Thursday, December 22, 2016

Holy Apostles: A Catholic and Episcopal joint parish

There is at least one U.S. congregation that was excited to read the article posted from Rome dated October 5, 2016, stating that Pope Francis and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury charged 19 pairs of Catholic and Anglican bishops to return to their home countries and work together to promote joint prayer, joint proclamation of the Gospel, and especially joint works of charity and justice.  The excitement was there because for the last 39 years, that has been the mission of the Church of the Holy Apostles in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Founded November 1, 1977 as a joint assembly of Roman Catholics and Episcopalians, Holy Apostles has worked diligently to promote ecumenism in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, the State of Virginia and beyond. As longtime members will tell you, “Many verbally promote ecumenism, but we live it every day, and in everything we do.”

Our vision of mission is Walking the Faith of Christian Unity. Members are reminded that Holy Apostles is a unique community of Christians who are entrusted with a vision of God’s uniting action in His people. Holy Apostle members understand they are called to a new venture in the history of the Church. Members are called to be living signs of the Church’s efforts toward organic unity and to promote ecumenical ventures among Christian bodies. They see themselves called to share the gifts of ministry with one another and to be channels of God’s love in the world through ecumenical involvement with other Christians.

Holy Apostles members are committed to build community by discovering the wants and needs of those of other traditions of Christian faith through calling members to share their gifts freely and to grow – by nurturing their faith and tradition and by celebrating renewed life together in worship and fellowship. Members of Holy Apostles commit themselves to spread the Good News of our life in Jesus Christ, who calls us into oneness.

This vision is expressed mainly through a mission of ecumenism, which includes participation in local efforts, in the activities of LARCUM (the acronym for the Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and United Methodist Covenant – signed by all the bishops of Virginia from the four traditions) and in national offerings.  Holy Apostles was also an early member of the local organization originally called CUMLEGO (Catholic, United Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian and Greek Orthodox), which is now called the Christian Unity Network and seeks an expanded platform for ecumenical offerings. The vision extends to interfaith ventures as well.

The vision is expressed locally especially through social justice ministry outreach, which includes utility assistance and food distribution support from Holy Apostles’ own food pantry. The church also serves as a pick-up site for local residents from a mobile food pantry sponsored by the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia.  The community supports and houses homeless families for a week during the summer while joining a nearby larger Presbyterian parish in their winter support of the homeless.  This is in addition to collecting diapers, funding special needs, supporting “pennies for prescriptions,” school supply drives, and Lenten Rice Bowl efforts (where proceeds go evenly to the Catholic Relief Agency and the Episcopal Relief and Development Relief Agency).

Church of the Holy Apostles has been highly honored for upholding Christian unity and dialogue with other faith groups. In July 2006 the American Association of Interchurch Families presented the community with the Ecumenical Vision Award.  The Virginia Council of Churches bestowed the Faith in Action Award in May 2007. In 2009 Holy Apostles was given the Institutional Award by The Rumi Forum, a Washington, D.C. faith-based group founded in 1999 to foster interfaith and intercultural dialogue.

From the beginning, the founding Episcopal and Roman Catholic co-pastors insisted that everything would be handled equally between the two traditions. The governance is called the Vestry Council—“Vestry” from the Episcopal model and “Council” from the Roman Catholic parish council model. The Vestry Council is run by a Warden (Episcopal) and a President (Roman Catholic).  There are six members of each denomination on the Vestry Council and terms are staggered so an equal number of Episcopalians and Catholics are up for election each year, to serve three year terms.  A Catholic member and an Episcopal member serve as liaisons to the major committees, which in turn, have committee co-chairs of one Catholic and one Episcopalian. The Sunday Eucharistic Services are held sequentially, but with little time lost between services. Many of the attendees are interchurch families. Most individuals and families who attend worship stay for both services.  An offering is taken up at both services, but the amount collected is for the support of the whole community, not segregated based on the amount collected at each service.
Holy Apostles currently has an interim Episcopal Co-pastor (half-time), a Catholic Chaplain (celebrating Mass on Sundays) and a Catholic deacon (quarter-time) serving as Senior Pastoral Associate. Although the clergy and congregation are predominately from the two traditions, the pastoral team takes a holistic approach to ministering to the entire congregation. Since we have some restraints imposed regarding the Eucharist, we plan other joint, non-Eucharistic worship services such as healing services, Thanksgiving services, an Advent Festival of Lessons and Carols, and other various occasions, providing us with opportunities to worship and pray in unity.

In addition to Holy Apostles being known for its ecumenical and social outreach, it also has an exceptionally strong adult faith formation program that is well attended following Sunday services.  The Adult Faith Formation Committee also brings in nationally known speakers from a variety of backgrounds and invites those from other churches to attend. 

Holy Apostles is documenting its journey in its monthly newsletter entitled ARChives. It is a journey that has had its up and downs, but a journey worth taking!  Members of Holy Apostles choose love over division, unity over separation, and Christ above all things.
Sanctuary view of the two altars and ambo
 Deacon Gary Harmeyer, Episcopal priest the Rev. Alan Mead, Catholic priest Father Rene Castillo

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's Christmas message

"This child came to show us how to change the world," Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry said in his Christmas Message 2016. "So this Christmas, make room for Him to change us. This Christmas help us change the world."

Click here to watch Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's Christmas message. Click here to read his message (available in English and Spanish).

YASC missionary from Southern Virginia featured in Episcopal Church video

The December 8 "Thursdays at 2" video featured Andy Russell, a Young Adult Service Corps volunteer from Bruton Parish, Williamsburg, who shared his experience in Tanzania. The experience, he says, helped him to grow and expand his outlook on life. Watch it here.

"Thursdays at 2" is a weekly preview of Episcopal Church innovative ministries. Every Thursday at 2 p.m. Eastern, a new video is posted on the Episcopal Church's Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Diocesan Comptroller Nancy James to retire

Diocesan Comptroller Nancy James will retire at the end of this year. Her last day in the office will be Dec. 22. Nancy has served the Diocese for 11 years. Her tenure is notable not only for the excellence of her work and her passion for stewardship, but also for the practical help she provided to parish treasurers and administrators, as well as hosting an annual training conference and a monthly lunch group. Nancy also put in place audit programs that were accessible and affordable for smaller churches.

Volunteers needed to help with Council elections

One of the significant duties of our annual council is the election of members to various committees, boards, and delegations. This year's election include the selection of deputies to the 2018 General Convention. Choosing deputies to the General Convention happens once every three years, and usually has a number of people running for these important positions.
Of the many people who work behind the scenes at council, the tellers function throughout the convention to make the elections possible. This year, because of the need to choose General Convention Deputies, more tellers are needed than normal. If you are interested in helping with this important task please contact the Rev. Bob Gay, 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music to present options on possible prayer book revision

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) plans to present the 2018 General Convention with four options regarding the possible revision of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, said the Rev. Devon Anderson, commission chair. "We want to give General Convention everything it needs to give the SCLM very detailed direction and sufficient funding to follow that direction," Anderson said. "We want to call the church to a collective discernment that leads to a decision." Click here to continue reading.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Imputed income for life insurance available now

Imputed Income for life insurance for 2016 is now available. The IRS allows employees $50,000 of employer-paid life insurance without any tax implications. Life insurance in excess of $50,000 has a taxable value, and that value must be added to the employee's W2. For clergy and lay employees enrolled in the defined pension and life insurance plans at CPG, those figures can be obtained by contacting Nancy James, or 757-213-3386.

Parochial Report
In a few days you will receive by mail a packet from the national church with instructions for completing your 2016 parochial report. You should receive it no later than Monday, December 12.  It is important to the national church, as well as to the Diocese, that you complete and file it on time (by March 1, 2017), as we get very important data from the reports. Online filing will begin January 2, 2017.  
Journal Information Form and Salary Survey
Journal information form and salary survey will be emailed in early January.

Clergy transitions

The Rev. William Queen, Jr. will begin as Interim Rector at Christ & Grace, Petersburg on December 1, 2016.

Boys Home quilt raffle

Boys Home of Virginia is very excited to raffle this beautiful quilt made by Donnie Wheatley's sister, Phyllis Gibson. Phyllis is a very talented quilter and she has made it a tradition to donate handmade quilts to Boys Home each year for us to raffle. Phyllis and her friends Alan and Nancy Kontak also work hard each year to make sure every boy has a handmade quilt on their bed. We're so thankful for the dedication Phyllis shows by blessing Boys Home and the boys with her talents.
The quilt we're raffling this year is 96" x 92" and is a professionally quilted "Charleston Romance" pattern quilt. Tickets are $5 for 1 ticket or $45 for 10 tickets. We will draw the winner on March 17, 2017. All proceeds will go to Religious Life at Boys Home.
Please share this raffle with your friends, coworkers, family, church family, and whoever else you feel might be interested buying a ticket to win this quilt!

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on the news from Standing Rock

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a statement on Dec. 5 on the news concerning the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation:

"This morning, the sun ascended over the Great Plains of our nation and hope truly dawned anew. After months of courageously and peacefully working to prevent the laying of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which posed potential danger to the water supply of the people of the Sioux Nation and transgressed their sacred burial grounds, the water protectors on Standing Rock have won a notable victory. Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced their decision to deny an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline's construction across the sacred land and water of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and this long-awaited announcement is cause for joyful celebration and thanks." Click here to continue reading.

Evangelism Matters conference video available online

On-demand video recordings of the Evangelism Matters, an Episcopal Church Evangelism Conference held November 18-19 in Dallas, TX, are available for viewing at Evangelism Matters is ideal for congregational discussion, adult forums, youth groups, and other Episcopal gatherings-for anyone who would like to learn more about evangelism and available resources to share our faith. The churchwide event was co-sponsored by Forward Movement and the Presiding Bishop's Office, and was hosted by the Diocese of Dallas and Church of the Transfiguration, Dallas, TX where the conference was held.

United Thank Offering Grant applications now accepted

The focus for the 2017 United Thank Offering grants is The Jesus Movement - evangelism, reconciliation, and following Jesus' way of creating loving, liberating, and life-giving relationships with God, each other, and all creation. United Thank Offering grants are awarded for projects that address human needs and help alleviate poverty, both domestically and internationally in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The funds are not permitted for the continuation of ongoing ministries. Detailed guidelines and application are here.

IMPORTANT: The grant deadline is March 3. This is the deadline for each Diocese to submit its selected grant application. Individual applications MUST be submitted to the Bishop's office no later than February 17 for consideration.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Advent: United Thank Offering puts it all together

Yes, it really happened. It was the day after Halloween, and I had gone to a nearby mega-pharmacy to get a memory card for my camera so that I could take some pictures of our upcoming family gathering on Thanksgiving.  As I was checking out (here it comes), the clerk asked me, "You all ready for Christmas?"  Wow! 

Now I realize that several weeks beforehand, this employee had been pressed into service by having to clear out the seasonal aisle and then restock it chockful with Christmas crap (yeah I said it, and I meant it). No doubt, as well, he had put up that hideous plastic tree with its blinking lights I saw in the front of the store. 

Of course, I had been asked that question many times before, but never, ever before Thanksgiving. And, in essence, all this innocent, minimum wage, guy meant by asking "You all ready for Christmas" was whether I had amassed a sufficient amount of stuff from the Christmas seasonal aisles around town to make a respectable showing that wouldn’t disappoint the expectations of my family. 
I'll get back to it, but that is the first question, "Are you ready for Christmas?”  Here's the second. As a kid in school, without fail, the first question we, children and teachers alike, asked one another when we returned from the winter break was, "What did you get for Christmas?"  Again, the question was innocent and intended only to offer us the opportunity to share how happy we were with our Christmas loot. 

Advent this year is a full four weeks long. Thus, it provides us with ample time to slowly and quietly prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of the love of Christ. As a strong supporter of The United Thank Offering, I suggest that reflecting on these two questions, from a UTO perspective, can help make our Advent journey one of deeper meaning and fulfillment. 
Throughout its 127 years, UTO has been a beacon of hope in our church, our country, and throughout the world. And from its inception UTO has always looked outward rather than inward. And so, from a UTO perspective, "Are you all ready for Christmas?" is not about our readiness for own family Christmas "busy-ness," but about our readiness to enter into the business of sharing the love of our Incarnate God with the human family -- especially those who need a helping hand.

And, of course the question, "What did you get for Christmas?" from a UTO perspective would be completely turned on its head to ask instead, "What did you give for Christmas?" And that means giving, not from our excess, but sacrificially from our sustenance; and giving not just a Christmas tie to Uncle Albert, but giving to our neighbors in need wherever they may be.  As the Prayer of St. Francis puts it, "… it is in giving that we receive....”
As we travel this Advent road that leads to Christmas, the spirit of our United Thank Offering helps light the way by putting together those two questions, so that now they become one:  "Are you ready to give this Christmas?"