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

Greeting the Day in Peace

I came across this prayer this week, which I think is perfect for this time of year, as many of us are getting “back in the swing of things,” with all the meetings, scheduling, and activities that implies. (Here’s more on this prayer.)

One of the gifts of faith is the growing ability to choose to respond intentionally rather than reactively to whatever comes our way—but this is a gift that we must ask for in our prayer, and continually cultivate. May God grant you the grace to greet your days in peace!

In Christ,
Regina

 

Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace.
Help me to rely on your holy will.
In every hour of the day reveal your will to me.
Bless my dealings with all who surround me.
Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day
with peace of soul
and with the firm belief that your will governs all.
Guide my words and deeds, my thoughts and feelings.
Teach me to act firmly and wisely
without embittering or embarrassing others.
Give me the strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day
with all that it shall bring.
Direct my will. Teach me to pray. Pray yourself in me.
Amen.

— Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow, 1826-1867

Time to be Received?

Perhaps you were raised in another Christian tradition, but have been worshiping at Grace for a while now—a few years, ten years, perhaps longer. Maybe you consider yourself a former Roman Catholic, a former Evangelical, Methodist, etc. You feel connected to Grace, and to our Episcopal worship—but you’re not sure you are “officially” an Episcopalian. What does that even mean??

If this describes you, please consider being received or confirmed at our upcoming deanery Confirmation service, which will be hosted at Grace on Saturday, October 27th at 10:30am. Three of our young people will be confirmed, along with other youth and adults from other parishes in our deanery (or Episcopal neighborhood).

What does it mean to be “received” into The Episcopal Church? Reception is when “baptized persons who have been members of another Christian fellowship who wish to be affiliated with the Episcopal Church make a public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their baptism in the presence of a bishop” (according to this Episcopal glossary which yes, exists!

In other words, it is the way that the Church acknowledges that you were formed in faith in another church, a different expression of Christianity, but now you live out your baptismal vows in The Episcopal Church. This is a formal way of welcoming you into the larger worshipping community of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, that extends beyond Grace.

Here are some reasons to consider being received or confirmed as an adult:

  1. It is an opportunity to learn more about our Episcopal faith beyond Grace. I’ll be meeting with those who are interested in Reception or Confirmation, to discuss and ask questions and think about what it means to claim our baptismal vows as adults. All your Episco-questions answered!!
  2. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge all of who we are in faith.Reception does not mean disavowing your former tradition. It is a public welcome and thanksgiving for you, for your past as a Christian in another church, and your present and future as a Christian with us. For some of us, this may be especially healing.
  3. It’s a chance to become a bit more integrated in our faithful selves.Many of us have complex religious pasts (says your rector, a baptized-Catholic raised-Evangelical Episcopalian who married a former Mormon Unitarian Universalist . . . ). Reception or Confirmation can be a moment when we claim who we are now, and gently loose the hold of our religious past on our present identity.
  4. It’s a chance to do something we’ve sort of meant to do but never quite go around to. The service is at Grace! You don’t even have to drive across Newton or Brookline!
  5. Bishop Bud Cederholm is the least intimidating bishop ever. His name is Bud. He is a super friendly guy who is a grandpa and plays the guitar. This will not be scary.
  6. It’s powerful to renew our baptismal promises with people from lots of other churches.  We are part of something bigger than ourselves. And Grace is part of a larger Church. Coming together as a deanery helps us to remember this—we have many companions on the way.
  7. A big festive and tasty Grace reception will follow. Enough said!!

Please be in touch (pastor@gracenewton.org) if you would like to discuss being received or confirmed in late October. And please keep Tim, Ethan, and Caroline in your prayers as they prepare for Confirmation, too.

In Christ,
Regina

Craft and Faith

For many of us, September signals the return to our daily routine, which can involve a lot of running around and a fair bit of stress. Perhaps, like me, you struggle with how to keep some of that summer refreshment with you during the school year. We can’t keep the warm weather and sunshine around, but we can take some time at the beginning of the fall to form some new habits and practices that can help insulate us from stress, and remind us that we are beloved of God as human beings, and not “human doings.”

A big part of how I relax and recharge is by quilting and sewing. And I’m not alone; there is well-established data on how crafts and handwork of all kinds help diminish stress and enhance well-being. Fall is a good time to pick up a hobby you love, and commit to doing it regularly. Engaging in creating something new helps me to remember that I am created by God. It helps me to slow down, and gives me time to ponder, almost unconsciously, things that need pondering in my life.

Often when people hear that I quilt, they respond, “That’s great that you have time for that!” And I laugh. If you know me, you know I am not exactly basking in “free time.” And I never really have big chunks of time to do any of my crafts. But, as one of my favorite expressions goes, Adde parvum parvo magnus acervus erit. “Little by little makes a great heap.” Even working on a project for 20 minutes a day, it will eventually be completed. My other secret is that I don’t watch much TV—other studies have shown that screen time tends to increase, rather than alleviate, our stress.

What does craft have to do with faith? For me, times of meditation are just as important as times of prayer—and engaging in meditative practices like sewing makes it easier for me to pray. Craft helps to quiet my mind, to be still and know that God is God, and that God’s peace can live in me. May you find ways to reconnect and recharge in all seasons of the year, even the busy ones, and connect more deeply with our Creator!

 

In Christ,

Regina