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Dear People of Grace, 

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen Indeed. Alleluia.
It’s hard to believe we have been in this new normal for about 10 weeks now. We miss our liturgies, we miss being a community, we miss being together for prayer and conversation. Reality is that we miss a lot of other things as well. Many may be asking, “When we be able to get back together?” Well, to be honest and frank…we really don’t know.

Unfortunately, doing church inside an enclosed space, sitting in the same place for 60 minutes or so, is something we are not yet ready to do. Just gathering in this manner has intensified inherent risks with it and my first priority is on the health and safety of each of you, Grace’s parishioners.

Here is what we do know: Bishop Jose’ will soon be releasing a document, titled at this time, An Initial Approach to Regathering. What I know about the document is that each church is charged with setting its own criteria for regathering after balancing safety, ability to sanitize and maintain cleanliness, willingness and ability of the clergy to regather and many others.

At our Vestry meeting this past Monday we approved a basic plan for a Task Force to start working on “How we might regather.” The Task Force will consist of clergy, both wardens and two members from both the vestry and the worship committee. We felt this would give us a broad spectrum of individuals and gifts. We ask for your prayers as we navigate this “new normal” in the church and the world.

Our recent survey ties in to the Task Force’s work as well. First, I want to thank everyone who took the time to respond. We had 85 responses in just 10 days or so. Thank You. Some of the questions and the responses will be used in the Task Force’s work. Most of you are aware that one of the most frustrating things about taking a survey is that you never see the results. Well, I don’t want that to happen here so here is a brief synopsis:

1. About 60% of you said you would return when we reconvene in-person worship and have followed all CDC guidelines.

2. Of those who said they would not return, 60% wanted more time to determine health factors, 25% wanted to wait until testing was available, 15% will wait until a global vaccine is available and 10% put other.

3. We are happy to hear that 70% of Grace parishioners will be satisfied participating in services in the Parish Hall if that is necessary.

4. Responses regarding the 9AM family service returning was quite varied; 15% really wanted it to return, with 35% saying they may attend. 50% responded they would not attend.

We thank you for your responses and the Task Force will use applicable data as they begin their work.

Since this Grace Gathering has been mostly process stuff, I wanted to close with a thought and a poem from one of my favorite poets (this post was inspired by a meditation by our former bishop, +Porter Taylor):

In Mark 8 (The Message), Jesus asks: “What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?” I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Mark’s words and how it applies to our world today. Maybe, just maybe the disease that is infecting our country is that we are losing our real or true self by worshiping a specific political perspective--- left, right/…conservative or progressive---which is not just too small but also a false way of seeing the world.

In the hospital ICU, there are no conservatives or progressives…there is just our humanity. The poet Naomi Shahib Nye writes, in her poem, “Kindness”:

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
     purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Spirituality is about gaining a wider and deeper vision. It’s about letting go of our old screens and categories because if we want to see God in this world, it will be in the most unexpected places. If God is God, then everything is holy; everyone is the face of Jesus. Chances are as we let go of our preconceptions and prejudices, then the moments of recognizing the Holy One in our lives will increase.

In the world of Covid 19 we are all losing things--- “What you held in your hand/ what you counted and carefully saved/All this must go…” The question is whether this will harden our hearts or soften them. Will we weep for those who suffer and die regardless of their political leaning? Will we recognize how our precious and short our lives are and not believe that any one moment of a person’s life defines them?

This is our moment as the Church because we follow the one who proclaims love and unity and justice. May we see that in everyone and respond accordingly.

Prayer: Dear God, help us see your face in the persons we least expect to see you.

Practice: Say a blessing for the very people who trigger you.

May God grant you rest and peace as you weather this time.

Remember to join us on Sunday mornings at 10:30, Wednesday’s at 12:15 on YouTube, and every evening (except Sunday) at 8PM on Grace’s Facebook page for Compline.

Be well, stay safe, follow the guidelines, care for your neighbor, care for yourself and LOVE!

Wishing you hope, joy and the Light of Christ's abundant love this Eastertide,
Fr. Gary+

Let us pray.
Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the living of these days. Give us the courage and strength to know you are present and beside us; give us the grace to forgive ourselves and others; give us the strength to support each other, those in need, and continually offer our thanksgivings for those who put themselves at risk in our medical professions; give us the wisdom to know what to do, what to say, and when; and in your mercy, O Christ, guide us so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Fr. Gary Butterworth
Grace Episcopal Church | 871 Merrimon Ave., Asheville, NC 28804 | 828-254-1086  

Office Hours:  
Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

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