MARCH 8, 2018 — The renovation of our historic Undercroft is starting now and will last through the summer. The transformation may be temporarily inconvenient, but it’s also mighty exciting! Two years ago, it seemed a risky act of faith to begin a capital campaign.
Now in Phase II of the campaign, we are bringing back to life the space that was once the social center of our 1883 church building. The donations to this phase of the capital campaign are on the way to covering the restoration, scaled back to an estimated cost of no more than $325,000. We haven’t reached that goal yet, but if we count on pledges so far and if the momentum continues, we’ll have enough.
In addition, parish leadership is applying to two foundations for funding, one aimed at making the space available for community-building around the Presiding Bishop’s theme of “Pursuing the Blessed Community” and the other as a project of historic Episcopal church preservation.
The work will begin Monday, March 12, with a week of asbestos removal. Then demolition will take another three weeks. Construction by Lexington-based Phoenix Construction (Pat Hennis, owner) is expected to last through the summer. The parking lot will be closed for the work. Please leave open the few on-street parking spaces that will be temporarily added for church staff.
When the work is finished, the Undercroft and adjoining community room behind the red door will reclaim ground-level space for our choir, altar and flower guilds, and church and community meetings. It will be an attractive, clean, comfortable, and useful place that retains key architectural features that are historically significant.
Capital Campaign and Property Committee volunteers are your contacts should you have questions, suggestions, or concerns during the project. We are all looking to the future as we navigate the present with God’s guidance and collective patience.
Special thanks to John Dickerson, Gordon Woodcock, Steve Shultis, the Altar Guild, the Flower Guild, Sharon Massie and James Keane for their help in relocating and making temporary spaces for everyone affected by the construction.
Please come to one of two “show & tell” tours of the Undercroft on Sunday, Nov. 19, at 9 a.m. and at 12 noon.
The Capital Campaign Committee, led by Senior Warden Woody Sadler and Tom Gosse, will explain the renovations designed to smarten-up the space under the church nave and chancel. The contractor, Patrick Hennis of Phoenix Construction, will be at the 9 a.m. tour to answer questions.
BRW Architects of Charlottesville has designed an airy and acoustically balanced area for choir rehearsals and recitals. In addition, the design creates practice rooms, a choir-robing room, handicap-accessible restrooms and inviting space for meetings by community groups.
Scaled back from the original design for renovating the Undercroft, the current plan is estimated to cost about $300,000, or possibly up to $320,000 – a reduction of nearly half since it was first unveiled two years ago.
Funding the Undercroft renovation is the highest priority of Phase II of the current Capital Campaign, now underway. Phase I raised about $600,000 in pledges, fully covering the costs of the new elevator, the Canterbury Room, and other improvements in the Parish House. We have already raised about $100,000 in donations and pledges for Phase II.
We need to raise $200,000 more. Pledges may be spread out over as much as five years.
The tours on Nov. 19, one after each of the two Sunday services, will incorporate our usual Coffee Hour and include special food. The contractor and Capital Campaign Committee will answer questions about the redesign and its financing.
Delivered All Saints Sunday, November 5, 2017, by the Rev. Tom Crittenden, rector of Grace Episcopal Church. At the end, the sermon and Tom were given a prolonged, emotional standing ovation.
Farewell sermons are hard, even in the best of circumstances. Much has been accomplished over my ten years at Grace Episcopal Church… and much still needs to be done.
At the heart of what needs to be done is healing and reconciliation, a healing and reconciliation that will truly transform this parish, bringing it together for God’s mission going forward. I pray that you will continue to implement the Discovery and Discernment Committee’s recommendations, all of them. Last April, the Vestry “tabled” some of the recommendations. People of God, we don’t, we can’t table the work of the Holy Spirit!
My experience here motivated me to strengthen myself in areas I thought I was adequate. This has been and will continue to be a good thing for my ministry. I pray you will so utilize and benefit from your experience here in this family of saints the last few years, especially as embodied by the Discovery and Discernment Committee’s recommendations, ever growing in the wisdom of and strength from the Holy Spirit.
Since announcing my resignation, I’ve received comments, calls, notes, emails, even visits from fellow pastors and people of other churches in town praising our church and me for our participation and leadership in this community. Ecumenical services, gatherings, and programs have increased and flourished over my ten years here, and this congregation has been at the heart of this abundant ecumenism, this Spirit-filled collaboration of the saints in Lexington. We like to call Sharon Massie, your Program Director, Lexington’s Ecumenical Officer! I pray that this will continue.
A significant impact of this church on this community is our historic facilities. The beauty of our church and grounds – renovated, restored, and greatly enhance during my rectorship – inspires and ministers to not only us church members but countless students and other citizens and their families, community organizations, and a constant flow of tourists (who will no longer be poking their heads into the church office to ask where Lee is buried.)
I pray that you will continue your faithful stewardship of this place and, in particular, carry out the renovation of the undercroft for the enhancement of our music program and the provision of dedicated space for our substantial ministry of hospitality to community organizations and ministries.
When I arrived ten years ago, I was impressed by the compassion shown to fellow parishioners, a compassion tapped into and expanded through our ACTS pastoral care teams – kudos again to your Program Director. But I have also experienced an alarming degree of partisanship around issues faced by this congregation, partisanship that in too many of the saints became deeply divisive and destructive to our unity and ministry in Christ.
Jesus is absolutely clear in John chapters 13 and 15 – we are to love one another. This does not mean that we have to always agree with one another but it does mean that we always seek and serve Christ in the other; that we always respect the made-in-God’s-image dignity of the other; that we prayerfully listen to one another and, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, discern God’s will, God’s plan, God’s purpose in whatever issues we face.
God has called each of us into this fellowship of believers, this specific communion of saints. You are called to be here. The friend next to you in the pew with whom you agree is called to be here. The parishioner kneeling with you at the altar with whom you disagree is called to be here. Jesus’ commandment that we love one another is not selective, much less optional. Faith, hope and love abide. But the greatest of these is love. I pray that you aspire ever to obey Jesus’ commandment and out-do one another in your love for one another.
I’ve been referring to you as saints because that is what you are, saints of God. The New Testament calls all believers saints. The Greek word we translate saint is hagios, which literally means “set apart.” For what, or I should say, for whom are we set apart? For God and for God’s kingdom work. How are we set apart? – by baptism through faith in Jesus Christ.
We are made saints at our baptism, set apart for God, becoming members of this glorious communion of saints that we celebrate today – the company of baptized encompassing us gathered here, fellow Christians throughout Lexington, Virginia, the Nation, throughout the world and a glorious communion encompassing all the baptized who have come before, who now worship before the very throne of God in Heaven.
This morning at 8:00 we added two saints to this glorious communion, Colin and Jasper Murphy. We set them apart for God. And great was the celebration in Heaven when they were baptized!
What is this kingdom work for which we are set apart? Jesus commissions us to go make disciples, loving God and neighbor, and evidencing to the world that we are set apart. How do we evidence that we are set apart for God? By our love for one another. This loving one another is what Grace Episcopal Church needs now to focus upon, allowing the Holy Spirit to heal, restore and guide you in the kingdom work God sets before you.
I close with two verses from Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about* these things. 9Keep on doing [these things as] you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
And I leave you with this charge, also from Paul: Walk in love as Christ has loved us, a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God.
Good morning! It is so wonderful to see all of us here together in this joint service.
Today is an important day, and we have a lot to talk about. The worship committee has brought us all together this morning to corporately inaugurate a season of renewal and healing. This morning we also celebrate the completion of a 72-hour straight-through cover-to-cover reading of the whole Bible, organized by the Christian Education committee. That reading was a tangible demonstration that we take the word of God seriously. And we all participated in it. At the beginning of the service we read together the final chapter of Revelation, marking the end of our 72-hour vigil. We will read Genesis chapter 1 at the end of the service, because the reading of God’s word is never finished. And also today we kick off our annual stewardship season.
We do have a lot to talk about. But my assignment is to reflect for a few minutes on the topic of stewardship. I can tell you, it’s a very dangerous assignment to give a stewardship homily! You’re likely to discover that you need to change your ways. In pondering the subject I’ve uncovered a number of errors in my own approach to stewardship, and it looks like I’m going to have to change my ways.
My first error was easy enough to remedy. I was thinking that in order to give a stewardship sermon I needed a classic stewardship text from the Bible. You know the ones, something like the widow with her 2 mites, or Jesus’ teaching to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” I was disappointed that today’s gospel didn’t give me much of a jumping-off point. But then I read it again. And I saw that today’s gospel is, in fact, directly about stewardship. It’s a negative example of stewardship to be sure, and a pretty terrifying one. I don’t want to lead right off with it, but we’ll come back to in in a few minutes.
With today’s gospel reading turning out so unexpectedly to be about stewardship, the question posed itself: how many other stealth stewardship passages are there? Well, I can tell you. I was the overnight helper for the MIQRA on Thursday night, and I listened to ten hours of Bible reading. Maybe it’s because stewardship was on my mind, but I’d have to say just about all of it is about stewardship!
That’s because stewards is what we are. That was my second error. I had been thinking of stewardship as a choice that we make. We can do it or not, a little or a lot; it’s up to us. The fact is, my friends, stewardship is not a choice. We are stewards. We were created as stewards; stewardship is our life’s work. We can be good stewards or bad stewards; but we can’t be not stewards or partly stewards or a little bit stewards.
If I am a steward, as I believe we all are, I’m responsible for the things that have been entrusted to me. So what are those things? Well, in a few minutes we’re going to read Genesis Ch. 1, in which humankind is created in the image of God and given dominion over all the living things of the earth. We’re familiar with our stewardship of the earth, but shouldn’t we stop to think about our stewardship of the image of God? How are we doing with that? A few chapters later, we learn by the negative example of Cain that we are, in fact, our brothers’ keeper: we are stewards of each other. Perhaps we might want to spend some time on that. Going further, we are stewards of all that God has taught us through the law and the prophets about justice, truth, mercy, and faithfulness. We are stewards of the revelation of Jesus Christ, stewards of the ever-expanding Kingdom of God, and stewards of the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are stewards of the hope of Revelation 22.
And then there’s the personal: We are stewards of all our faculties. When was the last time we considered the stewardship of our eyes and ears; of our strength and of our intellect and of our affections? How about the stewardship of our tongues? The epistle we read today spoke of guarding our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. And of renewing our intellect by setting our minds on the things that are true and honorable, just, pure and praiseworthy. That is stewardship of the faculties God has given us.
Our gospel reading today was the third of a group of parables in Matthew 21 and 22. We’ve been reading them over the last 3 weeks. Jesus told these parables to an audience of chief priests and Pharisees. They understood that Jesus was talking about them. They also understood the message: that the kingdom of God had been taken away from them. Jesus said it to them explicitly in last week’s gospel: He said, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.” Why? Because they have utterly failed in their stewardship. In the first parable, which we read 2 weeks ago, they are sons, but they do not believe or obey. In the second parable, which we read last week, they are compared to tenants in a vineyard who, instead of producing fruit, beat the servants and kill the son of the landowner. And in today’s gospel they are invited guests who disregard the invitation of the king and mistreat the servants who bring it. Sons, tenants of a beautiful vineyard, invited guests: they have been given everything. But they fail to honor what has been entrusted to them. And so God takes it all away. My dear friends, this is a sobering message and it would be very foolish of us to ignore it.
By now the stewardship committee is getting anxious and wondering if I am going to say something about money. Having talked about all this other, it seems to me frankly that money is the lowest rung on the stewardship ladder. But we have to start somewhere. And sadly, if I hear the scriptures correctly, you can’t get to the higher rungs of stewardship without first mounting this one. It’s not like we’re going to be good stewards of God’s image or of faithfulness or of our own affections while we’re guarding our money.
And, as it happens, my third error was about money. If you remember, my first error was thinking that only a few passages are about stewardship. My second error was thinking that stewardship is a choice. My third error is the most insidious and possibly the most significant of the 3. So listen up. Every year at this time I think, “What’s our income, and what percent of it am I going to put in the little envelopes every week?” That’s not a bad question of itself, but the assumption behind it is just embarrassing. What I’m actually thinking is, “Here’s my money. I’ve added it up. Now, how much am I going to give to God?” In effect, “What will I make God’s allowance this year?” Yikes! My assumptions are all wrong and in the worst possible way! I am God’s steward. The question is not what should be HIS allowance from my money, but what should be my allowance from His? What portion of the wealth God has entrusted to my use should I claim for my own living expense?
It’s true that my thinking is full of errors and often I haven’t done it right. That is why we need the scriptures and prayer and worship and the wisdom of each other and those who have gone before us. It’s not too late.
The stewardship committee has given us this beautiful quote for the stewardship season, “Take heart, get up; He is calling you.” Friends, it is not too late. Let us indeed take heart and get up. He is calling us. Let us follow and obey.
The Vestry voted at its Sept. 18 meeting to change its name from R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal to Grace Episcopal Church, a compromise recommended after a 9-month study by parish’s Discovery & Discernment Committee. The compromise restores the historic name and finds appropriate ways to honor our parish history, including Lee’s personal role in it. Bishop Mark Bourlakas subsequently sent this pastoral letter to the congregation.
The 16th Sunday after the Day of Pentecost
Dear members and friends of Grace Episcopal Church:
As your bishop, I am proud of and encouraged by the recent return to the historic name of this parish church. Your return will allow for the parish to renew its collective focus on the forward mission of the Gospel that we share in Christ Jesus. Nothing can distract us from this commission.
I am currently in Alaska at the House of Bishops’ Meeting of our Church. Bishops from all over our country have expressed to me their admiration for the name change and offered ongoing prayers for the healing of your community in the coming months. Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, shared with me his gratitude for your courage and is holding your community and our diocese in his prayers.
I realize that this return to the historic name of Grace is not the path every member embraced. It will take patience, forgiveness and most of all love to heal the various divisions that have taken place over the last couple of years. At this moment, this work might seem insurmountable. However, as those baptized in Christ, we know that our discipleship always calls us into the deeper places where others, because of hardness of heart, refuse to go. Jesus calls on us to pattern our lives on his example of reaching over division and prejudice to embrace neighbors who are different and challenging to us. If we can not model this love of neighbor within the community of faith , then we have very little hope of offering God’s grace to those beyond our parish borders.
I now pray that what unites us to each other as baptized members of the One who loves, forgives and redeems each one of us is far greater that the temporal concerns that divide us. I want you all to know that I will be with you in the months of challenging reconciliation that are now before us.
Let us each begin by laying aside our personal sense of righteousness and grievance. These negative feelings hurt ourselves and infect the body. I have heard those of you on either side of this recent struggle express your love for this parish. If you truly love this parish, then I ask that you show forth that love by praying for the Holy Spirit to give you the strength, grace and peace which surpasses all of our limited understandings.
Yours in Christ,
The Right Rev. Mark A. Bourlakas, Bishop
The Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia
Bishop Mark Bourlakas and the Rev. Canon Jonathan Harris are coming to meet with members of the parish on Thursday, Sept. 7, at 5:30 p.m. in the church sanctuary. All members of the church are invited. The bishop wishes to continue the conversation he began with the Vestry last Wednesday regarding our Discovery & Discernment committee’s recommendation on “Identity.”
Please read and reflect on that section of the Discovery & Discernment report before the bishop’s visit.
This statement was unanimously approved at the monthly meeting of the Vestry Aug. 21, voted on by all 11 present, and supported via email by the two who were absent.
We, the members of the vestry of R. E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church:
— Deplore in the name of Christ white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and racism in all its forms. We denounce the violence committed in word and deed against our brothers and sisters in Charlottesville. We believe that all humans are of one stock, created by God, and that Christ breaks down all racial and social barriers. We are working for the day when all creation will rejoice together before Him.
— Object strenuously to the misuse of Robert E. Lee’s name and memory in connection with white supremacy, anti-Semitism and similar movements that he would abhor. Lee was widely admired in both the North and the South as a man of virtue and honor and as among the leading reconcilers of our fractured land. We do not honor Lee as a Confederate. Nor do we subscribe to neo-Confederate ideas in honoring him. We honor Lee as one of our own parishioners, a devout man who led our parish through difficult years in post-Civil-War Virginia. More importantly, we find our identity in Christ, the lover of all humankind, and we seek on-going renewal in Him.
— Recognize that in the current political climate, Lee has become a touchstone for controversy and misunderstanding and a rallying symbol for hate groups. We acknowledge that the best hope for Lee is the Gospel of grace, through which we are all forgiven sinners. Our commitment is not to Lee, but to that gospel which is his hope and ours. We invite all to share in it, and we aim to let nothing stand in the way of our proclaiming it with integrity.
Ted Bickish,our choir director and organist, gave this report in church May 14, 2017:
“This past week, the Organ Committee helped put together a trip made up of several parishioners in which we had the chance to visit a new instrument in a parish of similar size to our own, built by the company we hope to have build for us, Casavant.
“We started the day here at R. E. Lee by hearing two pieces, singing a hymn, and then taking a trip inside of our instrument. We inspected the collapsing pipe work, not-up-to-code wiring, warping keyboards, and other various mechanical problems.
“We then headed to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown to see their new Casavant organ. We heard the same two pieces, sang the same hymn, and inspected the inside of the instrument. The difference was truly remarkable and I believe all those who attended were impressed with it.”