18 December 2017
It is Advent once again and Christmas will soon be upon us. In our Christian tradition, we often speak of Advent in the context of three comings of Christ. Some refer to the incarnation, the coming of Christ in the flesh in Bethlehem as their central remembrance in Advent. Others speak more metaphorically about the coming of Christ into our hearts, transforming us and urging us on as Christ’s people. Yet others refer to Christ coming in glory at the end of times.
When life gets difficult I think we often find ourselves struggling to experience Christ in any of the three ways. We may have received a difficult medical diagnosis, we may be lonely having lost a loved one in the recent past, we may have lost a job or find ourselves struggling with heavy financial burdens, or we may find ourselves facing the realities of broken relationships. In those moments, it can be hard to see Christ present in our lives. The daily news about what many of us feel is a broken political system, our anxieties about the potential threat of war, or our frustration over what may feel like never-ending violence both within this country as well as around the globe, may make it difficult for us to be prepared for Christ to come among us this Advent, or make it a struggle to accept . . . even dare to believe . . . that Christ will come.
As John the Baptist reminds us, though, preparing the way of the Lord, we must. So I encourage everyone to take the time to be with family, to cherish time baking cookies with your children and grandchildren, donate a little more than you usually do to the Food Bank, or make a Christmas offering to the church as a way of preparing yourself for the coming of Christ. All of these can help us get into the holiday spirit and open us to experience God’s love. I also encourage you to take advantage of the many opportunities to worship this holiday season to help you experience the anticipation of the coming of Christ and remind you of Christ’s presence in your daily life.
- Blue Christmas, Bath United Methodist Church, 340 Oak Grove Ave, Thursday, 21 December, 6:30 PM
- Advent 4, Sunday, 24 December, 9:00 AM, Grace Church
- Christmas Eve, Sunday, 24 December 4:00 PM Children’s Service, 9:00 PM, Traditional
- Christmas, Monday, 25 December, 10:00 AM (in the Chapel)
Whatever you do this holiday season, I encourage you to always remember that God did come among us that first Christmas. And no matter where you are in life, remember that God came in the most unlikely of places. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, God continues to be present in our lives, and we have every reason to believe that we can trust in the hope that God will come again.
I wish you a joyous and celebratory Christmas and a happy and grace-filled new year!
Your brother in Christ,
6 October 2017
As I write this note I’m reminded of the Saturday I packed my car with altar supplies, vestments, service bulletins, and reception food for the Gatcomb reaffirmation of marriage vows ceremony at the Popham Chapel. Parishioners helped with arrangements, made various contributions to the celebration, provided worship leadership, and attended the service. That, to me, is what a church community is all about. Coming together to be “community” when it matters most. I invite you to ponder what that kind of community means to you, and how that is reflected in your stewardship in support of the community we know as Grace Church.
In the church the two primary ways in which we tend to talk about stewardship have to do with caring for God’s creation and giving back to God from the bounty of all that God has given us. Ultimately, it involves teaching ourselves how to create a life built upon the notion that all that we have is a gift from God. This includes teaching the holy habits of keeping Sabbath and tithing and the concept that giving regularly of our time, talent, and treasure to God’s work on this earth is as much a spiritual practice as are prayer and worship.
We Mainers know about the blessings of creation … the beautiful sunrises and sunsets, the life-giving nature of water, and the beauty of mountains, forests, beaches and the swells of the sea. While we may not all agree on issues related to climate changes, their causes, or possible solutions, I suspect we all can agree that the beauty of God’s creation all around us, the gift we’ve been given, is worth caring for and saving.
Similarly, Grace Church reflects many blessings. And, again, while we may not all agree on the specifics, I think we can all agree that something about community … about the Grace Church community, specifically … is important to us and worth maintaining and caring for. To be able to give back from the abundance we’ve received, though, it’s helpful to first take stock of our blessings. We all have our own assorted blessings, but collectively we have many here at Grace Church. We have a great deal of knowledge, wisdom, skill, and talent. We see those talents exhibited in our worship, in the care provided in Eucharistic and pastoral visits, in church events, children’s programs and around the building. Flowers have been sold, food and clothing donated, and events and activities organized. Updates have been made to our building to improve our heating system, our sound system has been replaced, the offices have been repainted, and our library restored. Dead trees have been removed, infected trees taken down, and work has been done in care of our Memorial Garden.
Our stewardship of the planet often involves making decisions about how we’ll live our lives reflective of our baptismal call to be good stewards of God’s creation. Our stewardship of the church involves participating, volunteering, and providing the resources necessary to be Grace Church. In the coming days and weeks, I encourage you to reflect on what Grace Church means to you, the blessings you see around you in the life of the church, and prayerfully consider the ways in which God is calling you to follow Jesus.
Yours in Christ,
I know you join me in praying for all of the people impacted by the hurricanes. But I’m equally confident that many of you are feeling powerless and wondering what you might be able to do to help. While we may not all be able to volunteer and physically go to Texas to help with emergency services, there are ways we can help from here to assist with needed medical supplies, food and water.
If you’re looking for a way to help, I encourage you to consider making a donation to Episcopal Relief & Development, a relief and development agency that addresses urgent and on-going needs on behalf of The Episcopal Church.
They are accepting online donations at … Hurricane Relief Fund
Whether or not you make a donation, please keep praying. Everyone impacted by the hurricane is going to need all the prayers they can get in the coming days and weeks as they learn of the loss of loved ones, face the traumatic reality of their losses, and begin the arduous task of rebuilding.
Your brother in Christ,
11 November 2016 – a Veteran’s Day Reflection
As we remember those who have offered themselves in service and made sacrifices for their country on this Veteran’s Day I find myself thinking about Mildred (McAfee) Horton, our neighbor when my family lived in Randolph, New Hampshire, and our church colleague in the Gorham Congregational Church.
I guess you could say Mildred grew up in a religious household; her father was the Rev. Dr. Cleland McAfee, a leading theologian and activist in the Presbyterian Church. Her parents ensured that she received a good education including a degree from Vassar where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1920. In 1934 she became dean of women at Oberlin College and in 1936 was named the seventh president of Wellesley College.
In our many conversations Mildred shared receiving a call in 1942 from Eleanor Roosevelt. The war effort needed someone to organize and lead a women’s auxiliary. It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone that the traditionalist congressmen of the time feared for “the future of the family and Western civilization” by calling women into service. But their fears were allayed when Mildred was appointed as the new director of the U.S. Women’s Reserve and the special assistant to the director of the Bureau of Personnel given her professional style and gentle spirit. She was sworn in at the rank of lieutenant commander in August 1942, a service attended by both the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, and the chief of Naval Operations, Ernest King.
Mildred spent the war years touring the country, inspecting facilities and making speeches appealing to parents to allow their daughters to join the WAVES in the name of patriotism so that they could release a man for sea duty. In all 150,000 women joined; at the peak there were 86,300 WAVES. In November 1943, Mildred was promoted to captain. One of her claims to fame as the Director of the WAVES was to support the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, in forcing the Navy to accept a few dozen black WAVES. In March 1945, Mildred’s portrait appeared on the cover of Time magazine.
Mildred returned to Wellesley in 1945 and in August of that year married the Reverend Douglas Horton who later became the dean of the Harvard Divinity School. You may also know that he was the religious leader who facilitated the creation of what became known as the United Church of Christ (UCC).
In her retirement speech when she left Wellesley, Mildred denounced the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which had demanded the reading lists for all social science courses at 107 elite colleges. She said its action was one of the symptoms of “the fear which permeates our modern age” (New York Times, 14 June 1949). When President Dwight Eisenhower appointed her to a UN commission in 1953, HUAC’s friends had their revenge by mysteriously losing the paperwork in the State Department.
After retirement, Mrs. Horton was active in charitable and educational projects in Boston, as well as national and international church activities. She also served as a vice president of the National Council of Churches. In a major breakthrough for women, leading New York corporations added her to their boards, including the New York Life Insurance Company, Radio Corporation of America, and National Broadcasting Company. When her husband retired from Harvard in 1959, they settled in Randolph, New Hampshire, and started a retreat center which is where I attended summer camp and also where my church youth group went on winter retreats. She later served as a long-standing trustee of the University of New Hampshire, becoming the first woman to chair its board.
Like the leaders of other women’s services, Mildred McAfee Horton had an ambiguous relationship with the military. She repeatedly characterized the navy as “a man’s world” and expressed relief when it shut down its training facilities at Wellesley. On the other hand, patriotic duty was important to her. In February 1951 when American forces were in retreat in the Korean War, she called for drafting women for noncombat roles. She criticized the “folly of a national policy of discussing manpower in a national emergency as though it were only male power,” complaining that such an attitude “put women in the category of a national luxury instead of a national asset.” She argued that “the skills needed behind the fighting lines of all the armed services are not distributed on sex lines. They are shared by men and women” (New York Times, 11 Feb. 1951). It was the women serving in the field, not at headquarters, who made an impression on key military leaders such as Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley. After the war, they teamed up with the senator Margaret Chase Smith to secure a permanent place for women in the U.S. military.
We owe Mildred McAfee Horton a major debt of gratitude not only for her service and leadership during WWII, but for her academic leadership, her challenge to traditional male models of authority in society, and to a deep spiritual devotion that led her to work for justice and become a major contributor to society.
Mildred, we remember you on this Veteran’s Day and thank you for all of your effort and perseverance to make this world a better place.
*sources include the American National Biography, Naval History & Heritage Command, www.military.com/navy, Wikipedia, and family.