Go in Peace to Love & Serve

Dear Servants of Christ,
I must begin this letter by telling you what a blessing you all have been to Jody and I through the process of my election as the second bishop for the Gulf Atlantic Diocese. From my announcement in March as a candidate for bishop right up through my election May 14th, Servants has confirmed that God is in fact calling me to this office. Thank you for all your supporting prayers and the release you have given me to pursue God’s calling.
I must also share with you the joy of watching the vestry under the leadership of Ramona Chance and Jose Boada, and the staff under the leadership of Father James Manley, take up my leadership roles and continue the ministry of the Gospel Servants has been called to in Gainesville. We have an incredible body and it is being seen clearly in this transition. As your future Bishop, I promise to keep a close and watchful eye on this parish so close to my heart, but I can tell you this parish is in good hands even before God calls the next rector. 
Speaking of the vestry, I know they are working to appoint a search committee to begin the work of interviewing and discerning Servants’ new rector. Please be in prayer for that committee which will ultimately make a recommendation to the vestry and the bishop for who God is calling as your next rector. I understand you will have a meeting in September to update you all on that process. In the meantime, I am so pleased to tell you that Father James Manley has agreed to serve as your interim rector during this transition. Interim leaders serve an important role in transition, and we have long planned James’ role if I was called to leave. James has been with me since day one and he has my full trust. James will become the primary preacher but will share preaching and celebrant responsibilities with our talented staff of clergy. Many have wondered why God sent us Father Bob Ayres, Mother Susan Rhodes, and Father Michael Mayo but it is clear now God’s intention to build a team of clergy to serve you well and equip you for the work of ministry. If you have questions about staff or the search process I would recommend contacting Ramona, Jose, or Father James. Again, you will be kept informed of the process. 
On another note, what a crazy summer! Your rector was elected bishop and then six weeks later, you hear that I have had a heart attack. Again, thank you so much for your prayers and support for our family in this crisis. Shock is best way to describe the last month. I went from running 6 miles in March to laying in the ER June 28th. Clearly God had lessons for me and He has given me more opportunities to trust Him in all circumstances. 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us His strength is made perfect in our weakness. I am living testimony to that truth. Looking back, while no one wants to have a heart attack nor to be told you are genetically predisposed to heart issues, I see God’s perfect timing and provision. Even the timing of the attack was perfect. I had already begun to transition out of Servants and I will not become bishop until August 27th. If it was going to happen, what better time. Not the way I wanted vacation time, but my view from UF Health into the Prairie was quite nice. 
My rehab is going quite well, as is the new eating plan I have implemented. I ran on a treadmill at a twelve-minute pace in the rehab clinic Wednesday and I’m feeling good. I do fatigue faster than normal but I am learning to take breaks and naps when necessary. Thank you for your ongoing prayers and love during this time. 
Two dates to put on your minds as we enter the month of August. First, Jody and I are blessed by your desire to honor us at two events the weekend of August 19-21. Also, Sunday August 21st will be my final sermon as rector of Servants of Christ. Also, in that service I will be commissioning Father James Manley as interim rector. Please be there as you are able as we celebrate all God has done in our parish over these sixteen years. Also, I know it is a long drive, but I would love to have all of you attend my consecration service, Saturday, August 27th 11:00 am at St. Peter’s Anglican Cathedral, Tallahassee. The service will be live-streamed for those who are not able to make it in person.
Servants of Christ, I love you all so much and have truly been blessed to lead you over these years, actually twenty years in Gainesville this month. It has been a joy to see God’s redeeming work among you and to remember all the lives blessed by and through you as a congregation. I am already looking forward to my first bishop visit to Servants of Christ for confirmations, baptisms, and maybe even an ordination. You remain always in my heart and prayers.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!

Holy Week: Embodied Remembrance


Holy Week: A History

In the earliest records we have of the Church, there weren’t any uniquely Christian feasts apart from the Sunday service. The baby Church was still trying to sort out what to believe, how to act (especially in regards to the Gentiles) and how to even have a service. The New Testament highlights a lot of the challenges experienced by the earliest believers, but essentially, for early Christians, every Friday was Good Friday and every Sunday was Easter. Over time, however, it seemed appropriate for there to be one special Sunday where the Church really leaned into celebrating the resurrection, so Easter was the first feast of the Christian calendar. And its tie to Passover is no accident. Jewish Christians continued to celebrate Passover, but understood that Jesus was the fulfillment of that feast. It made sense to celebrate Easter around the same time as Passover.

Holy Week came later and was born out of pilgrimages to the Holy Land. As Christianity spread throughout the Mediterranean, Asia, and Africa, believers would travel to the Holy Land for Easter and, naturally, wanted to see the places where Jesus had been. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday began as a way for people to follow Jesus’s footsteps from the Last Supper to the resurrection. And of course, having had this amazing experience in the Holy Land, people took them back home and eventually the services became important markers in the week leading up to Easter.

So, let’s sum up: first, every Sunday was Easter; then the Church decided a special Sunday should be more Easter than every Sunday; people traveled to the Holy Land and walked the last week of Jesus’s life, then they brought home what they experienced and Holy Week (and the Triduum) was born out of their enthusiasm.


The Triduum: The Sacred Three Days

It’s always good to pause and make sure we’ve defined unfamiliar words. You may have heard of the Triduum before as it is discussed in the Book of Common Prayer, but if you haven’t, you may be interested to know that it is one service over three days. The Triduum begins with Maundy Thursday, continues with the Good Friday service, and ends with the Easter Vigil after sunset on Saturday or early Sunday morning.

In Holy Week we participate in the past. For Jews, remembrance is physical, not just a mental exercise. It’s the same for us in the Triduum. We’re not putting on a play, but we’re profoundly reminding ourselves of the death of our Lord and how inseparable His death is from His resurrection. Let’s dive into how we embody remembrance in our Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday services.


Maundy Thursday: A New Commandment

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)

While celebrating the Passover with His disciples, Jesus washed their feet, sat down to table, and then began to give his last teachings, which included the verse above. We’ve likely all heard how washing feet was a servants’ job – or at least the job of the lowest ranking person present. Simon Peter couldn’t fathom the role reversal of having his Lord wash his feet. But Jesus insists, telling him that unless he is washed, he can’t be a part of Jesus’s Kingdom. Then Jesus tells all the disciples that they’re to do the same because they’re not above Him – and if He washed their feet, they should wash each other’s as an expression of love. So on Maundy Thursday we hold a foot washing service. It’s an uncomfortable time for some, which is why we always say, “all may, some should, none must,” meaning that it’s completely between you and the Lord what you do during that part of the service.

It may be this Maundy Thursday you realize you need your feet washed by someone who stands in for our Lord so that you can have a part with Him (John 13:12-16). Maybe you need to wash someone’s feet as a sign that you submit to your place as the Lord’s servant. Or maybe you need to just sit and appreciate the vibrant remembrance happening in front of you. All are ways to participate and recall that Jesus set the example of love for us.

While “Maundy” comes from the Latin word for commandment, the New Commandment isn’t the only remembrance happening this day. We read in Matthew, Mark and Luke that on this night, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. Every Sunday we partake in the Perpetual Supper (the Eucharist), recalling Christ’s “blessed passion and precious death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension, and his promise to come again” (BCP 117). The Body and Blood of the New Covenant were given to us as the outward sign of a hidden reality. In the Eucharist we are abiding in Christ, fellowshipping with one another (and all the Church), and nourishing, strengthening, and refreshing our spiritual lives in Christ. The Eucharist sustains the life in Christ that we received at our Baptism, so remembering the night of its institution is appropriate.

Following Communion, the altar is stripped – another remembrance. In the stripping we acknowledge “the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the betrayal leading to the crucifixion” (BCP 559). The altar is a symbol of Christ in our sanctuary. There are a few other symbols of Christ (the cross that leads the processional, the Gospel as it is being read, and of course the elements of the Eucharist itself), but on Maundy Thursday we close the service by focusing on the altar, the place where the sacrifice of Jesus is enacted each time we have Communion. Everything we use to consecrate the Eucharist is removed and in its place we set a crown of thorns. The moment is symbolically powerful as we remember why He wore that crown and then depart in silence.


Good Friday: Contemplating the Cross

The second part of the Triduum, the Good Friday service, begins in silence the same way Maundy Thursday ended. This is the most somber part of the Triduum as it follows the stripping of the altar. The day itself has traditionally been set apart for fasting, abstinence, and penitence.

On Good Friday, we acknowledge that Jesus’s death and resurrection cannot be separated. It’s not just about logic – that a person has to die in order to live again. God Almighty, a deity that cannot die, took on human flesh so that He could touch death and change it. We see from the Gospels that whatever Jesus touches is changed: sin and sickness cannot defile Him; He cleanses them. We don’t just pause on Good Friday to contemplate that death was necessary for resurrection (though we remember that unless a grain of wheat dies and is buried, it cannot produce life (John 12:24)). We pause because we also recognize that Jesus fundamentally changed death by touching it. And because of that change, we don’t grieve our sin without hope; a hope that is present in the way we pray during the Solemn Collects and in the Anthems near the end of the service. Focused contemplation of Christ’s death on the Cross, like fasting, helps us understand more completely the victory that we wait to celebrate on Sunday.

And speaking of fasting, on Good Friday we contemplate why Jesus died and we may mourn our part in His death with fasting. Fasting plays a myriad of roles in the life of a believer. First, it gets us off autopilot. Even if we’ve spent all of Lent fasting from something, chances are that we’ve learned to temporarily live without the thing we gave up. Good Friday, if observed with abstinence, penitence, and additional fasting, can be a second jolt to our spirits, reminding us why we fasted for Lent in the first place and preparing us for the feast on Sunday. Of course no one is required to fast on Good Friday – again, “all may, some should, none must” – but if you choose to fast, it makes sense to add in prayer and worship. Fasting and prayer/worship go together because it’s not enough just to clear the cobwebs; we have to fill the cleared space with something. Participation in the services on Good Friday is a good way to add prayer and worship.

A feast is only as good as the preparations that go into it. Think of the best Christmas or Thanksgiving dinners you’ve been to. The ones with the most care put into the food and atmosphere were probably the most memorable. The same is true in preparing for Easter: contemplation and fasting are preparation for the feast. The way to Easter is through Good Friday.


Holy Saturday Prayer Vigil: Slowing

At Servants we’ve twice done a modified Holy Saturday service, opening the Sanctuary for an extended time of scripture reading, prayer, and reflection. At regular intervals we read designated scriptures found in the Easter Vigil liturgy where we recount the work of God in the Old Testament leading up to Christ. The readings are followed by a collect (a prayer that identifies themes from the readings and collects them into a single prayer for the whole Church). In between the readings we have time for personal prayer and reflection, silence, and sometimes music.

The length of time the church is open varies each year, but we’ve deliberately kept it open many hours to offer our congregants the time and space to slow to a stop and seek the Lord. Jesus didn’t live a hurried life. Case in point, immediately after He was baptized, He left for an extended retreat alone in the wilderness (40 days, to be precise). For most of us westerners, that doesn’t compute. You get a calling or start a job, and immediately you get going on that calling or job, you don’t ask for the next month and 10 days off to go pray in the woods. But Jesus, despite the fact that His time on earth was quite limited, wasn’t fussed about rushing off to do His Messiah job (as maybe His disciples would have expected). He knew His real job was to do the will of the Father who had sent Him – and we can surmise that going to a desolate place for an extended period of time was in line with the Father’s will. In the quiet, Jesus would have been able to commune with the Father without distraction, being strengthened spiritually the whole time.

Not all of us have the luxury of (or money to afford) 40 days off from work, away from family, friends, and distractions. So what can the church do to promote slowing? Open its doors for an extended period, for free, for anyone who wants to come. It doesn’t solve every logistical problem, but the staff certainly hopes that those who can take advantage of this time and space will come and do so.


Final Thoughts

Christ’s death is the onramp to a closer relationship to God for us. We start at His death so that we can understand the fullness of what He took on, of what He suffered, on our behalf. We start at His death so we can appreciate that death’s sting is gone. We start at His death so that on Easter Sunday, our joy can be complete, deep and exuberant. Come remember with us this Maundy Thursday, come contemplate with us on Good Friday, and slow with us on Holy Saturday, so that together, on Sunday, we can say – and profoundly mean – “Alleluia!”
Nikki Smith is the Director of Communications for Servants of Christ Anglican Church. She was a theology major at Erskine College & Theological Seminary for two years and has recently returned to theological study via St. Paul’s House of Formation along with her husband, Justin, who is an aspiring deacon. Nikki has found a deep appreciation for the theology, symbolism, and rootedness of the Anglican Church and wants to share that appreciation with others. She loves reading, The Office, a well-steeped cup of tea, her family, budgeting, and vacation planning (not in that particular order, of course). You can find her on Sundays in the church balcony, usually running the live stream production.
Theological oversight was given by the Rev. Dr. James Manley, assisting priest and theologian-in-residence at Servants of Christ.

Giving Thanks



Dear Servants,
By now most of you know that I have been nominated for bishop in the Gulf Atlantic Diocese. I will be one of two candidates on the slate for election at a special Diocesan Synod in Tallahassee, Saturday, May 14th. It was my wish to inform my parish family of this news prior to the public announcement. If any of you missed my announcement a few weeks ago or did not hear directly from me, please know that was my intention. My nomination has been received overwhelmingly positively by the parish, for which I am humbled and honored. Thank you all for your support and prayers for Jody and me as we walk through the next two months leading up to the election. For those unfamiliar with the process, once elected, there will be a period of transition from May 14th until August 27th when the new bishop will be consecrated.
Let me begin by saying that this is not a position I have sought out or campaigned for but rather something that Jody and I felt, after much prayer, I should be open to consider. I was nominated by several people in the diocese and following the advice of many trusted mentors, I allowed my name to go forward. Bishop Neil has been a wonderful bishop for our diocese and has lead us through the creation and growth to where we are today. Now as he plans to retire, it is important that his successor take up the baton so that we can build upon the work begun. Should God allow it, I would be honored and excited about the challenges and opportunities to work to build an even stronger diocese. If God chooses not to select me, I will continue to serve as faithfully as I can in this wonderful place. Servants has grown into a strong and healthy parish and Jody and I consider all of you our family. Many of you know that our former church community at All Souls Jacksonville was a similar community of love and support and we give great thanks to our awesome Lord for creating a similar community here at Servants.
You may be wondering, what would my election to bishop mean for Servants? In short, it would mean finding a new rector to carry on where I leave off. Later this week, a letter from Jose Boada on behalf of the Vestry will be sent giving you some basic information of what that would look like. I can tell you that if elected, Jody and I would continue to live in Gainesville. I can also tell you that the leadership team we have built at Servants will ensure ministry continues in the parish and throughout our city and county.
I want to make two announcements with regard to our leadership team which I feel certain will add to your assurance of good things to come. First, I am pleased to announce that Mother Susan Rhodes has agreed to become a part of our ministry staff. Mother Susan is a wonderful preacher and gifted pastor.  Susan+ was formerly rector of New Life Anglican Church, Lake Placid, Florida. This parish was originally a mission of Servants and so in some ways, Susan+ and her husband David, are coming home. They are also active in the healing ministry of the Anglican Church in North America through the Order of St. Luke’s. Susan+ will provide pastoral oversight to our prayer and healing ministry in the parish, as well as joining our preaching/celebrant rotation and assisting with pastoral care.
Second, I want to announce that I have asked Ramona Chance to be the senior warden for 2022. Ramona has been a leader in the parish for as many years as I have been in Gainesville and I consider her a trusted confidant. In the event of my election, Ramona has the leadership and administration skills to keep the vestry, staff, and congregation informed of progress towards the naming of the new rector.
I see both of these women as God’s provision for Servants during this time of discernment and transition, and I know you will rejoice with me in their willingness to serve. Please pray for them, the rest of the staff, and the vestry as together we lead into God’s future for the parish.
I have been overwhelmed with your love and support of my nomination and I appreciate all the prayers being lifted up for the election. In addition to your support of Jody and me, may I ask that you renew your commitment to Servants of Christ through both sacrificial service and generous giving? Should the Lord call me to become bishop, nothing would bless me more than to see Servants of Christ continue to thrive. I know it will through your support and encouragement.
May God continue to prepare our hearts through this Lenten season. 


Return to Phase 2

Dear Servants Family,

Due to the recent increase in positive COVID cases in our area of the state, the Emergency Team has recommended to me that we return to Phase 2 protocols. Many of us are tired of wearing masks, but I believe their counsel is best and so starting this Sunday, August 1st, we will be in Phase 2 for at least the next two weeks.

You are probably asking how this will alter your Sunday worship experience. During Phase 2:

  • We will all wear masks except for the lead singer and one accompanying singer, plus the preacher/celebrant (during portions of service they are leading).
  • Children will continue to meet indoors but will be wearing masks throughout their time together (just like the adults).
  • We will also return to wafer-only Communion, but can continue to kneel at the rail.
  • Lastly, we will re-institute the designated seating areas which allows for spacing in our main area.
For those who desire extra precautions, fully vaccinated people may sit in the balcony and wear masks at all times.

If you have any questions about this decision, please feel free to contact me at (352) 870-4424. Please join me in praying that the case numbers return to the low level we were experiencing a month ago and that God would eradicate this virus!


Announcing Phase 2.2

Dear Servants,
First let me say, thank you for your graciousness towards one another and to me during this difficult season.
Starting this Sunday, May 23, Servants will move into what the Emergency Team has deemed Phase 2.2. Some of you may be wondering why we have not moved into Phase 3? The reason is that while close, our Alachua County statistics have not reached the level that would trigger our Phase 3. 
However, the team was in agreement to loosen restrictions somewhat by allowing those present to remove masks while sitting down in the service or when standing in silence, for instance, during the reading of the Gospel. This does not pertain to the balcony, which will require masks at all times. We are also asking that only folks vaccinated sit in the balcony. 
During Phase 2.2, we will also continue to allow the children to be inside during Children’s Church when necessary, provided they wear masks at all times inside.
As always, if you have questions about our decision, please feel free to give me a call, text or email. Please continue to RSVP for services.
EDIT 5/24/21: There has been some confusion on the change to Phase 2.2. To be clear, everyone is now allowed to remove their mask when seated in the Sanctuary, including our youth and children. Masks should be worn when moving, singing, or speaking. Thank you. 
Onward and Upward,

The Example of Philippi


Dear Servants,

Over the last four Sundays, I have been preaching through the book of Philippians. I pray that it has been a blessing to you to hear as it has been for me to preach. I was struck especially by Paul’s words at the end of the letter where he expresses the fullness of joy because of the special friendship with the Philippians. Uniquely among the churches of Greece and Asia Minor, the Church of Philippi became dear friends and ministry partners with Paul, supporting him financially in the work of the Gospel. They supported him not only in his time in Philippi but even when he moved on to Thessalonica and Corinth.

As I reflect on the work of ministry in our parish, I am very thankful for those faith friends among you all who have continually given to the work of ministry at Servants of Christ. I believe God is continuing to work through this body to be a blessing not only to one another but also the community around us through love and good deeds. If you are a faithful supporter of the ministry, thank you for your faithfulness. 

The fall has become the time of year that I come to you through letters and sermons to appeal once again for consideration of your personal commitment to tithes and offerings to the ministries of Servants of Christ. A pandemic may seem like a strange time to write to you about generosity and stewardship, but as we learn from the witness of the church at Philippi, severe tests of affliction can lead to an overflowing in a wealth of generosity. (2 Cor. 8:2

I believe in general, there are four groups of people that are represented in a healthy, growing congregation. The first group are those who are already giving sacrificially to the work of ministry. The second group are those who have been giving but God is now calling to increase their gift to the work of ministry. Third, there are those who love the Lord but have not yet known the joy of regular committed giving. Fourth, there are those who do not yet know the goodness of the Lord but are seeking. There are few places where we as Christians act more counter-culturally than in our view of money. It is a step of discipleship that seems impossible at first, but when practiced over a long period of time, becomes something you do as an act of worship month by month. Regardless of which category you fall into, I would ask you to prayerfully consider what God is asking you to give up to Him in the year to come. 

As I said in my sermon on October 11, we have lost some giving households over the last six months, mostly due to families moving to other areas of the country, so if you have been watching the financial updates in the bulletin, you will see we have been down with regards to our contributions. What this means to me as a pastor is that God is going to be sending or raising up others to replace the giving of those families that have moved away. Would you consider what God might be asking you to contribute? 

Shortly you will be receiving the 2021 Giving Card that I would ask that you prayerfully consider and return by Sunday, November 22. You may also complete the card online at servantsanglican.org/give.

Despite Paul’s thankfulness for the gifts of the Philippians, he is careful to remind them that he is dependent upon God alone for what is needed.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13

At all times we continue to trust the Lord to help us walk faithfully with Him in times of abundance or times of want. Will you pray with me that God will continue to help us make disciples, learning to do all that Jesus said

May God continue to teach us the joy of giving in our daily walk with Him and may he continue the good work he has begun in us. (Phil. 1:6)


Onward and Upward,

Update from the Rector

Dear Servants of Christ,
August! It’s been a while since I wrote to update you on the parish and our emergency plan.  First, let me commend you on the way this congregation has loved and supported one another throughout the pandemic. As I spend a good deal of time these days checking on parishioners by phone or email, I’m often told stories of who has been by with groceries or a call to check up. What a blessing to see the church caring for the church. Keep it up!
I also want to update on some ministries we as a parish have participated in part. First, the Community Relief food distributions on Fridays was sponsored by the Alachua County Pastors Association and many Servants members found time and energy to participate in one or more weeks. I’m told the effort over sixteen weeks gave food to 100,000 people! Praise God for all His provision and special thanks to Farm Share who provided the food for distribution. Even though that effort stopped for August, we are partnering with Upper Room Ministries to distribute food on Mondays. Servants has also been financially contributing to these food efforts throughout.
A second ministry to share about was the 14th session of Camp Araminta. Due to Covid concerns, we agreed in May to go ‘virtual’ with Camp. This was not a very popular decision but the right one. I’m pleased to report that 84 campers signed up for Camp Araminta Nights, which went on from 6:30 – 8:30 pm Monday through Friday (July 20-24). God used our young adults powerfully to lead a virtual camp that blessed and disciples our campers. As usual, Servants adults provided key leadership for the week including some of our youth and college students. It went better than any of us expected and provided opportunities for some students who would not otherwise have joined us to be there. One family in particular was blessed even though they live in Durham, North Carolina. Some of our long term members will recall Sean Jecko, one of the late Right Reverend Steve Jecko’s sons. Sean wrote to tell me how blessed his two children were from Camp. I can tell you there were many of these types of feedback. Go God!
Third, despite the pandemic, a group of pastors from Alachua County arranged with President Fuchs of UF to hold a pastors-only service of unity, repentance, and reconciliation at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. At last look, the video from this event had received over 20,000 views. I was privileged to be a part of the planning team and participate in the program alongside Pastor Karl Smith from Greater Bethel A.M.E. Church. This was an effort of our local pastors association to show unity in the face of acts of racism and divisions in our country. Fifteen local pastors also united on Father’s Day weekend to preach from the same passage in Amos. Pray that the work of unity and bridges of understanding and trust will continue to grow between the pastors and congregations all over Alachua County.
I trust that all these updates will encourage you that despite the pandemic, the Lord is at work and is using this parish to build His Kingdom in the world. As you pray for our church, ask the Lord to reveal to us ways we can minister not only to one another but to the world around us in the face of a global crisis.
Now, before I end, I want to give a short update on Phase 1 of reopening. We are averaging about thirty at our service. I am pleased to share that we have excellent adherence to the mask policy and some who travel from outside our city note that they feel very safe attending Servants services during this time. For those who have attended in person, please know you have been a blessing to your rector and the team who puts on the service weekly. Please join me in expressing our love and appreciation for those who labor week after week.
The Emergency Team continues to meet and has agreed to introduce Communion (bread only) after the service starting last week. I want to assure you that this is being done with very great care. What to expect if you attend: following the procession outside and final dismissal, those who wish to receive Communion simply stay in the large circle outside and I will come around offering Communion. Obviously, those who do not wish to partake are free to leave at the dismissal. I can tell you that it was a powerful time for me as I once again communed members of the Body. If you are not coming on Sunday and would like to receive Communion, I can provide that safely outside your home by appointment. Please call the church office to arrange a time.
The Emergency Team has tentatively planned to move to Phase 2 of reopening in a few weeks but we are carefully monitoring infection rates in the county as students of all ages restart school. For now, we are confident our precautions are sufficient. As always, the team is willing to discuss our plan with any member with concerns. I would encourage all of us to be in prayer for families with school-age children as they prepare for a new school year, whether online or in person. This will be a significant challenge for all of us but especially for our families with school-aged children.
God bless all of you as you continue to trust the Lord’s faithfulness in difficult times,

A Letter Concerning the Death of George Floyd and Others

Dear brothers and sisters in the Gulf Atlantic Diocese,
What a heartbreaking season we are in. We are surrounded by death as we have passed the 100,000 mark in the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the midst of that tragedy we as a nation are now struggling with the horrific death of George Floyd. Therefore I commend the thoughtful letter below written by some of my brother bishops and commended by Archbishop Beach. It is in response to the tragic loss of George Floyd while recognizing the many who like him who have died or been treated unjustly.
St. Paul calls us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Ecclesiastes reminds us that there will be times to weep and to mourn (Ecc. 3:4).
This is such a time.
Please read the letter. Regardless of how you agree or disagree with it, please instead focus on prayer. Pray for changed hearts throughout our land, for less divisiveness and greater unity, for true justice and heartfelt compassion, and especially now for all those in the black community who have been harmed by the prejudice or apathy of others.
In Jesus the Messiah,
+Neil G. Lebhar
Bishop, Gulf Atlantic Diocese


To the Clergy of the Anglican Church in North America,
I am writing to commend the letter below written by Bishops Jim Hobby, Todd Hunter, Stewart Ruch, and Steve Wood regarding the recent killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.
I ask that you reach out to the minorities in your community and serve them as Christ Jesus would do.
In Christ,
The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach
Archbishop and Primate


A Letter Concerning the Death of George Floyd and So Many Others

George Floyd was made in the image of God and as such is a person of utmost value. This is not true because a few Anglican bishops issue a letter. This conviction arises from our reading of Scripture. The Psalmist said:
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14)
The opening book of our Scriptures declares the value of all human life:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)
What happened to George is an affront to God because George’s status as an image bearer was not respected. He was treated in a way that denied his basic humanity. Our lament is real. But our lament is not limited to George and his family. We mourn alongside the wider Black community for whom this tragedy awakens memories of their own traumas and the larger history of systemic oppression that still plagues this country.
George’s death is not merely the most recent evidence that proves racism exists against Black people in this country. But it is a vivid manifestation of the ongoing devaluation of black life. At the root of all racism is a heretical anthropology that devalues the imago dei in us all. The gospel reveals that all are equally created, sinful and equally in need of the saving work of Christ. The racism we lament is not just interpersonal. It exists in the implicit and explicit customs and attitudes that do disproportionate harm to ethnic minorities in our country. In other words, too often racial bias has been combined with political power to create inequalities that still need to be eradicated.
As bishops in the ACNA we commit ourselves to standing alongside those in the Black community as they contend for a just society, not as some attempt to transform America into the kingdom of God, but as a manifestation of neighborly love and bearing one another’s burdens and so fulfilling the law of Christ. We confess that too often ethnic minorities have felt that contending for biblical justice is a burden they bear alone.
In the end, our hope is not in our efforts, but in the shed blood of Jesus that reconciles God to humanity and humans to each other. Our hope is that our churches become places where our life together as disciples demonstrates the power of the gospel to bring together the nations of the earth (Rev 7:9). Such work cannot be carried out by one letter written in the time of crisis. We commit to educating ourselves and the churches under our charge within a biblical and theological frame to face the problems of our day. We likewise commit to partnering with likeminded churches in the work of justice and reconciliation.
The Feast of Pentecost is here in a couple of days. The power of the Spirit is loosed to convict of sin and deliver us from its power. We pray that in a country as diverse as these United States, the Church will be united in the essential truths of Christianity, including its concern for the most vulnerable. So…come Holy Spirit. Mediate to us and all the earth, we pray, the victory of Jesus over the principalities and powers that seek to rule and cause death and destruction in this time between the times. Come Holy Spirit.
Almighty God, on this day, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, you revealed the way of eternal life to every race and nation: Pour out this gift anew, that by the preaching of the Gospel your salvation may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Almighty God, you created us in your own image: Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and help us to use our freedom rightly in the establishment of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Sincerely in Christ,
Bishops Jim Hobby, Todd Hunter, Stewart Ruch and Steve Wood
This letter originally appeared here: http://anglicanchurch.net/?/main/page/2050. Servants of Christ Anglican Church is a member church of the Anglican Church in North America and stands in agreement with all that has been said above.

The Plan to Reopen



Dear Servants of Christ,
Yesterday morning on the staff Zoom call I remarked at how incredibly gracefully you as a congregation have handled this season in our lives as a community. Thank you for the trust you have in me and the vestry/staff as we make decisions that are best for the congregation. Thank you also for how well you are loving one another in word and deed during this time. Jody and I were blessed to join the Zoom Soaking Prayer night last Tuesday and marveled at the Body of Christ, as we moved through the stages of Zoom Soaking Prayer. The time was rich and we received much needed prayer for Jody’s allergy attack. (I am happy to report she is much better.) This is just one example of where I see you as the Body of Christ ministering to one another.
By my calculations, we have just finished our eighth Sunday of online services. The portion of weeks prior to Easter was an adjustment; after Easter I sensed people moving into the rhythm of quarantine life, and now just as we are wrapping up the school year, here comes the news of reopening. I am certain that Governor DeSantis’s announcement on May 4th struck some of you as premature and others felt it was about time.
I want to address re-opening with you today. At the prompting of Bishop Neil, the emergency operation team began meeting to discuss what our phases one to three plans would look like whenever it was appropriate. Just to remind you, Daryl Johnston, Emily Wilson, and Dr. Jim Moulthrop have graciously served with me on this team. In addition, we have sought council of others in the parish who have expertise in this area.
Linked below you will find the work of three meetings of our team, plus the input of our vestry and staff. Before you turn to that plan, I would like begin with a few points. First, please remember that we are new at all of this so expect that there will be a learning curve. From week to week, we will no doubt learn what does and doesn’t work. As you have been gracious so far, I would ask that you continue to give grace to one another.
Second, please know that the leadership team does not intend to offend anyone but enviably some of us will be offended or offend others. If you are not wearing a mask or maintaining social distance, expect to be reminded. Also, if you are not feeling well, please stay home. If someone offends you, please keep short accounts and seek to forgive.
Third, for some of you our plan will seem excessive, for others it will seem too loose. That is the difficulty we have to face. I would commend to you that making someone else feel safe to return to church can be a very practical way of expressing love for our neighbor during this season. Some of you will be looking for restrictions that you might wish were here but are not. From my days as a commercial underwriter, I learned controlling all potential liability was impossible. If you have a business, someone can potentially get harmed. Instead of trying to eliminate exposures, we were taught rather to ‘manage risk.’ I believe this plan does just that, it manages the potential risk of the virus. That fact will mean that some of you will need to hold back from phase one or two participation in church. I would even go so far as to discourage vulnerable persons within the congregation from attending in phase one and two. To that end, the staff is working hard to ensure our online experience remains quality even after the reopening begins.
Having said all that, I ask that you review the plan. There will be several opportunities to discuss and ask questions; Emily Wilson will be joining me to answer questions. You may join our Wednesday night Zoom call 6:30-7:30. The link has been sent via email; contact communications@servantsanglican.org if you wish to be added to our emailing list.
Tentatively, we are working towards our first Phase One service to be Sunday, May 31st (Pentecost Sunday). I emphasize that this is a tentative date because the next couple of weeks will show us how the state and our county reopening affects the rate of infection. We will also have a lot of work to do to train ushers, greeters, and the parish as a whole.
God bless you all as we continue to walk this way together and I ask your prayers for our leadership at the diocesan and parish level as we seek to make decisions for the well-being of our congregation. Know that I am praying for you all, and I am always available for individual conversation.


Reopening Plan


Staying Connected in Christ


Dear Servants of Christ,
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! A few days ago the above Psalm was my reading for the day. How encouraging it is to know the Lord hears and delivers us from our troubles. Yes, the righteous are not excluded from afflictions, but the Lord delivers!
First, let me say that I am so grateful to our emergency management team and their advanced warning of how this coronavirus would progress. Thanks to their careful planning I am happy to report that Servants continues to minister to one another and the community around us without interruption. We are blessed to have been using Facebook Live and Zoom conference calling for some time, and that plus other tools are keeping us connected. In addition, some are connecting with parishioners on their own within a given neighborhood. Wonderful ministry is happening as God makes opportunity.
Second, as I said in my sermon Sunday and in my last letter, it is crucial for our spiritual well-being that we find ways to connect to one another, even while sheltering in place in Alachua County. To that end, we will of course continue our Facebook Live services on Sunday mornings at 9:30. The city and county emergency plans allow for a team of ten people or less to gather. Thanks to David La Cagnina and Nikki Smith who are leading our online service team. I know that some of you had trouble staying on the Facebook Live Sunday. Most of this was a Facebook issue that we are hopeful will be fixed by this week. If you continue to have trouble please let Nikki know at nikki@servantsanglican.org. You may also want to wait and come back to the service after 11 am where you will still find the service available, just not in real time. If the problem persists, we may try loading the service on other social media platforms like Youtube.
Third, I know many of you are concerned with our most elderly parishioners because of their vulnerability to the virus. There is a team of people contacting them regularly and the good news is that all of them appear well at the moment. If you would be willing to volunteer to pick up groceries or other supplies for a family please let Tracy know at admin@servantsanglican.org. Also, I am planning a dial-in Evening Prayer service to which each of our older folks will be invited. The reality is that many of them don’t use the internet and therefore we are looking for ways to connect with them. Jody and I had an Evening Prayer call with Walter and Alice Crosby this last evening and it went well. Please email me at alex@servantsanglican.org if you know someone who would be interested in Evening Prayer by phone.
Fourth, I want to let you know that we will be offering teaching opportunities starting next week using Zoom. If you haven’t done so already I encourage you to download the app on your phone, laptop, tablet or PC. (This is a video conferencing application but you can choose not to use the camera. If you’re unfamiliar with Zoom, you can learn how to use it here.) Beginning March 30, Fr. Bob Ayres will begin a catechism class on Monday evenings from 6:30 to 7:30 pm. In addition, I will continue my 1 Corinthians class on Wednesday nights starting next week. To register for either or both classes, click here. Alternatively you can email Nikki Smith (nikki@servantsanglican.org) or Fr. Bob Ayres (bob@servantsanglican.org) to register.
Fifth, you may also want to take advantage of a Facebook version of Morning Prayer we will be offering during the week. As a start, we are going to make the Morning Prayer service available on Mondays and Wednesdays. You can watch any time on that day but we plan to have the video available by 7:30 am. I will read the liturgy and share a short 5-7 minute devotional thought for the day. I have been in conversation with Fr. David Allert at Christ the King Anglican Church in St. Augustine, and we may be able to share the responsibility and offer more times during the week. We will let you know when this starts.
Finally, let me reiterate what I have shared elsewhere. This is the very time when the Church shines brightest. We speak and live faith in Jesus Christ in the face of fear. Just today, I was able to join local pastors and lay people handing out food to the poor of our community. How will God use you to glorify His name in this time? Secondly, remember we are all walking through this season but we do not need to walk alone. Call on the Lord! Cry out to Him in faith. When you feel fearful, I encourage you to stop and pray to the Lord. If you need, call someone and ask them to pray for you. Your clergy, staff, and community group leaders are also available to pray with you. We don’t walk alone because we have the body of Christ, whether we are together or dispersed.
I encourage you to find one or more of the above opportunities to stay connected with the Body of Christ. I am particularly struck by how this time of crisis has made our liturgies taken on even greater meaning. You remain in my prayers as we walk together.
God bless you all,