole parish so we can have some time to be thoughtful in advance.
"What if I can't make one of these meetings?"
We'll follow up with an invitation to email the wardens and vestry if
you have thoughts that you weren't able to share in person. We'll
also put a very simple form on the website, gracenewton.org, where you can leave your thoughts.
hope to see as many of you as possible at either meeting. Until then
please, continue to pray for Grace to be a place of service to everyone
in need, please hold each other up with care, and take confidence in the
Easter message every day.
They had been saying to one another,
one verse from the Gospel of Mark captures us, as if in the sudden
light of a candid snapshot, tied to this world and its procession of
obstacles and cares. Every road to Jerusalem is quite literally uphill,
"Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb?"
and the cross is uphill from there.
Notes "from the Warden" usually concern updates on the building
or schedules or various stones in the road.
We are living in the "middle time" where some parts of salvation
history are behind us and some still ahead.
The older I get, the more I
have come to believe that pretty much our whole job as people seeking
is to trust. To trust God's promises, to trust God's advice,
to trust God's care for us.
To all who worship at Grace, thank you so much for your presence and for your company on the road.
This weeks submission is from Vestry Member, Peter Malagodi, a member of the music group, Melodeego, whose goal is to focus attention on social justice and environmental issues.
Recently, myself and my band Melodeego took part in a non-violent action protesting the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. The action was called “Funeral For Our Future” and the band was asked to compose a “funeral dirge” to fit this theme. After LONG discussions with my wife Nicole I decided that I wanted to be on the front lines of the action and Nicole thankfully supported this decision. There were around 100 people there varying in age from 18-70 but the majority of folks were college kids, including many of the organizers. Despite being one of the few “Gen X” folks there I was inspired by those younger than me and after countless rehearsals of the action we were very ready!
After a sleepless night we woke up early, dressed and black, and headed to the TransCanada office in Westborough. We very quickly mobilized and moved up the stairs to the 3rd floor of the building. I then got our first note from my cell phone, handed it to one of the organizers and we processed into office 2 X 2 singing together. The song seemed to unify the group and as a mock coffin stating “our future” was placed down in front of all of us we realized the seriousness of the moment and about how much we cared about each other and the future of our planet. Twenty-Five of us were put in handcuffs and brought to The Westborough Jail for Trespassing. I can still hear the song ringing through the TransCanada Office and then through the whole jail we were in.
“They are digging us a hole, they are digging us a hole
Six feet underground where the pipeline will go
We will lay down our bodies we will lay down our souls
No we won’t stand by and watch while they dig us a hole”
The reason I tell you this story is that much of the bravery I was able to muster was due to my upbringing here at Grace. I really learned here and still do what community means and I recognize it in the social and environmental movement I now see talking place. Keep the faith! “The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice” – MLK
This week I offer a short, two-part update.
You should have received an email on Sunday evening letting you know that, in our search for a priest to succeed Margaret next year, that we will either accept a "Priest In Charge" suggested to us by the Diocese (with our approval) or will call a new Rector on our own (with the Bishop's approval). But Margaret herself will not be one of the candidates after 2014. It's long tradition that Interims themselves are not considered for the position of Rector in their parishes, and Grace Church will follow that tradition.
There'll be much more about what's ahead in a future newsletter - for now please know that everyone in the parish will have a chance to provide input throughout the process.
Second - hard as it is to believe - other things are also going on around Grace Church. We are in the process of making the entrance to the Rectory accessible for people in wheelchairs. The Rectory building is used by Riverside Counseling. Riverside is our largest tenant and they provide services to folks all around Eastern Massachusetts. It's a blessing that our property can be used in this way. Please join me in thanking Scott Aquilina and Carolyn Sprich for their good management of this project.
We never intend our buildings to be anything less than accessible to all people. Within a relatively few weeks, we will have fixed the entrance to the Rectory so that it's no longer possible for a wheelchair to get stuck between the two entrance doors.
That will do three things. It will make the City of Newton happy. It will bring us closer in practice with our own faithful intentions - to be open for all, both in church and for our renters. Most of all, it will take away just a bit of trouble for anyone who gets around with the help of a wheelchair.
Yes, physical challenges and spiritual challenges are part of the human condition. We hold onto the knowledge that nothing - no height, no depth, no power, no principality, not things past nor things to come, no created thing whatsoever will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.