Saturday, December 01, 2007

Health & Wellness: Self-Regulation & Optimism

From the Grace Church Health and Wellness Committee, December 2007

The liturgical themes for December are repentance, preparation, anticipation and hope. The Committee Offerings for the month will focus on self-regulation, as a form of preparation, and optimism, as a component of hope.

Whether the health topic is immunization, diabetes prevention, stress management, fitness or food safety, if you believe that you can take appropriate action to prevent or to solve a problem, then you are more likely to do so. Such a belief in one’s adaptive abilities to effect a change in a situation is not an illusion or an unrealistic sense of optimism. Such beliefs are based on experience.

A good self-regulatory strategy combined with strong experience-based beliefs in that strategy for achieving a healthy lifestyle together with being optimistic that the plan will work are the three key elements of any preparation. Your Rector and/or health practitioner are the best sources of information about how to get and stay prepared for a healthy life.

Self-Regulation: Health promotion literature is replete with research supporting the importance of self-regulation in living a healthy lifestyle. Adopting behaviors consistent with a healthy lifestyle and refraining from health-threatening behaviors is difficult. Temptations abound to forgo that brisk walk after dinner and instead to kick-back in front of the T.V. and watch Monday Night Football. Experts say that the likelihood that we will adopt a health-promoting behavior (such as physical exercise) or change a detrimental habit (such as quitting smoking) rests on three sets of beliefs: (a) the belief that my “unhealthful behaviors” are putting me at risk ("My risk of developing heart disease because of my sedentary lifestyle is above average"), (b) the belief that adopting behavioral change would reduce the risk ("If I begin and maintain an exercise program, I will reduce my risk"), and perhaps most importantly for this discussion (c) the belief that I am capable of adopting a health-promoting behavior or refraining from a risky habit.

  • Self-Regulatory (Goal Setting) Strategies– most experts agree that goal setting is an integral part of self-regulation. Key strategies for successful self-regulation are as follows:
    • Establish goals for desired self-regulatory outcomes.
    • Subdivide long-term goals into short-term subgoals.
    • View the goals as reasonable and commit to attempt to attain them. Provide verbal encouragement (e.g., "You can do this.") to yourself to help in staying motivated to accomplish their goals. Encourage others to provide similar verbal encouragements to you.
    • Monitor your own progress toward goal achievement. Keep written records.
    • Develop strategies for coping with difficulties (e.g., set-backs and plateaus). Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate goals and/or timelines.
    • Periodically reevaluate your own capabilities. The perception of progress will often strengthen your belief in your own efficacy. This is critical for continued motivation and self-regulation.

Optimism: Increasingly, articles in the popular press and health journals point to depression as a significant risk factor for premature death when paired with chronic disease (e.g., diabetes). Chronic diseases are health conditions that require us to adapt our lifestyles, potentially to disabilities associated with the disease or to the undesirable side effects of the treatments. So it is no surprise that such conditions are often paired with personal, pervasive and sometimes permanent feelings of despair, helplessness and hopelessness. Experts agree that the most damaging effect of such feelings and self-talk is the loss of the will to act. As we discussed earlier this month, if you believe that you can take appropriate action to prevent or to solve a problem, then you are more likely to do so. If you are optimistic that your behavioral efforts to achieve optimum health will work, you are more likely to persist in the face of early setbacks and disappointments. Your Rector and/or health practitioner are the best sources of information about how to get and stay prepared for a healthy life.

  • Learning to be Helpless: Behavioral scientists note that having pervasive feelings of helplessness can become a habit and even generalize from one arena of our lives (e.g., school or work) to other arenas (e.g., our self-care). Over time we can learn to talk to our selves using pessimistic words. We sometimes learn such pessimistic “self-talk” from our parents, teachers and perhaps others in positions of authority over us after we have had a setback or failed to reach a desired goal (e.g., I failed that test; I am not a good student; I have never been a good student; I will always be a poor student; I not a very good worker either; I cannot keep track of the medicines I am supposed to take; I am just not a very worthwhile person; All the ills that befall me are my fault!). Do you ever catch yourself saying these kinds of words to yourself? Do such words promote action on your part or rather do they promote paralysis? Learning to be helpless can be unlearned!
  • Learning to be Optimistic: Experts say that a sense of optimism leading to a different type of self-talk can inoculate us against feelings of helplessness. Such learnings have a number of key components including:
    • Accept that “failures” and/or negative occurrences are a part of the act of living;
    • Forgive yourself and or seek forgiveness from others for your shortcomings;
    • Practice disputing “self-statements” that suggest that a setback is singularly your fault, pervasive in every arena of your life and permanent (for all time).
    • If you find yourself in a “loop” of self-deprecating statements (personal “put-downs”), say out loud to yourself (or sub vocalize) the word, STOP!
    • Write down a list of the concerns underpinning your personal “put-downs” for further consideration at some specific appointed time in the future.
    • Allow yourself the freedom to act. Over time, optimistic self-statements will become a habit. Such optimism taken together with the self-regulation discussed earlier this month will promote the adoption and maintenance of health-promoting behavior and avoidance of risky habits.

Should you have concerns or want additional information about the material presented above, please contact your local mental health care provider, the Rector, or someone on the Grace Church Health and Wellness Ministry Committee (Chaired by Mrs. Florence Poyer, R.N.)

Prepared by: Walter S. Handy, Ph.D., Member, Grace Church Health and Wellness Ministry Committee

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Health & Wellness: Stress Management

From the Grace Church Health and Wellness Committee, November 2007

Your doctor and/or mental health practitioner is the best source of information about how stress may be affecting your health.

Stressful Life Events: As September’s discussion of different forms of exercise revealed, some forms of stress can actually be beneficial to our health. Just as some levels or intensities of physical exercise can be excessively stressful to some of us and not stressful enough for others of us, so too are the effects of the same life events a matter of individual differences in their effects on our mental and physical health. With the exception of pain and disease, the majority of life events that we face are only stressful to us as a consequence of how we interpret or categorize them. For some of us promotions at work, birth of a child, purchasing a new home or relocating to a new city may be seen as positive stressors and adding anticipation and excitement to life. To others the same life events may be viewed with dread and anxiety because these same life events cause us to adopt new behaviors, systems, habits and approaches to life and are thus associated with confrontation, frustration and sorrow.

Our goal here is not to eliminate stress but to learn how to manage it and how to use it to help us. Not having enough stress can leave us feeling bored. Conversely, excessive and unrelieved stress may leave us feeling overwhelmed, sleeping poorly and may even predispose us to having a heart attack. Our challenge is to find the optimal level of stress which will individually motivate but not overwhelm each of us.

Stress: Its many sources and some management strategies - Life events and our associations to them come in an infinite variety. Effective management of our exposure to and interpretation of these live events is essential if we are to avoid the harmful psychological and physical effects of excessive and unrelieved stress. However, all effective stress management strategies require work toward change: changing the source of stress and/or changing our reaction to it.

  • · Become aware of your personal stressful life events and your emotional and physical reactions to them.
  • · Pray early and often (e.g., "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.")
  • · Learn and practice moderating your emotional and physical reactions to stress.
  • · Exercise regularly, eat in moderation and maintain your ideal weight.
  • · Limit the responsibilities you take on particularly during holiday seasons that are already overloaded with your own expectations and the expectations of others.
  • · Develop and maintain mutually supportive friendships.

Should you have concerns or want additional information about the material presented above, please contact your local health care provider, public health department, mental health center or someone on the Grace Church Health and Wellness Ministry Committee. This Committee is chaired by Mrs. Florence Poyer, R.N.

Prepared by: Walter S. Handy, Ph.D.. Member, Grace Church Health and Wellness Ministry Committee

Health & Wellness: Food Safety

From the Grace Church Health and Wellness Ministry Committee, November 2007

With Thanksgiving around the corner, the theme for the second half of November is Food Safety. Your local health department is the best source of information about food safety and how it may be affecting your health.

The goal of safe food handling and preparation is the prevention of foodborne illnesses. Such illnesses (Salmonellosis, Campylobacteriosis or E. coli infection.) result when you eat foods contaminated during production, preparation or storage, by harmful organisms, such as bacteria, parasites or viruses. The most common signs and symptoms of such illnesses are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Fortunately, most cases of foodborne illness are mild and can be treated at home by replacing lost fluids and electrolytes. More serious cases may be treated in a hospital where patients are given fluids through a vein.

  • Food Types: Some foods (e.g., fruits, custards, gravies, vegetables, precooked foods, raw fish, ground beef, pork, shellfish, veal, poultry and poultry products) are more potentially hazardous than other foods (e.g., breads, pastries, pastas and other ready-to-eat foods).
  • Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP) is a system, promoted by the Food and Drug Administration, to prevent foodborne illnesses. The system, in brief, is designed to (a) identify the greatest hazards to food safety, (b) establish maximum or minimum limits (e.g., temperature) needed to reduce risk, and (c) adopt corrective actions as needed,
  • Safe Food Handling Practices: We can adopt many of the Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points principles in our homes and churches.
    • Avoid buying packages with tears or leaks.
    • Keep raw beef, pork and poultry separate from other foods.
    • Cool large volumes of food in several small containers within the refrigerator.
    • Wash your hands, countertops, sinks, cutting boards, tables and utensils before and after handling different foods.
    • Cook foods to appropriate temperature. Casseroles, beef, veal, pork and lamb should be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Poultry should be cooked to minimum internal temperatures of 165 degrees. Raw fish, shellfish, and veal should be cooked to at least 145 degrees. Fruits, vegetables and precooked foods should be cooked to at least 135 degrees.
    • To make sure you can enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers:
      • Food should never be left out more than two hours, such as after Thanksgiving dinner.
      • Leftover foods must be reheated to 165 degrees for 15 seconds.
    • Cool food from 135 degrees to 70 degrees in no more than 2 hours and continue to cool from 70 degrees to 41 degrees in no more than 4 hours - within the refrigerator.
    • When ready for serving, keep cold foods cold (40 degrees or colder) and hot foods hot (135 degrees or hotter), but NEVER at room temperature.
    • Potentially hazardous foods should be date marked with the expiration date no later than 6 days from the date the item was prepared or the container opened.

Should you have concerns or want additional information about the material presented above, please contact your local public health department, environmental health department of a local university, or someone on the Grace Church Health and Wellness Ministry Committee. This Committee is chaired by Mrs. Florence Poyer, R.N.

Prepared by: Walter S. Handy, Ph.D., Member, Grace Church Health and Wellness Ministry Committee . (with the assistance of Environmental Health staff at the Cincinnati Health Department)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What Should I Give?

It's a question that comes up all the time---from young and old alike. Well, let me tell you, no one at Grace Church is going to give you an amount whether in terms of time or dollars. That's something that comes from within you. It's a response. But we can give you some guidelines:

  1. Giving needs to be a THANKSgiving, glad and voluntary;
  2. After meditation and prayer on the blessings we have received;
  3. Intentional and planned (see above and below);
  4. Responsible according to the standard Jesus and the disciples have set for us;
  5. Proportionate as a percentage of income(s) and skills and time with which we have been blessed;
  6. And systematic so that it is a weekly or monthly discipline.

And finally, giving will be evident in its effects on the giver in terms of spiritual growth, deeper commitment, and, yes, once again, thankfulness. Giving does, indeed, come full circle.

The Stewardship Committee

Thoughts on Stewardship


• When we are baptized into the body of Christ, we commit to become His heart and hands and feet, guided by the Holy Spirit.

• Lord, mold me, make me, use me to further your kingdom on earth.

• “This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.” Is the light of Christ shining through you in thought, word and deed?

• We are told to “cast our bread upon the waters” --- not the crumbs. One can start working toward proportional giving by starting with 2% - 5% of income ---and making that the first check we write each week.

“He who observes the wind will not sow; and he who regards the clouds will not reap.” - Ecclesiastes
Are we too cautious as servants of the Lord?

• Each one of us can do at least one thing to help dispel the darkness of the world. Contact your Outreach Committee for ideas.

• The Millennium Goals giving of .7 percent of income for individuals, parishes and dioceses is sacrificial and intended to be in addition to our giving for our parish ministry and other charities.

The righteous will ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly I say to you, as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” – Matthew

• Replace the Attitude with Gratitude.

08/22/07 GS

Grace Episcopal Church By-Laws

Article I. Name and Organization, Mission, Membership.

Section 1. Name and Organization.

Grace Episcopal Church shall be organized and administered as set forth by the provisions of the Constitutions and Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America and the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio and acknowledges their authority accordingly. The Parish holds all real and personal property in trust for the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Hereinafter, any reference to "Parish" shall include "Mission", "Rector" shall include "Vicar", and "Vestry" shall include "Mission Council".

Section 2. Mission.

To be a Place of Grace, a community where all are welcome:

  • to experience the grace of God through worship, study and action,
  • to celebrate our diversity and history,
  • to care for our community and each other,
  • to serve Christ daily in our lives and work.
Section 3. Membership.

All persons who have been baptized by water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and who identify Grace as their home Parish and make it their principal place of worship shall be considered Members of the Parish.

Article II. Parish Meetings.

Section 1. The Annual Meeting.

A. Time and Purpose.

The Annual Meeting of the Members of Grace shall be held on a Sunday during the month of January or February at the discretion of the Rector, Wardens and Vestry. The purpose of the Annual Meeting shall be:

  • to elect Wardens, Vestry Members, Delegates and Alternates to Diocesan Convention and North Deanery Representatives according to vacancies to be filled,
  • to hear receive reports by the Rector, Vestry Officers and Organizations of the Parish, and to conduct other such business that may properly come before the meeting.

All Members of the Parish shall be notified at least 10 days in advance of the date and hour of the Annual Meeting. The place of the Annual Meeting shall be on the church property unless a different place is specified.

B. Voting Members.

Persons eligible to vote in the Annual Meeting shall be Members at least sixteen years of age. Voting by proxy shall not be allowed at any meetings of the Parish.

C. Quorum.

One-third of the Members defined in the last annual report, shall constitute a quorum at the Annual Meeting. A majority vote of those voting shall determine any matter presented.

D. Rules.

Except where inconsistent with the By-laws and/or Canons, the rules contained in Robert’s Rules of Order Revised shall govern all cases to which they are applicable.

E. Nominating Committee.

A Nominating Committee shall be appointed by the Rector, subject to approval by the Vestry, at least three months prior to the Annual Meeting. It shall consist of three persons. The Nominating Committee shall submit the names of its candidates to the meeting in writing. Opportunity shall be given for additional nominations from the floor during the Annual Meeting. The consent of all people put in nomination must be secured in advance.

F. Voting.

Voting for Wardens, Vestry, Convention Delegates, Deanery Representatives and Alternates shall be done by ballot. Candidates receiving the highest number of votes will be elected. Tie votes will be recast.

Section 2. Special Meetings.

A Special Meeting of the Members of the Parish may be called by the Vestry, by the Rector or by the written request of one-third of the Members of the Parish. Calls for a Special Meeting shall specify the time, place and purpose thereof, and no business other that that specified in the call shall be considered at any such meeting. All Members of the Parish shall be notified at least ten days in advance of the date, time and place of a Special Meeting.

Article III. Parish Representation.

At each Annual Meeting, delegates to the Diocesan Convention will be elected four if the church is in Parish status, or two if the church is in Mission status)for two-year terms. Two alternates shall be elected for one-year terms.

Article IV. The Vestry or Mission Council

The Vestry is the lay authority of the Parish. It is the agent and legal representative of the Parish in all matters concerning the corporate property, finances and the relations of the Parish to its Clergy. It operates within the parameters of the Canons of the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in The Diocese of Southern Ohio.

Section 1. Composition.

The Vestry shall be composed of between six and nine Members plus the Junior and Senior Warden. Vestry seats vacated at the time of the Annual Meeting are to be elected by the Parish Members at each Annual Meeting. (See Sec. 3 for seats vacated in the interim.) All Members elected by the Parish, those elected by the Vestry, and the Junior Warden and Senior Warden shall be entitled to vote on all matters before the Vestry.

Section 2. Term of Office.

The term of office for Vestry Members elected by the Parish is three years. A Vestry Member may be elected for a maximum of two consecutive terms after which they may run for office again after a one-year interval.

Section 3. Vacant Positions.

The Vestry will elect a new person to fill any vacated position. The person so elected will serve until the next Annual Meeting.

Section 4. Organization of the Vestry.

A. The Vestry will meet in an organizational meeting immediately following the Annual Parish Meeting. At this first meeting, new Vestry Members shall receive a copy of the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church in The Diocese of Southern Ohio and copies of the appropriate sections of the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church. Members are expected to familiarize themselves with the Constitution and Canons appropriate to their offices.

B. The Vestry will meet at regularly scheduled dates and times. Parish Members will be told in advance of the schedule for the regular meetings.

C. A majority of the Vestry Members in office shall constitute a quorum for the purpose of doing business.

D. The Vestry shall have the following standing committees: Buildings and Grounds, Finance and Stewardship / Development. Vestry may appoint ad hoc committees as needed.

Section 5. Vestry Officers.

A. Senior Warden.

The Senior Warden is the chief ranking lay officer of the Parish. The Senior Warden will be elected at the Annual Meeting for a term of one year and may serve up to three successive years.

B. Junior Warden.

The Junior Warden shall be elected at The Annual Meeting to serve a term of one year. The Junior Warden may serve a maximum of three successive years. At the end of the three years, the Junior Warden is eligible for the position of Senior Warden.

C. Clerk.

The Vestry will elect annually its Clerk for one year. The Clerk may be a Member of the Vestry with all the rights and privileges thereof or may not be a Member of the Vestry. In the latter case, he or she shall have a voice in all meetings, but no vote.

D. Treasurer.

Vestry will elect annually the Treasurer to serve one year. The Treasurer may be a Member of the Vestry with all the rights and privileges thereof or may not be a Member of the Vestry. In the latter case, he or she shall have a voice in all meetings, but no vote.

Section 6. Fiduciary Responsibilities.

The following by-laws are in addition to the Fiduciary responsibilities outlined in the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Southern Ohio.

A. All groups or organizations that are part of Grace Church or want to use the name of Grace Church must present all fund-raising efforts to the Vestry for prior review and approval.

B. The Vestry reserves the right to accept or reject gifts to the church.

C. All checks over $500 must be signed by two Parish authorities. These authorities are the Treasurer, the Senior Warden, the Junior Warden, or other person(s) approved by the Vestry.

Article V. Amendments.

These by-laws may be amended or repealed by the voting Members of the Parish at an Annual or Special Meeting by a two thirds vote of the Members who are present at any such meeting; provided that any proposed amendment be sent to each eligible voting Member at least two weeks prior to such a meeting. All changes or substitutions shall take effect immediately following the close of the meeting at which they are adopted.

These by-laws adopted on October 21, 2007, shall supersede any previous by-laws or Code of Regulations formerly adopted by this Parish.

Adopted by a two-thirds vote at the Parish Meeting on October 21, 2007.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Health & Wellness: Obesity and Diabetes

From the Grace Church Health and Wellness Committee, October 2007

The themes for October are obesity and diabetes. Maintaining a sedentary lifestyle and failure to control food portion size are two key elements in the development of obesity and Type 2 diabetes (the most common form of diabetes). Your doctor is the best source of information about which form of diabetes you may be at risk for.

  • Obesity: It is almost impossible to turn on the television or open a magazine or newspaper today and not be confronted by a drug, medical procedure or device targeted to fight obesity. But what is it? Simply put, obesity is an unhealthy level of body fat. Body mass index, or BMI, is a reliable measure of our body fat or our weight relative to our height and a useful tool in evaluating the extent to which we may be underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese. While generally reliable, the BMI has at least two limitations: (a) It may overestimate body fat in athletes and others who have a muscular build; and (b) It may underestimate body fat in older persons and others who have lost muscle mass. A number of adverse health conditions are contributed to by being overweight or obese including: diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

  • Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes develops over time when either your body does not produce enough insulin in your blood or your cells ignore the insulin. The food we eat is broken down into glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar that is the main source of energy for our body's cells. Our cells cannot use glucose without insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin helps the cells take in glucose and convert it to energy. Being obese or overweight affects the way insulin works in your body. Extra fat tissue that is associated with obesity can make your body resistant to the action of insulin, but exercise helps insulin work well. As a result of this growing insulin resistance and increasing levels of glucose in the blood, your body begins overproducing insulin to regulate glucose levels. Over time your body can no longer keep these levels (insulin and glucose) in a normal range. Eventually this inability to achieve balance between insulin and glucose results in higher, unhealthy glucose levels, and ultimately leads to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

    Connections: While obesity does increase the risk of developing diabetes, diabetes involves more than being obese. Only 5 – 10 percent of obese people are diabetic, and many diabetics are not obese. For most people, Type 2 diabetes is strongly associated with family history or genetics. Once diabetes has developed, weight loss can help but may not cure the diabetes. Finally, once developed, diabetes becomes a part of a larger group of health conditions referred to as the metabolic syndrome.

    To summarize:

    • Obesity is an unhealthy level of body fat and
    • As a result of lifestyle choices and our family histories, more and more of us are developing Type 2 diabetes. Developing Type 2 diabetes does not happen suddenly, but rather is a result of a series of unhealthy changes in how our bodies process glucose (a simple sugar that is the main source of energy for our body's cells). Once developed, diabetes becomes a part of a larger group of health conditions referred to as the metabolic syndrome.

    Your doctor is the best source of information about which medical conditions associated with metabolic syndrome you may be at risk for (e.g., heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes – all related to plaque buildups in artery walls).

    • Metabolic Syndrome is defined by the National Cholesterol Education Program as the presence of any three of the following conditions: (a) excess fat around the waist, (b) high levels of triglycerides, (c) low levels of HDL, or "good," cholesterol, (d) high blood pressure (130/85 mm Hg or higher), or (e) high fasting blood glucose levels. All of these conditions put the heart at significant risk. Knowing your “numbers” (cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose), discussing them with your doctor, and taking appropriate actions are keys to preventing heart disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that just 7 percent of patients with diabetes are getting all the medical treatments they need.

    • Preventing or Delaying Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes develops when either the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin (insulin resistance). Being overweight and/or sedentary negatively affects the way insulin works in our bodies. Eventually the body’s inability to achieve balance between insulin and glucose results in higher, unhealthy glucose and insulin levels, and leads to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

    • · Glucose levels change all of the time, in response to the amount and type of food we eat and the intensity and duration of our activities. Those of us with blood glucose levels that are consistently higher than normal but not yet in the diabetic range are often referred to as “pre-diabetic.” Pre-diabetics usually have no symptoms. Studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health indicate that pre-diabetes (insulin resistance) can, in some cases, be reversed and in other cases, delayed. Key action steps in reaching these goals include: (a) increasing physical activity (helping your muscle cells use blood glucose), (b) eating a low-fat, low-calorie diet, (c) achieving optimum weight, and (d) controlling blood pressure and cholesterol.

    Should you have concerns or want additional information about the material presented above, please contact your local health care provider, public health department or someone on the Grace Church Health and Wellness Ministry Committee. This Committee is chaired by Mrs. Florence Poyer, R.N.

    Prepared by: Walter S. Handy, Ph.D., Member, Grace Church Health and Wellness Ministry Committee

    Sunday, September 30, 2007

    Stewardship Sermon

    The Rev. Ernestein Flemister, September 30, 2007

    Today, we present the dreaded stewardship sermon, told through the familiar story of Lazarus and the rich man.

    Jesus begins by describing a rich man. He is given no name; he is your run of the mill, average, generic, rich guy. Jesus then describes a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores and lying at the gate of the rich man.

    We see the contrast. Lazarus longs to satisfy his hunger with what falls from the rich man’s table. Lazarus has nothing, he is helpless and dependant. Even the dogs feel sorry for him and lick his sores.

    Fast forward: Lazarus dies and the angels carry him away to be with Abraham. The rich man also dies and is buried, but he is not in the company of Abraham or angels. He is tormented in Hades. He looks up and sees Abraham and with him is Lazarus.

    The rich man calls to him and says, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.”

    But Abraham says, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.”

    “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.”

    The rich man did not recognize Lazarus and his need for food and shelter. He was concerned only with satisfying his own needs, he shared nothing with Lazarus. He paid no attention to Moses the lawgiver or the words of the prophets while he was enjoying his earthly possessions. In Hades, he is still only concerned with himself, he wants water to cool his tongue and relieve his suffering.

    Ironies of ironies, there is a chasm that divides them and Lazarus cannot cross the chasm. In life, there was also a chasm between them; one that could have been crossed if the rich man had paid a little attention to the needs of others.

    God had blessed him with great wealth. He had everything the world could offer. Notice the detail with which Jesus describes his attire; he is dressed in purple, the color of royalty and fine linen which can only be purchased by the wealthy. Jesus tells us that he feasted sumptuously every day--not often and not sometimes, but every day. He made the choice to consume it all for his own desires and needs. The barrier that existed between the rich man and Lazarus could have been breached by love, kindness and compassion but it was not. He was rich in material possessions, but poor in spirit.

    You and I have been blessed by God with much. We may take some things for granted, like clean water, electricity, medical facilities, public transportation, a free education and relative security. We at Grace Church have also been blessed. The doors are still open; we are keeping our heads above water and we are doing ministry. We are reaching outside our walls and beyond our borders to help others; we are bridging the chasm and I thank you all for contributing your time, talents and treasury. We want to continue to do all these things and more but we need your continued support.

    As I mentioned last week, money is a very touchy topic in religious circles and I don’t understand why. The word money/possessions or some related topic is mentioned more than 200 times in the Bible. Jesus mentions it specifically 24 times in the four Gospels. Some examples are Matthew 19:21, 21:12, Mark 6.8, 14.11, Luke 3.14, 19.23 and John 2.14-16. From Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (security, power and possessions) to his anointing at the Last Supper (found in Matt. 26.6-13) money/possessions pervades his teachings.

    Everything that we are, all that we have belongs to God. The notion that we own anything is a myth. The rich man’s theology of money did not attribute his wealth as a blessing and gift from God.

    Money is one of the factors that enable the Church to do God’s work in the world; but it cannot be only about money and possessions. Stewardship encompasses all that we do with what God has blessed us with. The rich man’s heart in our Gospel lacked love and care for his neighbor Lazarus; he did not share the blessings that he received from God. Stewardship is above all about love and caring; the condition of our hearts more than anything else.

    Should we talk about money? Absolutely! The issue of finance and other resources can sometimes be a major source of conflict and difficulty within church families and should be discussed.

    How do we view money/possessions? What is yours, mine, our theology of money? It is important to say that there is not a single all in-compassing theology of money. We need to engage each other in a discussion and exchange ideas on the theology of money and the culture and thinking on stewardship and money matters. Society’s influence is strong and obvious. Many members feel that decisions about finances are individual and not appropriate to talk or discuss within the Church. They feel that it is a question that should be decided between them and God and the Church should stay out of the matter.

    One of the keys to adjusting this outlook is teaching and understanding how we view possessions.

    Psalm 24.1-2 says that

    The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.

    Today’s psalm, Psalm 146.4-8, says,

    Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help! whose hope is in the LORD their God; Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them; who keeps his promise for ever; Who gives justice to those who are oppressed, and food to those who hunger. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind; the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; The LORD loves the righteous; the LORD cares for the stranger; he sustains the orphan and widow, but frustrates the way of the wicked…

    Are possessions a gift and blessing from God or are they something that is earned and acquired through singular efforts and hard work? In other words, am I entitled to them because of what I do or is God the giver of all good things that I receive during my time on the earth?

    Giving and money matters are issues and questions of faith and rightly belong within the understanding of our faith. All of our relationships should be informed by our faith, beliefs and values. We have effectively separated money matters from our core values. Money cannot be used as effectively and given as freely without those three things. We need to re-connect them if we have any hope of changing the thinking and culture around stewardship and giving.

    Jeff Deitch, in a newsletter of Congregation Beth Israel, Media, Pennsylvania, says,

    Money flows through your life and touches every aspect. Although you have only so much control of how it flows into your life, how money flows out from your life, just like how you spend your time, reflects your values and what you hold precious. We should not be embarrassed that it takes money to run a synagogue/church—we should be happy to see that our financial support has created an extraordinary community that we value dearly.

    I believe we should create a safe space where the community can discuss money and possessions free from the pressure and stress surrounding stewardship campaigns. It should not be left only to Stewardship Campaigns, which tend to be one-dimensional and do not explore deeper issues behind money and giving. I think that this is a major shortcoming and needs to be rectified. We need to discuss money matters openly and honestly on a regular basis. It needs to be part of a crucial and focused teaching ministry in the Church.

    Money is not only important for what it will buy, but for how it affects relationships between people, and their relationships between people and their God.

    Money and our relationships within the faith community are important but should not only be contained within that community. It is hoped that we will begin to develop a knowledge and perception of giving from this orientation and look at it from a perspective of God’s abundance rather than our scarcity. Discussions of money, teaching, belief and the church should happen all year round; an open and sustained dialogue should be sought and maintained.

    Members should be encouraged and asked to participate in this dialogue. The idea is to tease out shared values and develop new ones within the community that will create an atmosphere of mutual caring, accountability and responsibility on money matters.

    In our Epistle from 1 Timothy 6.6-8 we are told,

    There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.

    Be content, for we came into this world without material possessions and we will leave it without them.

    In our Gospel reading from last week, Luke 16.13, Jesus warns us by saying

    No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and (mammon) wealth.”

    Jesus names only two spiritual forces that work against the kingdom of God: Satan and mammon/wealth/possessions. Satan is the evil that grasps us in its clutches and keeps us from loving and sharing. Mammon is what I would define as the love of material and worldly possessions. It is greed and avarice that possesses us and makes idols of material and earthly possessions. The two work hand in hand to control and keep humankind from becoming what God created us to be and do—To love God and the neighbor.

    Turning again to 1 Timothy 6.9-12,

    But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

    It is important to note here that money/wealth/possessions in and of itself is not bad or evil. This passage is misquoted so often, but it says “for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…” When money becomes a god for us so that we rely on it instead of the real God we fall into sin. We become like the rich man, we forget the source of all that we have and think that our possessions define who we are is and how we behave in relationship to one another. What would our lives, our church, our society be like if we truly believed and lived as it the earth’s is the Lord’s and that God is the source of all things?

    The Bible tells us many things about possessions and their use. Deuteronomy 26.11-12 tells us that God wants us to share what has been given to us.

    Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house. When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year (which is the year of the tithe), giving it to the Levites, the aliens, the orphans, and the widows, so that they may eat their fill within your towns…

    We are to share with aliens, orphans, widows and the Church so that we may all be fed and eat to our fill. In other words, don’t withhold anything from the most vulnerable persons in the society. Give out of the abundance that God has given to us and our household. This is a variation on the theme of loving your neighbor as yourself. The best that you give to yourself and family, give also to aliens, orphans, widows and the church.

    It would certainly be a challenge to reintroduce an idea that has become increasingly distant to us in today’s world. It is an important piece of this discourse and deserves to be discussed as God intended. We at grace have an opportunity to cross that divide and bridge the chasm that exists in this world. Please help us to do that by prayerful consideration and generous giving.


    Saturday, September 01, 2007

    Health & Wellness: Fitness

    From the Grace Church Health and Wellness Committee, September 2007

    The theme for September is physical activity. In a recent published report, nearly one quarter of adults indicated no leisure-time activity at all and less than one half of adults met 1995 American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines for physical activity. The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association (AHA) recently updated their recommendations regarding physical activity for adults. In brief, they reaffirmed their belief, based upon research, that regular physical activity is another key element to good health. They also recommended that more strenuous activity more frequently, is even better for your health than had been a part of their earlier recommendations.

    Specifically, ACSM and AHA recommend that “all healthy adults aged 18 to 65 years need moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes on five days each week or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes on three days each week.”

    Regular physical activity should consist of both aerobic exercise (e.g., brisk walking, swimming, biking, jogging, or dancing) and resistance exercise (e.g., weight training, push-ups, or elastic bands).

    This is not an all vs. nothing-at-all proposition. The ACSM and AHA recognize that combinations of these recommendations are also acceptable. For instance, you might choose to meet these recommendations by walking briskly, biking or doing any other activity that noticeably increases your heart rate and breathing for a minimum of 30 minutes twice a week and then jogging for 20 minutes, or doing another activity that causes you to breath rapidly and substantially increases your heart rate on two other days of the same week. Your doctor and other health care providers are the best sources of information about which forms of regular physical activity, how often and how much are best for you and/or your child.

    Let us look more closely at the similarities and differences, benefits and risks of aerobic exercises and strength-building exercises.

    • Aerobic Exercise: In general, aerobic exercises are ones that involve the use of major muscle groups (e.g., legs, back and arms), engaged in continuously for longer periods of time (minimum of 20 minutes). Walking, jogging, biking, rowing, swimming at an intensity that noticeably or substantially increases your heart rate and breathing. Among the recognized benefits of doing regular aerobic exercise are: strengthening the muscles involved in breathing, strengthening and enlarging the heart muscle, and toning muscles throughout the body. Musculoskeletal injury (e.g., pulled or strained muscle) is the most probable risk associated with aerobic exercises (e.g., leisure time sports). A second risk, that of sudden cardiac arrest, has a very low probability in generally healthy adults while engaging in moderate intensity exercises.
    • ·Resistance Exercise: Resistance exercises repeatedly (e.g., 8 – 12 repetitions) pit the muscles against a weight or force. It is recommended that 8 – 10 different exercises be performed on two or more non-consecutive days each week using the major muscles of the body. Over time, the muscles are likely to respond to the extra workload by getting stronger and increasing endurance. Resistance or muscle strengthening activities include a progressive weight training program, weight bearing calisthenics, stair climbing, and similar resistance exercises that use the major muscle groups. Musculoskeletal injury (e.g., pulled or strained muscle) is the most probable risk associated with resistance exercises as well. It is important to pay attention to safety, good posture and body positioning (form) to reduce the risk of injury.

    Should you have concerns or want additional information about the material presented above, please contact your local health care provider, public health department or someone on the Grace Church Health and Wellness Ministry Committee. This Committee is chaired by Mrs. Florence Poyer, R.N.

    Prepared by: Walter S. Handy, Ph.D., Member, Grace Episcopal Church Health and Wellness Ministry Committee

    Wednesday, August 01, 2007

    Health & Wellness: Immunization

    From the Grace Church Health and Wellness Committee, August 2007

    Disease prevention is the key to public health. We are constantly concerned about our own health and the health and safety of our children. We try to take prudent steps to protect ourselves and our families. For instance, we use seatbelts for ourselves and our children when traveling in motor vehicles. Immunizations or vaccines also prevent us from developing illnesses caused by infectious and potentially deadly diseases by helping prepare our bodies to fight these diseases.

    Preschool, kindergarten and elementary school children’s health records are often checked to assure that incoming children have received the proper childhood immunizations (e.g., diphtheria, Pertussis and Chick pox). Children with incomplete immunizations may be excluded from attending school until their immunizations are up to date. Similarly, each fall, senior citizens are encouraged to obtain flu vaccinations. Again, each of these vaccines helps to prepare our bodies to fight these diseases. Vaccines prevent disease in the people who receive them and protect those who come into contact with unvaccinated individuals. It is always better to do whatever possible to prevent a disease than to have to treat it.

    Health professionals agree that in order for these immunizations to have maximum benefit, they should be administered on a recommended schedule. Your doctor and other health care providers are the best sources of information about which immunizations are best for you and/or your child and when the immunization should be administered. In the text below, the Health and Wellness Committee offers some guideline reminders.

    • Infants, preschoolers, and kindergarteners (Ages birth through 6 years) should receive the recommended series of vaccines for Hepatitis B (at birth), Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis, Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib), Inactivated Poliovirus (first at two months), Measles, Mumps and Rubella, and Vericella (first at one year). Any of these vaccines that are not administered at the recommended age should be administered at any visit to the doctor when indicated and feasible.
    • Elementary school children through high school adolescents may need to receive vaccines for Hepatitis B, Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis, Inactivated Poliovirus and Vericella particularly if they were not previously vaccinated. Recommended vaccines for children and adolescents include vaccines for meningitis (one dose) and Human Papillomavirus (3 doses) as well as booster doses for Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis at age 11-12 years.
    • Adults often believe that vaccines to prevent diseases are just for children. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends booster shots for Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis for those of us ages 19 through 64, Human Papillomavirus vaccines (3 doses) for women 19 – 49 years, and vaccines for Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Vericella, Influenza, Pneumocaccal, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis, B and Meningococcal for all adults who either (a) lack documentation of vaccination or have no evidence of prior infection, or (b) have some other risk factor such as medical condition, occupation or lifestyle.

    Again, it is always better to do whatever possible to prevent a disease than to have to treat it.

    Should you have concerns or want additional information about the material presented above, please contact your local health care provider or public health department. You may also choose to contact someone on the Health and Wellness Ministry Committee. This Committee is chaired by Mrs. Florence Poyer.

    Prepared by: Walter S. Handy, Ph.D., Member, Grace Church Health and Wellness Ministry Committee

    Friday, June 15, 2007

    Top 10 Reasons to be an Episcopalian

    Attributed to Robin Williams.

    10. No snake handling.

    9. You can believe in dinosaurs.

    8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.

    7. You don't have to check your brains at the door.

    6. Pew aerobics.

    5. Church year is color-coded.

    4. Free wine on Sunday.

    3. All of the pageantry - none of the guilt.

    2. You don't have to know how to swim to get baptized.

    And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:

    1. No matter what you believe, there's bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

    You Might be an Episcopalian if ...

    Attributed to Garrison Keillor.

    We make fun of Episcopalians for their blandness, their excessive calm, their fear of giving offense, their lack of speed and also for their secret fondness for macaroni and cheese.

    But nobody sings like them. If you were to ask an audience in Des Moines, a relatively Episcopalianless place, to sing along on the chorus of "Michael Row the Boat Ashore," they will look daggers at you as if you had asked them to strip to their underwear . But if you do this among Episcopalians, they'd smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! .....And down the road!

    Many Episcopalians are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony, a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person's rib cage.

    It's natural for Episcopalians to sing in harmony. We are too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When you're singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of you, it's an emotionally fulfilling moment. By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other.

    I do believe this, people: Episcopalians, who love to sing in four-part harmony are the sort of people you could call up when you're in deep distress. If you are dying, they will comfort you. If you are lonely, they will talk to you. And if you are hungry, they'll give you tuna salad!

    Episcopalians believe in prayer, but would practically die if asked to pray out loud. Episcopalians like to sing, except when confronted with a new hymn or a hymn with more than four stanzas.

    Episcopalians believe their rectors will visit them in the hospital, even if they don't notify them that they are there.

    Episcopalians usually follow the official liturgy and will feel it is their way of suffering for their sins.

    Episcopalians believe in miracles and even expect miracles, especially during their stewardship visitation programs or when passing the plate.

    Episcopalians feel that applauding for their children's choirs will not make the kids too proud and conceited.

    Episcopalians think that the Bible forbids them from crossing the aisle while passing the peace.

    Episcopalians drink coffee as if it were the Third Sacrament.

    Episcopalians feel guilty for not staying to clean up after their own wedding reception in the Fellowship Hall.

    Episcopalians are willing to pay up to one dollar for a meal at church.

    Episcopalians still serve Jell-O in the proper liturgical color of the season and Episcopalians believe that it is OK to poke fun at themselves and never take themselves too seriously.

    And finally, you know you are a Episcopalian when:

    • It's 100 degrees, with 90% humidity, and you still have coffee after the service.
    • You hear something really funny during the sermon and smile as loudly as you can.
    • Donuts are a line item in the church budget, just like coffee.
    • When you watch a Star Wars movie and they say, "May the Force be with you", and you respond, "and also with you."
    • And lastly, it takes ten minutes to say good-bye....

    Wednesday, May 09, 2007

    Grace Church Photo Albums

    See several photo albums showing our life at Grace Church here.