Sunday, May 31, 2009

If Grace Episcopal Church in Norwalk closed, would anyone notice?

Not to be confused with Grace Baptist Church, on West Avenue in South Norwalk, or Grace Family Church on Wall Street, we’re talking about Grace Episcopal Church at 1 Union Park.

In 1890, 31 members of Saint Paul’s-on-the-Green Episcopal Church, Norwalk, “walked down the hill” and founded Grace Episcopal Church. Originally located at Belden Avenue and Cross Street, the Great Flood of 1955 caused the church to relocate to its current address at the corner of Mott Avenue and Union Park in 1964.

Grace Church was a thriving parish, with a congregation large enough to boast over 200 children in its Sunday School. However, Episcopalians are awful at replacing themselves, and as people moved out of state or died, the congregation dwindled. Today, average Sunday attendance at Grace, for all ages, is 50 souls. The average age of membership is over 60.

Grace Church is now having to decide what its future will be, and one of the options for that future is to close the doors of Grace forever.

The question is, will anyone in Norwalk notice if Grace Episcopal Church closes?

Of course, the members of the three groups of Alcoholics Anonymous who meet at Grace on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, will notice if Grace closes. The Thursday night Manic Depressives Support Group will notice. The Literacy Volunteers and their students, who study English almost every day of the week at Grace, will notice. The Senior Services Umbrella Group will have to find a different place for their quarterly meetings. Two churches rent space for worship, prayer and study at Grace – L’Eglise Baptiste des Haitiennes, who have been at Grace for over fourteen years, and the Remnant of God Church will have to relocate. The Fairfield Symphony, who only just found Grace as a replacement for their previous home, will be looking again for a place to make music together if Grace Episcopal Church closes.

It’s hard to believe that closing might be in the offing, with so many good things happening at Grace.

Grace Episcopal Church was the first organization to catch the vision of helping to build a school for girls in Waterloo, Sierra Leone. Grace Church connected with FAWE, a pan-African organization of women dedicated to education and, through donations that involved the community outside of the congregation of Grace itself, raised the money to build a two room classroom block, the first such block.

Other organizations visited the school and, seeing the plaque on the side of the building, commemorating Grace Church Norwalk’s sponsorship, asked if they could piggy-back on Grace’s work. As a result, an organization in New Haven, Connecticut has been working to provide a library, and another in the Netherlands has contributed to a second block of classrooms and a computer lab.

Three of Grace Episcopal Church’s members visited the school and met the girls and their teachers and families. The real need, now, is scholarships so the girls can continue their education. I can guarantee that, without Grace’s leadership in raising those scholarships, the entire village of Waterloo, Sierra Leone will notice if Grace Episcopal Church closes.

Meanwhile, the work of the Gospel continues at Grace. A service of prayers for healing and laying on of hands is offered at 10:00 a.m. on the fourth Saturday of the month. On the fourth Sunday of the month, at 8:00 a.m., people gather to perform some service to the community outside of the congregation of Grace Church. On the second Saturday of the month, The Mission Congregation of Grace Church meets at 1:00 p.m. for three hours of study, reflection and worship. On the second Sunday of each month, at 11:30 a.m. following the 10:00 service, Practicing Prayer offers support for people’s prayer lives.

This year we had three special events for children: The Real Hallowe’en! offered crafts and activities and lunch, followed by the story of The Real Hallowe’en, where Hallowe’en came from and what it means in the life of Christians. The Real Christmas! was a big party, with games, crafts and lunch, followed by the story of The Jesse Tree, Jesus’s family tree.

The Real Good Friday!: A Walk to Easter saw sixteen children gathered with adults at Grace for the noon service. With a time of meditative music and silences for adults, and activities and an egg hunt for children, the Walk to Easter concluded with all ages joining to experience the last week of Jesus’s life, and a taste of the resurrection.

Meanwhile, children’s Sunday education and adult Wednesday night studies continue. Sunday worship and Holy Days are observed, the Gospel is preached, the sick and shut-ins are visited, and the work of the church goes on.

If it weren’t for the dwindling savings and the shrinking congregation to support the work of the Gospel at Grace Episcopal Church, you wouldn’t be able to tell the church faces closure.

Almost in defiance of this threat of closing, Grace is now looking at a liturgical ministry with people who live on the streets of Norwalk. Sunday worship outside, followed by a meal, armed with spiritual support and information on resources, and maybe even a place for people without traditional homes to have a mailbox, or a place to store their belongings during the daytime – this is what may be in the near future for Grace Episcopal Church.

Grace Episcopal Church is not closing anytime soon. If indeed Grace does close, it will leave a hole in the city of Norwalk, and it will do so not with a whimper but with a bang, preaching, learning and living the gospel for all to see, here at the corner of Union Park and Mott Avenue, one way or another, every day of the week.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This Blog is in Mourning

California's Proposition 8, funded enormously by people from outside of California, has been upheld. There will be no more marriages for same sex couples in California.

However, the marriages that took place before Prop. 8 passed will be upheld.

Thank God for small mercies.

Meanwhile, this blog will remain in mourning until or unless there is a sign that the forces of darkness are not triumphing completely.

[This is my personal blog, and my personal statement, having nothing to do with the church I serve, nor the opinions of the congregation of that church, regardless of the fact that this blog is attached to said church's website.]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm back!

Comments will continue to be monitored for the time being. I don't know when I will have time to write a proper blog article.

The above is a snark at the person who linked my blog in a comment he/she made on another blog site, commenting that maybe Grace Church wouldn't be closing if I weren't wasting my time blogging. This from a blogging community that spends much time in sifting through hits everyday to find things of interest to post. I, of course, being bone idle, just write a little something, once in awhile, to keep my congregation up to date on things that I'm thinking, things that are not necessarily worth newsletter space. They like it. I feel bad when weeks go by when I don't write something, because my congregation like to read what I write.

This blog will rarely, if ever, post articles having to do with the news of the Anglican Communion. There are plenty of blogs out there for those purposes if you want that kind of thing. I do spend a little time each day checking out four of them, because they do all the heavy lifting and they present a well-written, balanced approach (balanced being a totally subjective word here!) I commend to you Thinking Anglicans, Preludium (Mark Harris), and Episcopal Cafe, for straight up news and commentary, as well as thoughtful pieces which might not have anything to do with the "troubles" in the Anglican Communion. I will leave it to you to find your way to these sites.

It's good to be back. Hope you all had an excellent week in my absence. See you in church!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

While I'm away

I've found that one of the opponents of us on the religious left has for reasons known only to him and God found an article in the Norwalk Hour newspaper about Grace Church and has commented adversely on the newspaper's website and also on a worldwide blog. So while I am gone, I have disabled comments, meaning only members of this blog can comment, and the comments will be hidden until I return.

I make no apology for this. I have a responsibility to keep this a safe environment. See you next week.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Before I went to seminary, I was taught that the Latin word credo means I believe. In settings of the Mass, the creed begins Credo in unum Deum - I believe in one God.

Monday I'll leave for a week in Louisiana at a conference, a retreat for clergy, sponsored by The Church Pension Fund. It's time to reflect on my health - physical, spiritual, financial, vocational. The conference is called CREDO. It is called CREDO after the more proper translation of credo which is I give my heart to.

Now that would certainly change the mechanical recitation every Sunday of the Nicene Creed: I give my heart to One God, Father almighty... I give my heart to Jesus Christ his Son, our Lord... I give my heart to the Holy Spirit... I give my heart to one holy, catholic and apostolic Church...

This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday. I suggest you go to Mad Priest's blog, OCICW... and read his sermon for this coming Sunday. I hope that link works - it's a long url and it's a brilliant sermon. At the same time, I also suggest you change the reading of Psalm 23 for the same reason I'd like to change the reading of the Creed - to snap us out the mechanical, soothing recitation of the familiar.

The 23rd Psalm is the psalm appointed for this coming Sunday. It begins, "The Lord is my Shepherd..." I suggest you read, instead,

"Love is my Shepherd; I shall not be in want. Love makes me lie down in green pastures; Love leads me beside still waters. Love revives my soul and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for Love is with me. Love's shepherd's crook comforts me. Love spreads a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; Love has anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over. Surely Love's goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of Love for ever." (I got this idea from the latest issue of Trinity News out of Trinity Wall Street.)

Then read, "We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us..."

That line is the first line of the epistle appointed for the day, 1 John 3:16-24 (careful, this is not the Gospel of John, this is the first letter of John. The three letters of John come just before the epistle of Jude, which is then followed by the Revelation.)

"...I shall dwell in the house of Love for ever." (Psalm 23:6b)
"We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us..." (1John 3:1)

Think about what you have read. How does it change you? How does it change your world view?

Then go and read Mad Priest's sermon again.

I'll be back in the office on Wednesday, May 13. I doubt I'll be blogging. There is not a lot of time allowed for access to the center's computer and I don't carry a computer with me. I'm an analogue girl in a digital world - I believe strongly in being disconnected from time to time.

So, I count on everyone being kind to one another in the comment section. Think unconditional love, not "tough" love, and all shall be well.