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Grace Notes

VOLUME 1, NUMBER 6 1/2, SEPTEMBER 26, 2010

CHRISTIAN FORMATION AS MISSION
In the homily I preached at the Mass I celebrated with the Vestry in my interview here I quoted Father Jim Farwell, my Pastoral Liturgy professor at General Seminary, who said more than once, "Church is to mission as flame is to burn." I have been saying something like this (without always using those words) since I arrived at Grace Church. In sermons, in the adult forum, in newsletter articles, in Annual Meeting addresses and pretty much any chance I've gotten in less formal venues. I've never made a secret of the fact that the Church as mission is near the center of my understanding of the Catholic faith.

One of the things that is not obvious about Church as mission is that everything we do as Church, at its root, is mission. That we often forget that fact doesn't make it less true. Everything we do. Evangelism and outreach, obviously. But also the care of our buildings and grounds (the first indication to the outside world of the kind of God we believe in), our fellowship and our shared celebrations, the way we take care of each other in good times and in bad, and even worship itself. Especially worship. How each of these is mission could receive its own short piece in this space.

But Christian Formation, too, is mission. Christian Formation is what is usually called Christian Education and in a sense it is still that. But education suggests ideas, doctrines, and the memorizing of prayers, catechism answers, creeds and the like—all of which are important, but really not enough for the life of a fully formed Christian. All of these have to do with what's in our head, which is, of course, a part of who we are, but not all of who we are. Formation is about the head, but it's also about the heart, the stomach, the hands and feet, the mouth, the knees, about desires and loves and fears and hopes and language and practice and habits and virtues and more. Formation is about the whole person. Formation is about life.

So how is Christian Formation mission? One of the members of our congregation once said something to me about her being born a Methodist and I (probably rudely, but gently and with good intentions) corrected her, saying, "No. You weren't born a Methodist. You were born a pagan."

Tertullian, theologian of the second century, once wrote, "Christians are not born. They are made." Babies born to Christians are pagans. Unlike Jews who are (converts excepted) Jews by virtue of who their mother is, Christians are not born Christians. We are catechized and baptized (not always in that order) and, by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us (and through those in the Church around us) from the moment of our baptism, are growing into the life and into the image and likeness of Christ until we become the saints God has created and called us to be.

This means that, until we are all saints (in other words, for the foreseeable future), part of the mission of the Church must be oriented toward the formation of ourselves and our children into the image and likeness of God in Christ. Most every Sunday of the program year at Grace Church there is an adult forum and throughout the year there are a variety of offerings for adult formation (and I am always taking suggestions about how that might be improved, expanded, etc.).

But Grace Church has been struggling about how we might take on the sacred duty of evangelizing and catechizing and forming our own children. It is not an easy task. Modern family life is complex and demanding. The secret truth is that the formation of children is primarily a task which is and must be carried out in the home, but the Church has an important role in empowering that home formation supplementing and providing structure for it.

I am happy to write that Grace Church has been blessed that Nancy Sobeck and Evans Roaché have agreed to lead a Team that will tackle the challenge of the formation of the children God has entrusted to our stewardship. The Christian Formation Team is looking both at what we might be doing now, but also at how we might build a more substantive and stable long-term Christian Formation program. We know we must include families. We know we must find ways to be supportive and welcoming to the least among us (including the least in age). There are good ideas coming from this team as we investigate new ways to extend the Church's mission to our younger members. Expect to hear in the near future about something called ‘Messy Church.' Expect, also, to be asked for your help and your prayers.

--Father Rhodes

VISITORS... If you are visiting us for the first time (or the first time in a while), we are happy that the Holy Spirit led you here and honored by your presence. Please fill out a pew card and drop it in the collection basket or give it to an usher or member of the clergy as you leave the nave and please also sign our Visitor Register in the narthex (entryway) following the Mass. You are strongly invited to stay for fellowship and coffee downstairs following the 10am Mass.

NURSERY CARE... Nursery care is available during the 10am service. Our nursery care giver, Vickie Luppino, welcomes children to stay with her during any part of the Mass.

SUNDAY MORNING ADULT CHRISTIAN FORMATION TODAY AFTER MASS... The Adult Forum will be held today after the 10am Mass. We continue to focus on themes in the letters of Paul: Messiah and Apocalyptic (9/26); and, after a break for the Blessing of the Animals on October 3, Gospel and Empire (10/10). If you sometimes find yourself listening to the epistle at Mass and wonder, "What is Saint Paul talking about?" come to the Adult Forum for the next few weeks when Father Rhodes will try to at least crack open the door into the world of this great evangelist, church-builder, theologian and saint.

FEAST OF DEDICATION... Sunday, October 3rd. Procession and Solemn Mass.

MANY THANKS... The Altar Guild would like to thank all who supported our Treasure Sale, and all who donated to help the guild purchase new linens. Special thanks also to Jim Davidson, for a generous donation in memory of Marilynn Spilker. Thanks again!

OPEN HOUSE SOCIAL... Friday, October 8th, 7 PM at the home of Debbi Geller, 157 Grant St., Haworth. Bring a dessert and BYOB.

PLEASE SUPPORT FOOD FOR FRIENDS THIS PROGRAM YEAR... The beginning of a new church program year as the fall season begins provides a timely opportunity for dedicating or rededicating ourselves to support the Food for Friends ministry. Here's a reason why your dedication is needed now. The Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen in New York says the number of people in New York City needing assistance has risen to epidemic levels. They are serving over 1,230 meals each weekday on average. We may expect a similar need for food assistance at St. Paul's Community Development Corporation Food Pantry in Paterson, which receives our contributions. You can donate each Sunday through the Food for Friends barrel. The pantry especially welcomes high protein items, such as beans and canned meats. Otherwise, their wish list asks specifically for tuna, cereal, peanut butter, rice, coffee, and pasta. Alternatively checks may be drawn in favor of St. Paul's Community Development Corporation and marked Food Pantry. Please send checks directly to St. Paul's at 451 Van Houten Street, Paterson, NJ 07501.Thank you.

Ministers of the Assembly

9/26 10/3
Lay Reader (8am) Michael Rehill John Schneider
Lay Eucharistic Leslie Bisdale Larry Toppin
Ministers (10am)Jim Freeman Andy Smethurst
Lector Mack Harrell John Martin
Intercessor (Prayers) Theresa Peter Debbi Geller
Chief Server Ben Martin Kate Landi
Acolytes Warren Hirstius Evans Roache
Emily Thomas
Thurifer Kate Landi Leslie Bisdale
Ushers Akinola Okunlola Jim Davidson
Theresa Okunlola Billie Evans
Counters Susan Schneider Cookie Smethurst
Janet Delaney Kate Randall
Altar Guild Theresa Peter Pat Landi
Leslie Bisdale Chris Scott
Coffee Hour: Pat Landi Mickey Hafemann
Kate Landi Billie Evans