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
 
+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,
 


Response to COVID-19

 
Update as of March 17, 2020: Our 8:00am Sunday service has been cancelled until further notice. Our 9:30am Sunday service will be live streamed and only essential personnel will be present. Wednesdays @ Servants classes will live streamed when they take place. Check our Facebook and other social media pages for announcements and links to live streams. If you have a prayer need, visit servantsanglican.org/prayer to send your need directly to our prayer team leader, Mary Langeland.
 
Dear Servants,
 
On Sunday I shared with the congregation that I would be meeting with a small group of our members who have expertise/experience dealing with virus infection and prevention to address the COVID-19 (the coronavirus). Wednesday Emily Wilson, Dr. Jim Moulthrop, and Daryl Johnston met with me in an extensive planning meeting. The good news is that Servants already has an emergency plan in place and I can report that plan has now been updated. These individuals have made themselves available for any questions you might have for them.
 
The first action we have taken is regarding Communion. I have asked the altar guild to use only the silver chalices for communion until further notice. As many of you know silver is a deterrent to the spread of germs. Furthermore, Father James and I will be explaining at the Peace about the options each of you have regarding the chalice. First, you may refrain from receiving the wine altogether. It is perfectly acceptable to only receive the wafer as a full participant in the Sacrament of Communion. Secondly, you may intinct the wafer in the chalice; intinct is a fancy word for dip. If you choose this method, please take care not to allow your finger to touch the wine. Third, you may continue to receive the chalice to your mouth as is our standard practice. This is the method I will continue to use, unless I get a cold, of course. We are prepared to alter our Communion practice should the time come.
 
We will also be providing information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) regarding how individuals may best prevent the spread of germs. There will be printed material on the welcome table and also some posters up on Sunday. The CDC is our best source of information and we encourage you to visit their website for the most update information. Our team will be implementing the CDC’s recommendations as they are available. As an example, we will be making hand sanitizer available at the first pew and also in the narthex and children’s area for your use when entering or exiting the church building.
 
Additionally, Father James and I will be encouraging a modified sharing of the Peace on Sunday mornings. Again, you have freedom to share the peace in any way you desire but please respect that others may not want to hug or shake hands during this period of time. Let’s extend grace to one another and respect each others boundaries. Fist pumps, waves, or elbow touches are appropriate ways to express the Peace.
 
Now, having laid out some the work of our team, let me address COVID-19 from a pastoral standpoint. First, let me say this is not a time to be fearful, nor is it a time to avoid facing the potential danger. Both fear and avoidance are unwise responses from the people of God. As Christians, we have peace because this virus is not catching our God by surprise. He is Lord of heaven and earth and will continue to walk with us in the days ahead.
 
Second, let me remind you that times of crisis create opportunities for us to speak to unbelieving friends and family about the peace we have in Jesus. Yes, we desire to live a long healthy life, yes we want to be diligent to protect ourselves against this and all other illness however, as Paul makes clear, “to live is Christ, to die is gain!” Don’t miss the opportunity to demonstrate and speak faith in your response to this virus. Here is a story of how Christians are responding to the virus inside China.
 
Third, let me encourage you to not pull away from the Body of Christ during this time. Sure, we can isolate and avoid human relationship but at what cost? Obviously immune-compromised members will need to limit their contact. Also, if you are sick with any symptoms that could be caused by the coronavirus, or by the flu for that matter, you should stay home. We are blessed to already have Facebook Live available as a way of watching the service from your home should that need arise. Please see below for more on how to access our live service. But for those who are well and who have healthy immune systems, remember the benefits of participation in the Body and stay present. As Mary Coryell is fond of saying, “I don’t know how people go through a personal crisis without a Church body like this.” Amen! We are better together and together we will serve God to His glory in this broken world. If you do become ill, remember that we have a prayer team at Servants of Christ. Call or email Mary Langeland at (352) 371-2939 or marylang704@gmail.com.
 
Be assured that the rest of our clergy and I will remain active in pastoring this congregation through this emergency. If you need pastoral assistance, call me any time at (352) 870-4424.
 
I am praying for all of you and am available for your questions and comments as always.
 
Onward and Upward,
 
 
 
 
 

How to access us Live on Sundays:

1) First, if you haven’t already, create a Facebook account at facebook.com.
2) Once your account is created, visit facebook.com/servantsanglican and Like our page and be sure to select “Following” so you’ll get notifications when we go live. Wait for Sunday and then proceed to one of the options below!
 
From a computer:
On Sundays, login to your Facebook account and head over to facebook.com/pg/servantsanglican/videos. Once we go live (usually around 9:20am), our video will be the first you see when you scroll down the page slightly. You’ll know you have the right video because there will be a red “Live” button at the top left of the video. If you don’t see the live video after 9:30am, message us using the button at the top of our Facebook page for help.
 
From a phone:
On Sundays, visit linktr.ee/servantsanglican and tap “Find us Live on Sundays.” The link will take you to our Facebook page; you may need to login before proceeding. Once logged in, scroll down until you see the live video (look for the red “Live” button at the top left corner of the video). If you don’t see the live video after 9:30am, message us through Messenger for help.
 
If you need any help setting up your account, contact communications@servantsanglican.org.


Ways to Help the Bahamas

 
“Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.”
Proverbs 21:13
 
Dear Servants,
 
I shared during my sermon Sunday that I was convicted by Proverbs 21:13 early that morning. I know that you are praying and looking for ways to help Bahamians and so I want to share with you the information I have received today. I was invited to a conference call this morning to share information and resources as the Church looks for ways to aid our sisters and brothers in great need.
 
First, pray for first responders and relief workers who are still overwhelmed with the number of bodies to be recovered and buried in a humane way. Also, pray for families in the Bahamas and in the U.S. who do not know if family members are alive or dead.
 
Second, here are some ways you can tangibly assist the people of the Bahamas:
  1. You can donate to World Central Kitchen, a NGO whose mission is “A hot plate of food when it’s needed most.” Their disaster relief team is already up and running in the Bahamas to serve hot meals. Learn more and donate at wck.org.
  2. You send or take gift cards to Greater Bethel A.M.E. Church Gainesville. These cards will be sent to refugees in Miami who have evacuated from the Bahamas.
  3. You can give financial contributions through the Alachua County Christian Pastors Association at Givelify (select “Other” and note “Bahamas Hurricane Relief Effort” as the memo). The ACCPA is working with Pastor Gerard Duncan of Prayer by Faith Ministries of Gainesville (Pastor Gerard is from the Bahamas) and with the local Kiwanis Club in the Bahamas to get supplies to where they are needed. The first bulk order of supplies will be shipped on September 11.
  4. You can volunteer or make donations to help with refugees in Old Town, Florida at Camp Anderson which has received refugees from the Bahamas.
 
God is definitely mobilizing His Church for this crisis. If the parish staff can assist with collecting funds or supplying follow up information please let us know. The need is urgent so I wanted to get this information out to all of you as soon as possible.
 
Peace be with you all,
 


Looking Forward to Fall

 
Dear Servants,
 
I hope your summer has been filled with experiences that take you out of your routine, giving you perspective, and especially moments where God has spoken into your life with His plan for you this fall. For me, the rhythm of my annual hiking on the Appalachian Trail, Independence Day reunion with family, and of course Camp Araminta give me opportunity to reflect on the academic year past and the one about to begin.
 
Despite the slowdown of summer, Servants has been continuing to meet weekly for congregational worship and to minister to the community around us. In June, Kim Harris and a team of adult and youth volunteers held Kids’ Creation Station (a new VBS-type program for children) on Thursday mornings. As many as 21 children participated over the four weeks for this fun and formative time.
 
Also this summer, our Come and See service (an Evening Prayer service geared towards those spiritually seeking but not ready for Sunday morning) moved out to Grace Marketplace. For several years, Servants has provided food for 150-200 residents of Grace and Dignity Village. Now we can offer spiritual food to the residents who wish to attend after dinner. Mike and Jeannie Bey and Emily Wilson worked with me to create this service and now we feel confident Grace is the right place to offer it.
 
Lastly, just two weeks ago many of us attended the 14th annual Camp Araminta, our diocesan summer camp. This year 163 campers attended, along with 51 high school leaders in training, 27 college-aged counselors, and 26 adults. Servants of Christ was significantly involved: twelve of the adults leaders came from our church. This was one of our smoothest camps ever and I’m excited to report eleven campers made first time decisions to follow Christ as Lord! Additionally, four of our counselors are exploring a call to ministry. Please pray for all the Araminta family but especially new believers and counselors-in-discernment.
 
As camp was ending, I received the word from our junior warden, Bill McCrea, “Today is great day for SOC Anglican Church! With the completion of this drain pipe for our roof drainage system I believe we can say our so called ‘critical’ building infrastructure needs are finally done. As of today our building is secure. All HVAC units are functioning properly, our roof and drain system is as well. No new leaks anywhere today at all! So our roof is functioning as it should and our new flooring will be done by end of the day. Hallelujah!”
 
I am certain you join Bill in saying hallelujah! This has been a long process, grinding on since last summer. Great thanks to our facility team, especially Daryl Johnston, Ken Langeland, and Bill McCrea for their tireless efforts to keep us moving forward, as well as a host of other folks who have participated in the process.
 
All of this sets us up for exciting ministry this fall. Already we are starting to see new faces in the service as new people move into Gainesville seeking a church home. Our Community Groups (medium-sized, multi-generational groups that meet monthly around the city) are a great way to meet new people at Servants. If you’re already involved in a Community Group, invite someone new; if you’ve never attended a Community Group, visit our page to learn more and find a group.
 
Enjoy the remainder of your summer, but please begin to pray for all that God wants to accomplish through our congregation this fall.
 
Onward and Upward,
 


Moving Forward in Ministry

Dear Servants,
 
Winter has passed and spring is here. I mentioned in my Ash Wednesday sermon, it is a bit odd that even as we are fasting and solemn during the Lenten season, we see new life springing up around us. The days get longer and the flowers of spring forth. We have now reached the halfway mark in Lent. Congratulations! For me so far, the highlight of Lent has been the combined service at Greater Bethel A.M.E. Church last Wednesday. I love seeing our congregation step out of our comfort zone. For those who could not attend we had wonderful fellowship between the two congregations with about eighty in attendance. Our meal was followed by an evening service lead by Pastor Karl Smith. Pastor Smith graciously allowed me the privilege of preaching to both congregations.
 
If you missed this service, I promise you will be blessed this Wednesday – tomorrow – as we reciprocate by hosting Great Bethel in our building this week. Dinner will be provided at 6 pm followed by a Eucharistic celebration. Pastor Smith will be our preacher. These shared services are an answer to prayer for our congregation as we have sought to create a sister parish relationship with a church on the eastside of Gainesville.
 
Months ago, when we moved into our new space, I said on several occasions that the purchase of our own buildings must not become an end in of themselves but a means for our congregation to do ministry. Too often the end of a building program leaves a congregation exhausted and ready to coast. It is so exciting to see the work of our mission team in leading a new season of ministry partnership. Hopefully you caught some of their mission spotlights during Epiphany. Already our men’s ministry is planning a short mission trip to Panama City (Bay County) to do relief work. Please pray for this team as we prepare to serve those still affected by Hurricane Michael last October. In addition, we will be participating in a city-wide worship service at Bo Diddley Plaza on Good Friday, April 19, at 7pm, as we come together in unity across Gainesville. David La Cagnina is helping coordinate various worship teams that will assemble and I am blessed to be one of the speakers for this event.
 
All this to say, I am overjoyed to see Servants engaged in ministry from our new space, even as we continue to work to make our buildings an attractive place for worship and ministry training. Our roof is nearing completion, and we have a remodeled Triangle Room ready for children’s ministry. In May we wrap up our three-year capital campaign and we are already beginning to plan a time of celebration for God’s faithfulness to us in this journey. Look for information shortly about this event.
 
We have so much to be thankful for, friends. God has rooted us along 8th Avenue and given us new and diverse opportunities for ministry. I look forward to the end of Lent and the glorious celebration of Christ’s resurrection Sunday April 21st. We will baptize, proclaim the gospel, worship in Spirit and Truth and recommit ourselves to the work of ministry in Jesus’s name.
 
May God continue to bless your Lenten practices as we journey towards Holy Week and that blessed Easter morning.
 
 
Onward and Upward,


Lessons & Carols: Exercises in Simple Worship

 
In the Anglican tradition, we have inherited many pieces of liturgy over the last two thousand years. So, it may be a bit surprisingly to learn that the service of Nine Lessons and Carols is a fairly recent invention, celebrating its one-hundredth birthday only this year.
 
While there had been services of alternating scripture readings and carols going back to the mid-1800s, the service as we know it today was constructed out of the grief and horror of the First World War, which had ended only 6 weeks before Christmas Eve, 1918.
 
The author of the service was The Rev. Eric Milner-White, a graduate of King’s College who was appointed chaplain at the college in 1912, four years after his ordination as a priest. When the war broke out in 1914, he volunteered as a military chaplain and witnessed the horrors of trench warfare on the Western front.  “Most of life is at night,” he wrote in a letter back home, “and the nights are filled with prolonged terror—a horrid, weird, furtive existence. … Battle is indescribable, unimaginable. A continuous firework of light balls goes up from the German trenches. But most awesome is the noise. We feel powerless against those splitting cracks and roars, and dream of the metal tearing its way into the bodies of poor men.”
 
Decorated for courage under fire in combat, he was released after what he called “a battle of special horror” in early 1918 and returned to King’s College, where he was appointed Dean. After the end of the war on November 11, he set out to create a special Christmastide service “as a gift to the city of Cambridge” that would serve two purposes.
 
First, he wanted to grieve the loss of young men from the city, and especially from his own college. Twenty-three percent of the members of King’s College had died during the war, including Milner-White’s roommate. Today in the chapel of King’s College is a list of the names of the dead on an engraved plaque; a much later dean of King’s College noted that this list was assembled long after the first Lessons and Carols service. This is because on Christmas Eve, 1918, it was not even known exactly who among the members was alive or dead.
 
Second, Milner-White wanted to reform liturgical practices so that the simple beauty of Christian worship would shine through and attract those who had lost their faith in the horrors of the war, whether serving in it or watching it take place. There is intellectual depth to the service; in Milner-White’s own words, “the main theme is the development of the loving purposes of God” as viewed “through the windows and the words of the Bible.” Yet he aimed at simplicity rather than complex explication of God’s purposes in human history; rather than a lecture, he wanted the focus of the service to be on “colour, warmth, and delight.”
 
Milner-White devoted the remainder of his life to the theme that the simple beauty of Christianity offered hope to an increasingly secular culture without hope. He sparked a new interest in stained glass windows as a means of expressing simple Christian truth in beautiful form. He wrote several simple prayers, one of which made its way into the forthcoming Prayer Book of the ACNA as the first Prayer for Mission in Evening Prayer:

O God and Father of all, whom the whole heavens adore: Let the whole earth also worship you, all nations obey you, all tongues confess and bless you, and men, women and children everywhere love you and serve you in peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

As you listen and worship during Lessons and Carols, occasionally contemplate that the simple service offers an expression of hope that despite the mess that humans have made of our world, God has a plan of redemption for it.

 

For more reading pleasure, an interview with William Edwards, author of The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (Rizzoli, 2004), can be found here.

 

Fr. James Manley is an assisting priest here at Servants. He has recently discovered the joy of cooking on cast iron over a 200,000 BTU propane flame (and still has his eyebrows!)