From the Pastor’s Desk
Dear Members of Grace,
At our upcoming Annual Meeting, our Congregation Council has recommended that the congregation consider an addition to our marriage policy at Grace, inserting the following text into the opening paragraph:
In keeping with church-wide decisions in the ELCA, and Federal and Pennsylvania law, the ministry and blessing of marriage at Grace Lutheran Church may also be available to same-sex couples, at the discretion of the pastor.
The council voted unanimously, with one abstention, to make this recommendation at our last meeting on April 1, after tabling (setting aside without action) the recommendation on November 9, 2015. This pause reflected Council’s wish that the congregation would take time to “ponder, pray and have further discussion before proceeding with any action” (Council Minutes, 11/09/2015).
Since that time, I and others have led a number of Adult Sunday School sessions in which we discussed changing cultural norms around human sexuality, changes in policy at the ELCA, changes in the legal status of gay marriage, and the challenges of understanding God’s Word in Holy Scripture about human sexuality in light of contemporary knowledge and experience. Most who cared enough to take part in these discussions are likely not surprised or disturbed by this proposal, however, many who may be voting on this matter have been absent from Sunday School or other leadership meetings in which the issues have been raised over the past four years. Families at Grace have prayed their way through conflict and tension as loved ones have tried to communicate honestly and faithfully about their sexual identity. We have prayed together on Sundays for discernment, and for the whole Church and our Lutheran churches, about what faithfulness and unity can or should mean in these matters.
I hope that we come together on May 19 with as much common background information as possible. This is important! It is not helpful to arrive at a public meeting with nothing to share but an un-informed opinion. We are entitled to such opinions, but important decisions among us are made in prayer for the Spirit and under the guidance of learning based in scripture and Christian tradition. Listed here are resources for preparing by reading more deeply on the general topic and our national church policies of recent years. In the following Grace News and in the next two Adult Sunday School sessions (May 5 and 12), I will try to summarize my best efforts at understanding and leading our congregation to this decision point, and will do my best to clarify any confusion and answer any questions that any of you may have. I invite you to contact me personally if you would like to speak with me with you privately.
To clarify the position of the national expression of our national church, the ELCA, and our Lower Susquehanna Synod the following links will be most helpful.
“Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” is the ELCA’s comprehensive social statement on many issues related to human sexuality:
An article by The Rev. Dr. Paul Hinlicky lays out a clear pastorally focused summary.
Two chapters, “A High View of Scripture” and “Homosexuality and the Bible” in Adam Hamilton’s book Making Sense of the Bible (Harper Collins, 2014) which we studied in its entirety two years ago will be very helpful to anyone seeking an introduction to these topics. If you wish to read them, contact Vicki who can email you copies or photocopy the chapters for the purpose of this study.
Many thanks to the children of Grace for sharing the Good News with us on Christmas Eve, they worked very hard to make this year’s play a very special part of our celebration!
Cinco de Mayo Sunday Fellowship at 12:00 noon
The Bell Choirs will be hosting the Sunday Social.
Come enjoy a taco bowl and wear your best sombrero!
Looking Ahead to VBS 2019 – June 16-20
For the community service piece of our curriculum, we will be making “Grace Bags.” These bags will be kept in the church office so that the staff can hand them out when people come to the office looking for food. We are collecting the following items: granola bars, dried fruit (small bags/boxes), lunch box sized snacks, such as crackers and cookies, water bottles (8 or 16 oz), lip balm, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, gallon bags, toothbrushes, toothpaste, travel toiletries, travel sized laundry detergent, socks, gum and mints. Collection bins will be placed in the narthex and in the chapel. If you have any questions and/or would like to volunteer for VBS this year, please contact our Assistant Program Director, Angie Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-397-2748.
Opportunities to share plants and flowers for the fountain, Sunday, May 12th and continuing through June 2nd. Families may buy plants and flowers to decorate the Fountain on the Sunday they choose, delivering them to church on Saturday and following Sunday services, take their plants home. Please call the church office @ 397-2748 with questions or to sign up.
May 5, 2019 (Third Sunday of Easter, Year C)
John 21:12a – Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”
There’s nothing like gathering for a meal to build community. Jesus hosted meals to reassure his disciples of his love and presence. Notice that Jesus’ meals are always relational, not transactional. Fostering community through table fellowship and conversation helps us see the Christ in one another’s faces. Who are you inviting to the table?
Our Church Family
A Whole Lot of Learnin’ Going On at Grace!
By Kathryn Verkouw
Here are some observations from past Sundays as I walked through the hallways of Grace…. Elementary age children coming in with their bibles and their “Proverb 16:20-22” necklaces they had worn all week (look it up, it’s a good one!) and ready to practice their songs. After adding their prayers to our collage they proceed to their classroom where they experience the world of the bible and faith in so many different ways.
Confirmation kids were discussing if you can be a Christian and not come to church or be part of a community. Meanwhile down one floor the preschoolers are all gathered around Ms Susan totally involved in her story telling of the Prodigal son and responding with thoughts and questions. Down another floor we find a group of adults and high school youth involved in a discussion of the “why” of life as a Christian. All of this in just one hour of our full Sunday morning education hour!
Then there are the fun surprises: The clues the Hartmans put by the cross in the Narthex that lead us to the Gospel story of that day.
The reenactment of the Lost Sheep bible story using the props that Jay Graver brought out of his paper bag during Fishbowl time. Hallway bulletin boards that have been adopted by various Grace families and are sprouting all sorts of artistic expressions of faith.
By Patti Hartman
The grades 3 – 5 class is full of really bright, inquisitive, enthusiastic kids and it’s a joy and a hoot to spend time with them every week! They don’t hesitate to ask questions and express opinions. Mark is always interested in knowing how old the people were that we read about in our Bibles, Carolynn is captivated by the book of Revelation, Lindsay, who attends St. Leo the Great School, is always ready to help us understand “how the Catholics do it” and was our example for learning how to make the sign of the cross, Nina and Ariel are the quiet, deep thinkers who come up with great questions, Quentin is ready to analyze everything that crosses his path, and Novia is definitely our outside-the-box thinker.
In the fall we learned about a number of people in the Old Testament and in January moved into the New Testament. The kids are becoming skilled at finding book, chapter, and verse(s) in their Bibles, which we do nearly every week.
We started off January by learning about the prayer Jesus gave us (The Lord’s Prayer) and we end every class with it. Most of the kids now can say it from memory.
We read about Jesus calling his twelve disciples in late January. During Lent we’ve been reading and talking about some of Jesus’ miracles, with a week’s break to learn about the Transfiguration.
Interspersed with our weeks of reading and talking about events in the Bible, we play games like disciple bingo, racing the clock to look up Bible passages, and keeping our eyes on (a picture of) Jesus while walking the length of the room with an egg balanced on a spoon. Luckily, it’s a plastic egg and filled with M&Ms. And we eat cookies! Carl made Hamantaschen cookies in the fall when we were learning about Esther. They look sort of like a three-cornered hat and are filled in the middle with just about anything yummy and depending on the legend you hear, are supposed to symbolize Haman’s hat, ear, or pocket. The kids requested them again a few weeks ago, but when Carl made them this time they turned out flat, which the kids thought was funny. They still tasted good, though!
This week we’ll be making “The Cross and the Empty Tomb” table centerpieces out of Easter candy for the Easter breakfast. Make sure you come to the breakfast and see the kids’ handiwork!
The kids were recently issued a challenge to commit the 66 books of the Bible to memory before the end of the Sunday School year. Everyone who can recite them in order receives a certificate of achievement and gets their name added to the Bible Wall of Fame in our classroom!