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,


Assisting the Cities of Bay County, Florida

 
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:40
 
For those in church Sunday the 21st, I promised you information on how you can help the victims of Hurricane Michael particularly in Bay County (Panama City). I have spoken with Father John Wallace twice and can update you on the need in the area. Fr. John is the rector of Apostles By-the-Sea, a parish in our own Gulf Atlantic Diocese, located in Bay County’s Rosemary Beach. His parish was west of most of the devastation but is working with those in the county most affected. Below, taken from their website, is a list of the items they are looking for to provide to the residents.
 
The congregation is working out of Parker United Methodist Church to provide needed items for residents primarily in the communities of Parker and Callaway. These two Bay County communities were economically challenged prior to the hurricane and now Fr. John tells me, “many residents are living in homes without roofs and in some cases even walls.” Food and water are plentiful but other items such as tarps, baby wipes, adult size diapers, sleeping bags, blankets, larger size tents (6-8 persons) and other household items are simply not available and desperately needed. Many stores have been closed and so even if residents can afford items there is nowhere to purchase them.
 
I am seeking to collect supplies to be carried over to Bay County in the next week if possible. Again, please see the list below to find out what is needed. I am looking for volunteers to collect and transport collected supplies to Panama City. If you are interested in making this trip or helping to organize supplies, please contact the Church Office at (352) 271-1188 or admin@servantsanglican.org. You may drop off collected goods to the church at any time; they can be left outside by the glass doors.
 
Please consider purchasing supplies and assisting these fellow Floridians in their time of need. Donating money is not helpful because the supplies are simply not available in Bay County. In addition, please keep residents of Parker and Callaway in your prayers as Tyndall Air Force Base, the largest employer in the area, is slated to be closed in 1-2 years due to hurricane damage. This means people who worked at Tyndall or who worked for contractors working with Tyndall will no longer have jobs. Many will have to leave the area to find new employment.
 
I will keep you updated as to when our delivery will be made and to additional ways we can support this relief effort.
 
 
 


The Call to Engage

 
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Romans 13:1-2,7-10
 
In a strange twist, the apostle Paul begins chapter 13 of Romans talking about submitting to government authorities and then connects this Christian civil responsibility to the second portion of Jesus’ summary of the Law, namely to “love one another.” Just to remind us all, St. Paul is talking about the Roman government! Thanks be to God, we live not under Roman rule but the rule of law with the rights of a constitution which, among other things, guarantees our right to vote.
 
Even as I am writing this blog, I’m aware of my own frustration with the state of politics in our country. It is easy to ignore what is happening around us and simply go about our individual lives. Yet, if I take Paul’s admonition seriously, how I engage or refuse to engage in society is really a response to the command to love my neighbor. Furthermore, our Lord Jesus calls us to be salt and light in our city, county, and state. Part of this calling is lived out as we engage with issues that affect our community and speak out from a Christ-centered perspective.
 
You may be thinking, “Why is Alex all the sudden talking about politics?” I write this blog today in light of our upcoming general election on November 6th. You may not be aware yet, but locally “this year’s November ballot will be the longest voters have seen in at least 20 years.” In addition to many state and local officials to be elected, the ballot will contain twelve proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution, two Alachua county referenda, and two city of Gainesville referenda. The Supervisor of Elections anticipates completing a ballot may take up to 30 minutes. My fear is that for some, this will become overwhelming and they will simply give up in the process. I do not believe this is an option for Christians who take seriously Paul’s words in Romans 13.
 
To this end, I would encourage each of you to seriously review the proposed amendments and referenda, along with candidates and prayerful consider how you should vote. Sample ballots are mailed out but you can also obtain one at voteAlachua.com. In addition, I am personally working through the amendments and referenda and would be willing to lead a non-partisan discussion with members of the congregation in order to seek greater clarification. Please contact me personally if you are interested.
 
I will close this with a quote by the late John Stott, “if we truly love our neighbors, and want to serve them, our service may oblige us to take (or solicit) political action on their behalf.”
 
May God guide you in all these things,


We Did It!

 
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.” 
1 Kings 8:27-30
 
We did it! We consecrated our new space to the worship of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – on the 22nd of September. If you missed the day, I’m so sorry because it I was glorious. Not the building or the people but the presence of the Lord as we gathered together. We do have some bulletins from the service if you would like one; especially meaningful to me were words of encouragement from our two oldest members, Ms. Jane Gresley and Dr. James Sunwall.
 
You may be wondering why I’m just now writing about the service since it happened almost two weeks ago. Simple answer: fatigue. Putting on a wedding takes a lot of effort. I fondly told people after the service, “I feel like I’ve been engaged to this new space since April and now we are married.” One purpose of a marriage ceremony is to acknowledge the covenant being made by the couple in a public way. I think a consecration service is a similar for a parish as we as a congregation make covenant with the Lord to love and serve Him through the use of this space. It is set apart for God’s purposes, which is why the Bishop took time to walk around and bless our font, instruments, lectern, pulpit, and communion table. These are not ours, they belong to the Lord and we commit ourselves and all our labor to making our new space beautiful to God’s glory.
 
The passage above is a part of Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple he had just finished constructing in Jerusalem. Now obviously I’m not suggesting that our worship space on 8th Avenue is comparable to the Temple dedication in 1 Kings 8, however I do believe God is honored as we dedicate our new space for worship unto the Lord. We know God is not constrained to only sacred spaces, however as Solomon says, God honors prayers offered by His people gathered in sacred spaces if His name is glorified in that place.
 
May Servants of Christ Anglican Church at 3530 NW 8th Avenue always be a place where God’s people gather in prayer, proclaim the glory of God, and demonstrate the good news that in Jesus Christ there is forgiveness for all!
 
Onward and Upward,
 


Toward Common Prayer

 
Greetings from the Mountains of Virginia. After completing my second Doctorate of Ministry class at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania last week, I’m off on the Appalachian Trail for a few days of vacation. Many of you know that I try to walk the trail for a short section with my brother Zack. This year we move into southern Virginia. My mind is full of new ideas and spiritual insights from the class, and I’m sure by the time I see you June 24th, there will be much to share. I hope you too will be enjoying some Sabbath rest this summer.
 
I write to you today, to let you know that on July 1 we will be making a few small changes to our Sunday liturgy. I want you to know that I don’t take these changes lightly and I’m aware that the idea of liturgy is that you will know the service and allow it to flow from your heart as a habit of spiritual formation. Liturgy reminds us that we are a part of something that is much bigger than us. I’m of course referring to the Church, the Body of Christ in the world.
 
So why are we making changes to our liturgy? Short answer: to be in step with our communion, the Anglican Church in North America. As some of you know, our province has been working on an approved liturgy for North America and these few changes are the last adjustments before the new prayer book is ready for publishing some time in 2019. This is very exciting as we’ve been without a printed prayer book now for 13 years. If we don’t adopt these changes will be out of step with our sister Anglican churches, and that is not the idea of common prayer.
 
There is one bit of news that I hope you will find exciting in these changes. The new prayer book allows for the response to “The Lord be with you,” to return to the familiar “And also with you.” This is actually just an option, but as we are currently the only ACNA church I am aware of that uses, “And with your Spirit,” we will take the option and return to those familiar words. I think most of you will be pleased. The reason we are making the small changes to the liturgy is the same reason we are returning to “And also with you,” namely, so that we can pray in union with our sister ACNA churches.
 
I will see you this Sunday and we will continue to journey together in God’s mission in Gainesville. In the meantime, please pray for me on the trail and all of those Anglican leaders gathered in Jerusalem for the Global Anglican Future Conference.
 
May the Shalom of God rest upon your hearts,


With Thankfulness to God

 
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:15-17

 

In the passage above, the Apostle Paul wraps up his summary to the Church in Colossi with three reminders of thanksgiving. First, as Christ rules your heart producing peace, “be thankful.” This is our salvation; Christ has brought us peace. Second, as a member of the body we are to minister to one another through teaching, admonishing, and singing “with thankfulness.” And third, as we go about our lives, whatever you do, do it in obedience to Christ, “giving thanks to God the Father.” So whether it is our salvation, our life as a Church community, or our work and activity individually – Paul says it is to be smothered in thanksgiving.
 
This is a reminder as I write this article, which is once again filled with my own thanksgiving. Paul would say, “and so it should!” So much is in transition with our new buildings, and I continue to give thanks for how the Lord calls His people to labor for the common effort to ready a place for worship and ministry. Last Sunday, I failed to mention that thirty people came out to clean, paint, repair, trim, pressure wash, organize, and improve our facilities. Thanks to all who showed up. If you couldn’t make last Saturday, consider coming out for gutter cleaning at Littlewood this weekend. Then last Tuesday a team of seven women and men arrived to tear into what was the Theater room, working tirelessly to remove the choir steps so that this multi-purpose room can better serve our children, youth, and adults. When you’re by the church next, peek in to see how much floor space was created by our demolition team! Well done.
 
I also need to thank some folks from outside our church who blessed us this week. First, Amanda Allen, a local photographer, who blessed us with the pictures from our Pentecost service. The photos will be incorporated into our website and available to view there and on social media shortly. Amanda has graciously given us these photos for free. Bless you, Amanda, for capturing our Grand Opening and also allowing us to visually show the community of SOC to all those who visit us online. Then, second, I must acknowledge Jason Stefansen (brother of our prayer intercessor Scott Stefansen), who on his vacation from work as lighting expert, volunteered to come down to Gainesville to work on our spotlights in the Sanctuary. Jason got two spotlights working for this Sunday, which means you will actually be able to see the faces of our clergy and servers, plus it brings more light into the Sanctuary as a whole. Jason has already promised to come back and do some more work with our lighting and electrical system. Thank you, Jason. Third, Jason’s work could not have been accomplished without the loan of a lift from Westwood Hills Church of God. How generous this church has been to us in loaning their lift. Also, special thanks to our own Bill McCrea, who is the keeper of the lift while it’s in our possession. Yes ladies, that’s the large piece of equipment you see on the way to the women’s bathroom on Sundays. (Just temporary, I promise).
 
Lastly, I want to end this article by acknowledging Mrs. Susan Staley. For the past two and a half years, Susan has been an amazing administrative asset to SOC. First volunteering one day a week, then two days, finally becoming our office administrator last year, Susan has brought organization to the office and has given care for the details of running a church office a new level of excellence. Some of you may know that Susan has learned to play the dulcimer over the last few years and so now has felt a calling to leave her administration ministry for a music ministry to the sick and dying. If you visit a hospital or hospice care, you may hear or see Susan ministering to the care givers or patients there. Susan will be greatly missed in the office but we are grateful for these years of ministry and bless her in her calling to music ministry. Susan, we are so thankful for your willingness to use your gifts for the building up of our congregation.
 
So you see, fellow servants, there is just a lot to be thankful for in this season of our life together. Please continue to pray for safety for our volunteer workers and contractors, and also for those in the body traveling during the summer. While you are away, don’t forget that you can view our services live on Facebook each Sunday and, of course, give financially online. Our giving to the Lord is one of the tangible expressions of our thanksgiving for all the Lord is doing in our lives.
 
 
Onward and Upward,