Thursday, October 22, 2020

Worship Update from Rev. Shirley

A WORD ABOUT WORSHIP
From Rev. Shirley 

Friends, we've loved seeing you in person for outdoor worship and hearing that many more of you are tuning in to online worship using You Tube. What a resilient congregation! God has made us tough.

I have applied for and received approval from Bishop Goff to start conducting worship inside the church when the health indicators go to low-yellow or green. The color system is based on Harvard's global epidemics data. Please everyone wear your masks and use social distancing so we can keep the virus spread down.

When we do announce in-person indoor worship is available, we will use the weekly eNews and Realm to communicate details about how to sign up. If you choose to remain at home, we will continue to livestream worship using You Tube. 

Until health indicators go favorable and I announce that we are offering indoor worship again, we will continue to offer in-person worship outside every Sunday at 10 a.m. so long as it's not raining and so long as the temperature is over 45 degrees. We will continue to offer holy communion (wafers only). Please know that, if you are staying at home to guard your health but would like a pastoral visit, Rev. Shirley and Rev. Richard are both happy to make house calls if you have an outside place to meet, or if you'd like to meet at the church on a weekday outside. The weather has been wonderful for this. If you have any questions or comments you'd like to share, please email Rev. Shirley, s.smithgraham@ccerva.org.

A WORD ABOUT CHRISTMAS

Since we know that hosting 1,800 people for Christmas Eve is not possible this year due to COVID, we have committed with our Gospel partners at Shady Grove Methodist Church to offer a drive-thru Christmas story. Through six outdoor stations that tell the story of the Messiah, from prophecy to Nativity to Jesus' charge to his disciples to love one another, costumed volunteers will tell the story that changed the world through song and spoken word. This is an opportunity for people inside and outside our churches to be touched by the Spirit of Christmas. Aching to do something fun for the holidays? Contact Rev. Shirley or Keith Tan if you'd like to be part of this wonderful event. And to round off Christmas Eve, once daylight falls, each church will offer its own small Christmas service. Inside if we can, outside if we must. Stay tuned for times and details.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Bear Witness to God's Fruitfulness! The Good Soil Video Series

 Watch all 6 videos in our special storytelling project!


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Thank you for helping turn Hunger into Hope

1 in 8 people in our beloved metro Richmond region is food insecure -- meaning that too many of our neighbors are not receiving the necessary nutrition.These are our neighbors who are working one or more jobs and are barely scraping enough together to get by each month. These are our neighbors who are living paycheck to paycheck when an unexpected medical expense or car trouble takes them down, depleting what little savings they have. These are our neighbors who are forced to make tough choices each month between basic necessities – pay the electricity bill or buy healthy groceries for well-balanced meals for themselves and their families. Add to these challenges the stress of living in a pandemic and it can feel overwhelming.

FeedMore offers hope and help to our neighbors through their many services. Check out the amazing work they're doing. At Christ Church, we partner with FeedMore so we can live into our mission of being the heart and hands of Jesus.

Thank you for giving to our most recent Food Drive, where we gathered 23 grocery bags of non-perishable food to donate to FeedMore. Your support makes a real difference in the lives of others.

Monday, June 15, 2020

A Pastoral message from Shirley, Richard, and Darren.

Learn, Pray, Act

Beloved friends of Christ, as your clergy we want to say two things today: (1) we love you, and, (2) by pulling together, we can live into what God has promised to make us: one in Christ Jesus.

When Jesus’ disciples were first learning to be followers, he told them that people who receive the word and accept it bear fruit, not just a little fruit but thirty and sixty and a hundredfold. (Mark 4:20)

This is just the moment to pull together and remember that God gives us the word — Holy Scriptures and the teachings we get from them — so that we will not just survive but bear fruit that blesses people far beyond us. God’s power will do this even though we may be exhausted from Coronavirus, job losses, and the collective realization we cannot avoid: George Floyd’s death reminds us of the sin we all are vulnerable to falling into, failing to fully respect the dignity of a child of God, based on their skin color. In short, racism. We are a nation grieving in many ways. We are also a band of disciples, driven by the mission of the Episcopal Church: to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ (BCP p.855.) God reminds us that, if we diligently receive the word, God will bless us to be a blessing: thirty, sixty and a hundredfold. God is giving us the opportunity to pull together and learn, pray and act together.

We want to start by inviting you into opportunities to learn together. We will continue to offer ways to pray together, as we have been doing, and there will be other opportunities too. And as we receive the word and think together about what may be stopping us from fully living into the love and flourishing of all God’s children, we will find ways to act to be healers and reconcilers. These practices of Learn, Pray, and Act are intended to guide us into the healing work of racial reconciliation. Stay tuned for upcoming information about learning groups.

We are particularly interested in learning more about the struggles of people of color.  Our intention is to educate ourselves by listening to the voices of our Black and Brown members and neighbors, and tending to our relationships, as siblings in Christ.  Presiding Bishop Curry’s sermon for Pentecost is a great place to start, along with the links provided by the national Episcopal Church.  Click here for the sermon & resources.   We also hope to work with those of you who are interested in leading in your own ways.

God loves us with a never-failing love. So let us love one another and bear abundant fruit that lasts.

In Christ -
Reverends Shirley, Richard, and Darren

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Sermon for Morning Prayer

BY REV. RICHARD PELKEY

“Bear with one another in love, through interdependence.”

Last week, I came across an article, whose title caught my eye, America’s response to the coronavirus is the most American thing ever. If you will indulge me, I want to read from a couple of sections from it.

The article begins, “The US response to coronavirus has been consistently inconsistent. It’s also uniquely American. There are no national guidelines and no organized efforts to reopen the country beyond what measures states have taken. Public health officials say one thing while governors say another and President Donald Trump says something else entirely. We Americans are left to make up our own minds.”

“It’s a symptom of American individualism, a national value that prizes personal freedoms, limited government, and free will over all else. ‘It’s always been the orientation of America on balance, compared to other countries, to put a priority on individual freedom and liberty,’ says Andrea Campbell, a professor of political science at M.I.T. who studies the intersection of politics and public health…It’s in our DNA…And it’s informing the country’s unruly response to this pandemic.”
The article goes on to describe how this pandemic is reinforcing our partisan political divides. It reinforces American distrust of centralized authority. It’s reinforcing the current skepticism of science that has been front and center in the climate change debate.

The article continues with the impact of economics on the country’s response. The article says, “American individualism is the driving force behind another national value – Capitalism, which requires people to act in their self-interest. So, when weighing the tradeoffs of social distancing, many Americans make their decision with some capitalistic cost-benefit analysis. The cost is life as we know it – going to restaurants, shopping, visiting friends, working at an office. The benefit is our health, and the health of loved ones and strangers.”

“Making sacrifices to help a stranger may be a hard sell for some. ‘The issue with the coronavirus is that it’s not very visible,’ says Ann Keller, a University of California at Berkeley associate professor who studies pandemic responses. She continues, ‘You don’t know who you’re protecting, who’s avoided getting sick from your actions. That’s a big ask of people, especially when it appears that not everyone is doing it or that the criteria seems to be different in different parts of the country.’”
“Coronavirus isn’t something we can see rip through the country like a tornado. The benefits, too, are invisible. If coronavirus guidelines work, they may not seem like they were ever necessary, because fewer people will have gotten sick. But people will remember what they lost by making those sacrifices.”

So, what I want to do this morning is weigh this American individualism and the self-interest of capitalism against what Paul says in today’s passage from the letter to the Ephesians. “Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)

“Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” Paul sets the bar pretty high. “Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” Do it with humility, with gentleness, with patience. Bearing with one another in love, striving for unity and peace.
Bearing with one another in love. The sacrifices we’re making: staying at home, wearing masks when we go out, the shared economic costs; these are how we are currently called to bear with one another. They are signs and actions of love.

Bear with one another in love. Bear, lift up, carry the burden. This speaks of our interdependence. American society values independence. The Church values interdependence. I need you and you need me. We need one another.

This interdependence is born out of our baptism. There is no solitary Christian. In baptism, we are knit together. We’re joined. We become part of a body. Paul outlines a variety of gifts for building up the body of Christ and closes with body imagery. But perhaps what is more helpful, and explicit, for us today is from 1 Corinthians, chapter 12. Paul says, “Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body…There are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (1 Corinthians 12:14-16,20-21)

“I have no need of you,” is not in the Christian lexicon. Independence, individualism says, “I have no need of you. I can do it all on my own.” Interdependence says, “I need you. I need you.” The calling on our lives is to bear one another in love. I need you and you need me.

At the end of the article, the author makes a call for a unified response to the coronavirus, drawing on this country’s past moments of pulling together through common, or shared, sacrifice: like in the Great Depression, during World War II, or in the days following the attacks of September 11th.
I agree with this call. But I want for us, as Christians, to look to our Lord Jesus Christ as the example and source for our unified response. The more we can bear one another in love, the more we share our gifts and share the sacrifice, more we live into these practices that help us to grow and mature in our faith, the more we can witness to the world a way of being beyond individualism and self-interest. The more we can respond by imitating Christ, the more we can show the world the way of love.

+ Rev. Richard


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Invite others: "Come to church with me!"

Those of us in the Christ Church community have been blessed to experience joyful and centering worship on YouTube each week since the pandemic hit Virginia. We sing, pray, hear from the scriptures, and are moved by compelling messages from our clergy. We worship on our personal devices, and feel connected to God and others, prepared to face the week ahead.

Consider inviting others to join you for online worship. Share these graphics through social media, or text or email one to a friend.

Right now, we need God's healing Graces and to be in a beloved community as much as we ever have. Bring the comfort and power of Jesus to others!


Invite Others

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Looking for the Gifts


A WITNESS BY MELISSA REED

Have you ever experienced a rough patch in life and received this helpful advice?
“Cultivate a gratitude attitude”

“Have faith that God has a plan”

“Count your blessings”
These are good practices -- useful for keeping things in perspective. Useful to reassure ourselves that God is present and remains in control. But not particularly helpful in the thick of the moment when trying to make sense of the crisis at hand. I don’t need a platitude attitude.

Pastor Shirley has shared this with people experiencing trying times: “Look for the Gift.”

This isn’t the same as “count your blessings.” In this context, Blessings and Gifts mean different things.

Blessings refer to those good things that continue to happen, unrelated to the current crisis. Recognizing Blessings during times of crisis can ground us, provide perspective, and reassure us that not everything is going all wrong. In COVID-19, those blessings we notice might include:
  • Beautiful weather so we could be outdoors in our yards, walk the neighborhoods.
  • Stable internet connections
  • Availability of food
Gifts – in this context – refer to good things that would NOT have happened except for the ‘bad thing’ – the rough patch, the crisis. These will be very individualized because each person’s situation is different.

The beauty of "look for the Gift" is you can do it NOW, not wait to look back and say "Yep... God knew best!" It takes spiritual discipline to keep the faith in moments of crisis – to believe and not just hope God hasn't "stepped away". This is made easier when you're able to spot a few Easter eggs of grace in the moment – the Gifts. The good things that still manage to come out of the bad.

For me, COVID-19 has been especially terrifying because my father is in memory care. It has also been disappointing – Abby’s grad school graduation had to be cancelled. Adam’s plans to work at Camp Hanover changed. It has been irritating -- the job search for Michael has slowed to a crawl.

Even so, I have continued to experience God’s blessings – specifically in this time:
  • Comfortable and safe home environment to ride out the quarantine
  • Easy communications with those I couldn’t visit in person– calls, texts, emails, videochats
  • Good health
  • Employment
Finding the Gifts was a bit harder. Especially in the beginning, when anxieties were running so high. Remember our collective moment of disbelief when the quarantine was extended to June? We all had a choice to make: survive or thrive. We could close our eyes and hold our breath til June, or find a way to create a meaningful existence even when many of the things that gave meaning and purpose were shut down for quarantine. Survive or thrive. Identifying the Gifts helped me to see we don’t have to wait for COVID to pass before we can live fully again. We just have to be open to live differently. There are worthwhile things happening because of, even in spite of, COVID-19.

Finding the Gifts in no way negates or even minimizes the bad. It does help us find light in that darkness.

For me, the Gifts have included:

Focused time together with all four of us at home – watching a movie, having dinner, just hanging out in the kitchen sharing the latest memes and cute kitten videos. We had not expected to have more of this “us four” time, so this bonus time is a huge gift.
 

Talking daily walks through the neighborhood with any combination of Abby, Michael, and Adam. And the conversations we've had that might not have been otherwise.
 

Experiencing Spring – daily walks gave me the opportunity to watch the earth’s wake-up process – phlox, tulips, irises, flowering trees, azaleas – in a way I just don’t when zipping by them in my car.
 

Helping churches find ways to continue meeting for study and worship. Some of these new avenues may help shut-ins be a more active part of common life even after the COVID crisis has passed.
 

Learning new skills – I’d never created a worship video before. But as my Dad would say, “No sense being ignorant all your life…” I took what I did know how to do, and did my best to figure out the rest. It was fun, and a wonderful creative outlet.
 

Family projects of recording music content for online worship services.
A much-needed break from the world and its busy-ness.
Some Gifts are more easily recognized in hindsight.

When my mom had a sudden serious illness a while back, I was thrown in the deep end of her health crisis and figuring out Dad’s care in her absence. It was a nightmare. I confess at that time I couldn’t bring myself to look for a Gift -- what Gifts could there possibly be in this situation? But I did find them. We moved Dad temporarily to assisted living in Richmond while Mom recovered. One Gift was the extra time this gave me with Dad. Another Gift I recognized only in hindsight: The assisted living stay helped smooth the way when we needed to place Dad in memory care a year later.

In times of crisis, it can be helpful to look for the Gift. Sometimes you just have to look really hard.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Morning Prayer, Sunday, May 17

Welcome to worship at Christ Church Episcopal! Follow along with our worship guide at www.bit.ly/ccemay17


Monday, May 4, 2020

A Pastoral Message from Rev. Shirley

Friends in Christ,

I am grateful for God’s faithfulness and yours in this time of dealing with COVID-19. The vestry and I appreciate your expressions of appreciation for how we’ve been able to continue doing the ministry of Jesus together. I know this has been an emotional roller coaster for everyone. Yet, I believe we are drawing more closely together and recognizing in a new way how important our church community is and how much the world needs the enduring ministry of God.


As I mentioned in last week’s pastoral message, we will move toward re-entry and in-person gatherings and worship in step with the Diocese of Virginia. Exactly what in-person looks like and when it happens specifically will be decided in the future. However, Bishop Goff and the other regional Episcopal bishops have given us this helpful framework, so I wanted to get it to you right away. While the vestry and I are responsible for developing the specifics, and will do so in conjunction with staff and lay ministry leaders, I would like you to be thinking alongside of us. Only you know what your personal sense of caution and safety is, beyond the public health guidelines. Only you know how quickly you’re going to be ready to leave your homes and gather with others. Within our congregation, people are going to have different desires based on their own health factors.

After you read the attached framework from the regional bishops, I would appreciate hearing from you. What I’m looking for is...

·     What do you need spiritually, emotionally, and physically as you deal with your own health factors?

·     Are you accessing worship, fellowship and spiritual growth opportunities online, or is that difficult for you?

·     How urgent is your desire to re-gather when you balance it against your health considerations? Are there any practices that feel particularly important to you as you consider gathering with others (like you’ll want to wear a mask even after it’s only advised, or you’ll be inclined to not take holy communion)?

·     Finally, thinking about now, please let me or another clergyperson know if you are struggling emotionally or find yourself in a tough place financially and would to know how the church can help.

Thank you for taking the time to read my message today and that of Bishop Goff and the other bishops. They have been tremendously helpful to clergy and vestries while we have been busy pivoting the ministry of Jesus to do it differently. Despite the challenges, I hope you will feel similarly supported.

Love, always.

Reverend Shirley