Saturday, October 31, 2009

A grateful heart

I cannot begin to tell you how many messages of prayer and support have come our way in the first few weeks.

If you are new to this story, here is a quick rundown:

The community worshiping at Our Saviour, Albuquerque, felt they could no longer be part of the Episcopal Church. They are now meeting elsewhere and I pray God's blessing upon them that they may follow Christ and serve faithfully as they feel led.

The Diocese of the Rio Grande suddenly found itself in possession of an empty church and church hall in the South Valley of Albuquerque, just 3.8 miles from where I live. The idea of NOT having the Episcopal Church ministering in this part of town strikes me as scandalous. As the Diocese looked for someone who might keep the doors open, I stepped in.

God is always full of surprises.

We began with two buildings, chairs in the nave, an altar, an altar book, a Gospel book, chalice, patens, and not much more. I had two days to get hosts, wine, lessons, altar linens, service booklets and a whole lot more in place. Each week we are more equipped than the week before. Other churches and individuals have chipped in to donate tables, waste baskets, frontals, a fair linen, Prayer Books, etc. Unexpected donations have come in. Supportive friends from other congregations have shown up. We are working on signage and publicity. So far the neighborhood does not know we are there and open for business but that will soon change.

Within the next few weeks we hope to have an English class for Spanish speakers. Before too long I hope to offer weekly Eucharist in Spanish. For the moment it is challenge enough to have Eucharist each Sunday, but we are doing it.

Back to where this post began. Every day some new gift, some new message, some new expression of love (or several, or many) comes in. People across the diocese, across the country, and around the world are praying for us and we are praying.

We are casting seed on many kinds of soil here, and doing so in faith.

I am incredibly grateful for each person who joins in this effort, by any means whatsoever. Thank you. And thanks be to God.


The wish list

Gracious offers of assistance continue to come in and we are blessed by the opening of so many hearts. We are currently pursuing the sign out front and hope to have that in place very soon. I am working on the gathering of resources for both worship and community ministry. Among my sundry belongings, once I dig them out, are a lectern-sized lectionary (RCL) and a Spanish altar book.

Here are some wish list items (if you don't ask, you don't receive):
  • A lectern
  • A pillar or small-surface side table on which can be placed...
  • A nice bowl for a font
  • A vacuum cleaner
  • Waste baskets (we have only one and many rooms that need them) we now have 8
  • Folding or stackable chairs for the church hall (Update: 25 are on their way)
  • The Book of Common Prayer 1979 (we now have 48)
  • Bibles for Bible study down the road
  • Spanish Bibles (ditto)
  • Musicians and instruments
  • Effective means of communication with the community
  • NEW: an iron and ironing board
  • NEW: brooms, dust pans, mops, devices for cleaning toilets

And always, always prayer that we may listen for and follow the Spirit and open our hearts to the people of the community.

I also ask your prayers for those who have felt they needed to leave the Episcopal Church, the community that once worshiped in this space. May everything they do for the reign of God be blessed, may they be channels of grace to others, may God heal anger and bitterness in all our hearts, and may we all move forward that Good News may be proclaimed by many voices and in many manners.

There is more than enough room in this part of town for every ministry God can raise up. Approximately 52,000 people with no church affiliation live in two adjoining zip codes.

Every day there are new blessings, new acts of love and support, for mission and ministry. It is only as we participate in mission and ministry (and it does not have to be our brand or flavor, I speak broadly here) in our specific corners of the world that become part of tikkun, the restoration and healing of the world.

We must act, speak, bear witness, and struggle on larger stages also but it is the close, concrete, particular acts that embody what we yearn to become.

I hope, this evening, that y'all yearn to be what we are made to be: channels of compassion, healing, justice, peace, truth, light, and love.

In the current tight economy I don't want to confront anyone with a begging bowl for this ministry. My own income is from a secular job and this is about a movement of the Spirit and the People of the South Valley and up toward the West Mesa in Albuquerque, NOT about any one priest. (I wince when loving people call this "my" church; you know what I mean, I trust.) If this is about me, I should stop right now.

We are venturing where the diocese, struggling with many larger challenges at the moment, cannot afford to make any substantial investment.

So, because some have asked, if anyone wishes to contribute, they may make checks payable to the following:
Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande

4304 Carlisle Blvd NE

Albuquerque, NM 87107
And earmark them for "Our Saviour, ABQ."

Only if you want to and can afford it, OK?

If what you can afford right now is "only" prayer, that is more precious than gold and makes a difference. Without the prayers of many this simply will not happen and I and others involved are immeasurably grateful for every prayer offered. Thank you.


Community Remembrance

This is our first press release:

The Episcopal Church of Our Saviour will draw on traditions of los Días de los Muertos as it celebrates the Feast of All Saints on Sunday, November 1. An ofrenda for the community will be in the church so that people may bring photos, names, and other remembrances of their loved ones who have gone before. Flowers, candles, and santos will join tokens of the departed as expressions of love that transcends death.

"In a society that wastes so much energy denying death we hope to acknowledge it and allow ourselves to revisit memories, feel our grief, and share our love," said the Rev. Paul E. Strid. "There is much more to celebrate this weekend than candy," he added. "We celebrate the communion of saints: past, present, and future."

Holy Eucharist will be offered at 11:00 a.m. and all are invited. Our Saviour is located at 2805 Don Felipe Road SW, just off Coors south of Gun Club.
I have just printed off photos family members and others that I wish to remember this weekend. I have also gathered a number of icons of the saints so we may have a sense of being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses as we worship.

Tomorrow I try to locate marigolds and pan de muerto (I didn't order ahead so not sure if I will succeed or not) and other items for the ofrenda and the celebration in general. Lunch with a friend then off to build the ofrenda and decorate the church. A busy day. If I locate where I last left my thurible we shall have smells and bells for this high feast. I will not make but might buy tamales. I cannot say they were a favorite food of my departed relatives but I do think they would enjoy them and we will at coffee hour.

If you are in Albuquerque or nearby it would be lovely if you joined us.

Blessed God, you make all things new: Guide us as we seek your will for a new community of Word and Sacrament, that it may be leaven for the world's bread, and wine of delight for hearts in need; a gathering strong for service and glad in praise; and a people listening and responding to your presence in their midst; through Jesus our Redeemer and steadfast companion. Amen.