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,
 


It’s All About Timing

 
Our church took an important step as a parish when we purchased our own space April 5th. The first fruit of that step was evident in the worship we experienced in our first two services in our new sanctuary. Not unlike the purchase of a first home, there is a level of maturity that comes for a congregation that moves into its own space. Now as I repeatedly tell the story of our new church home to different people outside the congregation, I can see God’s provision and timing even more clearly. I firmly believe this was the right decision and the right time to buy a building.
 
What about you? No, I’m not asking you whether you think it was the right timing, but I am asking is this the right time for you to take the next step in your own commitment to this body and our ministries in and out of our church walls. I like to think our relationship with God is like riding a bike. A bike has two pedals; the Christian life also has two pedals. For followers of Christ, one pedal is our faith in God; the other pedal is our response in obedient action. And like riding a bike, it’s much easier and enjoyable when you are moving forward!
 
Is the Lord calling you to join Servants officially? Are you ready to take a place on a ministry team? Is there a burning passion to serve in a particular place that you’ve been reluctant to mention? Already our church is experiencing growth in attendance just over these first two weeks (even though I asked folks to wait until May 20th, haha). If you have been around SOC for a while, you will likely be asked to consider a place of service or ministry. Could this be your own moment to step up?

 

Onward & upward,
Alex +


And so the work begins…

 
Our first Sunday in our new worship space is almost here! After closing on April 5th, our facility team began working with great speed and determination in preparation for this weekend. As I write to you, the new carpet is about to be laid in our sanctuary (around the altar). Our pews are now sitting in the nave (see we have to learn to use the proper liturgical terms again) and the gifted statue of “Jesus the Good Shepherd” will shortly be moved from the Langelands’ home to the narthex (area outside the doors of the nave) where people will gather before and after the service. This is a very exciting time in the life of our parish.
 
There a so many folks to thank for this process including the great number of volunteers who have showed up since the 5th of April to clean and prepare our new space. I do want to especially acknowledge some folks who have done the “heavy lifting” in this process. First, Ramona Chance who offered legal advice and worked diligently to help us form the condominium association, and acquire our financing. Also Ken Langeland, our junior warden, who worked tirelessly with the vestry to negotiate the purchase and is now working with our facility team. Last but not least, Daryl Johnston, who heads up our facility team. Daryl is managing our moving process and is leading a great group of leaders who are tackling a long list of “to do” items. I owe a great deal to these three people for keeping us on track over the last six months. Please let them know how much you appreciate them for their hard work.
 
Sunday is not the finish line. Some of you will recall those were the words of Bishop Neil when he was with us in March. Although this has been a day we have prayed for and longed to see – especially those of us who have been here since our first service January 8, 2006 – we cannot rest now that God has given us a permanent home. Sunday is just the beginning of our life as a parish within a secure base from which to minister to our community. That is why I think it is especially important that in the midst of our move, we have adopted a parish-wide initiative to “Love Littlewood.” Littlewood Elementary is right next door and Justin Smith and his team are leading us in ways to bless Littlewood. Several servants have begun offering tutoring and mentoring at the school; several more participated in the running of their carnival in March. This past Saturday, nine of us were privileged to clean the gutters of the school. I encourage all of you to speak with Justin about ways you can “Love Littlewood” with us. We have also begun a transportation ministry: thanks to all of you who have offered rides. You are a blessing to many who otherwise couldn’t get to church.
 
A couple of things to keep in mind: there will be a need for interior painting and light moving over the next couple of weeks. Please contact the church office if you have some time to volunteer. Our facility team will definitely need your help. Secondly, while we start worshiping in the new space this week, we recommend inviting new people to our May 20th service (Pentecost) so that we have a couple of weeks to work out the kinks. Third, for the month of May, our children will continue to use rooms B-5 and B-6 as usual. This will allow the facility team to prepare our new spaces for the kids once the church space is ready. Lastly, please remember your regular tithe plus offerings for our building fund during this time of transition. I am so thankful for the generosity of this congregation.
 
And so the work begins and ministry continues. Together we are offering a redemptive experience of the Church to our neighbors, co-workers, and friends. What could be more important?
 
Onward and Upward,


A Little Plug For the Annual Meeting

 
Dear Servants,
 
This Sunday following our combined service at 9:30 we will have our annual meeting of the parish membership. I apologize to our 8am congregation and promise only to combine for the most important events. This is a legal requirement of our by-laws and our diocesan canons but it is also a wonderful opportunity to come together as a church community to share in all that God is doing in our midst. You may have suffered through other church business meetings, but to quote my friend David Foster, “I’ve never been in a church meeting like we have at Servants!” I promise you will be blessed by what we share.
 
It seems appropriate that this should also be World Mission Sunday. Archbishop William Temple was quoted long ago as saying, “The Church is the only institution that exists for those who are not yet its members.” By taking the name Servants of Christ, we proclaim our service to our Lord and to those He cares for in the world (John 3:16). Your Vestry continues to work towards organizing Servants in such a way that we can accomplish the most good for those we are called to serve in Gainesville to the ends of the earth.
 
If at all possible, I urge you to come to church Sunday and then share in our annual meeting. Even if you aren’t yet a member of Servants, you are welcome to listen and share in this important time as part of the body of Christ. Among other items being discussed, we will provide the congregation with an update on our new building plans. See you there.
 
 
Onward and Upward,