Grace@Home

Grace Episcopal Church has suspended all in-person campus events, activities, and worship services until further notice. Please visit our Grace@Home page to see ways we are staying connected to one another, to Grace, and to God during the days ahead.

Grace@Home

 

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422 Brenau Avenue, Gainesville, GA 30501
770-536-0126

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From the Clergy

Date Posted: March 4, 2020

a Pastoral Statement for Church and School

Dear friends,

Last week, as we celebrated Ash Wednesday and stepped into this Season of Lent, Cynthia and I were having lunch (yes, on Ash Wednesday). She turned to me and said, “I don’t think we have been in this part of the forest before.” I don’t know about you, but this Lent has felt unlike any other Lent we have experienced. There is so much uncertainty and anxiety, and I don’t flippantly say that Lent invites us to reflect deeply on both the constraints of our human condition and the grace of God. Our parish is experiencing concerns for the virus, financial market turmoil, family grief, construction delays, and basic pressures of this time of year.

To that end, I wanted to send this note out to help ground us as we venture together through the forest we find ourselves in. My practice of prayer is essential in my life as your rector, and I invite us to prayerfully reflect on our shared life as a community during these days. Below you will find a series of updates for our entire Grace Community: church and school, pastoral and financial components, and administrative and liturgical spheres. 

  • For those in our Children of Grace Preschool, please know that we are managing the space accordingly with cleaning and by following the CDC guidelines that are informing our county and city schools. We are working diligently to hold this situation appropriately with any pertinent updates we receive from both the diocese and school systems. Should we need to dismiss school, we will be in touch with you immediately with updates. For information about COVID-19 from the CDC, you can click HERE.
  • For those who have wondered about the community’s financial health, we have received updates from our financial advisors that are deeply pastoral and honest about our limits to control the situation. At the end of the day, we are “in this together,” a reality that is both financial and deeply spiritual, I think. 
  • For those who are planning on participating in the June pilgrimage to England, we are in constant contact with our travel coordinator. They have assured us that they are managing our details as best as they can, with hopes that our trip is not affected in any way. We will be in touch with you to share any updates we receive from them. 
  • For those who attend our Sunday morning Eucharists and Wednesday services, I want to assure you that we are following precautions with the preparation for Holy Communion. In times like these, we see how our sacraments truly are physical embodiments! Bread and wine, consumed together in our services. As I shared last Sunday, the wider Christian church has always stressed that “communion in one kind is considered communion in both kinds,” meaning taking either the bread or the wine is fully participating in Holy Communion.

    As for passing the peace, if it helps alleviate anxiety, by all means we can bow to one another and speak and share God’s love rather than hugging and shaking hands.

    Above all, let me give you permission (if you need it) to discern what feels best for you in your life situation-mindful of our respective health concerns, especially. If you want to read an article from Episcopal Relief and Development shared by Bishop Wright, you can click HERE to explore more.
  • For those who have wondered about how these concerns may impede pastoral visitations, Cynthia and I are working with the entire team to develop respectful alternatives. We want to be present to you in the way you need and expect, and we want to value everyone’s concerns around health and vulnerability. So, let’s just give ourselves permission to be honest. There is no need for guilt or shame to share our concerns around contact in times of illness. That honesty, I believe, only nurtures compassion.

Please be assured that I will be in touch with any updates. Above all, I would ask us to remain prayerful and seek-as always-to be grounded in God’s indwelling presence in our lives. The Spirit seeks our health and wholeness, both as persons and as a spiritual community-indeed, as the entire world.

To close, I actually commend to you this beautiful musical reflection by Josh Groban and Angie Stone, as they sing “The Prayer.” This has long been one of my favorites, and perhaps it offers you comfort on this day. The opening words are:

I pray you’ll be our eyes
And watch us as we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don’t know.

God’s blessings be with you, always,

The Rev. Dr. Stuart Higginbotham
Rector