A Collect for Peace

O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Musings from the Pews

The prayer book cautions us: “From envy, hatred and malice, and all uncharitableness, Good Lord, deliver us.” I think we need to add a fifth entry: despair. As resurrection people, we are called upon to remain hopeful, to look for opportunities to provide others with reason for hope and to rely on the promises of the faith “Lo, I am with you always, til the close of the age.”

Wisdom from the Poets

To be of use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.


By Marge Piercy

The church is not just the building, it’s the people. It’s not just the gathering, it’s also the scattering. – John Wimber

3/13/20

Parishioners,

As one of your wardens and a physician, I am writing this letter to you to aid Reverend Marjorie who is fielding other calls and concerns currently. As all of you are aware we are in the midst of a Public Health Crisis with COVID-19.  Due to the rate that the virus is transmitted to others we must act quickly but are not making the decision lightly.

Reverend Marjorie, Christopher Messier and I met earlier this week and all received an email from Bishop Curry earlier this week. Planning and Finance Team met yesterday, We then had a Zoom meeting last night with Bishop Rob. Things are very fluid around this – changing frequently, sometimes several times in a day. I am aware this can be confusing and frightening. We are not making the decisions out of fear but out of civic duty to help others.

You may have now seen the letter from Bishop Rob about canceling church services. I know this has probably never occurred in the history of our church as you know it – nor as I know it. As a physician, I am aware of the epidemiology of this virus and what we are trying to accomplish with all these cancellations (flatten the curve, the more things are closed – the flatter the curve and longer to peak). (schools, churches, sports, Broadway, etc.). I also know that by canceling sooner, we can slow the rate of infection – and hopefully not overwhelm our medical system as Italy is (calling doctors out of retirement, rationing care), or China – (who built 2 hospitals in 1-2 weeks to help with this).

Our goal is to protect the most vulnerable with in the parish and visitors. I am sure some of you will become infected. The Human Resources team met this morning and tried to apply the epidemiology of this situation to our church specifically. We do not have the ability to set up a hand-washing station, there is not hand sanitizer to be found at this point. We do ask people to stay home if they are ill. No physical touch with other parishioners – handshaking/hugs/etc – as that is how this is spread.  and we must maintain a 4.5-6 foot space between people.

For now we are canceling worship services effective immediately. We don’t know how long this will be in effect – may be 2-3 weeks, may be longer, as above -it is a fluid situation that changes frequently. The President is speaking at 3 today. That may make this change yet again.

We understand many people are being effected not only from a health standpoint with this, but also economically and the church will feel a financial effect of this as well. We resolve to take care of our staff if they need to stay home due to illness or take care of family due to illness. We are also looking at the effect if the schools close – on the Grace House tenants.

Other groups that utilize our space – AA, NA, etc – will need to be made aware of changes to the process, no food / drinks can be served open style.

We will communicate more with you on other ways we can interact – be it Facebook, phone calls, Texting, letters… but that will probably be next week.

For now – please follow the other notes in Bishop Rob’s email – and pray without ceasing and in this time of Lenten fasting.  Remember what you can do:

1) stay home if you are sick
2) hand washing for 20 seconds or more
3) cough or sneeze into your elbow
4) maintain 4.5-6 feet from other people

Amy Brumfield MD and Warden

If you want more information on COVID-19

March 13, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

Today, after consulting with clergy, lay leaders, public health officials and fellow bishops, I ask that each of our congregations gather this coming Sunday as a Day of Preparation for a Fast from physically gathered, large group worship until April 5, the Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday. We pray that this time of abstaining from public worship will not extend beyond this, but the circumstances relating to the COVID-19 outbreak may dictate otherwise.

The power of Christianity is found in its astonishing capacity to turn the worse news into Good News. This is the message of the Cross after all: a means of humiliation, degradation and death becomes the means of Life. Now, even as we contemplate and prepare for a time of physical distance, I am now convinced that it is for such a time as this that all of our talk in the past years about how we can actually be the Body of Christ in the world can happen in even more liberating and healthful ways. Now is an urgent time when we, instead of looking out only for ourselves alone, can reach out in love, albeit by phone or digitally, or in small and hygienic groups with news of faith, hope and love and with spiritual companionship.

As an Episcopal bishop, I cannot supersede the canonical authority a local rector may have making available the sacraments and worship of the Church. However, our canons clearly did not foresee the public health emergency we now face. What seemed even a week ago as a safe distance between those who have been infected by the COVID-19 virus and our own population is now rapidly shrinking.  Therefore, I am calling upon us to act in solidarity with one another to suspend our in-person public worship, beginning the week of March 17 th .

I sincerely and faithfully urge us all to see this peculiar time not as a catastrophe that instills fear, suspicion or shame among us, but as a spiritual fast and a civic duty, the reclaiming of a venerable and powerful spiritual tradition through which, like Jesus in the wilderness, we are called to renew our trust and our awareness of how God is blessing us, yes, blessing us, in this season of abstinence from physical touch and even, for a time, from corporate public worship. I believe that the church’s ongoing work to be reinvented, strengthened and renewed will be accelerated and deepened during this time. Heartily, I pray that we can share an Easter Communion like none other we have experienced in our lifetimes, when we can come together after the wave of infection passes.

There is precedence for this. In November 1940, St. Michael’s Cathedral in Coventry, England was destroyed by bombing during the German bombing invasion. Suddenly finding itself without its historic gothic building, the congregation formed small ‘foyer’ groups in their homes to continue to pray and care for one another. The Fellowship of Reconciliation, an international movement of peace and forgiveness, remains a tribute to the power of God’s love to turn horrible adversity into Gospel life.

It is now incumbent upon us to show Christ’s love and compassion for our neighbor and ourselves by practicing physical distancing (a preferable phrase to “social distancing” we’ve heard so much about.) Such respect for our physical space to lessen infection is how we can display our love for one another, even as we are bound together in the Body of Christ.

This Sunday, I urge our congregations to offer special prayers as we prepare for a suspension of public worship until at least April 5. If you have not already done so, please use the coming Sunday and the days after to create phone trees and form prayer partners by which you can stay in closer touch during this time. As we are being strongly discouraged by health officials to assemble in larger groups, let us be creative about forming smaller groups that allow sufficient physical space between you (the doctors recommend 4-6 feet or two arm spans), share bible readings and prayers. We can make good use of technology such as Zoom. Some congregations have excellent live-streaming of their worship services and we will list the links on the diocesan webpage dedicated to the Church’s response to this health crisis:

www.nhepiscopal.org/covid19

I plan to stream worship services from here, our humble Chapel of All Angels in Diocesan House, beginning next week. We will need to make new provisions for those who have limited or no access to digital technology so that our siblings in Christ will not find themselves more isolated in this time. You can expect more updates and sharing as we journey together in this unusual Lenten period, a Lent that will lead us, God willing, to a glorious celebration of praise and thanksgiving for our Lord’s emergence from the tomb on Easter Morning! Of course, we cannot predict when this current crisis will abate, but this is my prayer today.

In the meantime, I close with my usual blessing, a blessing that seems even more apt now than at any time before.

Live without fear.
Your Creator has made you holy,
has always protected you
and loves you with a power and a presence
that is stronger than death.
And the blessing of Almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among us now, this day,
and forever more.

Faithfully Yours in the Risen Christ,

+Rob

The Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, Bishop

Update 3/12/20: because of the recent expansion of concern regarding COVID-19, to cancel the Saint Patrick’s Corned Beef supper scheduled for this coming Saturday night and fast from having coffee hour on Sundays for now in the spirit of Lent.  

St. Patrick’ Day Corned Beef Supper Saturday, March 14th @6:00Tickets are now available and seating is limited!!

Tickets are $8.00 per person in advance (with a max of $24 per family with school-age children. Tickets –if available –are $10.00 per person the door (with a max of $30 per family).

Please see Nancy Johnson for tickets; Teddi McIntosh or Nancy-Ann Feren (at 8:00 service)

Find the Spirit of the Season at Grace Episcopal Church’s
Service of Lesson and Carols
Offering from Annual Event to Benefit FIT-NH

(Manchester, NH) – On Sunday, December 15, at 4:30 PM, Grace Episcopal Church will offer its annual service of Lessons and Carols. This exquisite event recounts the miraculous story of Christmas through Old and New Testament readings, prayers, carols, choir anthems and organ music. The event will be held in the historic sanctuary located at 106 Lowell Street in Manchester.

This year, in respect for the savior’s humble and austere beginnings, the freewill offering collected at the service will be donated to Families in Transition-New Horizons. “As we celebrate the beautiful miracle of Christ’s birth, we are also called to remember that we are all God’s children,” says Grace Church Rector the Rev. Marjorie Gerbracht. “We are obliged to share the warmth of the season’s spirit to our brothers and sisters in need.”

The service of Lessons and Carols is modeled after a celebration first offered by the King’s College Choir at England’s Cambridge University in 1918 and still broadcast annually on the BBC. The Grace Episcopal Church Lessons & Carols features seven lessons and familiar Christmas Carols such as “Once in royal David’s city”, ‘Away in a manger”, “We three Kings” and “The first Nowell”. The acclaimed Grace Church Choir, with Director Mark Cleveland, will lead the congregation in song. Grace Church Organist Kenneth Grinnell will feature the complete “Variations on a Noël” by Marcel Dupré on the church’s custom built pipe organ.

The service of Lessons and Carols is free and open to all. Guests are also invited to stay afterwards for a festive reception held in the Great Hall.

Come find the spirit of the season and let that spirit—and the music—move you!