Grace Episcopal Church October Vestry Meeting Minutes

Present:  The Reverend Dr. Deborah White, Jim Maniatis (Jr. Warden arrived at 5:52), Betty Case, Christina Reich, Josh Senn, Connie Towey, Stephanie Zichichi (left the meeting at 5:56 for her bocce playoff game), Marj Leeds (Clerk pro-tem)

Absent:  Lynda Dyer, Paula Menconi, Pat Hambly

Guests:  Walter Ramsey, Marj Leeds (Assistant Treasurer)

 Call to Order and Opening Prayer.  The meeting was called to order at 5:05 p.m. with prayer by Rev. Deb.

 Bible Study. Sharing your Faith: Peter Heals a Crippled Beggar

 Consent Agenda. It was M/S/C (Towey/Reich) to approve the consent agenda: Minutes of September vestry meeting; Rector’s Report; Treasurer’s Report and Junior Warden’s Report.

 Insurance – Marj Leeds updated the group on the requirement that the Vestry determines annually what medical benefits will be offered to employees in the following year.  She recommended that the Vestry vote to offer the Kaiser EPO 80 medical plan, not pay for premiums for over-age children, not pay for medical/dental plans for part time employees, do provide EAP to part time employees, and not provide a Benefits Waiver Allowance to those who waive coverage.  It was M/S/C (Reich/Towey)

Morgan Stanley Account – Marj Leeds presented a recommendation from the Finance Committee.  The recommendation is to direct Marj Leeds to be added to the list of authorized users for the Morgan Stanley Account and then work to have the money currently in the Morgan Stanley account put into a money market, CD or some other very low risk investment option.  The precise investment will be determined by the Finance Committee.  M/S/C (Reich/Towey)

 

 

OLD BUSINESS

Stewardship (building and grounds)

Solar Presentation. Deb outlined some potential actions from “go now” to “full stop”.  Discussion followed regarding how to communicate regarding this issue with the rest of the congregation.  The email from Mr. Ilog was discussed.  The general consensus was that while the installation is a good project that would be valuable for God’s creation, it likely does not compete with other identified projects at this time.  However, the project information will be retained on file.

 

Marj Leeds brought up the potential to do a landscaping project that would reduce water usage.  Following discussion, a request was made of the Junior Warden to get an estimate to install a lock box on the sprinkler controls.

 

Education Wing Re-envisioning. On hold pending cost estimation.

 

 

 

Ministry Teams Update

 

Service (Outreach).  Walter and Christina reported that the group has been discussing our commitments to Winter Nights, a shelter program for homeless families.  We have also become involved with the work related to the homeless in downtown Martinez.  The Backpack project is finished.  Work continues on the Deacon’s Pantry with a particular need for meals that are ready to eat.

 

Worship.  The group meets tomorrow and will review our Season after Pentecost liturgies, the

Upcoming Advent season and new Tenebrae and Evensong services.

Education. The backpacks are in place and have been received well.  Rev. Deb continues to work on her podcast project.  Some delays have occurred due to family health issues. Curriculum for Advent Bible study has been set.

Evangelism/Welcome. The Welcoming Committee is working on new welcoming books.  One will be in the pews related to the liturgy.  The second will be broader information about our church.  Nametags are in our future!  The Welcoming Committee is developing a system to welcome/escort visitors and then follow up later in the week.

Pastoral Care. Connie Towey reported that the casserole supply is good.  And, four folks have volunteered to do deliveries.

Parish Life. Amy Eudy is working on Trivia Night

Stewardship Campaign. Rev. Deb is heading up the Stewardship campaign.  The letters are in production with volunteers standing up each Sunday to speak during announcements.

By-law Review Committee. No update at this time.

Nursery Hire. There have been a couple of false starts on this one as there is some evidence that people do not really read an employment ad prior to applying for a job. Barbara Brooks has the lead on hiring and is working on it.

Parish Administrator Hire.  A candidate has been identified.  Rev. Deb will be consulting the Treasurer regarding the expense.

NEW BUSINESS

Communicating and Supporting Parish Size Changes – Rev. Deb reminded the Vestry regarding this concept.

SWEEPS Ministry Fair Forum. In an effort to help people understand SWEEPS, Rev. Deb would like to hold a SWEEPS Fair on December 15 (as a Faithful Forum). The idea would be for each ministry area under SWEEPS to have a “booth” with information. Helping people understand the variety of opportunities will encourage them to volunteer.

New phone system. Rev. Deb reported that we bundled our phone and internet service (through AT&T). It has been difficult trying to set up the new system, so it’s not up and running yet. Once it’s set up there will be options when calling in to get directions, get service times, leave a message for the Rector, leave a message for the office, etc.

Time of Vestry Meetings.  Rev. Deb noted that a 5:00 start time for Vestry may be a barrier to working folks serving on the Vestry.  She suggested that everyone consider a later start time.

Vestry Recruitment Rev Deb reminded Connie Towey and Josh Senn that as the “middle class” of the Vestry they are responsible for identifying Vestry Candidates for the 2020 election.

 Closing Prayer and Adjournment. The meeting adjourned at 6:48 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Marjorie Leeds, Clerk Pro-Tem

29th Annual Oktoberfest!

Please join us for our 29th Annual Oktober fest on Saturday, October 19 at Grace! Social hour begins at 5 p.m. Dinner with traditional German food, as well as music and entertainment begin at 6 p.m. General admissions is $25; Children 10 and under are $6.

Bishop Marc suffers stroke

Bishop Marc suffers stroke
On Monday October 7 while at a staff meeting California’s Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, suffered a stroke.  According to Canon Abbott Bailey, “He received acute stroke therapies, including IV tPA and a neurointerventional procedure. He is now awake, alert, communicating well, and the news is encouraging… While he recovers, Bishop Marc remains the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese. As Canon to the Ordinary, I will be acting on his behalf until he is well enough to return to work. As you pray for Bishop Marc, please also remember his wife, Sheila, daughters Chloé and Pilar, and the medical personnel.” You may direct cards to the care of the Diocese of California at 1055 Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA, 94108.

Minutes of the Grace Episcopal Church Mutual Ministry Review

Grace Episcopal Church,  Martinez, California, Minutes of a Meeting of the Vestry – Mutual Ministry Review, July 31, 2019

Present:  The Reverend Dr. Deborah White, Lynda Dyer (Sr. Warden), Jim Maniatis (Jr. Warden), Christina Reich, Connie Towey, Stephanie Zichichi

Absent:  Pat Hambly, Ron Luttringer, Paula Menconi, Josh Senn

Guests:  Denise Obando, Transition Minister, Diocese of California; Jennifer Sabroe (Clerk)

Call to Order and Opening Prayer.  The meeting was called to order at 5:10 p.m. and led in prayer by Rev. Deb.

The vestry reviewed the issues of importance identified at last year’s Mutual Ministry Review and discussed what is being done and what still needs to be done.

Denise defined Mutual Ministry.   The mutual part of mutual ministry review is what are the people of Grace and especially its leadership are doing, not just how Rev. Deb is doing as Rector. It is about how are we doing this together. How are we getting people to take responsibility? How do we prepare the next Vestry? We need to have balance on the Vestry in terms of areas of interest, so that all areas of church life are represented.

Communication

What is being done and what is going well?  Facebook, Grace Notes, announcements (both oral and included in the worship bulletin) at both services, Vestry minutes posted on website and parish hall bulletin board, vestry members rotate each week (on their assigned VPOD day) to address the congregations at 8am and 10am during announcements,  vestry members’ email addresses and photos are on the back cover of the bulletin

Newly formed Welcoming Committee is putting together a welcome packet.

Faithful Forums, attended by both 8 and 10 o’clockers is a place where we have meaningful conversations together.

What needs to be done (or could be done better)?

  • Vestry members attend their non-regular service more often; find opportunities in conversations to let people know how and where information is available (website, email, bulletin announcements, bulletin board, etc.)
  • Work on communication with each other, members of congregation.
    • Find ways to bring people from both services together
    • Make table prompts for coffee hour?
    • Do a Faithful Forum about Welcoming, have a conversation as a group about some of the challenges between the 8 and 10.

Denise’s questions/discussion prompts:  How often do parishioners approach you as a vestry member? In between services, what kinds of things are going on that bring people together (from 8am and 10am services)?  How do you feel as one group?  Can we more intentionally mix people up? Do you ever say how was your vacation and where did you experience God?

There was discussion about the practice of a group of 8 o’clockers who go to breakfast together, off site, immediately after the service, which can be perceived as a separation from the church community. When they leave, many 10 o’clockers are arriving, and they don’t run into each other.  There are events when we are all together, but it can feel like “separate but equal.” There was concern expressed about the difference in the two groups (8 o’clock, 10 o’clock). The 8 o’clockers don’t have the same knowledge base about what’s going on across the congregation. For example, the unawareness of the attendance growth at 10 o’clock including in the increase in young families with children.

Presence in the greater community

What is being done and what is going well?  Weekly articles on Faith page of Martinez Gazette; Rev. Deb has met with City representatives (City Council and MPD) regarding homeless; Outreach committee works with C.O.R.E. team (Coordinated Outreach Referral, Engagement); Grace team works at Loaves and Fishes once a month; Yoga at Grace every Tuesday evening (open to the community);  Faithful Forums are open to the community, alternate social welfare and theological/liturgical topics; Episcopal Church items are posted on our Facebook page.

It was noted that at September’s Faithful Forum there will be a presentation from St. Mary the Virgin’s (SF) Social Justice Committee.

We hosted a Whole & Healthy Church workshop earlier this year and posted it in the Deanery.

We’re talking about starting a Sacred Space in Contra Costa.

We’ve also participated with Contra Costa Interfaith Council’s Green Spirit booth at John Muir Days event in Martinez the past two years.

What needs to be done (or could be done better)?  A question was asked if there is an opportunity to get involved with Juvenile Hall; it was suggested to poll parishioners to find out what organizations/ efforts/causes they are involved with outside of church (good topic for a table prompt).

There was discussion about welcoming and the reality that we all have different views and opinions about many things. But for welcoming, it is important that we live the belief that all are welcome here.

Growth

What is being done and what is going well? Started a Welcoming Committee which is putting together a welcome packet for visitors/newcomers; creating a buddy system and recruiting buddies to escort people to coffee hour and be their contact; making nametags for everyone; Vestry liaisons to committees and ministries has been positive as it another level of contact with participants and between ministries; attendance is up at 10.

Things are coming up organically, such as “How to Pray” small discussion group using the online video lectures (ChurchNext); Stephen Ministry introductory workshop; young families are hanging out together at a local playground. Mutual not completely reliant on the priest.

Rev. Deb’s bible studies are very substantial and she uses every opportunity to educate and teach.

What needs to be done (or could be done better)? Online directory, not everyone happy about it, they are used to a paper directory, so we are working to help people sign up and get comfortable with it; the welcome packet will include detailed information about various ministries to get involved in; let people who are reluctant to commit to a committee but would like to be on call to help, know that’s okay.

How do we feel about growth? Rector can’t do it all. Because, when a congregation is a certain size it has a relationship with a priest functioning more on a family size structure, that’s where everybody has contact and everybody knows everybody, and their names. When you start growing you lose some of that. Is the welcoming committee big enough to match people, maybe buddy system?

Christian Education

What is being done and what is going well? Rev. Deb is developing a Podcast; Rev Deb read a letter from a grateful participant of the Wednesday Eucharist and Bible Study who expressed appreciation for her knowledge, welcoming heart and approach to studying the scriptures, openness and inclusiveness.

What needs to be done (or could be done better)?  Once Podcast launches, advertise! (Gazette, Diocese, etc.)

Worship

What is being done and what is going well?

In response to a prompt from Denise about ministering to people passing through, several vestry members shared personal experiences:  The Christmas pageant is designed to include all children, even as they walk in the door for the first time; a vestry member shared she tries to make people feel loved, welcomed and appreciated when they’re here, even if they never come back; another shared meeting a man who was from out of town and here just for that Sunday who she had a great conversation with at coffee hour; another shared experiences when we’re hosting receptions (after weddings or funerals) and taking care of our guests, many times we find them in the kitchen with us chatting and helping with the dishes; a number of parishioners have significant others/family members who only come to food events and they are always made to feel welcome.

Yoga at Grace was discussed as an example of something that was started as an outreach/evangelism offering at Grace. When it began a year ago it was attended by 14 parishioners. Attendance is now 5-6, with half of the attendees parishioners, the others guests from the community.

Regarding children, when currently have 14 children in Godly Play (up from 1 when Rev. Deb’s first Sunday). We have several youth who have aged out, so we have an age gap between 10-18 years old.

What needs to be done (or could be done better)?

There was discussion regarding survey responses around children, noise in church, children’s choir, etc. Part of it is generational. The conversation has two ends, educating the people making negative comments (differences in parenting, what we mean by welcoming all, etc.). The other half is educating parents about the fact that older folks can’t hear as well, they may not be able to hear the service. Middle ground is how to help both of those groups enjoy worship in the best way possible and accommodate both groups. This has been a conversation on the Worship and Liturgy Committee for two years. What we’ve done:

  • We ring the bell three minutes before the service, signaling quiet in the nave
  • Doors close at the beginning of the service, to filter out noise from the narthex
  • Moved announcements to end of the service (mixed reaction) to eliminate the sense of a “break” at the Peace.
  • Institute the child’s area in the back, and now have backpacks with coloring pages for families to take to their pew.
  • Encouraging hard of hearing folks to not sit in the back (where the children usually are).
  • Children are coming in from Godly Play, at the end of the Peace, which encourages a quiet entry.
  • Retrained the acolytes.

This is also a growth issue, as more people start coming and we are no longer a family size church with maybe one child acting up, you now have a few and  people don’t know each other as well and can be less understanding. People find they are happy with the growth but not necessarily certain aspects that come with growth.

What survey can help with is you’ve planned, done some things, and re-evaluate. What’s working what’s not working. Continue to recheck.

Closing Prayer and Adjournment. The meeting adjourned at 7:10 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Jennifer Sabroe, Clerk

September 2019 Vestry minutes

Grace Episcopal Church,  Martinez, California, Unadopted Minutes of Vestry Meeting, September 11, 2019

 Present:  The Reverend Dr. Deborah White, Jim Maniatis (Jr. Warden), Betty Case, Pat Hambly, Christina Reich, Connie Towey (left at apprx 6:50pm), Stephanie Zichichi, Jennifer Sabroe (Clerk)

Absent:  Lynda Dyer, Paula Menconi, Josh Senn

Guests:  Steven Broyles, Jack Case

 Call to Order and Opening Prayer.  The meeting was called to order at 5:08 p.m. and led in prayer by Rev. Deb.

Bible Study. Values: John the Baptist Beheaded (Morality)

Solar Presentation. Sun, Light & Power, Steve Broyles presented information on “going solar” including location of solar panels (back roof of parish hall), cost savings and finance options. Following the presentation, there was consensus of the vestry to table the item and discuss at the next meeting.  Rev. Deb indicated that a roof replacement estimate will be provided at the next meeting as well.

Consent Agenda. It was M/S/C (Towey/Reich) to approve the consent agenda items: Minutes of June vestry meeting; Minutes of July 31 Mutual Ministry Review; Rector’s Report; Treasurer’s Report.

Stewardship (building and grounds). Jr. Warden Jim Maniatis gave an update on recent projects:

  • The freezer has been moved from back-porch pantry into the kitchen, located next to the stove. The items on the two shelf units in the kitchen were reorganized to fit on one shelf unit, with some of the items relocated to the pantry where more shelves have been added.
  • The play structure was primed by volunteers over the summer, and now has been painted and the corners sanded down. The cost of paint/painting was covered by donors.
  • Tree work. The trees located in the section between the parking lot and upper lot need to be trimmed, as well as the trees on the south side of the sanctuary. To protect the health of the trees, this work needs to be done in the fall.
  • Car in lot. The blue car that was on the upper lot has been moved to the parking lot. Rev. Deb is in contact with the owner who is trying to sell it.
  • Pew move. The pew that was being stored in the parish hall has been reinstalled in the nave. The piano that was at the back of the nave is now in the parish hall and will be used for the youth choir.

Education Wing Re-envisioning. Rev. Deb presented draft illustrations (thanks to Gary Spenik and Nick White-Spenik) of a re-envisioning of the education wing. The concept includes keeping the current interior walls, converting the current two offices into a nursery, converting the current nursery into secure storage for church records, adding three enclosed rooms at the east end of the wing for Rector’s Office, Parish Administrator Office, and Conference Room. The open space in the middle of the wing would be designated for Godly Play and Youth Group. The doors at the east end of the wing would be eliminated, with new outer doors being placed on the south wall, midway along the wing. The vestry reviewed the drawings and had brief discussion.

It was M/S/C (Hambly/Towey) to get an estimate on this design. Jr. Warden Jim Maniatis will do this prior to our next meeting.

Ministry Teams Update

Service (Outreach). Rev. Deb reported that the Outreach Committee met two weeks ago. The meeting summary has been in Grace Notes: backpack drive has been completed with 60 backpacks filled with school supplies and delivered to Martinez Junior High. The Outreach Committee voted to become part of the Winter Nights program, and agreed to assist another church at their location for the first year (in January 2020).

Worship. Rev. Deb reported that the Worship and Liturgy Committee will likely skip its meeting this month (tomorrow). The most recent items the committee would report are: the new service music written by Arthur Omura (we will be looking for feedback); the rotation of liturgy for the second half of Pentecost, and we had the historical liturgy (1789 service.) Vestry members shared that there were positive comments regarding the new liturgical music (Arthur Omura’s compositions), and the 1789 service on August 25.

Education. Rev. Deb reported that children’s backpacks are now available in back of church for the kids so they can either take a backpack and bring to the pew or play on the rug in the back. Godly Play is in place, Marj Leeds and Barbara Brooks have curriculum planned and in place for school year. We need doorkeepers. Rev. Deb’s podcast is still in progress, but has been stalled due to the producer (Nick) going away to college. The new producer (Gary) is older and slower.

Evangelism/Welcome. Christina reported on the work of the Welcoming Committee, that has been creating a new welcome packet/handbook. A new member on the committee has been contributing to the conversations and giving a helpful perspective. The committee is recruiting buddies (“palm cards” are handed to folks who committee members feel would be good buddies). Christina will be doing follow-up soon. Waiting for nametags — they will be a big part of what the Welcoming Committee is planning. There is also a plan to work with ushers/greeters, to make them an integral part of the welcoming process, and to make sure the pews are supplied with Welcome cards.

Hospitality. Christina reported that the coffee hour schedule through December has been posted, with two dates still open in December.

Narthex/Nave Doors closed during service. A concern was expressed about the practice of having the double doors to the nave closed once the service begins. The concern is that this is not welcoming and may discourage people arriving late to come in. Rev. Deb explained that the closing of the doors has been instituted in order to remind people to refrain from loud conversations in the narthex. If we can get this under control, then the doors can remain open. There are people who want to come into a quiet space at worship. The bell is tolled at 3 minutes before the service, as a signal to observe quiet. Rev. Deb is talking with the bell ringers about the precision of the timing.  The greeters/ushers are supposed to remain in the narthex through the gospel in order to open the doors for late comers.

Pastoral Care.

Casserole Patrol. Connie expressed thanks for moving the freezer into the kitchen. She reported that the requests for meals has dropped for now.

Pastoral update. Rev. Deb provided an update on pastoral care.

Parish Life. Christina reported that Amy Eudy (Parish Life chair) is feeling better and working on plans for the next Trivia Night. The Bocce Tournament and Parish BBQ is set for Sunday, October 6, following the 10 service, at Rodgers-Smith Park. Stephanie Zichichi, Jim Maniatis, and Sandy Taylor are facilitating.

Stewardship (Buildings and Grounds). Jim distributed a list of projects that have been completed or still to be done. He asked vestry members to review the list and let him know if they have questions, or if there is anything else that should be added to the list.

Stewardship (Fundraising). Stephanie reported that she is working with Ron Luttringer on the possibility of a crab feed in January or February. Will need to wait to see if crab will be available. She asked for help with selling Oktoberfest tickets and making announcements at 10 service. The Oktoberfest Committee currently includes: Stephanie Zichichi, Pat Corr, Mary Canale, Lynda and Don Dyer, Christina Reich, Stan Applegate, Jim Maniatis, and they welcome more to help! She also reminded the vestry about the binder located in the kitchen that has procedural and supply information on most of the special events we have held at Grace. There was discussion of various venues to advertise.

Stewardship. Rev. Deb reported that planning for the Stewardship Campaign needs to get underway as it usually launches in October. There were no volunteers among the vestry members present to chair the committee. Rev. Deb will check with John Lee to see if he is available to chair again this year.

By-law Review Committee. This has been on hold over the summer. Bylaws need to be in line with Canons of Diocese and National Church. Rev Deb is reviewing the Grace bylaws to see what is not in line. Once that is done, Christina and Connie will work on the revision.

St. Christopher’s Guild Survey is live and all are encouraged to complete it. St. Christopher’s is critically looking at the group and its mission. They are asking for input from members and non members.

Nursery Hire. Rev. Deb reported that the vestry agreed earlier that we need to hire a nursery caregiver. She’s learned that most churches hire from an agency and the going rate is $20/hr, 2 hrs/Sunday = $40/week ($2080/year.) The treasurer (Marj) has confirmed that we can afford it. We will still need to assign one volunteer each Sunday, as Whole & Healthy Church requires two people with the children.

It was M/S/C (Reich/Hambly) to approve hiring a nursery attendant up to $2100 per year.

Parish Administrator Hire.  Rev. Deb reported that we are gathering input from staff and other churches in the Diocese to develop a job description.

Communicating and supporting parish size changes.  Tabled to next meeting. Rev. Deb would like to continue the conversation about what it means when there is change in church size – from family size to pastoral size – specifically, it means we have to change the running of the church. We’re still making that transition. She would like to talk about how we can better communicate that to parishioners.

SWEEPS Ministry Fair Forum. In an effort to help people understand SWEEPS, Rev. Deb would like to hold a SWEEPS Fair on December 15 (as a Faithful Forum). The idea would be for each ministry area under SWEEPS to have a “booth” with information. Helping people understand the variety of opportunities will encourage them to volunteer. Christina indicated that the welcome packet will also include information on SWEEPS.

New phone system. Rev. Deb reported that we bundled our phone and internet service (through AT&T). It has been difficult trying to set up the new system, so it’s not up and running yet. Once it’s set up there will be options when calling in to get directions, get service times, leave a message for the Rector, leave a message for the office, etc.

Time of Vestry Meetings.  Rev. Deb asked to look at our meeting time to see if there’s a better option that will work for everyone. Meeting attendance has been sporadic. Maybe a new time will help.

Closing Prayer and Adjournment. The meeting adjourned at 7:15 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Jennifer Sabroe, Clerk

Preaching Politics

I have recently found myself fielding questions about what people tend to refer to as “preaching politics.” These queries do not have a simple answer but, given the fact that we will all be hearing more and more about the upcoming 2020 elections, it is worth exploring the nature of political discourse in American religious institutions.

First of all, there is no criminal or civil code that governs the relationship between religious institutions and political campaigns. It has instead been regulated by the Tax Code since 1954. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), organizations which are exempt from paying federal taxes are prohibited from advocating for or against a specific candidate or party. “501(c) (3)” groups have to meet a certain criteria in order to qualify for this exemption.  Thus, if a religious organization is not a designated 501c3, it is not restricted from any form of political involvement.

The second thing to know is that the code specifically prohibits support of specific candidates.  It does not restrict advocacy on issues. Thus, many churches issue statements demonstrating their support for certain types of legislation, including gun control, abortion, and the environment. As they may be significant issues for churchgoers, churches are allowed to host political forums as long as both sides of a debated issue are represented and no candidate is allowed to ask for votes.

According to the Pew Research Center’s “Preaching Politics from the Pulpit,” (2012), a good example of how a church can violate the tax code occurred when, “Four days before the 1992 presidential election, the Church at Pierce Creek in Binghamton, N.Y., placed a full-page advertisement in USA Today and The Washington Times. The ad began with the heading: ‘Christians Beware: Do not put the economy ahead of the Ten Commandments.’ The ad cited biblical passages and stated that Gov. Bill Clinton supported abortion on demand, homosexuality and the distribution of condoms to teenagers in public schools. The ad concluded with the question: ‘How then can we vote for Bill Clinton?’ At the bottom of the ad, in fine print, the following notice appeared: ’This advertisement was co-sponsored by The Church at Pierce Creek, Daniel J. Little, Senior Pastor, and by churches and concerned Christians nationwide. Tax-deductible donations for this advertisement gladly accepted.”

Clergy persons may, like other individual citizens, endorse candidates in their own name, but they may not do so in the name of a congregation or religious institution. This, as you might guess, is a fine line. Other “blurry” situations include when a religious leader suggests that his followers vote for “the pro blank” candidate. If there are only two candidates and one is “pro” and the other “con” on that particular issue, it is clear which way the church leader is suggesting people vote, although s/he may not have named a specific candidate.

The Episcopal Church has an Office of Government Relations which identifies and advocates for the denomination’s positions on issues like immigration, racism, creation care, poverty, and human rights. There is a broad spectrum of both theological and political belief among Episcopalians and civil discussion of the issues that significantly influence our lives is encouraged. The Episcopal Church determines our positions based on our primary vocation of following the Way of Jesus.

Preaching becomes part of political discourse when the teachings of scripture, specifically the words of Jesus, intersect with questions about how we, as his followers, should govern ourselves. To be clear, Episcopal clergy persons do not “preach politics.” We preach the gospel.  Jesus frequently commented on the political issues of his own time, including citizenship, taxation, and, most importantly, the need for the powerful to care for the disenfranchised. We believe it is important to assess Jesus’s statements and apply them to our current social, economic, and educational concerns. We do this not by finding biblical quotations that support already existing views, but by reading, studying, and praying about our holy scriptures.

Here is a list of Episcopal justice groups and ministries, as well as statements from various church leaders related to current political issues:

 Anglican Peace and Justice Network: https://apjn.anglicancommunion.org. o International.
o St. Mary’s justice Ministries featured in first online newsletter: http://livingreconciliation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/APJN-newsletter-Issue-01.pdf.  Episcopal Church News (ENS): https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org. o Subscribe to keep up with the Episcopal Church activities and positions nationwide.  Episcopal Office of Government Relations: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/officegovernment-relations. o “The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations carries out advocacy on public
policy issues where the General Convention has passed resolutions . . [that] aim to
interpret how governments and international institutions can strive for justice and
respect the human dignity of every human being.”
o Provides regular action alerts and information posts to those who subscribe.  Episcopal Public Policy Network: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/OGR/eppn-sign-up. o “A network of Episcopalians across the country dedicated to carrying out the Baptismal
Covenant call to ‘strive for justice and peace’ through the active ministry of public policy
advocacy.”
o Advices the Episcopal Office of Government Affairs and the Presiding Bishop on public
policy and political (not partisan) positions of the church.
o Areas of particular interest: Migration, refugees, & immigration; human rights and
peacebuilding; ending poverty; racial reconciliation; and creation care.  Episcopal Peace Fellowship: https://epfnational.org. o Founded as Episcopal Peace Fellowship on Armistice Day, November 11, 1939.
o Open to lay and clergy.
o San Francisco Chapter  Sister Pamela Clare, Convener  csfsfo@aol.com. o Individuals can subscribe to receive period updates.
Episcopal Diocese of California (DioCal)  DioCal News and Events: https://mailchi.mp/diocal/signup. (Individuals can subscribe.)
o Weekly newsletter contains news, public positions, and actions of the Diocese of
California, joint positions of all six California Episcopal diocese, and the Episcopal
Church.
o Joint California bishops’ statements, as well as Bishop Marc’s positions are published
here.  Episcopal Public Policy Network of California (EPPNCA)
o Lay and clerical representatives of the six Episcopal dioceses in the State of California
consider and draft policy positions and actions on a variety of public and justice issues.
o No webpage, as all statements and positions are issued through the respective dioceses.
o All six bishops must agree upon a statement before it is issued by any of them. (This
does not prevent any Bishop or diocese from issuing individual statements and positions
on their own initiative.)
o St. Mary’s parishioner David Crosson serves as one of five representatives of the Diocese
of California.
Specific Causes and Actions  Death Penalty
o Statement of bishops of six Episcopal diocese of California supporting moratorium on
the death penalty in California: https://diocal.org/news/california-episcopal-bishopsstatement-supporting-moratorium-death-penalty-california.  Gun Violence, Racism, and Christian Nationalism
o Bishops United Against Gun Violence: http://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org.  Nearly 100 Episcopal bishops organized to take positions and create strategies to
end gun violence and to address its systemic causes.  Issues range from anti-Semitism, Christian white-nationalism and other root causes.  Includes online liturgical resources for times of mass killings.
o Bishops United Against Gun Violence Statement on Christian Nationalism &
Systematic Racism: http://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org/bishops-united-repudiateschristian-nationalism-systemic-racism. o Bishop Marc Andrus’ statement on gun violence, March 6, 2018:
https://diocal.org/news/bishop-marc-beloved-community-protecting-vulnerable-gunviolence-our-responsibility

Youth Choir at Grace!

Introducing the Amazing Grace Youth Choir

Young people ages 7-17 are invited to join in learning to read, appreciate and perform music in a low-stress environment. Rehearsals on Sunday at noon (following our 10 a.m. service and coffee hour). To enroll, see or contact Music Director Arthur Omura (music@gracechurchmtz.org)

Christian group warns against rise of ‘Christian nationalism’

A group formed by Christian leaders is warning against the rise of “Christian nationalism,” saying the merging of Christian and American identities poses a threat to U.S. democracy and religious communities. […] The statement is endorsed by at least 17 Christian leaders [including Presiding Bishop Michael Curry]. You can read the statement here.  You can read the article  here. 

(Courtesy of Diocese of California)

The Church in the World

The church in the world
Jesus “said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.'” Mark 16:15
 
I was raised with the firm conviction that religion and politics do not mix, a notion which was consistent with what I learned in (Episcopal) church. In that time and place, it seemed possible to discuss national and world events without bringing God into it. This is no longer true. People representing themselves as Christians are not only mixing politics and religion, but they are, in some cases, putting love of country above love of God (see article here). This is wrong.
Under these circumstances, The Episcopal Church has adopted a view which compels us to speak to issues that bear directly on our convictions as Christians. Some have referred to this as the church’s “social welfare agenda.” The truth is that it is Jesus’s agenda. It is Jesus who told us to love the poor, the disenfranchised, the homeless, the hungry, and the stranger. It is Jesus who warned us against the love of power and money. It is Jesus who, when asked who our neighbor is, replied by telling a story about someone the disciples thought of as a despicable, foreign, apostate who nonetheless demonstrated the way that Jesus asks us to follow. And it is Jesus who commanded that we share his message.
For these reasons, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, and the Bishop of California, The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, sometimes issue statements on national events, as both did this week. These statements are based in holy scripture and specifically on the words and actions of our Lord Jesus Christ. You can find them below: