Sunday, December 28, 2008

Some Episcopal Church Advertising

Episcopal advertising provides examples of our Episcopalian sense of humor.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Stewardship Moment: Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow


“Praise God from whom all Blessings Flow!” Known by many of us as the “Doxology,” this is perhaps the most frequently used piece of music in public worship today. Many churches sing it every Sunday. The words are so familiar that here at Grace we don’t even print the lyrics in our Sunday Bulletin. However, most of us sing it loudly each time that we are asked to do so.

This is actually the last verse of a longer hymn, “Awake, My Soul, and with the Sun,” written by Thomas Ken, in 1674, for his students at Winchester College. It does not say “Praise God from whom some Blessings Flow,” but we are reminded that all of our blessings come from the Lord. Psalm 100 (King James Version) tells us that “it is He that has made us and not we ourselves.”

When do we sing this hymn? We sing it as we present our offerings at the Altar each Sunday. We thank and praise God by giving back some of the abundance that we have received from him. During the same part of the service, we also recall Paul’s message to us in Ephesians to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us . . . “

Let us remember to pay homage to our Lord as we thank him and praise him for all our blessings. Every time we sing “Praise God from whom all Blessings Flow,” let us pay attention to the message that is being given to us.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Thoughts on Stewardship: Where Your Treasure Is

Hands with pearlWhen we think of generosity, we might look at the size of the gift or the nobility of the cause. But Jesus measured generosity by a radically new standard: the condition of the giver's heart. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21). So, giving is more than an obligation for followers of Christ; it is an exciting opportunity to lay up treasure that will last for all eternity.

"The Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' " (Acts 20:35b). Yet statistics show that U.S. Christians give proportionately less than we did during the Great Depression. Today, like no other time in history, God has positioned His people with unprecedented wealth and opportunity to glorify the risen Christ by mirroring His generosity.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Bible on Immigrants

Following are virtually all the passages in the Bible that refer to the treatment of aliens. The word that is translated “alien” in this translation (the New International Version) is sometimes translated “sojourners” and has the same meaning as “immigrants.”

Exodus 12:49
The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you.

Exodus 22:21
Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.

Exodus 23:9
Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.

Exodus 23:12
Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed.

Leviticus 19:10
Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God

Leviticus 19:33
When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.

Leviticus 19:34
The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God

Leviticus 23:22
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 24:22
You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 25:35
If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.

Numbers 15:15
The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the LORD.

Numbers 15:16
The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you.

Numbers 15:26
The whole Israelite community and the aliens living among them will be forgiven, because all the people were involved in the unintentional wrong.

Numbers 15:29
One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien.

Numbers 35:15
These six towns will be a place of refuge for Israelites, aliens and any other people living among them, so that anyone who has killed another accidentally can flee there.

Deuteronomy 1:16
And I charged your judges at that time: Hear the disputes between your brothers and judge fairly, whether the case is between brother Israelites or between one of them and an alien.

Deuteronomy 5:14
But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do.

Deuteronomy 10:18
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.

Deuteronomy 10:19
And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.

Deuteronomy 14:28-29
At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that years produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Deuteronomy 23:7
Do not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. Do not abhor an Egyptian, because you lived as an alien in his country.

Deuteronomy 24:14
Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns.

Deuteronomy 24:17
Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.

Deuteronomy 24:19
When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Deuteronomy 24:20
When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow.

Deuteronomy 24:21
When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow.

Deuteronomy 26:12
When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.

Deuteronomy 26:13
Then say to the LORD your God: I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them.

Deuteronomy 27:19
Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow. Then all the people shall say, Amen!

Joshua 20:9
Any of the Israelites or any alien living among them who killed someone accidentally could flee to these designated cities and not be killed by the avenger of blood prior to standing trial before the assembly.

Psalm 94:6
They slay the widow and the alien; they murder the fatherless.

Psalm 146:9
The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Isaiah 14:1
The LORD will have compassion on Jacob; once again he will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land. Aliens will join them and unite with the house of Jacob.

Jeremiah 7:5-7
If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever.

Jeremiah 22:3
This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

Ezekiel 22:7
In you they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the alien and mistreated the fatherless and the widow.

Ezekiel 22:29
The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.

Ezekiel 47:22
You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.

Ezekiel 47:23
In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance, declares the Sovereign LORD .

Zechariah 7:10
Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.

Malachi 3:5
So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me, says the LORD Almighty.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Health & Wellness: Headaches

From the Grace Church Health and Wellness Committee, June 2008

In acknowledgement of National Headache Awareness Week (6/1 to 6/8), this Committee Offering focuses on headaches.

In December, we directed our attention, in part, to the notion of helplessness, observing that having pervasive feelings of helplessness can become a habit and even generalize from one arena of our lives to other arenas. Headaches tend to be one of the areas where many of us fall victim to dispirited helplessness. We think that we just have to suffer through them. Growing medical evidence suggests, however, that headaches can often be successfully managed through a combination of two techniques: (a) keeping a calendar to record headache occurrences and the circumstances (e.g., food consumed or activities participated in) that precede these episodes and (b) timely use of new therapies.

First, we will examine common types of headaches (e.g., tension, cluster and migraine). Then we will turn our attention to risk factors that have been assumed to be linked with headaches, but for which there is no sound evidence supporting these links.

Common Types of Headaches:

  • · Tension Headaches are the most common headache. Such headaches are usually associated with diffuse, often mild to moderate pain on top of your head. Some suffers describe tension headaches as akin to having their heads squeezed in a tourniquet. Physicians acknowledge that while tension headache pain is occasionally severe, most often it is not a symptom of underlying disease. No spectrum of clear causes has been associated with tension headaches. Managing these headaches requires a balance of prevention informed by avoiding foods or activities that seem to trigger these headaches (identified as a result of good record keeping) and appropriate use of over the counter medications.
  • · Cluster headaches, more common among men, are one of the most painful types of headache. People who experience this type of headache report that they occur in clusters or patterns. Such headaches may last as little as a few days to as much as several months. In between these clusters, suffers are generally headache free. This type of headache is fortunately uncommon, and not life-threatening. Aggressive management techniques, usually involving prescription medications, can often shorten the duration and lessen the pain.
  • · Many sufferers regard migraine headaches as completely debilitating. Some times lasting from several hours to multiple days, and more common among women, when migraines strike going to a dark and very quite place to lie down can be the only respite. For some people, visual auras (flashes of light or blind spots) signal the onset of a migraine. A migraine may also be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. While there is still no cure, migraine management options have improved over the past few decades. The primary management techniques involve identifying and then avoiding triggers and taking appropriate medications early in the onset of the symptoms. Medications can help reduce the frequency of migraine and stop the pain once it has started.

In summary, with each of these types of headaches, the combination of careful self-monitoring, the right medicines and appropriate changes in lifestyle may make a tremendous difference for sufferers.

So far, we have focused on three types of headaches: Tension, Migraine and Cluster. The combination of careful self-monitoring, the right medicines and appropriate changes in lifestyle may make a tremendous difference for headache sufferers.

Now we will examine scientific evidence linking certain triggers to headache pain. Such scientific evidence generally comes from epidemiologic studies. These studies are great at linking risk factors to disease (e.g., confirming that high blood pressure is associated with an increased risk of heart disease). These types of studies generally don’t tell us why such links exist. The same general statements apply to headache research; the epidemiologic data may tell us, for instance, that certain dietary choices are associated with certain types of headaches but not what the mechanism is that is responsible for the headache.

Past medical beliefs linked hypertension to an increased risk of headaches. Recent studies, however, found no association. In fact, evidence has emerged suggesting that the relationship may be the opposite of what was first believed. It turns out that people with the highest measured pulse pressure (the difference between the systolic and diastolic blood pressure) had significantly fewer headaches than people who didn’t have high pulse pressures.

A recent national epidemiologic study of adolescents found that migraine headaches are more common in low-income families, more common among girls than in boys and among white teenagers than among black teenagers when there was no family history of such headaches. However, when one parent suffered from migraines, there was no association with family income. But when neither parent was afflicted with migraines, the likelihood that their teens would experience migraines went up as the family income went down. Trying to make sense of these findings, researchers observed that the correlations reported may not have been due to low income but to some other factors (not measured) that may also be associated with low family income. Moreover, the researchers acknowledged that migraines are a biological disease irrespective of family income. Stress has long been considered a risk factor for headaches and stress management techniques, such as those we have discussed in these newsletters in the past, should be helpful in managing migraines.

Finally, strong evidence suggests that for some people, physical exertion may be linked to headaches. Medical experts tell us that headaches that begin during physical exertion (e.g., exercise) and go away when you take a break could sometimes be a sign of heart disease, even if the person had no other symptoms of heart trouble. Such conditions are rare but should be paid attention to since the consequences could be life threatening if the problem is not recognized. Proper diagnosis and treatment is especially important in people 50 years or older and among any persons with risk factors for heart disease. The good news is that when such people with exertion-related headaches are found to have heart disease and are properly treated, the headaches abate.

Should you have concerns or want additional information about the material presented above, please contact your local health care provider, the Public Library, 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,

Sunday, April 13, 2008

April 13, 2008, Sermon: The Church is the Body of Christ

Sermon for the third Sunday after Easter, April 13, 2008, by the Reverend Ernestein Flemister.

Last week, an article appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer entitled “Church closes after 139 years.” It went on to say, “Say a prayer for St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church. But not inside the 139-year-old landmark. The church closed Easter Sunday.”

The article quotes the Sr. Warden and Deacon who were obviously very hurt and angry; their remarks reflected their anger. The deacon is quoted as saying, “We should have been smiling and rejoicing and exclaiming, ‘He hath risen!” Instead, the service was as solemn as the funeral of a child.”

The article then says, “Officials with the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio attribute the closing to declining attendance. “That’s the main reason,” said the Rt. Rev. Thomas Breidenthal, diocesan bishop. Only 16 households regularly put money in the offering plate.”

It then states that closing churches runs counter to a policy established by the late Rt. Rev. Herbert Thompson, who said in a 1996 speech, “To the suggestion of closing churches, we must ask: is there no more work to do for Christ here?”

A quote from Bishop Breidenthal follows. “This is not my policy. Parishes will be looked at on a case-by-case basis.”

Even though the church no longer holds services, the soup kitchen and the nurse will remain active to minister to the needs of the people of Avondale. The nurse is quoted as saying that “The closing is an abuse of power.” The head of the soup kitchen says, “Closing a church is a sin, god calls us to serve. He calls us to pray, too, but where? I don’t want to go anywhere else to worship. The sanctuary light over the altar was extinguished – that candle’s flames stands for the life of Christ, but when you close a church, the Lord’s light goes out.”

Bishop Breidenthal in an op-ed article later in the week said, “As some know, the Parish of St. Michael & All Angels has been closed, owing to dwindling numbers. This is understandably a sad time for those who are losing their accustomed weekly gathering for worship in a place they love. But this is not the whole story. The Episcopal Church is not leaving Avondale. On the contrary, we are convinced that now, more than ever, we are called to stand with those who seek peace and justice and the possibility of common life in the inner city. God has provided us in St. Michael’s with a strategic location for such a ministry, and we intend to move forward as quickly as possible to make this a reality.”

I have quoted extensively from parishioners of St. Michael and All Angels to give a sense of their hurt and anger.

This morning, I want to talk about their remarks within the context of our Gospel reading, the familiar story of the road to Emmaus.

Two of the disciples were talking about the events of the past week, when Jesus joins them on the trip. Our gospel says, “Their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”

Jesus asks them what they’re talking about and they respond by saying to him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”

In other words, "What rock have you been hiding under that you don’t know what happened with the arrest, trial, crucifixion and death of Jesus of Nazareth!" They describe Jesus as, “A prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.”  They go on further to say that they had hoped that Jesus “was the one to redeem Israel.”

They then tell him their version of the story of the women’s visit to the tomb on the morning after: “They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.”

After they tell their story, Jesus chides and teaches them by saying, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

After all this, the two disciples still do not recognize him. As they came near to Emmaus, Jesus is about to leave them when they invite him to spend the evening with them. They sit down at the table and Jesus “Took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.”

Finally, finally, they recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

The Book of Common Prayer describes the Holy Eucharist, the breaking of the bread as the principal act of Christian worship. In this act of worship, we are all welcome to the table of the lord as a foretaste of the heavenly banquet where we will all be received regardless of race, creed, color and economic status. This bread that we break every Sunday is meant to encourage and strengthen us to go out into the world and serve. In the breaking of the break, barriers and walls are destroyed. The bread that we break can be broken in churches big and small, in villages, in hospitals, in prisons--it can be broken anywhere.

So why do we get so attached to our buildings, the physical structures where we worship? The actual mission and work of the church often happens outside the four walls.

The good people of St. Michael and All Angels are understandably angry and hurt, but the opinion of the one person that the light of Christ goes out when a church is closed is incorrect. While I understand their anger at having to leave their familiar, comfortable and secure worship space, we can in actually worship anywhere. God is not attached to a building or structure. We choose to worship at “our” church. We suffer from building lust when we make worship and church all about the building. The physical structure is not the Church, we are the Church. The light of Christ never goes out when a church is closed; the body of Christ never closes.

The word translated “church” in the English bible is ekklesia. This word is the Greek words kaleo (to call), with the prefix ek (out). Thus, the word means “the called-out ones.” A more accurate translation would be “assembly” because the term ekklesia was used to refer to a group of people who had been called out to a meeting. It was also used as a synonym for the word synagogue, which also means to “come together,” i.e. a gathering.

Since believers have been united with Christ through spiritual baptism, they are sometimes corporately referred to as the Body of Christ.” (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:11,13,18,27; Col. 1:18; Eph. 5:30) The idea seems to be that the group of Christians in the world constitute the physical representation of Christ on earth. It is also a metaphor which demonstrates the interdependence of members in the Church, while at the same time demonstrating their diversity from one another. (Rom. 12:4; 1 Cor. 12:14-17)

When the anger and hurt subside, and the air clears I hope that the former members of St. Michael and All Angels and we will recognize that the mission and work of God still goes on at St. Michael and All Angels; that the bread is still being broken and can be broken anywhere. The care and feeding of those in need breaks down barriers--all are welcome to God’s table.

Sometimes we have to sacrifice our comfort to do God’s work. We need to recognize that God is moving and working even in our hurt and anger; remolding and reshaping the light within us, calling us out to break bread in the world. We sometimes need to be reminded that it is God’s mission, not ours.

We all travel the road to Emmaus. When do we recognize Jesus? Do we recognize Jesus only at our table?

Our collect for the day says, “O god, whose blessed son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work.”

God’s mission and redeeming work can be carried out anywhere. Let us not limit God’s mission to the four walls of churches. I ask that we keep the people of St. Michael and All Angels in our prayers at this time when they are angry and hurting. I also ask that we reach out to and minister to them; inviting them to be open to god’s voice in the chaos that they are experiencing.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Health & Wellness: Environmental Conservation

From the Grace Church Health and Wellness Committee, April 2008

April 22nd was Earth Day. That day, I heard an interesting discussion on environmental conservation. Two divergent Christian perspectives were presented. From one perspective, God is characterized as having created the earth and human intervention to preserve or conserve the earth is unnecessary. Alternatively, God created the earth and called man to conserve its resources. I support the second perspective.

Environmental Conservation begins at home. The principles undergirding these lifestyle choices are simple. Look for opportunities to recycle, reuse, repair rather than replace, and when disposal is necessary, do so properly.

· Recycling – The City of Cincinnati asks residents of single family dwellings to recycle their glass and clear plastic containers, paper products and aluminum cans. Residents are encouraged to recycle the following items: mixed office paper, magazines, cardboard, broken down telephone books, junk mail, brown grocery bags, computer paper, and paperboard (such as cereal boxes). Recycling bins are provided for free to these residents and are emptied weekly when set at the curb with your garbage. Recycling bins are also available to residents of dwellings of nine units or less.  Rumpke offers eight free drop-off sites within the City limits. Recycling these items performs two functions. It minimizes the need for manufacturing and packaging plants to buy additional raw material to make these products. In addition, it reduces the amount of solid waste that must be transported to an appropriate site and landfilled. Space within existing landfills is diminishing and siting new landfills for construction is becoming more difficult.

· Reuse - Donating your used car (truck, van, RV) for reuse is an option for us all. Several local agencies (e.g., St. Vincent de Paul, “,” Greater Cincinnati Television Educational Foundation, the Kidney Foundation) all accept donations of vehicles. Most of these agencies will come to your location and pick up the vehicle. All that is required are the keys and title. The vehicle does not have to be in good running order.

· Repair Rather than Replace: This wise saying used to be very common. Admittedly for some items like shoes, electronics and many appliances, this practice is more challenging than it was even ten years ago, but it is still possible. Consider repairing items before defaulting to replacing them. Consider durability of an item during its purchase.

· Dispose of Properly: Once an item clearly falls into the category of waste, its proper disposal is critical. Waste may be categorized as solid waste, construction and demolition debris (baseboard, wood products and concrete), hazardous waste (used motor oil, oil-based cleaning fluids, and turpentine), infectious waste (medical waste, used bandages, needles and other “sharps”) and yard waste (leaves and branches) . Solid waste is what we routinely put in our trash cans for weekly pickup at the curb. Included might be such items as food products, broken toys, and vacuum cleaner bags. Neither construction debris, hazardous waste, nor yard waste, should be put in your trash. Infectious waste may be placed in the “regular” waste stream but should be properly packaged to protect workers from injury.

Should you have concerns or want additional information about the material presented above, please contact your local health department, department of environmental services, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (, 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

Health & Wellness: Counseling & Psychotherapy

From the Grace Church Health and Wellness Committee, April 2008

The theme for April is counseling and psychotherapy. This is also National Counseling Awareness Month. A number of important issues come to mind on this topic and between the first and second editions of this newsletter for the April, we will discuss them. Such issues include but are not limited to the following:

  • Reasons to seek counseling or psychotherapy,
  • What you can expect the first session,
  • Training and experience of your counselor or therapist,
  • The actual counseling process, including length of services, termination and possible referrals to other mental health professionals,
  • Confidentiality,
  • Exceptions to confidentiality and
  • Setback prevention.

Reasons to Seek Counseling or Psychotherapy – Reasons for seeking counseling or psychotherapy generally fall into the category of experiencing persistently mild to moderate trouble getting through the activities of daily living as a consequence of emotional or psychological pain or confusion. An additional reason to seek counseling might be severe emotional trauma secondary to, for example, the death of a parent, spouse or child or extreme anxiety secondary to, for example, the diagnosis of a life threatening, or life altering disease. Clearly, these are also times to call upon prayer but counselors or therapists can often serve as adjuncts to such prayer.

What You Can Expect the First Session? - Your first session will likely include discussion of fees, frequency of meeting and most importantly, a time for you to describe the issues or feelings that bring you to counseling as well as how things will look or feel differently when you have your last session. Discussions may also extend to the history of the problem and what, if any, other strategies you have tried on your own, or with the help of other professionals, to address the problems. Some therapists or counselors may also ask you to describe the things in your life that are going well or that you feel really good about. Such questions are built upon the assumption that you have likely developed social skills that have allowed you to experience many successes, in spite of your current array of problems, and such skills will become important building blocks for the development of future social skills.

Your Counselor – You can expect your counselor or therapist to be either a psychologist, therapist, or clinical counselor, and have advanced graduate degrees (e.g., Masters or Ph.D.). They will have taken many courses in the study of human behavior, assessment and treatment of emotional problems and have, in addition, had many hours of counseling experience under the direct supervision of mental health professionals as a students-in-training before becoming licensed. You should feel free to inquire about your counselor's background and training.

The Process of Counseling - Your experience in counseling or psychotherapy will vary depending on the counselor, what issues and background you bring to the counseling process, and the methods of helping, or professional orientation, the therapist feels most confident will be of help to you. In general, the process involves you and potentially other members of your family, speaking about issues openly and honestly, while your therapist listens to you, asks questions, clarifies points of confusion and works with you (and your family) collaboratively to address your issues. You should expect to be able to discuss with your counselor any concerns you have, whether about your problems or about the process of counseling itself. While your counselor will help you meet your goals, he or she probably will not “tell you what to do”. Rather, you will both work to identify and build upon your strengths while remaining cognizant of problematic behaviors that may have become habitual.

More than likely, your counselor will focus on improving your behavioral skills and self-confidence in dealing with the “real life” challenges that you face. Your counselor is apt to ask you to try out new and more effective behaviors in these “real life” situations and then to report back with assessments about how effective the trial behavior was. Like an effective coach, your counselor will assist you in recognizing the dynamics of interpersonal interactions with specific attention being paid to your role or contribution in how these interactions turn out. Based upon your report, then your counselor may recommend that you “tweak” your behaviors some to achieve a more desired outcome. If, for instance, your usual tendencies are to dominate conversations with friends, family and/or colleagues, your counselor may suggest that you try to listen a little bit more than you are accustomed to doing. Alternatively, let’s say that you are seeking counseling because your supervisor has received complaints from your coworkers or customers that you constantly complain about work. The following scenario might take place. To help keep track of your progress, your counselor may ask you to keep detailed written logs or diaries of the frequencies (e.g., 5 times a day) and durations (e.g., 30 minutes) of troublesome behaviors (I complained about my job to my coworker 5 times every day – for 25 minutes) and your constructive behaviors (e.g., At work, I asked for additional work after completing my customary assignments 3 times last week). Over the course of the counseling experience, one measure of progress revealed by such logs or charting might then be a gradual reduction in the frequency and duration of complaining with a corresponding increase in frequency of positive behaviors.

If you do not feel satisfied with the progress that you are making in counseling, or with any aspect of the counseling process, share your concerns with your counselor. She or he needs to know your concerns in order to be helpful to you.

Confidentiality and Exceptions – Your personal information is kept secure and confidential by your counselor. Several exceptions exist: (a) you choose to sign a release of information authorization allowing your personal information to be shared with designated others (e.g., your medical doctor); (b) personal information shared with your counselor must, by law, be shared with appropriate others if your counselor assesses that you represent an imminent and credible threat or harm to yourself or others; (c) cases of suspected child or elder abuse must also be reported, and (d) on rare instances, courts can ­order or subpoena your records.

Setback Prevention – Changing established habits is difficult. Identifying situations that “trigger” ineffective behaviors or that inhibit prosocial behaviors can be a useful tool. Often the process of rehearsing constructive solutions and/or developing a plan to address problematic situations can prevent tendencies to revert to destructive behavioral solutions.

Should you have concerns or want additional information about the material presented above, please contact your local mental health care provider, the Public Library, 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

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter 2008 Sermon: What Did You Come Here to "See?"

Sermon for Easter Sunday, March 23, 2008, by the Reverend Ernestein Flemister.

Our Gospel narrative begins after Jesus has been crucified. His disciples are terrorized, scattered and in hiding from both the religious and civil authorities. A day or so later, they are still shocked and horrified; trying to gather themselves and thinking, “What just happened here?”

The dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary seemingly are the only ones brave enough to venture out of hiding and go to the tomb of Jesus. They went to the tomb to mourn their teacher and friend, and probably to embalm his body.

The Gospel says that Mary Magdalene and Mary went to “see” Jesus’ tomb. The two Marys did not come just for a physical look at Jesus’ tomb. They were looking for much more than that. They came seeking a greater understanding of the events that just happened. They came to “see,” to discern, understand and perceive God’s greater plan and meaning in the crucifixion of Jesus. They also came to “see” for themselves if what Jesus had told them on the road to Jerusalem had actually happened.

Jesus had repeatedly told his disciples that he would be put to death, but they did not want to believe him. They probably though to themselves,”Yeah right.” They were always trying to change the course of God’s plan for Jesus. And why not? They had a leader who performed miracles, who healed the sick, fed them and drew large crowds. They had a good gig and didn’t really want to give it up. They wanted Jesus to fulfill their earthly dreams and desires.

The women, daring to be brave, arrived at the tomb at dawn. There was a great earthquake; and an angel descended from heaven. The temptation presents itself to bash men at this point, and I tried, really I did to resist but I had to get in a few digs. At the sight of the angel, the soldiers had fainted but the women did not. Where would we be if men were the first to arrive at the scene? The story might never have been told. Men did not want to be ridiculed when they told the story.

Anyway, the angel ignored the men and said to the women in usual angel speak, Do not be afraid.”

Oooh-kayyyy! So the next time someone tells you, “Do not be afraid,” it might be an angel!

The angel then tells them, “I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come; see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples.”

These women are the first to receive the news of Jesus’ resurrection. The angel instructed them to go quickly and tell his disciples. What an awesome responsibility for anyone, but especially for women in that time. The witness of women was not recognized as valid in Jesus’ time so what courage it took for them to obey the command of the angel. Jesus has been raised and Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, are charged with telling the disciples. They were probably scared and now they were directed to be the chief witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. Trustingly, they obeyed and told the disciples.

Last night we participated in the great Easter vigil at St. James, Westwood. The lessons for the Easter vigil as laid out in the book of common prayer tells the story of the God-human relationship from the creation going forward. It is the amazing story of a God who created us out of love and gave us free wills so that we might love and obey him and the laws and commandments that he established for our good, for the orderly governance of our relationships in the world.

This is a God who despite our constant disobedience and turning away from him loves us so much that he repeatedly sends messengers to us telling us of his love and showing us the way to mend our relationship with him and each other. This is a God who is merciful, forgiving and compassionate; a God who does not give us what we deserve. This is a God who welcomes us with open arms into an embrace that comforts us in our affliction, lifts us up when we are down and is merciful to us in our broken and sinful lives; who forgives us when we repent and ask for mercy and forgiveness.

This is what we flock to churches on Easter morning to “see.” That’s why this is one of the days whenm we see those we may not see the rest of the year in our pews.

So, for those of us who come regularly and those who come occasionally: What are we here to “see?” What did Mary Magdalene, the other Mary and millions of Christians around come to see this day?

They and we have come to see, comprehend and witness to God’s love for us through the life, death and resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ.

If you come seeking perfection, turn around and walk out the door. If you come seeking a community that is committed to following Jesus despite all the struggles of human relations, take a seat and struggle with us. Some of us come seeking shelter from the pain that life inflicts on us, comfort from our losses, from anxiety. Some come to out of habit or obligation and still others come out of curiosity. Some come to witness to their experience and presence of a loving and merciful God who sent his son to redeem us.

What do you seek this morning? What have you come to “see?” Well, I am here to tell you that the tomb is empty.

Alleluia, Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed.

Praise be to God who gives us the victory.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Health & Wellness: Preventing Sexually Transmitted Infection

From the Grace Church Health and Wellness Committee, February 2008

The theme for February is sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention. This is a mature subject. Discussions here are not intended for children but they may become the impetus for such discussions between parents and their preadolescent, adolescent and young adults.

As Christians we likely believe that the cornerstone principles of STI prevention are abstinence and fidelity. That is, sexual activity should be postponed until after marriage and married couples should be faithful to one another. The strong forces of mutual attraction, however, test and sometime compromise these principles. Years ago, the wide availability of broad spectrum antibiotics usually provided effective treatment to the STIs that sometimes resulted from sexual behavior.

Times have changed! As a society, we wait longer before we get married. Very intimate sexual behaviors, the kinds that were traditionally reserved for adults, are being talked about and practiced by our youth; and, among the array of infections now transmissible through sexual behaviors are some that are all but resistant to the antibiotics that once cured these infections and other infections (Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)) that have no cure. HIV infections will eventually (sometimes taking 10 years or more) result in the development of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Over time, AIDS compromises the body’s immune system and its ability to fight infections and cancers. While treatments exist, they only delay this deterioration of the body’s immune system and death is usually the final result. Finally, the number and diversity of injection drug users has expanded. These rather radical changes require that we expand our toolbox of STI prevention strategies.

A Matter of Definition – Where once we thought we knew what abstinence meant, it is not so clear anymore. Virginity, once the hallmark of abstinence is now being redefined. Some experts say that in attempt to preserve their technical “virginity,” some young people are foregoing the act of “making love” but engaging in sexual behaviors with partners that are physically intimate and place these youth and young adults at great risk for developing STIs.

Where are the Risks of Being Infected with HIV?

  • Sexual Behaviors: The majority of HIV infections are transmitted while engaging in unprotected sexual behaviors. Transmission of the virus can occur when infected sexual fluids from one partner come into contact with the intimate mucous membranes of another.
  • Infected Blood or Blood Products: Injection drug users and recipients of blood transfusions are at risk. Transfusion recipients are at minimal risk because the vast majority of blood and blood products are checked for HIV.
  • Mother-to-child Transmission: Mothers infected with HIV can infect their child in utero during pregnancy and at childbirth. Medical personnel can significantly reduce the incidence of these infections by a combination of drug treatment, caesarian section deliveries and telling the mother not to breast feed her infant.

Prevention is really the only practical solution to these infections. If your behaviors match even one of the common risks for developing HIV or other STI, get tested. If you are not sexually active and don’t use injection drugs, delay becoming sexually active until you are older and/or married. If you are sexually active and don’t use injection drugs, take steps to PROTECT YOURSELF.

So far, we have noted that sometimes the cornerstone principles of STI prevention: abstinence and fidelity, are not enough. Societal changes include delayed first marriages and youth becoming sexually active at earlier ages. Public health threats as a consequence of risky behaviors include: increasing intravenous drug abuse and infections such as the deadly Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Those who are sexually active and not married need to take aggressive steps to prevent STIs and stay SAFE.

Safe Sex Practices:

  • Sexual Abstinence remains the safest sex practice. Wikipedia (www/, a frequently consulted “online” information source, defines sexual abstinence as “the practice of voluntarily refraining from some or all aspects of sexual activity.” There should be no physical contact of a sexual nature, obviously including but not limited to “making love”.
  • Non-Penetrative Sexual Behaviors (AKA “Outercourse”) such as massage, clothed rubbing of bodies together, non-intimate touching, hugging and kissing, shared sexual fantasies are all safe from risks of becoming infected with an STI.
  • Physical Barriers – The proper and obsessive use of such physical barriers as latex condoms (for men and for women) have proven to be effective in preventing the transmission of sexually transmitted infections.
  • Engaging in Sexual Behavior with only one partner – again, the ideal here is for each member of a couple planning to be sexually active, not to have engaged in intimate sexual behavior with any other person.

Safe Social Practices: If you are thinking about or have already become sexually active, be prepared to:

  • Tell your partner if, when, where and how you want to be touched or don’t want to be touched.
  • Mutually share your sex histories and get tested - insist that your partner get tested for STIs as well then share your results with each other.
  • Get regular physical check-ups, including checks for infections.
  • Insist on always following safe sexual behavior practices.
  • Acknowledge that physical intimacy finds its best expression in stable, committed, loving relationships that include not only sexual behaviors, but also creativity, mutual respect, power sharing, tolerance, forgiveness, problem-solving, mutual sharing and trust.

Should you have concerns or want additional information about the material presented above, please contact your local health care provider, the Public Library, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (, 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.

Health & Wellness: Death & Dying

From the Grace Church Health and Wellness Committee, February 2008

Chronic diseases require us to adapt our lifestyles, endure the discomfort and pain associated with the disease and its treatments, and sometimes, consider the likelihood of death. Some health conditions reach the point where a “cure” is no longer possible and death is imminent. In these circumstances, organizations offering Hospice Care can help to assure that maximal quality of life is achieved during the final days and weeks. Your Rector and/or health practitioner are the best sources of information about how to prepare for death.

Coping with Death: Irrespective of our age, the process of dying often involves medical, familial, psychosocial and spiritual as well as financial demands and conflicts. Successfully addressing these demands and conflicts requires active coping strategies that may outpace our personal resources. Hospice represents a continuum of end-of-life care that “provides comfort and support for persons with life-limiting conditions as well as their families. Hospice care aims to make the person comfortable and relieve their symptoms and pain for the entire length of their illness” (

Effective Pain Management is a critical element of Hospice Care. We have all experienced many types of pain, from the pain of a sprained ankle, achy joints, a headache, an infected tooth or in the lower back. Some psychosocial disorders such as depression, moderate to severe anxiety, and other emotional problems can cause pain or they can make the experience of existing pain worse. While we have learned to cope with most of these kinds of pain with our existing resources, some diseases such as cancers cause pain that exceed our personal abilities to cope. Hospice care is likely to be of benefit here. For example, experts tell us that with proper medical intervention greater than 85% of cancer pain can be controlled. Effective pain management results from the development and application of a pain management treatment plan. Such a plan often involves the combination of treatments and medications and a proven evaluation plan that tells the team what is and what is not effectively controlling the pain. Adjustments can then be made as needed. Cancer patients and health care professionals should work together to develop this plan - the cornerstone of effective pain management.

· Hospice may also make the following types of care available, as needed:

o Emotional and psychosocial support for the patient during the course of dying.

o Specific Prayer – asking God to help you and your team manage the pain and symptoms associated with your disease(s) and prayer for acceptance of conditions you are powerless to change. Requesting the prayer intercession of others for your comfort.

o Marshalling extra familial support by teaching family members critical skills to help them to care for you.

o Providing short-term inpatient care to help you and your family manage pain and symptoms when they overwhelm your ability to manage them at home or if family caregivers need respite.

o Providing grief support and counseling for loved ones.

Should you have concerns or want additional information about the material presented above, please contact your local 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

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Health & Wellness: Illness & Aging

From the Grace Church Health and Wellness Committee, January 2008

The theme for January is coping with illness and aging. Chronic diseases often require us to adapt our lifestyles, endure the discomfort, pain and/or disabilities associated with the disease and its treatments, or consider the likelihood of death. Your Rector and/or health practitioner are the best sources of information about how to get and stay prepared for a healthy life.

Coping with Life’s Changes: Irrespective of our age, the business of living often requires struggles with internal and or external demands, conflicts and potentially distressing feelings. Successfully addressing these struggles requires us to cope, to actively manage these demands, conflicts and feelings with resources that exceed those that are routinely available to us. While some of us may be more successful at coping with certain types of situational demands than others, behavioral scientists tend to agree that coping is a learned skill. The list presented below is not a cookbook; no one or combination of these strategies is necessarily effective for each of us in the variety of circumstances we face.

Optional Coping Strategies:

  • Gathering additional information - If you are newly diagnosed with diabetes, go to the library or bookstore and obtain books discussing the disease process, its prevention and treatment or, if you are about to undergo a biopsy of a suspicious “growth” find out more from your physician or other credible source of information about what you may need to do before you get to the hospital, exactly what the biopsy procedure entails and what, if any, recovery issues you may face.
  • Praying – ask God (through direct prayer) to heal you where you and your medical specialists cannot and/or pray for acceptance of conditions you are powerless to change. Asking for the prayer intercession of others for your healing.
  • Marshalling extra social support - Asking for words of encouragement from members of family, church and friendship circles. Physical touch from caring others often soothes the soul and bolsters morale when words fail.
  • Maintaining a sense of optimism - Practice disputing “self-statements” that suggest that a medical setback is singularly your fault, pervasive in every arena of your life and permanent (for all time).
  • Learning to tolerate, endure or accept the health condition – accepting that a physically disfiguring, lifestyle altering, or even an “end stage” circumstance is not your fault.
  • Adopting more health promoting behaviors – Sometimes more focus on the practice of health promoting behaviors (e.g., improving diet and exercise) can reverse or slow the progression of a dangerous health condition.
  • Enlisting the assistance of additional health care professionals – some health conditions reach the point where a “cure” is no longer possible and death is imminent. In these circumstances, organizations offering Hospice Care can help to assure that maximal quality of life is achieved during the final days and weeks.

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