2017 STEWARDSHIP REFLECTIONS
Before I start, I’d like to say a short prayer for Rev. Joyce’s recovery from pneumonia:
The Lord Be With You…
O God, the strength of the weak and the comfort of sufferers: Mercifully accept our prayers, and grant to your servant Joyce the help of your power, that her sickness may be turned into health, and our sorrow into joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
STEWARDSHIP MEANDERINGS—22 OCTOBER 2017
Todd Grisdale, Junior Warden
Hello, everyone. A couple of years ago, I gave a similar Stewardship talk. I’m going to start this talk the same way I started than one:
FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve reached the age where there is very little that truly scares me… about the only two things that come to mind are heights… and… public speaking. So… If I implode while I’m up here, I apologize in advance.
Now that that’s out of the way… Most of you know me… I’m Todd. I’ve been attending this blessed little Parish for around 36 years, since I met the wonderful lady who would become my wife: Karen, Elsie Nickerson’s daughter. Karen grew up in this blessed place. Elsie, and Karen’s Dad, John, had been very involved in this Church, I believe, from a time well before when Karen was born. This Parish has always been an extremely important part of all their lives… and it has become a very important part of mine. This was the first Parish to which I belonged in my life (I was a late bloomer…), and the only Parish to which I ever want to belong, and I am very glad that, with Karen’s (and God’s) help, I found this place.
One of the things that Rev. Joyce suggested I meditate on and speak about today is the value that St. Peter’s and Andrew’s has added to my life. For that, you need to understand a bit of my history. I have always, by choice, been somewhat of a nonconformist (not quite as much now, but more-so when I was younger)… that, plus the fact that I’ve always been overweight, made me a perfect target for bullies. That situation lasted off and on through grade school and even into college (when you’d think folks would be old enough to know better—although, considering the present atmosphere in Washington DC, we perhaps shouldn’t be too surprised that they don’t know better…). I was blessed with a very close-knit and loving family, which made the bullying tolerable and fairly easy to shrug off, but one lasting effect that the bullying created in me was that it made me generally wary of people, and rather uncomfortable being around people. As I left school and got into the workplace, those feelings mitigated a bit, but I still felt ill at ease around people. But something I noticed when I started coming to St. Peter’s and Andrew’s was how welcoming and accepting EVERYONE here is… how welcoming all of you are! It doesn’t matter what a person looks like, or what their foibles are, folks are accepted into this Parish with open arms! It is not an exaggeration to say that this has renewed my faith in humanity, and has had the practical effect of making me feel quite comfortable now around people, at work, at Church, out shopping… wherever. And I thank you all for that!!!
The liturgy at St. Peter’s & St. Andrews, and the sermons and meditations of Rev. Joyce and her Predecessors have also, I believe, sharpened my awareness of God in everything that surrounds us. I always had a vague notion of the presence of God in the world and in my life… but it was a very vague notion. But over the years, the sermons and meditations have broken through the fog, and have raised my awareness. I am now far more keenly aware of God’s Hand in the events that occur daily in my life. I find myself conversing with God on a regular basis… asking for guidance… asking for clarification… asking for an understanding of what it is I should do, an understanding of cause and effect in my life… and thanking Her on a daily—or more often—basis, for hauling my sorry keister out of the fire, AGAIN and again, and again... I know that I can ask for guidance and if I am open to Her voice, I will receive it. One of the few advantages of living alone is that I can talk with God—vocally, as well as quietly—without the folks in the white lab coats and oversized butterfly nets chasing after me!
The other area that Rev. Joyce asked me to think about is what the future St. Peter’s and Andrew’s might look like, what direction or directions we could take, and where we, as a Parish, might fit into the world. Ahh, pipe dreams of the best kind! I used to smoke a pipe a long time ago, and planned to bring one of my old pipes with me today as a pipe-dream prop… but I couldn’t find the box where I put them. Anyway… I have always enjoyed helping others… nothing fancy-just the everyday hand I can lend… So, by nature, I tend to think along the lines of services… what services can we provide, not only to each other within the Parish, but also to others—the greater Episcopal Community, and the even larger Community as a whole-regardless of religious affiliation. We certainly provide two wonderful services already, those, of course, being the Community Meal and the Food Bank. And I fervently hope that we can—and will—continue those services in the future! As a Mission of the Diocese, we certainly are, and hopefully will continue to be, a Feeding Mission in the Community.
Given that we are a rather small parish with limited resources, and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future, we need to use our imaginations to figure out how to expand our Mission of Services. One possible way is to take the concept of “service” literally… to make ourselves available to the community (within our own individual physical limitations) to provide services; the simple stuff, such as visiting those who are shut in whether or not they are from our Parish; or providing transportation to medical visits or for shopping. Etc., for those without cars; or looking after a child while its mother has a medical appointment… things that can be done with few resources and only a bit of personal time. This is something that can be done now, without having to wait for additional Parishioners, or for added funds from the Diocese. Now that we are a Mission, we could indeed be a Mission of Service to the Community.
I’ve participated in the Pride Marches, now, as part of the St. PANDA contingent, for I think, the last four years… and it has always struck me as amazing--and somewhat startling—how well we as a religious group have been received. The spectators along the parade route—generally (although certainly not totally) are a somewhat younger crowd—and they always seem quite enthusiastic for all the groups marching in the Parade… but when they catch sight of our banner, the decibel level of the cheering goes up significantly! I believe Rev. Joyce made note of this as well, some time back… There appear to be a lot of young folks from the LBGTQ community who are absolutely aching...—aching…--aching for acceptance. I know that there are a whole lot of other folks out there young and old, beyond our Parish Family, as well, who, daily feel the sting of exclusion and discrimination by society for any number of reasons… none of those reasons, of course, being legitimate. Perhaps we can provide a Ministry that could focus on LBGTQ youth, and youth from other groups who for any reason feel alienated, and provide them all a place of acceptance where they can experience the love of God. Like the Mission of Service, this Mission of Acceptance is also something that can be done now, with perhaps a little coordination, but with minimal added resources.
Now, let me throw out one more pipe dream for consideration… one that is considerably more complex than the other two, and one that would require help and logistical guidance from the Diocese: Unfortunately, as we all know, St. Peter’s and Andrew’s has lost our three apartment houses to old age, causing considerable anguish to the residents there, of course, as well as to the Parish as a whole. Once the buildings are removed, as they must be, one way or the other, the Parish will be left with three vacant building lots. I wonder-- and this is really a pipe dream—but I wonder if it would be possible for us, or the Diocese, or both to strike some manner of deal with a local Developer to coordinate the construction of one, or two or three residence buildings on these lots, as housing space perhaps for those with marginal incomes, or for Seniors who, for whatever reason cannot, or choose not to continue living in their own homes with the all inherent upkeep required, but who are not ready for an assisted-living facility with a support staff-- or for a mixture of these groups. The arrangement I have in mind would have St. Peter’s and Andrew’s provide the land, and the Developer construct the buildings and provide a manager, with the rental income divvied up at some proportion between us and the Developer. Ideally, our Mission of Service to the Community that I suggested earlier could tie into this arrangement as well, with our Mission focus including the residents living in these residences. To pull this off I’m sure we would require the business acumen of our Diocesan Chief Operating Officer (a.k.a. Rev. Canon Grenz), as well as the connections that our Diocese have with Contracting Companies in the area. This is an obviously ambitious idea, but we and the Diocese—with God’s help-- might just be able to pull it off, making the best of an unfortunate situation.
Well, at the top of my cheat-sheet here, I titled this little talk “Stewardship Meanderings”… and Lord knows, I have meandered enough for today. Thank you! and God Bless you!!
Steward Reflections by: Todd Grisdale 2017
When I first came to St. Peter and St. Andrew Church in the early 90's it was a desperate time in my life. I had recently come back to the USA after 3 years serving as a PCV in Honduras and was going through a relationship ending. I was searching and boy did I find it. No not a new romantic relationship, but a loving community that I have called home ever since. I was amazed that folks came to service to stay a while and even took off their coats during the service. This was not something I was accustomed to as Sunday was a day of obligation to go to Mass and leave. To be told you do not have to refer to God as a male figure as no one knows God gender if God has one. I came to welcoming community and soon became part of that community. Enjoyed coffee hour, parish dinners and even outside social events with Church members. I did leave for a time to serve again overseas and saw priests and members of the parish come and go, but the Church was always home for me, my family and loyal friends. Time spent during sad and difficult events, but also happy and joyous events for myself and others.
This All Saints Day today, reminds me of those that have left us. Members, friends, clients and other loved ones. They surround us today and always will in this space. This precious scared space we call home! Maggie, Jim and even John Nickerson who I never actually met, but met him in spirit the day we buried Elsie and his daughter Karen. During the service I could not help remarking to Rev. Joyce of a strong smell of Aqua Velva cologne. Only to find out after John used this cologne often and he was there that day to see his daughter home.
I have never been one for public speaking, nor having an active role with groups. I much preferred being part of the background. Now serving on the altar, visiting our shut-ins and leading Morning Prayer these have given me an opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. I never sort out these roles for myself, but was asked or winged it due to a need. A need to solve a problem, fill a need and serve. I do not do this willingly. It is not easy, but Jesus is there to support me and do his work as best as I possibly can. At times my personal passion for this Church just leads me, yes my Irish temper, as my Mom would say gets in my way, but I also feel it is the spark that excites me about serving and how I have grown as a disciple in serving.
I was asked by one tenant facing having to move due to our apartment issues, why I was angry. I told her I was not, but I have legal responsibilities as the Senior Warden (President) of the governing board of this Church. These means of being formal with you has nothing to do with my relationship with you as a person, but as an official of the Church. I am legally bound to conduct myself according to legal and Diocesan rules. I may take my role serious at times, but this is what the Church has required of me as Senior Warden. I hope she will give me that understanding. Sometime this passion and love for this Church of God can get me into trouble. A month ago I walked out of the last Bishop's Committee Meeting and I have never spoke about it since. Today, I apologize public ally to Rev. Joyce and Dot for my inability to cope and express myself clearly.
There have been difficult times serving on the Vestry over my many years. Today we face even greater challenges with the loss of our endowment and the pending retirement of Rev. Joyce. We are not going to turn it around overnight. And we are not going to have to close in the morning. So where are we? And what are we going to do here? I know we, the faithful are strong and the Spirit of God and the spirit of our loved ones today and always is alive with us. This is a time to be creative and allow that spirit in. Not our will be done, nor let our fears for the future get the best of us.
We have tried Spanish Ministry and this did not go to well. Rev. Joyce even completed the service alone or with 2-3 parishioners in order to practice the Spanish Service. I believe there is a greater need in the Spanish speaking community that surrounds us. A need to be visited,. a need to be where they are, like Ashes on the Go, and a need to provide a refuge in this sometimes foreign land in more than just geographic sense. Our Latino(a) neighbors need a place to meet, a place of support and place to be safe. I believe there is a real need for a refugee program here in our neighborhood. We have a strong start with our two feeding ministries. It may start by just offering Spanish speaking community meetings with public service folk. For example politicians, housing, police, health, education and other topics of interest. We cannot tell them what they need, but we can serve as hosts in our community to our neighbors. Small congregations can be extremely vital and effective faith communities. This has always been a Church that has welcome the lost sheep LGBT folks, seniors, HIV +people, as well as others looking for a home. Bishop Knisely has promised to be there for us and the Standing committee has our backs until the end of 2017, but we need a new direction to strive for and grow reaching out to others as St. Peter and St. Andrew Church has always done.
Stewardship Reflections by: Art Thomas
I love this church. It is my home in more ways than one. I have been touched by the awesome power within these walls. It is a place that seems unassuming when first you arrive but you soon realize the enormity of the presence of God not just within these walls or altar but in the hearts and minds of all who call St. Peter’s & St. Andrew’s home.
Let me start by telling you how I ended up here.
My mother passed away on October 16th 19 years ago. I always knew my mother to be a staunch Catholic, in fact let’s say that she wasn’t exactly happy when only two of eight daughters married a Catholic and none of five sons, one in fact married a Jewish girl and converted to Judaism. Lucky for us kids, just like God’s love, her love was and is unconditional.
Where was I? Oh yeah so my mom was known to me to be steadfast in her Catholic beliefs but it wasn’t until her last Sunday on this earth that I knew just how deep was her spirituality, faith and love in God. The freedom of her trust in Jesus Christ became astoundingly obvious to me.
We had only found out that she had cancer just three weeks earlier and was in fact not expected to live more than a few months. She was transferred from Miriam Hospital to a nursing home temporarily while we worked with medical people and considered their suggestions on where mom should go. That last Sunday, I picked my mom up to take her to church, she insisted. While we made our way to my car out front, I could hear her wheezing and I thought I could detect the very sound of pneumonia in her chest, she was out of breath taking the few steps from the wheel chair to the car door and I was worried she would not make it up the stairs once we got to St. Thomas’ Church.
Luckily when we got to church there were cousins and others out front and mom was all but carried up the steps. However, when we got into the church it was packed, no room in the pews. We stood along with others at the back of the church until the usher brought folding metal chairs for us to sit on. My mother was weak and seeming to fade quickly but once the service started, something overtook her. She stood. She kneeled (on the floor, no less, no pad) up and down. She sang all the songs without coughing, she remembered every stanza, every prayer, every response. We took communion without incident.
Unfortunately, our planned outing was cut short, after church her weakness returned and she had no appetite. It turned out she had pneumonia and passed away just a few days later.
The point to this story for me is that the depth of my mother’s faith and love in God and her relationship with him gave her incredible strength. She was literally lifted up by the power of her faith. It still amazes me when I think about it and it was this event that started a growing not yet named desire in me.
I wanted what my mother had, that sureness of my belief, genuine faith. I wanted my love for God to be unconditional, not just when I needed something. That gnawing inside me brought me to my first service at St. P & A. I had been church hopping. Although my mom would surely have preferred me to find what I yearned for in Catholicism, it was not where I was headed.
So I was looking for that miracle, something that would affirm that I did indeed possess faith in my lord. Some way to feel that incredible love of and with God that I know my mom felt. I sometimes feel like a fake, a believer of convenience.
So I ended up here. I was comforted by the familiar style of the service but it was and is the music that speaks directly to my soul. The chanting rhythms, the deep and solemn feel of the hymns. I don’t feel like I can properly explain it but this music is my spirituality, it is how I connect to God. Panda gave me that. Panda also gave me much that I wasn’t prepared for.
Most amazing is the absolute complete acceptance of every person that walks in the door. I was with family from day one. Almost as amazing was the immediate immersion into everything from coffee hour to special events to vestry. Not that I miss vestry, just kidding. Sort of.
But I do know that I have a long way to go on my spiritual journey and I would like to continue that journey here. It will take a bit of work no doubt. This year has been one for the history books so they say. It is true for the country and it is also true for our little church.
We are now a mission. We as well will no longer have properties income and we really need to start to think outside the box. Not just in order to survive but to be able to thrive. Not just for the church but for all people. I fell that in many ways a faith based life is rarer than ever before. I think that the state of our lives todays just bold-stamps the need to not only have God in our lives but the importance of community and compassion.
As a community, a family, we need to work together to assess where we are, where we want to go and then make a plan or two or three if necessary to get there. Easy words to say but not easy to do.
I feel grossly unqualified in this area. I have not been present at services and have only enough information about the changes in our status as a parish and direction of our financial situation both as a parish and as properties relate. As a vestry member I whined and complained a lot but I did have more of a handle of the details of our little world.
I am sure Ross, Todd and Art have addressed this matter in the preceding weeks with more intelligence and insight than I can.
None the less I recall when I was first involved in the politic and administration here. People were fired up. We had causes, actually for several years. The point is, we talked, we had meetings, we brainstormed and people were excited. It was frequently nervous excitement, even anger but those basic of human feelings and passions is what we need again. Let’s fire up our base and get our imaginations moving.
I do know that this church has the best founding mothers. The prayer power in this church is incredible. The love and fellowship is genuine and welcoming. But we cannot be complacent. We have the tools, now somebody tell me, what’s a lug wrench?
Stewardship Reflections by: Betty Sloane
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