Touch-A-Truck on March 4

Join us on Saturday, March 4 at Trinity Episcopal Church 3512 Main St. at Holman! Touch-A-Truck is a fellowship opportunity that brings together three parishes to get up close and personal with a wide variety of cars and trucks from all over Houston, including fire trucks, police cars, a boat, a motorcycle, a food truck, a Metro bus, and many more. In addition to being a family-friendly, no fuss, no food, no fee event, Touch-A-Truck gives people a chance to meet first responders in a safe, positive environment.

From 10-11 am flashing lights and sirens will be put on hold for children with special needs to experience Touch-A-Truck in a calmer way. The event will continue until noon, rain or shine.

The three parishes supporting this event are Christ Church Cathedral, Trinity Episcopal Church, and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. Everyone is welcome to attend.

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Sermon Given at St. Andrew’s by The Rev. Jimmy Grace on October 9

Pentecost – Proper 23

Jeremiah 29: 1, 4-7; Psalm 66: 1-12; 2 Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 17: 11-19

October 9, 2016

The Rev. James M.L. Grace

 

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  AMEN.
In less than one month, our nation will have elected its next president, and soon thereafter at St. Andrew’s we will begin praying for our next president by name.  Whether that name is Donald or Hillary, is for the conscience of our nation to decide.   I don’t know about you, but recently I have heard many passing comments ranging from “I don’t see how she can vote for Donald Trump!” to “Is he crazy voting for Hillary Clinton?”  If you are a supporter of one candidate, the supporters of the other candidate are outsiders to you.  They are the people you don’t want to talk to because you disagree with them politically , and you don’t understand how they could possibly vote in good conscience for whatever candidate is their preference.

This ridiculing of the other – the person who disagrees with you, the person who annoys you, frustrates you – well, it is as old, if not older than, the Bible.  Ten people afflicted with a horrible skin disease see Jesus from afar, and they beg him to heal them.  Jesus does, because his ministry is one of reaching out to the outcast, of reaching across political religious boundaries because he had no use for them.  And so he heals ten people who society ignored and kept at a distance.  Out of those ten who were given a new life, a life free of crippling illness, one returns to thank Jesus.

The one who returns is a Samaritan – a foreigner, an outsider.  A Samaritan in Israel was a like a lone Clinton supporter at an enthusiastic Trump rally.  No one wanted to hear from them.  And so this former leper outcast who was on the wrong side of the religious fence, crosses it and approaches Jesus, gets down on his knees, and says “thank you.”  The only one.

A year and a half ago, St. Andrew’s started a third service called “Rhythms of Grace,” a weekly eucharistically-centered service for special needs children and adults.   Why does St. Andrew’s offer such a service?  Because in our society, individuals with physical or mental special needs are often relegated to outsider status culturally.  We are the only Episcopal Church in this Diocese that offers such a service.  As Jesus reached out to lepers, we reach out in our context, to people whose needs for community and acceptance are greater than we can imagine.

When we began the service, initially we did not have a collection taken.  The reason for this was simple – as a myself a father of a child with special needs I know all too well the daily cost of care in terms of specialized education, therapies, medical care.  I write the checks – I know what it costs.  And so I didn’t want to burden families coming to this service with already so much baggage and financial burdens with the guilt of putting some dollars in a collection plate.

But my thinking around this began to change once I heard a former priest of this Diocese and now Bishop elsewhere issue a challenging and provocative statement about the collection plate.  He said that he would never preside over a Eucharist if a collection was not taken.  When I first heard the Bishop say that, I thought it was an awful thing to say, in effect tying a dollar amount to a sacrament.  How tacky, I thought.  How insulting to a person who had nothing to put into a plate.

But then he explained his point, which was that in the Eucharist, God offers all of Him/Her self to us.  It is grace, it is mercy at its most profound.  The appropriate response to such a gift, the Bishop said, was to offer ourselves to God, to put a part of us on that altar.  That’s why the collection plates stay on the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer.  We offer a part of our selves, as God is offered to us – it is a sharing of ourself with God’s self – it is why we call it “communion” – we and God commune together.

So we put out a small wicker basket (our collection plate) at Rhythms of Grace.  I will admit, I was scared and apprehensive to do it.  I was embarrassed for the parent of a non-verbal autistic teenager to feel burdened with the responsibility for paying more money on an already strained budget where every dollar is stretched.

But something happened, and the basket began to fill with cash and check donations.  And not just one week, but every week.  The money continues to come in.  I think it is because for some of these families, Rhythms of Grace is their church community.  They drive many miles past many other churches to come here, because they are welcomed, affirmed, and loved.

And then, a parent who attends the service with her child approached Lisa Puccio with a request.  The parent wanted to know when our stewardship campaign would be, because she wanted to make a pledge to St. Andrew’s.  I think that goes down as a personal record for the first time someone has ever asked about when the Stewardship Campaign begins!  Usually the question is “When is it going to be over with?”  Our stewardship campaign begins today, and ends October 30th.  Over the next few weeks, you will hear from parishioners sharing their story in service, on videos, and on inserts in your weekly service bulletin.

Each story is powerful, and is one part of the story that you all tell about what God is doing in this parish, in your home, and most importantly, what God is doing in your heart.  AMEN.

Opportunities to Work with ROG

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Rhythms of Grace is currently looking for an intern to help with set up and coordination of our weekly service. This is a great opportunity for a college student interested in education or special needs. The intern will gain hands on experience working with special needs families in a short weekly worship service. To apply for this non-stipendiary internship contact Lisa Puccio, Coordinator of Special needs Worship at lpuccio@saecheights.org.

We are currently looking for a musician to provide music for the weekly Rhythms of Grace service, Sundays 2:00 at St. Andrew’s. This position offers a modest stipend – contact Lisa Puccio for more information

Resources & Events

“New Perspectives on Reducing Stress in Parents of Children with Developmental Disabilities”

You are cordially invited to the Evenings with Genetics seminar on MONDAY,  APRIL 11.

This seminar series is sponsored by the Dept of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.

Guest Speaker: Elisabeth M. Dykens, Ph.D., Chair and Professor, Departments of Psychology and Human Development, Psychiatry and Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University

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Dr. Dykens will discuss a program using positive psychology to help with emotions of guilt, conflict, worry and pessimism by identifying and using character strengths in new ways and practicing exercises involving gratitude, forgiveness, grace and optimism.

*Date: MONDAY,  April 11, 2016

6:30pm  Light refreshments

7:00-8:15pm  Seminar

*Location:  St. Paul’s Methodist Church, Fondren Hall,  5501 S. Main St., Houston, TX 77004

Registration Required, seminar is FREE:   http://www.bcm.edu/eveninggenetics

Or call 832-822-4182.

A New Community – One Year at St. Andrew’s

On any Sunday at St. Andrew’s, worshipers arrive for the 8:30 service to enjoy the quiet beauty of the Rite 1 liturgy, many stay and others arrive for the Education Hour or fellowship over breakfast and then individuals and families of all descriptions worship together at the 10:30 Rite 2 service. Later in the afternoon a different congregation gathers for St. Andrew’s third service of the day.

One year ago this month, St. Andrew’s welcomed Rhythms of Grace as an alternative weekly service for people of all ages and abilities who want to worship in a different way. Like a handful of other Rhythms of Grace services around the country, Rhythms of Grace in Houston had been offering monthly worship, but we had a vision of a weekly service. We had a committed group of volunteers and worshipers; we just needed a community in which to flourish. St. Andrew’s has provided that community for people who thought they would not be able to find a church home.

Many of those who come and worship with us have been pushed out of traditional services; some of the families have never worshiped together – parents, children and siblings. Others just feel more comfortable with a more informal setting and just enjoy the fun of worshiping with finger paint, play dough and bare feet. “There are people of all ages from infants to young adults having fun together,” said Jere Pfister who struggled with her own son’s learning differences. “For many years I worked in children’s liturgy but never did I experience anything like Rhythms of Grace. I am so happy when I attend the service and see my dream come true.”

Kathy Gallman and her family have been coming regularly since the move service moved to the Heights. “Rhythms of Grace has been such a blessing to our family in many ways — learning about God’s love in a warm and fun environment, we enjoy the message, the activities, the fellowship. My husband likes to go and he hasn’t attended church regularly in a long time!” said Kathy.

Perhaps you know a family who is looking for a way to worship together in a relaxed atmosphere of acceptance. We follow the traditional order of service – gathering, hearing God’s word, response to the story, sharing the Eucharist and going forth in peace. We blend all of the facets of Sunday morning into one short period of worship, formation and community. Rhythms of Grace welcomes everyone, no matter what age, what differences, what limitations. The service is every Sunday at 2 pm in the Parish Hall. To learn more, contact, Lisa Puccio at lpuccio@saecheights.org or 713-861-5596.