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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion February 5, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion February 12, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion February 19, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…

Epiphany 4C  February 3, 2019

Jeremiah 1:4-13
Psalm 71:1-6
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Luke 4:21-30

Once again, our readings tell us God’s truth. God tells Jeremiah and us that God knew and loved us before God formed us in the womb, and God has put God’s words in our mouths. God has given us everything we need to carry out our ministry. In our gospel, our Lord tells us that God reaches out to those who are outside the household of faith. Our epistle tells the quarreling and competitive Corinthians and us that the greatest gift of all is love.

St. Paul traveled around the Mediterranean basin preaching the good news to people who were outside his original household of faith. He was called to share the love of God in Christ to the Gentiles. He planted congregations and then left them to spread the good news on their own with God’s help and Paul’s support through letters and visits.

The ministry methods of St. Paul are the foundation for what we now call Local Ministry Support Teams or mutual ministry or baptismal ministry or total ministry. Paul’s approach was the subject of an article by Roland Allen called “Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?” Roland Allen was born in England in 1868 and served as a missionary in China from 1895-1900 and then again for a short period ending in 1902. From his studies of St. Paul’s ministry, he pioneered the idea of indigenous ministry.

Back in the nineteen sixties and seventies, some of us here in Vermont had the joy and privilege of watching a film about a more contemporary example of indigenous ministry. The Rt. Rev. William Gordon, who served as Bishop of Alaska from 1948 until 1974, would fly his own plane all over that huge diocese to remote mission stations that could be reached only by air. Members of each congregation would be called to serve as local priests, deacons, members of pastoral teams, parish administrators, liturgical planners, financial teams, and any other ministries needed to carry on the ministry of Christ in that place.

Here in Vermont, the Rev. David Brown, Rector of Christ Church, Montpelier and Canon Missioner to the Northeast Kingdom Regional Ministry, helped congregations put these principles into practice.

The basic premise of a Local Ministry Support Team is that the local parish has all the gifts it needs to be the Body of Christ in that place. The members gather and prayerfully discern what ministries are needed in order carry on their congregational life and support the members of the parish. These ministries might be worship, pastoral care, administration, Christian formation (education). Then the team prayerfully discerns what roles are needed in each ministry area and  the competencies needed for these ministries.

Keeping in mind the competencies needed for each ministry, the individual members of the team discern who is called to be a priest (This person is a sacramentalist who presides at the Eucharist but does not do all he duties of a traditional priest); who is called to be a deacon, who is called to plan worship (Often this is done as a group); who is called to administrative/financial ministry, who is called to offer pastoral care. In a small parish like ours, each person may be called to several ministries. This is done by giving each person a piece of paper with the different ministries listed and each person, with prayer and thought, writing the name of the member or members they feel are called to that ministry.

The training for members of a Local Ministry Support Team takes place in their local church. Usually there is an Itinerant Priest who serves as a link between the parish and the Bishop. Currently, that function is served by the diocesan Companions.

We have one person here who has already participated in the Diocesan Study Program, which, unfortunately, was discontinued. But that gives a good start. I have a list of books which folks have read in order to educate themselves in the areas of The Holy Scriptures, Church History, Christian Theology, Christian Ethics, Contemporary Issues, Liturgy and Church Music, and Theory and Practice of Ministry. Most of you love to read, and I think if we went over the list of suggested books. many of you have already read a goodly number of those books. Many times at coffee hour, your discussions have been excellent formation.

At this point, we on the Commission on Ministry and Discernment are thinking that there are parishes that do not have to start from scratch in this process. These are parishes where there are people who are voracious readers who have already done a significant amount of formation. There are also parishes, such as Grace, where the members have the personal qualities and competencies needed for ministry.

Many of the congregations who have chosen Local Ministry Support Teams have experienced growth in numbers. New people have come in and have taken up their own ministries. The key thing it that is is a team. The members support each other.

We are at the point in the Episcopal Church in Vermont where we are  developing ways to meet parishes where they are and to form teams with the least possible numbers of hoops to jump through and the greatest respect for the learning and experience which folks already have.

I asked Shelie Richardson to come to be with us in May, thinking that weather conditions will be improving by then. She has offered May 5 and 19. May 12 is Mother’s Day. Please let me know your thoughts. I have also brought several of the Books on the current reading list for you to look at. I think Grace Church is already a Local Ministry Support Team, with each person offering his or her gifts to share God’s love inside the community of faith and beyond. May God continue to lead us and guide us. Amen.

Ash Wednesday March 1, 2017

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 103:8-14
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Lent is a time of penitence, that is, sorrow for our sins. It is a time for honest self-examination, a time to ask our Lord’s help in allowing him to transform us into the persons he calls us to be. The Greek word for this is metanoia.  We have seen him transfigured on the holy mountain, and we are deeply committed to growing into his likeness. The ashes that will soon form the sign of the cross on our foreheads have been made from the palms that we waved on Palm Sunday to welcome our King. We will go with him to the cross and we will move with him into newness of life.

In our first reading, Isaiah reminds us that if we truly love God, we will love our neighbor. We will be a people of justice; we will free our brothers and sisters from oppression. We will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and provide shelter for the homeless.

In our epistle, Paul tells us that this is the time to be reconciled to God, that is to grow as close to God as we possibly can.

In our gospel, our Lord calls us not to make an outward show of our spiritual practice, but to do an honest evaluation of our spiritual state and to follow spiritual practices that will build up treasures in heaven, that is, practices that will bring us closer to God. Our Lord also reminds us that deep and true spirituality is the source of great joy.

How do we do an honest assessment of or spiritual condition? One way is the summary of the law, “Love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourself.” Our reading from Isaiah also speaks to this.

Another guideline would be the Ten Commandments. We will be reading these each Sunday during Lent.

Another set of guidelines for self-examination and transformation are the Seven Root Sins, also called the Seven Deadly Sins, counter- balanced by the Cardinal Virtues and the Theological Virtues. These insights have come from many sources, but I especially thank David Brown, beloved mentor and former rector at Christ Church, Montpelier, now retired in Connecticut, for his wisdom and guidance.

So here we go with the Seven Root Sins, or as David used to say, “Sins I have known and loved,” and don’t we all!

First comes pride, doing it our way instead of God’s way.

Wrath, (Ira), not normal healthy anger, but holding onto a grudge, nursing it until it becomes a voracious cancer that infects everything we think and say and do.

Envy—the inability to rejoice in the blessings bestowed on others.

Greed—wanting more than we have.

Gluttony—taking more than we need.

Lust—Using other people, exploiting others for our own needs.

Sloth (acedie)—Giving in to that “I don’t care” attitude. Despair. Giving up hope.

On the positive side, we have the Cardinal Virtues.

Prudence—Kenneth Kirk defines prudence as, “The habit of referring all questions to God.” Constant communication with God. Lord, what is your will in this situation? What would you call me to do or not do?

Justice—treating everyone equally. “Respecting the dignity of every human being.”

Temperance—Balance. Like steel that has been tempered in fire and ice. Flexibility. Again, a sense of humor.

Fortitude. The grace and ability to hang in there with faith and patience on the side of God’s shalom.

And the Theological Virtues—

Faith—Total trust in God.

Hope—The ability to look at a situation in all if its brokenness and see the potential and the path for growth and healing.

Love—Accepting God’s unconditional love for everyone, including ourselves, and extending that love to others.

Always remember that Lent comes from the root word meaning “spring,” a time of growth and renewal.

In addition to all of these resources, many of us are using “Living Life Marked as Christ’s Own.”

May this Lent be full of joy and growth and healing for all of us.

Special prayers for jan’s surgery tomorrow.

Amen.