Updates from Grace's Senior Warden, Jay Burke
From the Warden
Dear Grace Family,
I have a simple request of you: “Please thank a vestry member”. Don’t get me wrong. Vestry members are not looking for thanks or acknowledgment. On the contrary, they tend to be on the more humble side if you ask me. But after this past Saturday I am reminded of how grateful I am for the work they do and the people they are.
If you remember, this past Saturday was May 30. It was a beautiful warm spring day in New England; a perfect day to be outside doing outside things. It was particularly beautiful considering the cold, harsh winter we endured. Even so, our vestry members arrived for this year’s vestry retreat with cheerfulness and enthusiasm. No grumbling about missing out on the beautiful weather outside. No complaining about sacrificing a well-earned Saturday for others. Not even a furtive look of regret. On its own, their grace-filled attitude of devotion and service merits my gratitude. But that was just the beginning.
Invited to share their hopes and dreams for Grace Church, each vestry member brought their loving heart, as well. In their own unique and personal way, each shared their love and hope for Grace Church, its current members, its future members, our neighbors, our world and more. They shared openly. They listened attentively. They discussed forthrightly. And they departed as they arrived…with cheerfulness and joy!
Yes, this past Saturday was a beautiful spring day in New England. But it wasn’t just the weather that made it so. For me, it was the members of our Grace Church vestry who brought their own warmth and promise to the day. I want to thank each of you for your special contribution to our Grace family and I invite us all to, “Please thank a vestry member”.
Grace and peace,
In my message to you last week, I promised to do my best to “know, love and serve you and God”. With that promise on my mind, I was struck by one of the passages in Sunday’s reading: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor 8:2). At the time, I wasn’t sure why these words caught my attention. But since then I have had time to ponder.
I think it has something to do with God reminding us, once again, that love is the most important virtue of all; that there is actually an hierarchy of virtues. And love is on the very top. Sunday’s passage reminded me of this by pointing out that love builds up while knowledge puffs up. Which reminds me of another favorite passage that goes something like, “Love conquers justice”. Once again love is the key.
Over and over and over again, our Christian faith teaches us that “love never fails” (1Cor. 13:7). It conquers justice. It is more enduring than knowledge. It even precedes faith and hope. This should be little wonder when we consider how Jesus answered the Pharisees telling them the two most important commandments are to love God first and our neighbors as ourselves. To quote Jesus: “Everything in the law and the prophets hangs on these two commandments” (Mt 22:40).
So, in retrospect, I would like to rephrase my promise to do my best to know, love, and serve you and God. I would like to submit that I will do my best to "love, know, and serve God and you". Through our prayer and the Holy Spirit, may we let love lead us as we deepen our knowledge and service to God and one another.
Grace and peace,
I want to thank you for electing me as Sr. Warden at this past Sunday's 159th annual meeting. As many of you know, I was committed to facilitating a spiritual retreat for 12 homeless men this past weekend prior to being invited to consider the call to serve you as warden. For that reason I was unable to attend the meeting and, instead, asked Regina to read a short message if I was actually voted in. As I wrote in that note, I consider this opportunity to serve you and God to be a great privilege and a special honor. In the spirit of Grace's mission statement, I promise to do my best to know, love, and serve you in this important role.
One of the gifts I have received through my ministry with our homeless neighbors is the daily ‘3-minute retreat’ (http://www.loyolapress.com/3-minute-retreats-daily-online-prayer.htm). Today’s was particularly appropriate. It quoted from 1 Peter 4:11…’Whoever serves let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen’
I can never be reminded too often that God will supply the strength we need to do God’s work at Grace if only we ask. In prayer we can ask for this strength and we can know that God will provide it. Along those lines, I ask that you pray for me and Regina and ALL who serve our Grace community. And please know that we also pray for you.
May our faith in God deepen and our love for one another spread,
Jay Burke, Your grateful Senior Warden
Apple Pie From Scratch
The astronomer and writer Carl Sagan once said, "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, first you have to invent the universe."
This is funny and true. Our individualistic culture has many strong points, but when all is said and done nothing we have is fully the work of our own hands. We make nothing from scratch, but we are called to make things happen. We take what we find and move it along as best we can.
Next week the parish will elect new wardens and a new vestry. In this final column, I need to say only one thing. In my heart I believe that God is supplying Grace Church with whatever we need to accomplish God's purposes. He has told us what is good and what he requires of us; to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with him.
Official decision-making is sometimes hidden from us. Who can tell what it takes to be one of Santa's elves? Santa has never admitted how much Mrs. Claus contributes behind the scenes - we can only guess. The entire North Pole establishment is shrouded in secrecy.At Grace, we publish vestry minutes and newsletters to share important news.
Here's an example. Episcopal parishes have always had councils of lay people who take on most of the secular business of a church. Even the smallest church would have a room off the sanctuary where they kept robes and vestments. A vestment room was (and can still be) called a "vestry". Traditionally, that's where this lay council would meet. Over time, the council itself came to be called a vestry. After many years of meeting in a conference room upstairs, Grace's 2014 vestry has been meeting in the choir's robing room.
David BarbrowSenior Warden
Loved the readings by some of Grace's kids in last Sunday's service. Sometimes a deeply profound thought slips past in the Sunday readings, some turn of phrase that deserves to be held up and listened to again.
For me, these were the final lines in Lila's reading from Galatians. Now most of the time Saint Paul will end a letter on some upbeat note. To the Romans, it was "to the only wise God be glory forever". To the Philippians he wrote the magnificent "the peace of God that passes all understanding..."
But at the end of Galatians, Paul is wrapping up a long argument with a group that encourages circumcision. Paul has had to argue this point in many other churches. He's said, over and over, that it's all about the love of God in our hearts and not about how our ephemeral bodies look. He's arguing against what we might call "anatomy-based theology". We also know that Paul himself is guilty of this in some of his writings, as well as in other writings later attributed to him. He's a tough figure.
And then we have it. The next-to-last sentence in Galatians reads "From now on, let no one make trouble for me, for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body."
Whoa. One of these epistles is not like the others. Our tireless friend has worked hard and paid his dues. He's exhorted, encouraged, pleaded the cause of redemption. He's been beaten up a few dozen times too many. And now he's sick of all the arguing, the "party divisions", the small focus from fellow believers. "From now on, let no one make trouble for me."
Pretty much all people have been on both the receiving and the giving end of trouble, in all honesty. Where do we go when this happens?
If we put it to the test, we find we have room at Grace. Grace Church is blessed to be a place where we step outside the us-and-them, the cliques of office or classroom, the pitifully small vision of the world. A family welcome, an upward and outward view, and a reasoned and faithful hope - these are what we find when we take our rest at Grace, and it really is grace. Thank you all for being part of the family.
As you enter Grace’s sanctuary, what physical features do you observe? First time visitors often remark upon the sparkling shafts of sunlight that enter through our remarkable stained-glass windows. Yet architect Alexander Esty also hoped that we would notice the unusual number of pillars – which he designed as a visual metaphor for the determined founding mothers and fathers of Grace Church. These columns, stone and wood, short and tall, skinny and wide, were intended by Esty to represent both the physical shapes and sizes of the people, as well as their individual contributions to building up the Grace Church community. Even a person small in stature could be “mighty” in their determination to insure the success of the new parish. Alexander Esty was impressed by their resolve, and wanted to create a visible depiction of the contributions of each. The main roof supports are massive, yet the pair at the front pews each have help from twin skinny “assistants”. Look about the high altar…look in the corners… Enter Grace Church’s sanctuary again for the first time – noticing the many and diverse pillars.
In her sermon on Welcome Back Sunday, Regina recounted her experience of visiting a brick church in the West. The structure was constructed with damaged, cracked bricks scavenged from the reject pile of the local brick factory, and saved by the rector until he had accumulated enough bricks to build the church. Just as each cracked brick supports the other in this structure, so do the members support each other in the church community. Her charming story brought to mind our own story of Alexander Esty’s respect for the members of the Grace Church community, and his wish to depict the diverse contributions of these individuals, using the pillars and columns as his metaphor.
Don Kennedy, Parish Historian
I've gotten a lot out of the sermons that Regina's preached at Grace these last three weeks. The sermons have been insightful, funny, and moving for me. From the careful attention I see around me in the pews, from the appreciative laughter of the congregation, and from the great things I've heard from quite a few of you, many of you feel the same way.
Since Regina first took the pulpit at Grace during the summer, even before Welcome Back Sunday, many of you have missed her first few services.
Thanks to George Whitehead and his technical wizardry, we now have the Rector's sermons available on Grace's website for you to listen to, either from a computer or from a smart phone.
Please visit http://gracenewton.org/home/sermons to hear what you may have missed, or to listen again. And if you ever find that you have to be away from Grace, please remember to check the site a week or two later to listen, to stay connected to worship at Grace, and to be inspired.
Grace Church has a formal contract with our new pastor and rector, Regina Walton. Much of that document is boilerplate that we get from the Diocese. Some of it concerns salary and benefits - these are essential things so that we can provide for our pastor's needs as she provides for us!
But there is one critical part that involves each of you individually. You may not know it, but your wardens and vestry have made an agreement on your behalf. We are required to set forth goals for our first year together. Here are those goals, agreed to by Regina, by the vestry, and by Bishop Tom:
The Rector will formulate a plan to take the time necessary to get to know the members of the parish.
Grace Church does not expect the Rector to undertake any significant changes before being thoroughly acquainted with the parish.
The Rector will work with the Christian Education committee on strengthening Grace's program for the children of the parish.
The Rector and People of Grace Church agree to be patient with each other and support each other in love and good humor throughout the year.
Yes, it's that last one that involves you directly. It's a high goal but true to Grace - let's outdo ourselves in loving support and patience, not to mention the frequent laughter we share. You can start bringing funny stories immediately to help Regina continue to get to know us!
As we gather for Welcome Back Sunday and begin our fall program, may we spread that good humor to all we meet as we support our new pastor and each other in our journey of faith together.
A lot of folks think of religious ethics as about a long list of "don'ts", especially things we suspect we should feel bad about even before we start reading the list. It may be a childish view of faith, and it's surprisingly hard to shake.
I want to share a different point of view. In a passage of the Talmud, we read that "You will one day give reckoning for everything you were permitted that you did not enjoy".
What's arresting about this quote is the realization that we're really standing in judgment of God when we don't embrace the many good things God offers us. Things that are good for us, things that God enjoyed creating, things that would make our creator happy for us to appreciate and accept.
Who can blame us? We live in a world whose theology of pleasure is completely confused, and driven by corporate needs over human needs.
May I humbly offer some suggestions that might help? A sort of "spiritual practice of summertime fun", if you will?
Summer starts at Grace Church immediately at the conclusion of our Pentecost service this Sunday. That's right, it's the end of program-year picnic. Even if you have a busy Sunday planned, stop after church for a picnic lunch and conversation with friends, old or new.
The week after that, services start at 9:30 and are more casual than during the program year. Please make a point of throwing on some sneakers and joining as often as you're in town. Generous volunteers even serve breakfast before church... try coming at 8:30 at least one Sunday morning and see if that isn't better than cooking a nice meal for yourself. It's a good time for families, singles or couples. I mean, we're talking about breakfast. Then singing. Free of charge, it's the summer's best deal.
Not enough? We hear you! Grace throws barbecues over the summer. We gather at 6:00pm on the last two Thursdays in July and the first two in August. Put it on your calendar and come after work. Look for an email reminder in July. Try one of the earlier barbecues, you just might find you want to come to all four.
Wherever you find yourself, take pleasure in every permissible thing, and bring that sense of joy right back to Grace as often as you can.
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