Well, it is Fat Tuesday or as our French friends say so much more graciously, “Mardi Gras” and as our Punxatawney Phil fans note, “Fastnacht Day” – a last chance to fill up at the oasis (or donut shop) prior to the serious business of Lent. A less worldly view of the milestone is Shrove Tuesday. Shrove, the past tense of shrive that focuses us on confession and absolution prior to our Lenten journey.
Today also marks the end of my leg of the blogging relay. Young people, with different priorities and perspectives, will take up the baton for Lent. I look forward to their fresh outlooks and meditations.
During these past two weeks, I have taken thoughts and experiences and re-examined them against the backdrop of our pilgrimage challenges. I urge you to do the same – for me, it was surprisingly revealing. Lent has always been a time for me to simplify and re-focus during the journey to Easter – a perfect setting for pilgrimage reflection and action. Perhaps this familiar journey superimposed on our new pilgrimage can amplify our efforts — transform them from a walk to a jog.
I have one last offering prior to passing the baton — about the power of one voice.
During my years at Grace, I have seen the power of one voice many times. One voice, with the support of the church, and with the Grace of God has and can produce wonders.
Over 40 years ago the Rev. Donald Knapp, long serving rector of Grace Allentown, asked the congregation to bring canned goods on Sunday so he could help some of our neighbors who called at the church for help. The congregation responded and today the Grace Community Foundation supports a food bank that has literally helped thousands of families. One Voice, Church Support, The Grace of God
Early in the life of the Food Bank, then parishioner Kathy Constatine Reed came to help and noticed many mothers or grandmothers brought children who quickly became bored at the wait. Kathy, formerly a Montessori teacher, began ad-hoc classes at the food bank to occupy and teach the children. Since then, over 2500 children from 18 months to 11 years have been educated at the Grace Montessori School, 30% with scholarship support. One Voice, Church Support, The Grace of God
In 1989, back in the peak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Linda (Lobach) Gallagher with the support of the congregation started an outreach program to help people stricken with the disease and their families. “AIDS Outreach” faithfully served the community for many years until the need diminished. Its former location now houses, “Grace House” a half-way house for the homeless operated by New Bethany Ministries. One Voice, Church Support, The Grace of God
While my experience is at Grace, I am sure there are similar stories from around the Diocese that can and should be told. Minding Hugh’s warnings, we need to recognize that these stories do not contain solutions for the future (it worked before so it should work now), but rather inspiration and reassurance of God’s faithfulness in response to our voices as we look forward toward solutions for the future.
So to close, I will return to the convention one last time and recall the closing lines of Bishop Sean’s address that started us on our pilgrimage.
“Your one voice, your one unique voice, your one congregation joined with others can create something new and profound. Bring your one voice and join the pilgrimage.”
Bishop Sean Rowe, 2015 Diocesan Convention