Sunday, October 06, 2013

“Give Us More Faith”

Sermon on Proper 22, Year C, given October 6 2013 by Ken Lyon at Grace Episcopal Church, Cincinnati OH.

Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Hebrew Scripture: Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4

The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.
O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?
Or cry to you "Violence!" and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous--therefore judgment comes forth perverted.

I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.
Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.
Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.

Psalm 37:1-10 Page 633, BCP

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; *do not be jealous of those who do wrong.
For they shall soon wither like the grass, *and like the green grass fade away.
Put your trust in the LORD and do good; *dwell in the land and feed on its riches.
Take delight in the LORD, *and he shall give you your heart's desire.
Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him, *and he will bring it to pass.
He will make your righteousness as clear as the light *and your just dealing as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD *and wait patiently for him.
Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers, *the one who succeeds in evil schemes.
Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; *do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.
For evildoers shall be cut off, *but those who wait upon the LORD shall possess the land.

The Epistle: 2 Timothy 1:1-14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my beloved child:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am grateful to God--whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did--when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

The Gospel: Luke 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.

"Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table'? Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"

The Sermon

We humans are never satisfied! Whatever the situation is, it’s not what it should be, and we want it fixed, and we want it fixed now!

To paraphrase the prophet Habakkuk in today’s Old Testament lesson.

O Lord, how long must I cry for help. Why aren’t you listening? Violence threatens, and you will not save. Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. The law is flouted; justice never prevails. The wicked gang up on the righteous, and the truth gets twisted.

Habakkuk shouts to God: "What are you going to do about this!" And he stations himself in a watch tower, saying “I’m waiting for your answer, God.”

Who can’t identify with Habakkuk?

Just this week, there are plenty of things to feel that way about.

  • The civil war in Syria, or the mall massacre in Nairobi, African migrants drowning off Italy,
  • Closer to home, it’s said that the economy is recovering from the Great Recession, but that’s not the case for most Americans. The rich are richer, but the poor and middle class are still worse off than they have been for many years. But never fear, our elected representatives in Washington are going to make it right. Right! . No matter where you stand, I think you’ll agree that what they’re doing just doesn’t cut it.
  • In our personal lives, we may also be experiencing situations that demand explanations from God. I have had times in my life when I’ve cried out, “My life is a sandwich I didn’t order!: or “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired!”
  • Perhaps even in our life here at Grace Church, we worry that, for all our great values and all our dreams and for all our best efforts, we always seem to be between a rock and a hard place, resource-wise. The opportunities and problems are large, and we feel so small.

And so, like Habakkuk, we have cause to cry for help to God, and to castigate him for his inaction. "Things aren’t the way they are supposed to be! Come down here and fix this!"

And like Habukkuk, we wait for an answer. And the answer he gets is the answer we get. And it isn’t very satisfying: The answer? "Wait! We’re in the middle of things. In the end, it’ll be right. In the meantime, “the righteous shall live by faith."" In more modern parlance: keep the faith!

O o o

We humans always seem to want more. More money, more friends, more success, more peace, more strength, more love. As much as we might have, we feel that something is lacking. And, in today’s Gospel lesson, its faith.

The apostles demand of Jesus: Increase our faith!

And Jesus gives two answers, neither of which is very satisfying, but which do contain important truths, if we can get over being insulted by them.

The first answer: If your faith was as big as a mustard seed, you could throw this tree into the ocean!

What’s Jesus saying here? Let’s recognize that Jesus often exaggerates for effect, and that many times, he’s actually telling a little joke to make a point. So what’s the point? Obviously, we can’t pull up trees by the roots and throw them into the ocean. I know I’m hard pressed to pull up some of those little trees that keep coming up in our garden. So is Jesus belittling our tiny faith? I don’t think so. What if he’s saying instead, “C’mon folks, I know you have faith, otherwise you wouldn’t even be here asking. And the faith you have is enough. You’re not expected to uproot trees, or other superhuman acts. The faith you have is already sufficient to what you’re being called on to do." And I hear him saying as well, "Don’t use the excuse that you don’t have enough faith to keep you from doing what you already know you need to be doing."

And then there’s that other story about slaves and masters—terminology that is rather loaded and inappropriate today. Let me paraphrase in more modern terms:

Who among you would say to your assistant who has spent the morning sorting through your mail, typing up letters and handling phone calls, “We’re having a board of directors meeting, c’mon in here and join us at the table.” Wouldn’t you say instead, "How about getting us some lunch and setting it up for us. You can have your lunch later." Do you thank him or her for doing the expected? So you, also, when you have done all that was expected of you, say, “We’re employees after all, and we’ve simply done our job.”

Put that way, at least I can find myself in the story. But what does that have to do with the original question: Give us more faith?

If we’re wanting more faith so we can have the power to make things come out they way we want them to, then what we really asking for is to have a place at God’s table: to be equal with God. And that’s not gonna happen. God’s god; and we’re not. God’s in charge, and we’re not. We’re about as able to comprehend God’s thoughts about his world as we here today can comprehend a P&G CEO’s thoughts about his company.

I think the point of both of these responses to the request for more faith is the same: The faith we have is enough for us to do what’s expected of us—to live the faithful life.

"But what about my doubts?" you say.

Well what about your doubts?

Do you doubt God’s existence? You’re not alone. Many great people of faith have wondered. But consider the alternative: a world without God: a world with no purpose and no values, other than whatever people make up at the moment. You can choose to live in a world created by a loving God in which what people do is of eternal consequence. Or not, which is, as I believe some existentialists have described it, like living in hell.

Do you have doubts about your place in God’s creation? Do you wonder what you’re here for? I know I’ve had many moments when I wondered how I fit in. There are things I can’t do that other people seem to find easy. There are natural athletes; I’m not one of them. There are people who can make plans and stick to them—I’m not one of them. Not being a football hero is a problem perhaps only on the high school dating scene, but being disorganized and a procrastinator causes major problems and stress if you happen to come down in large, well-organized corporation. Perhaps you have your own list of things that, if you were only made differently, everything would be so much better. Maybe you’ve even spent time trying to make yourself do things that are—for you—unnatural acts. And have had about as much luck as cramming a square peg in a round hole.

But what if we trusted—had faith—that however we’re made is exactly how God intended for us to be made? What if we trusted that who we are, with our unique God-given gifts, and with the amount of faith we already have, was exactly what was needed in God’s world?

I’ve often heard is said that in order to succeed, you have to have faith in yourself. There’s truth in that, of course, but I think it’s better to have faith that God made us who and how we are for a purpose. If we have faith only in ourselves, we’re left to find our own direction and can end up living a life that’s not connected to anyone or anything larger than ourselves. If we keep God’s perspective always in mind, we’re more likely life a life that makes sense in the larger world—God’s world.

And how about faith in the institutional church? Being involved in the church can be pretty intense. I’ve heard it said that there’s nothing like church work to make you lose your religion—in fact, I’ve said it myself. But the overwhelming fact is that the church is the only game in town. And of course it can be intense: it’s dealing with things of real importance. It’s the only organization that even tries to make the whole world a better place; the only organization committed to exploring basic life and death questions, the only place designed to put you in touch with the meaning of your life, that can help grow your faith in a loving, caring God.

Sometimes we think of faith as a thing that we can possess, but it’s not like that. It’s more related to a way of living our lives. Faithful living begets faith and faith begets faithful living. It’s sort of a chicken and egg thing—you really can’t say which comes first.

Now I realize that that’s rather cryptic, so let me illustrate by telling about my own experience of understanding what faith is.

Somehow, as I grew up, I came to believe that “being saved” was the norm for the Christian experience. People would be living in sin and unbelief and then, through some life-changing event, they’d suddenly see the light, and become true believers in God and Jesus. I grew up hearing about the apostle Paul’s Road to Damascus experience, where he was knocked off his horse and blinded, heard Jesus speaking to him, and was suddenly changed from a persecutor of Christians to being Christianity’s most successful spokesman. I’d read about revival meetings where the preacher preached fire and brimstone, creating such a fear of burning in hell that people would confess their sins and throw themselves on the mercy of God and would promise to change their lives. Read “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” for a taste, if you’re not familiar with this genre.

I have to admit that “being saved wasn’t really part of the lives of the people around me while I was growing up, but somehow, it became important to me to hope that someday, I, too, might be “saved”--have that life-changing moment when all my doubts would be erased and all would become clear. In retrospect, I, like the apostles in today’s Gospel, couldn’t get mind around the idea that the faith I already had was sufficient. That God didn’t require any more of me to be loved and accepted by him.

It wasn’t until I came to this church that I heard about another way to think about faith. Talking with then-rector Ray Betts, I expressed my concern that I had not had that life-changing moment when I became a believer. Ray said gently, “Some of us believe that there is another way—we call it the sacramental life.” I came to understand that he meant that it’s through the regular practice of the faithful life that we grow in our faith. In my vocabulary of that time, I said, “Oh, we get saved a little at a time!” Ray was kind enough to let it go at that.

The truth is that faith isn’t an on-off thing. We can grow in our faith. Our faith can grow in us. As we are all created differently, there is no one-size-fits-all way this happens.

For many, including myself, our faith is supported through regular participation in the liturgies the church has developed to build our faith. The words and actions we participate in every Sunday remind us of who we are and what we’re about, even though there may be things that are we can’t get our minds around. There are still parts of the Nicene Creed that don’t make sense for me, but I continue to say them. I have faith that someday I may get a flash of insight brings new understanding. I have that faith, because it’s happened before. Words I’ve heard or sung many times before have suddenly struck me in new and amazing ways.

Small groups are a place where hearing others’ faith stories can be faith building. For me, Education for Ministry, both as a student and as a mentor, strengthened my faith. Most recently, leading the 9am Bible Study has been faith-building. But through it all, I think the most faith-building thing of all has been finding ways to use the particular gifts God has given me to work in support of Grace Church. There’s a place for me here, and our values express the hope that all sorts and conditions of people may also find a place for themselves here.

Oh, and before I forget it, contributing money is faith-building. I don’t say this just because my wife is chairing the Annual Giving Campaign. Jesus recognized a truth about human nature when he said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” There’s nothing that draws our interest and dedication to an organization like having our money in it.

Yes, as we go about living our daily lives faithfully, at home, at work, at church, our faith builds. There’s something about living faithfully—living as though one had faith—that brings more faith.

But what if we feel like we’re about to lose the faith we have? What if we’re tempted to simply give up trying to live faithfully? Stay home Sundays and play golf or read the New York Times Sunday edition, or simply sleep in?

Based on everything I’ve said, here's my advice: when you feel like you’re about to lose it—your faith—do something faithful: participate in Sunday worship, or help with the Community Dinner or help host Interfaith Hospitality Network or supervise the parolees, or join a small group, like the prayer shawl knitting group, bible study, prayer & mediation, or try out the Wednesday night healing service, or talk to a faithful friend.


In those moments when you feel like your faith is holding on by a thread, read some psalms. They were written by people experiencing all kinds of faith-related situations, for others having similar experiences. Some of the lines in today’s psalm are especially pertinent for us today:

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; *do not be jealous of those who do wrong.
Put your trust in the LORD and do good; *dwell in the land and feed on its riches.
Take delight in the LORD, *and he shall give you your heart's desire.
Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him, *and he will bring it to pass.
Be still before the LORD *and wait patiently for him.
Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers, *the one who succeeds in evil schemes.
Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; *do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

All of this is to say that faith is not an accomplishment, it’s a journey—and it’s a journey we can take together. I am amazed at how well the prayer that our Friday morning Prayer & Meditation group created recently expresses this:

O God, who is the creator of all that was, that is and that will be--who dwells within us. We're all in different places on our spiritual journey. We give thanks that Grace's doors of hospitality remain open so that we may learn and grow together as a group. We pray through the Holy Spirit within us..

I’ll close by reminding us of that short lesson from Habakkuk. When you’re angry with the state of your world, resist the urge to go up in your tower and wait for God to come and fix things, or to explain himself to you. God will fix things in his own good time and in his own—probably unexpected—ways. In the meantime, live by faith. Live faithfully. Keep the faith.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Grace Church Prayers of the People

This prayer was written by the people, including children, of Grace Church for occasional use in Sunday morning worship.

Let us offer prayers of PRAISE and THANKSGIVING for our many blessings – silently or aloud.

[pause to allow for these prayers]

Let us say together our Parish Prayer.

Lord Jesus, You have put your life into our hands.
Now we put our lives in Yours.
Take us, renew and remake us.
What we have been is past.
What we shall be, through You, still awaits us.
Lead us on. Take us with You.

We also ask that you look after our celebrants and officiants - Fr. David, Fr. Bob, Susan, Mtr. Kimberly, Hawley and Ken – and their families, and we pray for the priesthood of all believers.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Father, help us to remember that we are one in Christ, made in your image – that we are to treat each other, and all your children, with respect and dignity.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Dear Lord, thank you for accepting the many families and people into your home, the Church.
Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

Thank you for our country. Be with all our leaders, including our President, our Governor, our Mayor, and others. Also let us remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let there be justice and peace on earth.

Thank you for making everything in the world, including water and land, families and babies. Help everybody be fair and let flowers grow everywhere.
Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer.

Thank you for letting us live in neighborhoods, including College Hill, North College Hill, Colerain, Walnut Hills, Reading, Finneytown, and others.
Help everyone find a nice house that is safe.
Help us learn to share our toys.
Let all the children have fun.
Help everybody have a job.
Help people not to say bad words and not to have guns.
Lord in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

Dear Lord, help everyone who is sick, in trouble, or who got hurt by someone.
Help people who are not themselves.
Help older people as they walk in the snow.
Help people not to have cancer.
Help us know that we will be ok even if we are lonely.
Lord in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for those who have died, that you may have mercy on them.

Lord, lift them up.


The celebrant adds a concluding Collect.

Grace Church Prayer & Meditation Collect

This collect was written by the Grace Church Prayer & Meditation Group in June, 2013, as part of an exercise in Collect writing led by Ken Lyon.

O God, who is the creator of all that was, that is and that will be--who dwells within us.
We're all in different places on our spiritual journey.
We give thanks that Grace's doors of hospitality remain open
so that we may learn and grow together as a group.
We pray through the Holy Spirit within us.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Grace Church Lector's Guide

Thank you for using your gifts and talents to serve as a lector at Grace Church.  You are an integral part of our service of praise and worship to God. Following are some thoughts on how you can make the readings come alive for your audience.
The schedule for readers is in the bulletin each Sunday; a month in advance.  If you are unable to read on the Sunday assigned to you, please extend the courtesy of informing the office and if possible finding another Lay Reader to read for you on that Sunday.

Before the Service
The readings for each Sunday can be found at  If you do not have access to a computer, call the office and ask for the readings.  If you are unable to practice before the service, please arrive at church early enough so you can review the readings and the psalm.  
If you have not been a lector before, get out a Bible and practice reading in front of a mirror or try reading to your family. This is also a good way to practice some of the techniques listed below.
When approaching how you will read the text aloud, reading meanings rather than words. There is no magic formula, but using these techniques will help you improve your skills.
1. Become familiar with the reading. Get the feel of the content and style of the selection. It may be helpful to read the passage before and after your reading to get its full meaning and context.
2. Think about its meaning. What is the author saying on the surface? Are there any underlying messages? What are his feelings about his message? What feelings does he want to communicate to his audience? What parts does he want his audience to remember?
3. Study the words. Check the dictionary or a concordance for the exact meaning and pronunciation of any unfamiliar names and words.
4. Mark your copy of the text as an aid to expression where pauses and stress might be used.
a. Underline each word or phrase to be stressed.
b. Underline twice parts that have greater stress.
c. Pauses can be indicated by a slash (/).
During the Service
When reading the lessons, use this form:  A reading from; insert the name of the book of the Bible, for example "A reading from Revelation."   At the conclusion of the lesson pause briefly before saying "The Word of the Lord".  
Decide ahead of time how the psalm is to be read. For information, consult the BCP pp. 582-584. Please make sure your selection is appropriate to the psalm and simple enough to explain. There are three general approaches:
  • Unison
  • Alternating verses
  • Splitting verses at the asterisks
The second and third approaches are most frequently done with the lector reading one part and the congregation the other. However, it can also be done with men and women alternating verses or the two sides of the congregation. Another option could be the congregation (and the lector) reading one part, and the choir the other. Be aware that the terms can be confusing to the congregation, and that it may be best to describe the pattern without using the term. For example:
After the first lesson, announce that the psalm will be found in the bulletin, if in the prayer book, give the page number and how the psalm is to be read, for example "Please read Psalm ___ found in your bulletin. I will read up to the asterisk and the congregation will complete the verse."
Establish your own personal ritual to use before you start to read. Pause, take a deep breath, and slowly exhale, knowing you are in control. Look around at the congregation.  The purpose of this is to help you get centered. If you are uncomfortable making direct eye contact with the audience, a useful technique is to look around, but gaze directly above their heads.
If you make a mistake or mispronounce a name, don't get rattled. If it changes the meaning of the text, correct it. If it doesn't, gloss over it and keep going. Probably no one will notice it anyway.
There are six tools you can use to make your reading more interesting and varied: volume, speed, tone, emphasis, eye contact and enthusiasm. When you read, try to read as if you are normally talking to someone and telling a story. Use a "talking" voice rather than a "reading" voice. Make some parts a narrative, some parts intense, and accent some parts with a dramatic silence.
1. Volume - Your voice should be loud enough to carry to the back of the room. A good technique is to pick out a person in the back of the room and pretend you are reading to them. You can start loud, but later tone your volume down. As you are reading, put a little more emphasis on verbs and words that show action.
2. Speed - A common mistake is to read too fast because of nervousness. Read at a moderate speed, fast enough to move along, but slow enough so your audience can understand you. A good technique is to sometimes slow down just a bit to emphasize a particular part of a sentence, especially an ending. You can also slow down if you want to enunciate a word so the audience will understand what you are saying.
3. If you are reading a narrative with a quotation, or another person starts to speak, pause for a moment, change the pitch of your voice and your tone before reading the quotation. Pause at the end of the quotation to let the audience know the quotation is finished. Then return to your normal narrative pitch and tone.
4. Tone - Tone gives your voice melody, and can be like the spice in a good dinner. Tone is a combination of pitch, quality, and strength. You want just enough to make the taste interesting, but not overly strong. Vary your pitch enough so that you don't read in a monotone. You can also change pitch and volume slightly when two people are talking during the narrative so the audience can distinguish between the two.
5. Emphasis - For more effective reading emphasizes verbs and nouns. De-emphasize articles, especially "a" and "the". You can use emphasis by inflection, by force, by change in voice quality, by means of pitch, and by means of pause.
6. Eye Contact - Periodically, as you are approaching the end of a statement, read far enough ahead so that while you are finishing orating the sentence, you can look up and make eye contact with the audience. Once you have perfected this technique, while reading, you can occasionally direct your gaze to the left, right and center audience, and make direct eye contact with them or look just above their heads. You can also read ahead if you are coming to the bottom of a page and the reading continues on the other side. If you read ahead, you can turn the page and continue the verbal reading without a pause while you are turning the page.
7. Enthusiasm - Have enthusiasm for what you are reading! Prepare to read by looking at the passage before and after the lesson to get a sense for the passage.  Get excited about the message you are reading or the story you are telling. Enjoy the process of reading it. This enthusiasm and enjoyment will reflect in your voice and pass on to the audience.

Revised 4/22/2010 by Ken Lyon to reflect current practice.
Revised 6/2013 by Ken Lyon to update lectionary link

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Intercessory Prayer

How do we pray for our sisters and brothers when we are asked to offer intercessory prayers on her/his behalf?

That is a difficult question to answer because the bottom line for all prayer is that one prays in ways that are authentic to one-self. Our personalities and dispositions often impact how each of us prays. So pray for others however it is that the Holy Spirit leads and guides you to pray. That is what is most essential.

When I lead workshops on healing prayer and teach healing team members to pray for others, my first admonition is to remember that it is God who heals. We are not the healers. Our job is to hold a brother or a sister in God’s presence. We don’t fix the problem or solve the prayer request. That part is God’s work.

Healing prayer is quite easy to do. We invite God to come and be with the person receiving intercessory prayer. We ask God to minister to that person in whatever ways she/he most needs God’s presence at this time. Alternatively, we may imagine the person being surrounded with God’s light, grace or love and then filled to overflowing with God’s healing, life-giving presence. Our inner attitude is one of trust that God will do more for the person who is receiving intercessory prayers than we could hope or imagine!

One does not need to know details about a person’s needs or situation. As intercessors, we do not pray the problem. We pray that God will move in the person’s life to restore that individual to wholeness, health, and harmony. In short, to become more fully the person God created that sister or brother to be.

- Hawley Todd TSSF, Minister of Christ Healing

- Exec. Dir. – Episcopal Healing Ministries

Friday, March 29, 2013

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

Homily preached on Good Friday, 2013, at Grace Episcopal Church, Cincinnati, by Ken Lyon.

My reading today is taken from the Gospel of Luke—Luke’s account of Jesus’ ministry.

Luke 23: 33-34a: When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. ‘


What a day! Jesus hangs before us on a cross! It’s the day we call Good Friday.

What a week it’s been! It started with a triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

What a life it’s been!

Born 30-odd years ago, Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a town up north in Galilee, where he apparently took up his father’s trade as a carpenter.

Just about three years ago, Jesus came south to the Jordan River not far from Jerusalem to hear John the Baptist preach. John was saying that people should turn their lives around because the Kingdom of God was imminent. John washed people in the Jordan River as a sign that they were cleansed of past misdeeds and were preparing to live in God’s Kingdom. John also preached that there was a person coming after him who would bring in that Kingdom.

As Jesus listened to John, there came a moment when he realized that he was that person John was talking about. In a flash of insight, he heard God himself saying, “You are my son, my beloved, with you I am well pleased.” In that moment, Jesus’ life was changed.

It took a little while—40 days alone in the desert according to the Gospels—for Jesus to discern what his new life would be about. Then, inspired as never before, he returned to his home territory up in Galilee. There he preached the good news that the Kingdom of God was near.

Jesus said many things about what the Kingdom would be like, but, in Luke’s account, perhaps this passage captures it best:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. … Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. … But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. … the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’

And Luke records that he taught his followers to pray thusly:

Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.

As a result of his preaching up there in Galilee, Jesus developed a large following.

One day, people came to him saying that they’d heard that Herod—the man who ruled over Galilee, the man who had cut off John the Baptist’s head—that Herod wanted to kill him. Jesus responded that it wasn’t right for a prophet to be killed anywhere but in Jerusalem.. And Jesus began heading for Jerusalem.

As he headed for Jerusalem, he began telling his disciples about how he expected things would end—with his death—but they didn’t get it.

Now, Jesus planned his entry into Jerusalem to remind people of the entry into the city of the kings who had ruled in Jerusalem before foreign powers had taken over. He arranged to ride in on a donkey, echoing the prophet Zechariah: “Lo your king comes to you triumphant and victorious …riding on a donkey.” His followers lay down their cloaks as had been done for the ancient king Jehu. And they shouted, “ Blessed is the king….”

And the powers that be in Jerusalem got the message.

The Romans saw this man being proclaimed as king to be a direct threat to Pax Romana—the peace that the Romans had brought within their empire.

The Jewish authorities--who were charged by the Romans with managing their people and keeping the peace--were caught in the middle, between the followers of this Jesus person and the Romans. They reckoned that it would be better to sacrifice this one person than to risk Roman wrath coming down on the whole population (and in this, they were prescient—because that’s exactly what happened during the Jewish revolts 30 and 80 years later, and finally—once and for all—100 years later).

If the way he entered Jerusalem sealed Jesus’ fate, he didn’t make things any better when he publically predicted the destruction of Jerusalem, and when he went into the Temple grounds and drove out the merchants who were selling things there.

And so it’s no surprise that today—Friday--we find Jesus has been condemned to be executed and is now hanging on a cross--the instrument that the Romans had used so many times before to quell insurgency.

And it’s at this moment of excruciating humiliation and pain that Jesus climaxes his ministry by saying, “Father, forgive them; for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

I’ve been told that every great story can be said to have a single sentence that all of the rest of the story is written to lead to. And I think that, for Luke, this is the sentence: Father, forgive them; for they don’t know what they’re doing.” I think, for Luke, this is what Jesus’ life and death was all about. For Luke, perhaps this is the reason that Jesus had to die the way he did—so he could say these shocking words from the cross to those who crucified him, and to all the world.

The more I think about these words, the more troubling they become.

We’re all familiar with the idea that if we confess our sins and ask forgiveness, that God will forgive us. But with these words, Jesus asks God to forgive people who haven’t admitted they’ve done anything wrong—and will never do so. Yet here Jesus asks God to forgive everyone involved in his death even for those who never will.

Who is Jesus asking God to forgive?

· Jesus asks forgiveness for Roman soldiers who nailed him to the cross. Jesus says that they don’t know what they’re doing, but if you had asked them, they would have told you that they knew perfectly well what they were doing. The shallower of them would have said they were following orders. But the more thoughtful would have said that they were protecting themselves and the other citizens of the area from the anarchy of revolt and the mass killings that would result. But Jesus asks God to forgive them anyway. And that same forgiveness would apply to all Roman authorities.

· And the Jewish authorities? What about them? Jesus asks God’s forgiveness for them, too. And this is particularly interesting for me, because as I read the Gospel accounts, it’s as though the writers of the Gospels hadn’t quite been able to internalize the radical forgiveness that Jesus asked for on the cross. For throughout the Gospels, the Jewish authorities get nothing but blame for getting the Romans to crucify Jesus. But no matter--they, too, are forgiven.

· And Judas, who led the authorities to Jesus so they could kill him? Even though the Gospel writers never described Judas as other than derogatory terms, Jesus asks God’s forgiveness for Judas.

· Who else might Jesus have had in mind? I think he almost certainly had his disciples in mind, even though he certainly didn’t see them from the cross. Well, he did see a few of the women, and perhaps the man known as “the disciple Jesus loved.” But as for the rest--the twelve men closest to him—they were nowhere to be found. According to one Gospel, they were probably running all the way back to Galilee. What were they thinking, I wonder? Perhaps, “Hey, this is more than I bargained for. I didn’t sign up for this!” But Jesus asks forgiveness for them, too.

· Of those disciples, the story of Peter is especially poignant. Peter was the one who said, only a few weeks earlier, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And who, only the night before, had promised, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” But, as we know, when push came to shove, Peter denied even knowing Jesus. What was he thinking? Did he know what he was doing? Whatever. Jesus asks God to forgive him.

Well, that was then, and this is now. How does this event in Jesus life and death story apply to us?

It points to the radical nature of God’s forgiveness of us and of those in the world around us. The radical truth is: God forgives it all.

He forgives the things we—and those other people--are sorry about. But he also forgives the things we—and those others--are not sorry about. And further, he forgives the things that we—and they--are clueless about.

And we are expected to follow Jesus example--to practice radical forgiveness.

In my life, I’ve done things I’m sorry about. I’ve asked God to forgive me, and, in some cases, I’ve asked the person I’ve wronged to forgive me. In other cases, I haven’t yet gotten up the courage to admit I was wrong. And in some cases, it’s too late. Yet, God forgives it all.

In my life, others have done some things that hurt me deeply. There were times—most times, perhaps—that they didn’t realize what they’d done, or at least know the extent to which I was feeling hurt. Rarely did they ask my forgiveness. Yet, God forgives it all. I need to, too.

In the life of our country, we’ve done some terrible things. Slavery and our treatment of Native Americans would be easy examples. As a country, we’ve said we’re sorry. Sometimes, we’ve tried to remedy the situation. And sometimes, the remedies have caused more harm than help. No matter, God forgives it all.

In the life of our country, some terribly wrong things have been done to us. I think first about 9/11—the killing of 3000 people by 19 suicidal hijackers. If Jesus had been a passenger on one of those airplanes, what would he have said? “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing?” I think so. I still have much to learn about forgiveness. God forgives it all.

How can we get our minds around this kind of radical forgiveness?

Here are some forgiveness do’s and don’ts from an article by one Dr. Ray Pritchard.

a. You do not forgive because they understand what they did.

b. You do not forgive because they have suffered as much as you suffered.

c. You do not forgive because they “deserve” forgiveness.

d. You do not forgive to gain some personal advantage over them.

e. You forgive in spite of what they’ve done.

f. You forgive because of God’s grace.

g. You forgive because that’s what Jesus did on the cross.

h. You forgive because that’s what Jesus does for you.

It turns out that forgiving is good for us.

There is a part of us that believes in fairness. Our ability to accept the forgiveness that’s offered to us—our ability to forgive ourselves--is proportional to our ability to forgive others. There is real truth in this line from our Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us as we forgive others.” The prayer of St. Francis puts the idea thusly: “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.”

So forgiving is actually a gift we give ourselves. As someone has said, “Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free … and realizing you were the prisoner!”

And not forgiving hurts us. One saying that captures this idea very well for me is, “Refusing to forgive is like taking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”

Jesus on the cross sets us an impossible example of forgiveness: “Forgive them; for they don’t know what they’re doing.” The best we can do is try to internalize this idea in our daily lives. As we do so, we may come to realize that forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude. And our lives may become an adventure in forgiveness.

As I said, Jesus sets an impossible example. So, as we struggle to come up to that example and fail, keep in mind: God forgives it all.

In our Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, we find a prayer that I think captures the idea that God’s forgiveness is offered unconditionally whether or not we knew what we were doing—whether or not they knew what they were doing. If you’re interested in looking it up, it’s on page 393 of the red Book of Common Prayer in your pew.

For ourselves, we pray:

Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;

in your compassion forgive us our sins,

known and unknown,

things done and left undone;

and so uphold us by your Spirit

that we may live and serve you in newness of life,

to the honor and glory of your Name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I have modified this prayer so that we might use it to pray for others as well:

Have mercy upon them, most merciful Father;

in your compassion forgive them their sins,

known and unknown,

things done and left undone;

and so uphold them by your Spirit

that they may live and serve you in newness of life,

to the honor and glory of your Name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Job Description: Communications

Responsibility: See to it that Grace Church’s particular story is communicated coherently to members, visitors and the world at large, at zero dollar cost to the church, excepting use of the copy machine.

What this entails:

· Work with the congregation in groups and as individuals to ascertain what the congregation’s story is.

· Develop images and phrases that express the congregation’s story for consistent use in all communications.

· Seek out what’s going on in the congregation, community and diocese that deserves communication to this congregation and its audiences.

· Carry a camera to all congregation functions and take pictures to illustrate important events and themes.

· Publish eGraceNotes weekly. Elicit email addresses from visitors and others to build readership.

· Publish Grace Notes weekly as an addition to the Sunday service bulletin, and for possible mailing to shut-ins who don’t have email.

· Implement and support email groups to facilitate internal group communications.

· Design, implement, edit and support website.

· Create, maintain and feed the congregation’s Facebook page.

· Create and implement internal signage (bulletin boards, free-standing signs, signs over doors. etc).

· Create and implement external signage.

· Create picture post cards and picture cards to mail to visitors, et al..

· Create and update brochures.

· Maintain the five flags over the front entrance, repairing and replacing as needed.

Time required: About two days a week ongoing.

Out-of-pocket cost: About $500/year.

Ken Lyon

Sunday, March 10, 2013

"There was a man …"

Sermon by the Reverend Susan Lehman at Grace Church on the fourth Sunday of Lent, March 10, 2013.

Collect of the Day

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament Lesson: Joshua 5:9-12

The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day. While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the Passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

Psalm 32

Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sin is put away!

Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, and in whose spirit there is no guile!

While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, because of my groaning all day long.

For your hand was heavy upon me day and night; my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and did not conceal my guilt.

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble; when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.

You are my hiding-place; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; I will guide you with my eye.

Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding; who must be fitted with bit and bridle, or else they will not stay near you.”

Great are the tribulations of the wicked; but mercy embraces those who trust in the LORD.

Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the LORD; shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

New Testament Lesson: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The Gospel: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.

But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’” So he set off and went to his father.

But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’

Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

The Sermon

In the name of God.

This is the fourth Sunday in Lent, a day of refreshment. The church in her wisdom has so ordered our liturgical calendar that mid-way through Lent we pray to God as our gracious father. In tender words of acknowledgment we pray: “Gracious father, whose blessed son, Jesus, came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world. Give us this bread,” we ask our heavenly father.

Historically, Christians have paused in their Lenten practices of fasting and self denial to observe what we affectionately call Refreshment or Mothering Sunday. Mothering evokes an image of God as one who feeds, tends, loves and forgives

In England it was the practice on Mothering Sunday for the faithful scattered throughout the diocese to journey on this fourth Sunday of Lent to their Cathedral--their Mother church--and there make special money offerings. It served to remind Christians that their parish derived its identity and authority from the Bishop, seated in his cathedral. This was also the Sunday when apprentices and household servants were given a day or two off so they could return to their families, bearing refreshments, gifts of food--a practice we have lost in the American church.

The lessons for today are about what feeds body and soul. The Joshua reading records the presence of God in the memory of those who ate the unleavened cakes of Passover—who were fed manna as they journeyed in the wilderness and now eat the fruit of the land of Canaan. The psalm we pray reminds us that our hunger is always for more than bread for the belly. We hunger for forgiveness and reconciliation. “Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven: whose sin is put aside:” who are free from guilt. The reading from 2 Corinthians picks up on this theme of forgiveness. Paul carefully makes the case that if we are in Christ, we are a new creation, reconciled to God, and given a ministry of reconciliation.

And what is this reconciliation? What does this kind of forgiveness look like? On this refreshment Sunday we hear one of the best known, perhaps most discussed of all Jesus parables: the one we call ‘The prodigal Son story. The prodigal, the younger of the two sons, in a voice that sounds insistent, if not petulant, demands: “Gimee, gimee my share of your property. And I want it NOW.” And so we read: this son takes his inheritance and all his stuff and goes off....and squanders it all. Squanders, what a wonderful word! and in “dissolute” living. We can only imagine!

And when a famine comes and he is starving, he hires himself out to feed … to feed the worst of the worst—pigs! What in the faith of Israel is “tref”—unclean--thus contaminates him and further isolates him from everyone around. The story reads: when he came to himself, he said: “Here I am dying of hunger, I will go to my father and confess: ‘I have sinned. I am no longer worthy to be called your son, treat me as a hired hand.’”

If this was truly a prodigal son story then it should end right here. For prodigal means a wastrel, a profligate. But the story does not end with his misery.

When he is still at a distance, his father sees him, has compassion, and runs—runs--to embrace him. A reconciliation. An occasion for feasting: kill the fatted calf. Adorn this son of mine in finery. The prodigal son reconciled. This should be enough.

But it is not enough in the mind of the gospel. For we always hear a second chapter: the story of the second son, the elder son. If we call the younger one the prodigal: what then shall we call this son? The one that for the most part is most like me. The one who watching all the activity surrounding this lavish feast, all the extravagance for the return of the prodigal, is angry. He refuses to participate. And when his father pleads with him, he says: “NO, No, all these years I have towed the line, worked like a slave, never disobeyed. Yet, I was never rewarded, with even a little extravagance.” And the father, the loving father hearing this says: “O my son, all that is mine is yours. You are with me always, but your brother, (the prodigal ), the one who was lost is now found; he who was dead is now alive.”

We may call this the Prodigal son story, but it is not about the sons. It is about the father. And it is a parable Jesus tells when he is asked why he welcomes sinners--takes meals with them. It is a story told to show what forgiveness—reconciliatio--looks like and it begins: “There was a Man, and he had two sons.” It is about forgiveness, about the mercy of God, about what in the end really does feed the soul, refresh the spirit. “Let me tell you about a man who had two sons.”

I am 72 years old and I ask myself, what kind of person would I be if every single day of my adult life, say for the past 50 years, I had begun my day with a reading, a prayerful reading of this wonderful account: There was a man who had two sons. I believe in my heart of hearts I would have been more gracious, more forgiving; less like that angry, embittered, self righteous elder son, the one who is law-abiding, responsible, contributing to society, but mean-spirited, begrudging his own father’s generosity. For I am persuaded our summons is not to take our clues from the children in this story; we are not called to be one of the sons; this is not about sibling rivalry; it’s not about the kids at all! It’s about the father, the adult, the dad: ‘There was a man...”

I think it is time that we in the church start acting like grown ups; that we start behaving like the father in the parable.

Grace church, I don’t know you very well, I am more of a “drop in.” I pray with you on an occasional basis. I see all the signs in your side yard; I listen to the announcements on Sunday morning: community dinners, work days and lunch with parolees, all kinds of music programs. You participate in and invite your neighbors to regularly scheduled healing services. Of all the churches in greater Cincinnati, I notice YOU are welcoming the recently re-activated Integrity group. I know many groups use your facilities and thus shape your presence, your ministry and mission here at the corner of Hamilton and Belmont. As an outsider, let me commend you: you have more going on in a given month, more engagement with the world, the body of God, than any other church I visit.

I look around at this large, extensive building you have and I wonder: how, how do you manage, financially, but more significantly, in terms of your own energy? This is not a congregation where on a Sunday morning you can just slip into a pew and let the timeless cadences of the liturgy roll over you. Every Sunday you pray with a different worship leader: ‘Fathers, Mothers, Healers, Lay Leaders, Retirees: all representing different styles, pieties and practices. And music: look at the song books you sing from; sometimes with John ringing the bells, or Bill at the organ, or maybe, Bill or Judy at the piano; and those drums that sit in the corner, I am just waiting for those

I am overwhelmed by the time, energy and devotion you manifest to be the church, the ecclesia, the fellowship of those who believe in the Lord Jesus and intend to be his disciples. I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know your business. I don’t know how you make decisions. I don’t know how you solve problems when there are disagreements, as there must surely be in this very complex ministry.

But this is refreshment Sunday and I am nourished by your witness. I think you are like the father in the parable we just heard. Jesus says: ”Let me tell you about a man who had two sons.” You are like that man. Your stony presence stands as one comes up the hill from Northside, like the father whose arms are outstretched to welcome those who pass by. Your doors are wide enough; your arms appear to be strong enough to embrace both the sinner who has gone astray and the self righteous embittered one. If you sometimes get weary or distracted, or even irritated with one another, do not let that take you off course. We are not meant to be like one of the sons: not the self indulged, “gimee, gimee, gimee” nor the whinnying: “it’s not fair, what about me.”

No. We are the grownups. We are meant to be like the father. Our calling is to proclaim: “Come, celebrate and rejoice, for what was dead is now alive: what was lost has been found.” This my friends, is the bread that gives life to the world.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Annual Report 2012

Grace Episcopal Church, Cincinnati (College Hill) Ohio

Given at the Grace Church Annual Meeting, February 17, 2013


A spiritual home where all are welcome; a healing place in a broken world.

Table of Contents

Mission Council Reports.

Senior Warden’s 2012 Annual Report

Junior Warden’s 2012 Annual Report

Mission and Formation Team Reports.

Mission and Formation Teams 2012 Annual Report

Pastoral Care 2012 Annual Report

Worship Team Annual Report 2012.

Outreach Team Annual Report 2012.

Newcomer Ministry & Congregational Life Annual Report 2012.

Christian Formation Annual Report 2012.

Healing Ministry Team Annual Report 2012.

Communications Annual Report 2012.


Mission Council Reports

Senior Warden’s 2012 Annual Report
By Roger Perna, Senior Warden

The Grace Church family is very thankful for the ways in which God is constantly blessing us and allowing us to experience his love through our relationships with each other and in the ways in which he lets us be a force in the community. In our second full year as a Common Ministry congregation, we are learning how to depend on each other and get things done without looking around or waiting for someone else to do it. We have organized a Mission and Formation team with leaders for each program area: worship, formation, outreach, pastoral care, newcomers and hospitality, healing.

Susan Lehman, Bob Hufford, David Howard, and Kimberly Knight serve as our rotating supply priests for our Eucharistic Sunday services. Each one brings their own special style and interpretations on how Christ shows us how to serve him in our everyday lives. We also have an adult Bible study on Sunday mornings lead by former EfM mentor Ken Lyon. Our Sunday School is growing.

Hawley Todd provides a Celebration of Wholeness and Healing service on one Sunday each month with emphasis on praying together for our concerns and thanksgivings. Hawley also conducts a Wholeness and Healing service on the second Wednesday night of each month. This service includes drumming and Reike healing modalities. This Wednesday night service brings a diverse group of people into our building which contributes to the fabric that is Grace Church. Several of our new Sunday worshipers have come through the Wednesday night service.

We are fortunate to have Bill Jenne serve as our Music and Choir Director. Bill has been working with the worship team to vitalize and vary our service music, a task which you can well imagine is not an easy one. It is a challenge to keep a balance of new and old music and try to “keep everybody happy!” But, we are working on it.

We also share our worship space with the Life Renewal Discipleship Church which is lead by Pastor Rita Bryant. They hold their Sunday service on Sunday afternoons. We have had several joint services with them and cooperate with them in many ways. \

One of our joint efforts with Life Renewal Discipleship Church is a free Community Dinner on the second and fourth Wednesday nights each month. We serve a hot meal to an average of forty to fifty people from the community at each dinner. This is possible only because these two small Christian communities have joined forces to accomplish this goal. We have applied for a Episcopal Community Services Foundation grant to continue and expand this effort.

We are able to get out the word about what is happening at Grace Church on our award winning electronic newsletter, “egracenotes.” Designed by Ken Lyon, the news letter has been given the Gold Quill Award by the Diocese of Southern Ohio the past two years for both “best in show,: and “overall best design.” We have had many people tell us that they found out about something going on a Grace Church through the egracenotes.

We serve as Interfaith Hospitality Network hosts five times a year where we provide a meal, entertainment and overnight supervision for the homeless families in the program.

We have a parolee program with the State of Ohio where a group of parolees comes once a month to do community service helping around the church. We provide them with a hot meal and fellowship during the meal time. Many of the parolees have told us that we are the only group that actually treats them like human beings. Our sexton, Bob Jones, takes on the main responsibility for organizing this day, and it is a good ministry for him to lead.

Through the donations of members and friends, we were able to send eight children to Procter Summer Camp; three from our own congregation, and five from our community.

We have donated space to Children’s Hospital College Hill Campus that they use as a clothing closet to provide clothing for their long term patients.

We have recently organized a Christmas decoration give-away where people who need decorations can come and receive some nice things to make their homes more “Christmasy.”

We make monthly food and money contributions to the food pantry at Christ’s Community in College Hill.

Here is a brief list of other things that go on in our building during the week:

We have yoga classes and tai-chi classes

A Narcotics Anonymous group meets weekly

The Queen City Rainbow Band, a GLBT friendly organization, rehearses weekly and gives several concerts at Grace church during the year.

The Ugandan School (a group of Ugandan children and parents) meets once a month

Hawley Todd leads a weekly EfM group that draws members from the Greater Cincinnati area.

If there were any issues or concerns at Grace Church they would revolve around the fact that we have a beautiful, old, building that needs lots of attention, which, of course, costs money. We consider ourselves blessed because we have been able to deal with some of the day to day problems such as leaking roofs, need for plastering and painting in sanctuary, and many other things that come with maintaining our space. We have been able to pay for these projects mainly through reserve funds and donations of members and friends.

We are concerned about some of the larger issues with our building; the wood trim, including the frame work around our windows is in need of attention and is a project well beyond the scope of our budget. We will continue to trust in the Lord to keep the building standing while we use it as a center to do his work.

We are especially blessed to have numerous new families and individuals becoming associated with the “Grace Family” in recent months. These new faces not only bring new ideas to us on how to go about our business of serving the Lord, but, also supply new energy to us tired old timers.

Respectfully Submitted, Roger Perna, Senior Warden

Junior Warden’s 2012 Annual Report
By Wanda Miller, Junior Warden

Buildings and Grounds Committee

Members: Wanda Miller, Bob Jones, Ken Lyon, David Mukasa, Roger Perna, Don Wake, J White

Use of our building has increased, both in rentals and in providing good-will space. This use is overseen by J White. These groups are:

· EFM classes mentored and led by Hawley Todd

· Life Renewal Church (Sunday afternoon worship)

· Community Dinners twice per month (free)

· Yoga and Tai Chi classes

· Narcotics Anonymous

· The Queen City Rainbow Band

· Children’s Hospital College Hill Campus clothing closet space

· State of Ohio Parolee Program for completing community service

· Ugandan School (for parents and children)

Roof repairs and subsequent plaster repairs:

The roof continues to be a source of concern after a number of repairs to the roof itself as well as to the plaster damaged as a result of the leaks. The sanctuary has been scraped of peeling paint, plastered and painted. One of our priorities for 2013 is to make a decision about further ongoing repairs or replacing the slate areas with another material.

Work completed from our 2012 Wish List:

· Gravel added to parking area

· Baseboard molding added to upstairs hallway

· Commercial stove added to Great Hall kitchen

· Great Hall and kitchen floors stripped and waxed

· Ceiling painted in Great Hall

· Outside flags repaired and replaced

· Bathroom doors fitted with self-close hardware

· First floor ladies’ room scraped and painted

· Parking lot “mountain” razed (needs to be completed)

2013 Wish List being compiled at this reading!

Wanda Miller, Junior Warden

Mission and Formation Team Reports

Mission and Formation Teams 2012 Annual Report
By Carol Lyon and Hawley Todd, co-conveners

The Mission and Formation Teams are responsible for implementing the programs of the church that are designed to implement our goals.

Our two goals this year were:

1. To increase participation and inclusion of those seeking God within the ministries of Grace church and

2. Develop and practice ways of bringing deeper spirituality and healing into the lives of parishioners and our neighbors.

We had the following teams and their leader(s)

· Christian Formation-Virginia Chapel

· Healing-Hawley Todd

· Newcomer Ministry and Congregational Life-J. White

· Outreach-Mary McLain

· Pastoral Care-Laurie LeClaire and David Mukasa

· Worship-Judy Handy and Bill Jenne

In addition, church wide communications were reported by Ken Lyon.

The team reports follow.

Pastoral Care 2012 Annual Report
By Laurie LeClaire, co-leader, with David Mukasa

I am the new co-leader of this Team, along with David Mukasa. We are in the process of getting reorganized.

We have collected a list of names of those certified Lay Eucharistic Visitors willing to go into the homes of the shut ins who have requested the Eucharist be taken to them after Sunday services. When we get a list of those requesting home visits or phone calls, we will begin offering this service. I intend to call the LEV's on the list and ask if they would be willing to go on a rotation basis. We will pair newer people with the more experienced ones.

David Mukasa continues to make home visits to Miss Elizabeth Kelly, our eldest current church member, when she is not able to attend.

Those of us involved in the Wednesday Healing Services and the Reiki drumming will continue to send healing distance Reiki to those on the prayer list.

We will work with the office volunteers to get clarity about the expectations of those on our prayer list, so we know who expects calls, letters or home visits.

Any suggestions for our Pastoral Care ministry are welcome. 

Worship Team Annual Report 2012
By Judy Handy, co-leader with Bill Jenne

In keeping with our Team’s mission to ensure that an environment conducive to the hearing of God's words is achieved - for a growing and diverse parish family - here are some of our 2012 activities:

Worked closely with all our worship leaders to develop both the regular weekly and the special services. This was done with a mind toward finding new and diverse ways of enhancing the worship experience for all, e.g.

· our Palm Sunday service with the Passion Gospel read in parts;

· the Maundy Thursday service with footwashing;

· the Day of Pentecost with the reading of prayers in multiple languages;

· Youth Recognition Sunday with our young people serving in many capacities;

· Advent services with a new candle liturgy;

· additional relevant/seasonal prayers included, for Stewardship, All Saints’ and Veteran’s Day, and special global intercessions.

Provided Lenten and Advent devotional booklets to aid our spiritual growth. Included within the liturgy, a reaffirmation of our values, as well as a reading of the commandments, on two separate Sundays.

Continued to make regular adjustments to the bulletin, as necessary, to meet the needs, preferences and concerns of our congregation. Made changes to the bulletin process as well, when Announcements were moved to the weekly GraceNotes and when one of our team members transitioned from the bulletin-prep and Worship teams (after dedicating 3 years to these tasks!).

Coordinated the moves to and from the air-conditioned Great Hall for our summer services, which included our first-time use of the screen and projector for hymns.

Received new folks into the service volunteer rotation.

Facilitated a joint effort with Life Renewal Discipleship Church, to hold the Shrove Tuesday Community Pancake Supper.

Thank you to all who contributed to the success of last year’s activities.

Current members of the Worship Team are J. White, John Thayer, Roger Perna, and Bill Jenne (co-chair). We thank Albertha Howard and Tammy Robertson for their past membership.

We very much appreciate the dedication and ready support of all of our celebrants, as well.

Music 2012
By Bill Jenne, MM, and John Thayer

2012 was an interesting and productive year for music at Grace:

· we introduced new liturgies and hymns

· we incorporated liturgical dancing

· we continued the use of drumming

· we presented new soloists

· we used the bells to introduce an atmospheric sound during the Healing Service:

The use of handbells in worship services at Grace Church has expanded considerably in 2012, primarily through their use in Sunday Healing Services. At the suggestion of Bill Jenne, and with the encouragement of Hawley Todd, John Thayer began to use bell trees (chains of handbells linked together by their handles, held up vertically and played with mallets) comprised of the highest pitched bells. Fragments of familiar melodies were used, but random ringing predominated. This innovative use of handbells has been well-received and will continue.

As a result of this, the number of worship services using handbells expanded from 16 in 2011 to 26 in 2012. These bells were used for solo arrangements or in the bell trees mentioned above, and also as a voluntary accompaniment to hymns. They have also been used in conjunction with other percussion instruments (drums, triangle, clave, etc). I hope to expand this effort in coming years.

Last August, the national organization Handbell Musicians of America held its annual national seminar (conference) in Cincinnati. John attended and participated, gaining experience and insights in the process. In October the traveling “Bellman” stopped by Grace Church and spent a day refurbishing our handbells, some of which had been ringing for twenty years or more. They look and sound much better!

Persons interested in suggesting additional uses or learning how to ring are invited to contact the church office or John Thayer.

Grace Church Worship Service Attendance, 2001-2012
By John Thayer

The figures below reflect the changes that have occurred at Grace Church in the 21st Century. The year 2006 was the transition year, and a traumatic one it was, too! The sharp decline in the number of Sunday services after 2005 arise from the discontinuation of the 8:00 AM service on that day.

Figures for the last three years reflect the status change of Grace Church from parish to mission. Note that the proportion of attendees at the Weekday services has increased from 14.7% in 2008 to 36.5% in 2012.

Much of this comes from the Wednesday Healing services. There were 12 of these in 2012, with a total attendance of 582.

Numbers alone do not reflect the changes happening at Grace Church in recent years. Once past the trauma of 2006, members became more active, more dynamic, and worship activities have become more diversified. May God permit this to continue and grow!

Worship Service Attendance, 2001-2012

Notes on the table below.

The Sunday, Weekday and Total columns show the number of attendees, as reported in the Parish Register, divided by the number of services.

AA: Average attendance per service.

%Sunday: Sunday Service Attendance as percent of the Total Attendance.

OTL – Overall Totals

Year    Sunday     AA  Weekday AA   Total         AA     %Sunday

2001 3383/107 31.6 949/50   19.0 4332/157 27.6  78.1%

2002 2973/91   32.7 1173/39 30.1 4146/130 31.9  71.7

2003 2496/88   28.4 937/35   26.8 3433/123 25.8   72.7

2004 2416/83   29.1 353/23   15.3 2769/106 26.1   87.3

2005 2226/87   25.6 595/28   21.3 2821/115 24.5   78.9

2006 1756/62   28.3 330/14    23.6 2086/76 27.4    84.2

2007 2142/52   41.2 492/16    30.8 2634/68 38.7     81.3

2008 2045/51   40.1 347/12     38.9 2392/63 38.0    85.5

2009 2051/52   39.4 503/17     29.6 2554/69 37.0    80.3

2010 1636/49    33.4 745/32     23.2 2381/81 29.4    68.7

2011 1615/52    31.1 794/19     41.8 2409/71 33.9    67.0

2012 1601/53     30.2 920/20    46.0 2531/73 34.5     63.5

OTL 26,340/827 31.9 8138/315 26.7 34478/1132 30.5 76.4

Outreach Team Annual Report 2012
By Grace Staples with Team Leader Mary McLain

The Outreach Team supports the goals of Grace Church and its Mission and Formation Team by focusing on Christ in selecting and implementing local and global projects to alleviate the tangible and spiritual needs of our neighbors. Twenty-one Grace church volunteers provided hands-on service to accomplish these goals this past year and we had donations from many more.

We personally provided home-cooked meals, shelter, activities and fellowship to homeless families on five nights this year as part of the Interfaith Hospitality Network. (Other College Hill churches provided the same services the other nights of the week for a total of five full weeks' shelter.) In total, we served 45 adults and children of the approximately 400+ IHN served in 2012. This project is not only crucial to combating the rising tide of family homelessness in Cincinnati, but has proven to be an attractive element to newcomers and friends to our church who have volunteered in greater numbers. All of the volunteers who come in contact with these families come away with a respect for them in the way they treat each other in adversity and with a great thankfulness for the blessings we often take for granted. We contributed 186 volunteer hours to this project, alone.

2012 was the summer when 20 families with repeated stays in homelessness finally found the hope that they need through IHN’s new Permanent Supportive Housing Program. Rental assistance and on-going case management is provided to ensure that families can stay in one place long enough to stabilize their families. Best of all? The cycle of homelessness is broken before it can carry on to the next generation.

In our project with Ohio State Parolees, we provided these men with a means to fulfill necessary community service hours in order to gain release from parole and pursuit of better jobs. We also provide a hot homemade lunch and Christian fellowship eleven months of the year. Anywhere from 6 to 11 parolees reported each month and were supervised in tasks and served by 5 or 6 Grace volunteers each time. The parolees have performed groundskeeping, landscaping, carried heavy loads, painted rooms, cleaned and made repairs to the building. Some volunteer to say the blessing at the meal and several linger for conversation. With only a half time janitor, we are truly grateful for the services they provide.

Roger Perna and J. White collaborated with Life Renewal Discipleship Church to provide once a month and then twice a month Community Dinners to the hungry or lonely. Approximately 50-70 people were served each month through donations of money, food and volunteer cooks. The effort has been supported by Don Wake and Bob Jones through their on-site labor in set-up, take-down and cleanup.

We have supported the food pantry of Christ Community in College Hill throughout the year with canned goods and cash. In addition, our congregation contributed to purchase over 100 packages of stuffing for over 200 Thanksgiving dinner boxes. Two of our middle school children and one adult helped to pack every one of those boxes. In December, Mary McLain came up with the idea of soliciting gently used artificial trees and decorations to be given away to some of these same families. Assisted by Belinda Perna, the Gloria Holder room was filled with beautiful decorations (see photos on the website) and many grateful families also enjoyed Christmas music, hot chocolate and cider, Christmas cookies and popcorn as they sat and chatted for a few minutes.

Finally, Grace Church members supported the NetsforLife campaign to honor our good friend and retiring Bishop Kenneth Price and his wife, Mariann. This 2012 global project of our outreach helps prevent malaria in Africa and has demonstrated that it saves many lives.

Thank you to all the many Grace Church volunteers and friends who have been so dedicated to the above projects this past year and helped make them a blessing to our neighbors near and far.

Newcomer Ministry & Congregational Life Annual Report 2012
By Johnnye’ White, Team Leader

Over the past year, Grace has welcomed 55 visitors on Sundays and many others who attended various weekday services.

The Snack ‘n Chat after Sunday services has been very successful in introducing visitors to members as well as in strengthening relationships among members and friends.

On several occasions, visitors have received flowers and bread. All have gotten letters or cards welcoming them to Grace, and most have subscribed to eGraceNotes. Several have become regular attendees.

Christian Formation Annual Report 2012
Virginia Chapel, Team Leader
Sunday School

By Virginia Chapel

This past year we have helped our children learn and grow.

· They have learned words to prayers I.e. The Lords Prayer.

· We have read, studied and had some interesting discussions about the readings we have each Sunday.

· We have discussions on items we pray for and explained what it means to each of the children .

· We treated the children to an Easter egg hunt .

· We celebrated two of our young people graduating high school and going on to college, as well cheering the good work of the younger children.

We are currently searching for proper lesson plans for the various age groups.

Our class size numbers are up a great deal, so we are looking for more volunteers and asking for the room adjacent to separate the toddlers and older children.

In 2013, we will have Family Sunday replacing Youth Sunday. The children and family members will all take part in helping out during our service.

Education for Ministry

By Hawley Todd, TSSF

One of the best kept secrets of Grace Episcopal Church is EfM (Education for Ministry). EfM has had a long history at Grace. Currently we have a Monday evening class with participants from many different parishes.

In the spring of 2010, two members of the Education for Ministry class received diplomas from the University of the South, School of Theology. Each of these students had completed this four-year program of Theological Education by Extension.

EfM was designed to take a seminary education to all the parishes of the Episcopal Church so that all lay persons would have the opportunity to have the highest quality of Christian education and training possible. Having mentored EfM classes since 1996, I cannot overstate how important this program is for anyone who wants to be a follower of Jesus Christ!

EfM classes incorporate all the best aspects of Christian fellowship and worship with small group discussions and intensive study of Holy Scripture and the Christian Tradition. Each meeting begins with prayer and worship so that all that we do is set in the context of growing in our love and relationship with God. Every class also incorporates time for fellowship and the sharing of snacks. The heart of the EFM process is to integrate our knowledge of God into our daily lives.

If you would like to learn more about EFM, please contact Hawley Todd. We would love to have you join our next class which starts in September of 2013!

Bible Study

By Ken Lyon

We started a 9 am Sunday Lectionary Bible Study this year. Attendance has varied between two and eight.

Every Sunday, we review the lessons to be read at the 10 am service, learning about the context in which they were written and why, and then looking for their relationship to our own lives today.

Sometimes, we have some great aha’s!

Healing Ministry Team Annual Report 2012
By Hawley Todd TSSF

Grace Church has had healing as one of its expressed goals for 2012. The church and its leadership have worked diligently to promote healing. One of the most exciting aspects is the concept of seeing the Grace Community as an oasis for healing in a broken world. Healing takes many forms and is not limited to what has been traditionally labeled as “healing ministries.” For instance, the yoga class, Tai Chi, and the various 12 step programs are all “healing ministries!”

Grace Church has continued the monthly ecumenical Wednesday night Healing Service. It includes the traditional laying-on-of-hands and anointing with holy oil combined with African drumming and various modalities of healing such as Reike and Healing Touch. Attendance at the services is strong and it has a vibrant and devoted following. It is a wonderful opportunity to experience the love and healing presence of God and all are encouraged to attend! The Interchange published an article this year about how Grace’s vision of teaming with Episcopal Healing Ministries and Rhythm for Healing has created a wonderful synergy which has been copied by churches in other denominations. In many ways, the Wednesday evening service could be a paradigm for Grace as we move forward in 2013. Partnering with other organizations is in itself a sign of bringing wholeness and unity to a fractured world.

Monthly Sunday morning Celebrations of Wholeness and Healing are now part of the worship life of Grace. These services are held on the Sunday morning following the second Wednesday of each month. One exciting aspect to these services is that participants from both the Wednesday night healing team and the regular Sunday morning healing team have been joining together to lead the prayers at these services.

Our healing team has continued to offer the laying-on-of-hands at our various services. J White’s devoted service has been a blessing to us all! We often have anointing with holy oil as well. God’s presence has been abundantly manifest, and we thank and praise God for the many stories we have received from parishioners about God’s grace and healing. One of the most common requests for prayer has been for prayers of thanksgiving!

Communications Annual Report 2012
by Ken Lyon

This year, we decided to replace the announcements page of the Sunday bulletin with a revived Grace Notes newsletter, using content from each week’s eGraceNotes enewsletter. Grace Notes is included in the Sunday service order, and is also sent to our shut-ins.

As in past years, Grace Church used several internet-based communications technologies to tell the world about Grace Church during 2012: a web site (, an enewsletter (eGraceNotes) and a Facebook page (

Visits to the Grace Church website are down somewhat from a year ago, from about 250 visitors per week to about 160. Returning visits, are, however, up from about 15 a week to about 25. We continue to hear from visitors that they have found Grace Church via the internet.

eGraceNotes keeps members and friends uptodate on what’s happening at Grace. This year, we decided to publish weekly, so during 2012, we emailed 50 issues of eGraceNotes to subscribers, up from 21 the year before. Subscribers have risen from 165 to 200 during the year.

For the second year in a row,eGraceNotes was awarded the Gold Quill Award by the Diocese of Southern Ohio for both “best in show,: and “overall best design.”

We still consider Grace’s Facebook page to be a bit of an experiment. We try to put something on the page at least weekly, so that people are reminded of us. During 2012, people “liking” our page went from 70 to 165.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bank Account Balances as December 31, 2012

Treasurer’s Report 2012

Checking Account            $9,813.99

Savings Account              15,987.15

Savings Account              13,585.38

Rainbow Band A/C Fund     952.00

Total Cash on hand       $40,338.52

Grace Episcopal Church - FY 2012 Budget vs. Actual


2012 Budget




Pledges & other offerings

Undesignated pledge offerings




Special contributions (e.g., Memorial Fund)




Building Maintenance Fund




Flower Fund




Landscape Fund




Music Fund




Non-pledge offerings















Other Income
























Total Income





Salaries & Benefits

Supply Priest




Supply Priest - Travel




Supply Organist








Custodian Benefits (life ins.)




Staff (monthly healing services)




Church Portion FCIA/Med




Workmans' Compensation








Cincinnati Bell




Duke Engergy




Cincinnati Water Works







Property & Building

Bldg. Maintenance Fund Expense




Grounds Maintenance




Landscape Fund Expense




Pest Control




Property Insurance




Custodian Supplies




Waste Service








Office Expense [Supplies & Misc. Exp.]




Copy Machine












Computer Serivces




Bank Fees




Mission Share







Christian Education & Worship Expense

Chruch School Supplies




Altar Supplies & Worship Expense




Flower Fund Expense




Other Worship Expense




Music Expense & Guest Musicians




Special Programs







Total Expense




Total Excess/Loss