Wishing You a Blessed and Merry Christmas!
According to the United Nations, Denmark is considered the happiest place on Earth. Who would think so as they have short days in winter and cold, snowy nights? Perhaps one reason is that they have a concept called hygee (HYU-gah), which is a word that conjures up the well-being one receives in the company of good friends and family, a sense of togetherness and good cheer, comfort and satisfaction.
Hygee is the comfort of steam rising from a tea pot just before its boiling point, the magic of seeing a snow-covered fawn in winter, snuggling under a comforter on a cold day, the aroma of roasting chicken just before dinnertime, the sounds of gregarious company in good spirits, lit candles on a wintery evening. Helen Dyrbye in Xenophobe’s Guide to the Danes writes that hygee “…is the art of creating intimacy: a sense of comradeship, conviviality, and contentment rolled into one.” Not surprisingly hygee is associated with candles. In fact, the Danes light so many candles during winter that they consume more candles than any other country all to set the stage during long nights for coziness and togetherness. How about lighting a candle this year in reverence for the winter turning to light, in recognition that even in the darkest hour, the Christ child comes with a burst of Light upon the World?
Christmastime gives me this unique opportunity to express to you how very grateful I am for you. You bless the church with the light of your own presence. This season, I wish you hygee. I wish you well-being, contentment, belonging, meaning, and profound and deepening connection to God through Christ.
Please join me for our special liturgies this season:
Advent Lessons and Carols December 22 10 a.m.
Christmas Pageant December 24 5 p.m.
Christmas Concert December 24 10 p.m.
Christmas Mass December 24 10:30 p.m.
Christmas Holy Eucharist December 25 10 a.m.
Many blessings to you and to your family during this special season!
Making Room for the Whisperings of God
Silence is that place just before the voice of God.
Daily we are layered with noise: beeps, cell phones ringing, the shouts of advertisements, meaningless news alerts, blasting leaf blowers, screeching wheels, waling alarms, whirling fans, grating airplanes, buzzing electrical wires, the subtle vibrations of rush hour underfoot. There is hardly a place that any of us can turn in which our ears are not receivers of constant bombardment. Church is such a place.
Grace Church is a vibrant community where we greet one another, form lifelong bonds, catch up on news and enjoy the vitality of others. Our relating and relationships are sacred. Grace is also a sanctuary, a place of prayer, quiet reflection, a place where life changing decisions are made; ritual is performed. It is our gathering place of meeting others and meeting God. Balance is key. Over the years, we’ve gotten so lively that some people are having a hard time praying before service. I have been the instigator of such connections as I’m walking through the sanctuary on my way getting ready for service, I just can’t help but to stop and chat for a moment sometimes. The Season of Quiet approaches us. Advent is our time to gather ourselves, quietly reflecting, and is a reminder to us that we are more than the input of chatter. So join me this season in recommitting to quiet so that once we step over the threshold from the narthex to the nave we come with reverence and mindful expectation. Let us give space to the Holy and room to listen to that still and beautiful whispering of God in preparation for the coming Christ consciousness.
Many blessings to you and your family during this beautiful season!
Thank You Barbara Brooks!
When I first arrived at Grace Church nine years ago, there was already in place a fantastic team of Sunday School teachers in Barbara Brooks, Victoria Schmidt and Cindy Tottle who have all been committed, faithful and really good at teaching our children. I’ve always felt that our children are in very good hands. Barbara has been the Superintendent of Sunday School for the last 12 years and now at long last, she has decided to retire. We will have a special recognition of Barbara on June 2nd at the 10 o'clock service.
Barbara has been the one to make everything happen; she has been well-organized (though I know she is going to laugh at the comment) and scheduled, purchased items, looked ahead at the planning schedule, made sure Godly Play is well-staffed and that trainings have been made available, and she has enlivened church through her presentations. Barbara stepped up to any task that needed to be done when there was no one to do it, enthusiastically led the children in singing after Connie Hodgson retired as our children’s choir director, and has shown children and adults alike God's love through a multitude of Godly Play stories as well as through her own loving presence.
Victoria recently shared with me that on Erik's first day of Sunday School, Barbara cast him in the part of God for Sunday School's Balaam and His Donkey puppet show. He was in the 4th grade and it made a very BIG impression on him! Not bad for a play that she had written. Years later, she and I went over the play together and had a great time!
Barbara, thank you for your cheerful, tireless, caring leadership, and for your wonderful and quirky sense of humor. The thought of all the times we spent at Barnes and Noble together and all of our interactions over the years about the children’s program just makes me smile inside. You’ve had a tremendous impact on our children, and now is the time for you to enjoy your new venture in choir!
I thank my God every time I remember you. Philippians 1:3
This year Easter is very close to the beginning of spring, representing rebirth in all its glory. With the emerging colors and scents of spring, the renewal of life is upon us, offering its gifts to each of us as well.
We perceive the beginning of the year as the start during the dead of winter. Then Ash Wednesday marks us and reminds us of the ground from which we come and to which we will return, representing the season when seeds of hope have been planted; other seeds yet unknown lie dormant, waiting to emerge into the brightness of radiant light.
Holy Week begins this Sunday with the waving of Palms, and then we enter into a time of depth, identifying with Christ’s journey toward the Cross. We walk as if with Christ through the darkest of dark places trusting that no matter what darkness we may experience, the day of Light is coming.
Easter is the time to renew, restore, and release. It is the perfect time for us to engage in new projects, a new sense of ourselves, and to transcend the limitations that have bound us. In keeping with Christ’s resurrection, we, too, have the opportunity to roll the boulders in our lives away and emerge with an uplifted attitude and willingness to express ourselves more fully.
At Grace Church, we celebrate The Resurrection in the larger vision and in one another. And we invite you to partake of this renewal into the best of ourselves that Christ has shown us.
Palm Sunday March 24 at 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.
Maundy Thursday March 28 at 7:00 p.m.
Good Friday March 29 at 7:00 p.m.
Holy Saturday March 30 at Noon
The Great Vigil of Easter March 30 at 8:00 p.m. (festive reception to follow)
Easter Sunday March 31 at 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.
(festive reception and Easter Egg Hunt to follow 10:00 service)
May God bestow depth of spiritual knowledge upon you this Holy Week and abundant blessings in Eastertide!
Vesper's Concert at Grace Church
You are invited to attend
A Vespers Concert
Glenn Staller, guitar
David Wright, flute
Grace Episcopal Church Choir
Sunday ~ January 27, 2013 ~ 3:00 p.m.
Grace Episcopal Church
130 Muir Station Road, Martinez
* Donations welcome
* This is a free concert. Donations will help Grace Episcopal Church’s Outreach Programs. All are invited.
Collective Shock, Collective Healing
Yesterday, I noted that many of us were out of sync during services. This feeling of being “off” is not just affecting our congregation but is across the country due to the impact of the school massacre in Connecticut last week. December can be a difficult month for some anyway. But with the news of the happening in Connecticut, truly the peace of the night has been shattered. This is the time of year that we celebrate being blessed by the Light, the time of year that we give gifts to children. Now, in some families, there are no children for whom to give gifts.
We may not personally know the parents, the teachers, the principal or the children impacted, but seeing the faces of innocent children causes us to mourn for those dear ones. We feel the impact all the way here in the Bay Area. It’s as if an assault has been made upon our collective soul and it sends the inner space of our beings into chaos. Especially for those who are sensitive spiritually, it can send them reeling, and I write this with you spiritually sensitive ones in mind.
We are thankful that these kinds of massacres are not a normal occurrence as they are in the Middle East, in the Congo, in Sudan and other places. All over the world, mothers receive the tragic news that their children have been maimed, killed or traumatized by some senseless act. Who cannot ask the question, Why? We see through this event that has impacted us so deeply how many throughout the world suffer. It opens our hearts to compassion for those who experience such tragedies daily.
This morning, I read an article entitled Hackers target Westboro Baptist church after Newtown threat. This “church” is actually just a family of lawyers that are exploiting the emotions of people’s worst tragedies in order to make money. They have no business being non-profit nor calling themselves a church. You’ve heard of them: they picket the funerals of gay people and of soldiers and now according to this article they plan to target the funerals of the children who died Friday. I’m sure you have the same visceral response to it as I do. They should be labeled a “hate group.”
Within the same on-line article is a video message from a group that calls itself “Anonymous.” Apparently loosely associated hackers calling themselves hacktivists, they cyberattack entities that limit freedom of speech on the Internet and have moved on to other perceived injustices. Upon reading that the Westboro Baptist Church plans to picket the funerals of children, the intensity of my emotions were heightened just as I began to listen to the associated Anonymous’ retaliatory video message toward the pathetic group that calls themselves the Westboro Baptist Church. The voice was encrypted, mechanical, "un"-human. The music and photos were ominous; yet my emotions were in agreement: Yes! Those people deserve to be held accountable! And my heart opened to the message that was coming: We will destroy you!
Wow! We will destroy you! My heart felt the pull…in the other direction. I understand the thought, and the ability to have power to destroy, to want to rescue the parents of the dead children from further pain. All of that I completely understand. Yet…
We must not allow this nor any tragedy or circumstance to disembowel us, to impoverish our own dominion over ourselves, our inner balance, our motives. As spiritual people, we want to walk purely, cleanly. As spiritual people, we have taken up our mantle of transcendent understanding that the world is going to give us hard times. The easy path is the one that finds its solutions in extremes. The hard one is the one of staying balanced, centered, focused, looking “up” toward the Heavens, trusting in God, trusting in our intuition. We are not here to destroy our enemies.
The spiritual life is the one that Jesus taught us, Love your enemies. And we see just how difficult it is to do when we see such carnage and injustice!
This has polarized us, thrown us off, and we are out of sync. We must be careful to see this as an opportunity, and not get pulled into extremism ourselves. The collective consciousness, the electromagnetic field of our nation, has clearly been impacted by this event, and we are feeling the waves of the impact. As Jesus said, this is the time to “Pick up your mat and walk.”
As such, we who are Christ-centered are called upon to be agents of healing, to open up hearts in compassion, to breathe in the Love of God, and to actively allow ourselves to be Loved. We need to Receive from God, to Purify our Inner Beings, and to breathe out negativity, nervous energy, and a call to war. The real war for us is the same as the one who shot innocent children with an AR-15 rifle; it is an inner war that can only be won with what St. Paul calls the peace that surpasses all understanding, that peace that is beyond the impulses of our gut reactions, that peace that is beyond what we think should or should not happen, that peace that is beyond all human constructs, mind, models. It is the peace that is above all and in all at essence, the inner knowing, the confidence that God is with us, beside us… in us.
We are powerful creatures of God. We are created in God’s image. We are sons and daughters of the Most High, we are aspects of God. Jesus called us Lightbearers. It is up to us how we respond to the darkness. Do we shut the door on darkness? Do we darken an already dark place? Or do we Light a Candle in the Darkness and like Jesus, show the way?
Season's greetings from Grace Choir!
We've been hard at work preparing for our annual Christmas Eve performance and carol sing-along which will be on December 24 at 10 p.m. This year we will be presenting a new choral work, entitled "Mass of the Nativity." This piece was first performed on Christmas morning at St. Thomas Church in New York in 2009 and 2010. It is a liturgical choral mass based on traditional carols (Bohemian, French, Basque, Spanish, German, English and Italian) for SATB choir, organ/piano, and with oboe and violin obbligato. While it is sung entirely in Latin, you may experience an instant familiarity with the piece as multiple carols are interwoven within the beautifully simple melody. Our choir at Grace will be performing three of the five movements, the Kyrie, Gloria, and Agnus Dei. We hope that you can join and sing with us at the choir performance and carol sing-along on Christmas Eve.
A Meaningful Advent and Holy Season of Christmas
As we approach the holy season of Christmas, let’s come to the manger with a fresh look at what is most sacred and most precious as Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child. We enter the world with the potential of life before us, helpless and needy, trusting and dependent . As we grow, we still must recognize the Source of our Being and practice laying down for God all that we need, all that we have no control over, and swaddle it in the holy cloth of Divine Love.
Babies remind us of what is precious and holy - what is sacred. Last spring, I read an excerpt about the sacred posted by Walking the Red Road:
Some years ago, a beloved grandmother asked me a deep and soul-searching question. “Grandson,” she asked me, “what are the most sacred, the most powerful, and the most holy of all ceremonies?”
With some pride, I began to recount some of the ceremonies that I had participated in over the years. After I was finished describing the Sun Dance, the Sweat Lodge, Vision Questing, and other ceremonies I had participated in, she said, “Grandson, those are all very sacred, powerful, and holy ceremonies, but the most sacred, the most powerful, the most holy of all ceremonies is the birth of a child.”
Then, she looked very, very deeply into my eyes and soul and said, “Then who are you?” In this brief question this beloved grandmother strongly reminded me that each and every one of us is a Sacred Being! Inherent in this understanding is the realization that the very Holy and Intimate Ceremony of Creating Life, as well as, the Creative Power that ignites Human Life are Sacred and must be respected at all times!
We celebrate Christ's birth in a stable, demonstrating humility of circumstance, but pointing directly to us that our birth is no accident and no error, regardless of circumstance. We are sacred beings, born in the Light of God and confirmed in the life of our Christ.
Christmas reminds us of the power of Creation, the power of being birthed into the world, the power of God’s potential action through each of us. What better season to let our light shine as a child of God than the one we’re in right now!
Wishing you a Christmas season filled with Light and New Life! May your heart be light and filled with continuous joy!
Blessings with love,
Did you know that the word Eucharist is the Greek word for Thanksgiving? If you're available, start your day off with Thanks-Giving to God our Creator by joining us for worship at 10 a.m. Can't join us? Then enjoy one of my favorite youtube presentations about what a really "Good Day" is! and most importantly have a really GOOD DAY!
All Saints Day
The meaning of All Saints Day is represented well in these words:
Let us now praise famous people,
And our fathers in their generations.
The Lord apportioned to them great glory,
his majesty from the beginning.
There were those who ruled in their kingdoms,
and were people renowned for their power,
giving counsel by their understanding,
and proclaiming prophecies;
leaders of the people in their deliberations
and in understanding of learning for the people,
wise in their words of instruction;
those who composed musical tunes,
and set forth verses in writing;
rich men furnished with resources,
living peaceably in their habitations --
all these were honored in their generations,
and were the glory of their times.
There are some of them who have left a name,
So that people declare their praise.
And there are some who have no memorial,
who have perished as though they had not lived;
they have become as though they had not been born,
and so have their children after them.
But these were people of mercy,
Whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten.
Their posterity will continue for ever,
and their glory will not be blotted out.
Their bodies were buried in peace,
and their name lives to all generations.
The emphasis of All Saints Day is not just to remember the example of famous Saints that have been canonized by the Church but most especially to honor those saints whose names may have been forgotten or are not necessarily known well. These saints are people with whom we have perhaps had contact: a neighbor who has shown consistent kindness and steadiness in the midst of crisis, an uncle that exemplifies the virtues named in the New Testament known as the “fruit of the Spirit,” a bus monitor despite being mercilessly bullied by students kept her dignity, spoke the truth and did not seek revenge. Think about those saints in your life. Who has gone unnoticed? Now is the time to look around, notice, appreciate, look up to God, to give thanks.
Bocce Ball Women (Plus One) Triumphant
All the hours of imaginary practice paid off for the women of Grace Church when they recaptured the Bocce Ball trophy from the men.
The July 22 competition's first place winners were the team of “Duck on Board,” comprised of Betty Kean, Jennifer Sabroe, Marj Leeds and Melissa Rodrigue-Kennedy (Melissa's young passenger giving her the strength of ten.) Everyone was strengthened by the hearty barbeque and picnic fare on hand.
Ten teams competed for the extremely large trophy. Besides the champions, on the women's side were the Angels, the Bocce Ball Busters, the Blasters and the Bocce First Timers. The men fielded the Ghote (pronounced “fish” –- again, ask John Heyse), the Gorillas, Holy Names, the Rockets and the Rolling Stones, who will have to look for satisfaction next year.
As usual, Dave Eary's organizational skills ensured that everyone had a good time and dirty tricks were kept to a minimum. The men have vowed to recapture the trophy next year through unstinting visualizations of triumph. The 4th annual tournament is scheduled for July 20, 2013.
Rally Day on its Way
The fun of the Rally Day is speeding towards us on September 9th this year, after the 10 o'clock service.
The children of the church and guests can expect to burn off some energy with the fun, games and good times they've come to look forward to as the kick-off for the start of the Sunday School year. All children are invited, so get your neighbors and friends here to enjoy the bounce house, golf, bowling, fishing, crafts, cotton candy, prizes and much more. Hamburgers, hotdogs and potluck side dishes at the last of the summer barbeques will provide fuel so the adults can keep up.
Victoria Schmidt is again coordinating the many volunteers who are needed to produce this extravaganza. Many hands have always made light work on Rally Day, so if you wish to volunteer, please call Victoria. Enjoyment is guaranteed.
After recovering for a week, Godly Play will begin on September 16. A welcome return of Youth Sunday School, for kids 6th grade and up, will begin that day as well. The older children will be using the third part of the Boy Scouts' “God and Country” unit, which explores our place in the community as people of faith. Better yet, it involves writing and producing a movie! We look forward with joy to providing learning opportunities, fellowship and fun for our older children.