Be at Peace, Faithful Friend

As I announced on Tuesday, Grace Church lost a beloved friend this week, with the passing of Jim McAlpine, rector at Grace from 1984-1994. About a year and a half ago, I visited Jim at his small apartment full of books in the assisted living facility in York, Maine where he had moved in 2015. As we visited, various staff came in and out to do this and that, and as Jim greeted them it was clear that they all knew and liked him. This did not surprise me at all. Jim had an easy way about him, a contagious friendliness that put people at ease. I love this picture of him at St. Francis Day in 2014, bringing a stuffed animal up to be blessed! It is a good depiction of his sense of fun. Jim faced the decline of his last years bravely and faithfully. He was full of praise for his daughter Holly, and the loving way she helped care for him. He was full of affection for Grace Church. I know he received a number of visits from Grace folk during his years in Maine, and that they meant a lot to him. Jim was a faithful pastor and friend to our parish, and he will be deeply missed. May he rest in peace, and rise in glory.

In Christ,
Regina

p.s. If you have photos of Jim, please bring them into the office and we will scan them and return them, or email them to office@gracenewton.org. Jim’s funeral isn’t until June 8, but we will remember his ministry at our Annual Meeting on January 27th.

 

Jim McAlpine Blessing of the Animals 2014

Grace’s Not-So-“Blue” Advent Vespers

At this time of year, many churches offer what is usually called a “Blue Christmas” service, for those who are experiencing depression, grief, anniversary of a death, or otherwise not feeling like Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year.” It’s called a “Blue Christmas” service, I assume, because of the song “I’ll Have a Blue Christmas Without You.”
My confession is that I really, really dislike this name for this kind of service, and I also tend to dislike the way they are done. So many people must re-confront their losses at the holidays; this is not “feeling blue.” This is called grieving. Also, the services of this name that I have attended or read the liturgies of often seem to lay it on pretty thick: prayer after wordy prayer naming every kind of possible loss someone might feel. One service like this I attended a few years ago left me feeling far worse than when I arrived! I don’t think that what those facing loss want is for a worship leader to name their pain in prayer and music over and over again.
Lacking any models for this service that I would actually want to attend, a few years ago I thought, “What kind of service would I want, if I was carrying a heavy emotional load this time of year?” I decided that I would want 1) beautiful music 2) silence in a sacred space 3) a simple ritual and 4) quiet solidarity with others, and only optional sharing. In other words, an hour of beauty, prayer and togetherness that names loss but also hope.
So here’s what we’ve done at Grace the last few years: our service is called “Advent Vespers,” vespers being the old name for evening prayer. We gather in the Chapel, and once again we will be joined by cellist Hannah MacLeod, playing her soulful instrument in this intimate space. We will have a few short readings from the scriptures, hear a poem, and not hear a sermon. We will pray together, and sing some Advent hymns. We will have the opportunity to light candles on the altar, and to name someone on our hearts as we do so, if we choose. We will be together in prayerful silence. Then we’ll go our separate ways, knowing we are not alone.
I hope that if this speaks to where you are, you’ll join us Monday December 17th at 7 pm in the Chapel.
In Christ,
 Regina

Crafting a More Life-Giving Advent

Crafting a More Life-Giving Advent

One of my favorite picture books is “Christmas with the Mousekins” by Maggie Smith, about a family of mice that prepares for Christmas by baking, skating on a pond, caroling, and making presents for each other. There are lots of craft instructions and recipes included, and the Mousekins are pretty adorable. Before I actually had kids, I think that is what I imagined December would be like with children at home: preparing for Christmas by doing fun, simple, relaxing activities together.

So, that’s not really how it’s turned out. Maybe Smith will write another book, about the secrets of the Mousekins’ work/life balance! However, I believe that one of the roles of the Church is to push back against the practices of our dominant culture that are not life-giving. And that’s where Advent Crafternoon comes in!

For three hours this Saturday, you can claim your inner crafty Mousekin. Crafts and cookies are provided, or you can bring your own. Sit and knit with friends and listen to carols; sip hot cocoa and make an ornament. This is for all ages—baby Mousekins and Grandma/Grandpa Mousekins are all welcome!

The Mousekins aren’t very religious, but I do think they have something important about Christmas (and Advent!) figured out—this is a season to treasure each other, to be with family and friends, to enjoy the blessings we’ve received, and create some blessings to give away.

In Christ,
Regina

Advent Crafternoon

Advent Crafternoon 

2-5 pm Saturday December 8 

Spend some time with Grace friends crafting and celebrating Advent. Regina is teaching a beginner ukulele lesson at 4 pm, Rowan will have materials for making several different kinds of ornaments for kids, and we’ll be making a new star for the Christmas Pageant! Bring any craft projects you think it would be more fun to work on with friends.

Lessons & Carols

A Service of Lessons and Carols

Sunday, December 9, 10:30 am

This Advent, Lessons and Carols will be based on the O Antiphons, of which the hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel is a paraphrase. The exact origin of these Antiphons is unknown, however there are references to them dating back to the sixth century. In this special service, the choir will sing each of the original Antiphons. Lessons and music appropriate to each ‘Great O’ will be used, some will be familiar in a lessons and carols service, but a good bit of the music will be new to this service. Please join us for this very special Advent service.

Grace Church Choir performs Brahms Requiem Nov 5