Jan 082020

The time is now

time

For most of us this past week has been a roller coaster of emotions. The world seemed to drift closer and closer toward war. Policies and politics seemed to work to disenfranchise even more individuals who are in most need of our help and support. It is our duty as churches to raise our voices for those in need, those in harms way, and those disenfranchised individuals among us. Now is the time to live the Gospel.

Yet there are those who demand that the church remain silent. Many call on us to either support the unjust actions of our leaders or keep our mouths shut. As we near the memorial of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he reminds us in the words he wrote from his jail cell in Birmingham Alabama:

I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively.

More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.

We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

The time for the church to speak up against the actions of injustice is now. We must stand up for the message of the Gospel which is Good News for ALL people. Furthermore we must live the Gospel by helping those around us who need our support most.

Far too long we have ignored the poor and homeless among us. As churches we sit silently by while our government wages wars in our names. We share pictures of flag draped coffins as if that some how makes the sacrifice worthwhile.

Yet, we do nothing to actually stop the killing of our fellow human beings. I am not just talking about those who die on a far away battlefield. I am talking about those dying in our streets in the United States. Those who are dying everyday because of lack of medicine, lack of food, and because of homelessness. Drugs, guns, and lack of clean water and nutritious food is a rampant killer right here in our own streets.

Far too long the mainline churches have cried out that this is not a problem for the church to solve. They demand that our government take care of those in most need all while voting for politicians who campaign on the platform of taking that support from those very same people. And many of these faith leaders are far more concerned with the fame and glory that comes from supporting those politicians than living the Gospel they claim to preach.

Dr. King spoke of this too as he sat in jail:

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

All these years later, the church still sits in apathy of its calling. Too many people go without food and water. People are gunning down our children in the streets and in their schools. We are ripping families apart at our border. Our government drops bombs on innocent people while our children are sent to fight yet another senseless war. We continue to decide who should live and who should die based on their perceived worth or by their past mistakes or accomplishments.

As the Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers said last year at our Progressive Religious Coalition’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr service: “If not me, who. If not now, when. If not here, where. Dear Lord, grant us the fierce urgency of now.” Now is the time to speak up. This is the time to preach the Gospel of love, acceptance, and peace. It is time to become a mission to help those in need.

And Saint Francis Parish, like all of our fellow parishes and ministries in the Old Catholic Churches International, will remain silent no more. We will speak up and speak out. We will continue to help those most in need spiritually. And we will continue to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and advocate for their well-being at every opportunity. It is our belief that everyone should be treated equally. We don’t just say we believe in the inherent dignity of all people, we live it!

Because we understand Dr. King’s call to the fierce urgency of now.

Join us in our mission to be radically inclusive, welcoming and supportive of all people. Come live your Catholic faith today!

Please join us at the Progressive Religious Coalition of Augusta’s annual Why Dr. King Still Matters service on January 23, 2020 at 7:00 PM. The service will be held at the historic Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church at 605 Reynolds Street in Augusta, GA. Our keynote speaker this year will be the Rev. Dr. William Barber II.

Jan 032020

Hope is not gone

hope

So many things are happening in our world today. It is so easy to loose hope and to despair. Hate, bigotry and division seem to be a common way of life. War, death and despair spread like a plague. However, I have hope. Hope is not gone or dead.

This Sunday we celebrate the wise men that traveled from afar to visit the Christ Child. We know the stories and the misconceptions that surround this event. The reality is that they arrived almost 2 years after the birth in Bethlehem. They came to the young child’s home and brought gives with various symbolic meanings.

The Wise Men left behind their lives and likely their families to travel to an unknown situation because the alignment of the stars told them to. They had hope in something they could not quantify beyond their faith. So they stepped out in faith and traveled to see a King.

That same King is the one I have faith in today. And that King reminds us that despite all the horrible things going on, we can have hope that everything will be as God wants it to be. Ultimately, as people of faith, we have to put everything in God’s hands. Once we are willing to do that, all the fear and uncertainty starts to fade away. We can have hope and trust that God will bring us through.

It is my prayer that Saint Francis Parish will continue to be that beacon of hope to the world around us. We will continue to welcome everyone into our parish family. And we will work to provide them with the hope, light and love that can only come from God.

I pray that this Sunday you will come and visit with us. Now is the time to experience the hope that the Sacraments can bring.

Come experience a radically welcoming and inclusive parish in Augusta, GA!

Bishop Greg

Dec 272019

Friends are family you choose

friends

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. As many of you know, my parents and siblings don’t have much to do with me. For years this distressed me until someone told me that friends are family you choose. Since then, I have found myself more and more appreciative of those who are my new family.

Almost all these new family member are people in our national church. They have been there for me through thick and thin. They have come to my aide when I am sick or depressed. I have received so much love and support from them. And even though we do not always see eye to eye, at the end of the day we are still family.

I am honored to have so many wonderful people in my life. And I am so honored to be the pastor of Saint Francis Parish. We may not be large, but we have a huge heart.

Our parish has committed to being a radically inclusive and welcoming parish. We want to be a family to those who have been cast out by their own families. We believe it is our calling to be family to the poor, the homeless, the orphan, and the widow. It does not matter if you are LGBTQI+, divorced or have a past. You are welcome here and you are family!

We hope that you will come this Sunday and discover an inclusive way to be Catholic! And maybe you will discover what it means to find friends you choose to be family.

Bishop Greg

Dec 192019

Thinking Big

big

By this time next month, I will start my 22nd year of being a priest. I have dedicated more than half my life to helping others and living the Gospel message. Recently a young parishioner said to me that they wanted to have fun things to do at church. You see, I have been waiting for you to come to church to start small groups, special events, and other fun things.

My thought process has been that without people coming to church, starting those things would be impossible. I had a revelation this week that if I wait, we will never have those things in our parish. One of my beloved brothers in the national church said to me once that if I think small, I will be small.

Here at Saint Francis Parish, we are going to start thinking big. This Sunday we are having an Ugly Christmas Sweater Sunday for the first time ever. And this will not be the last time! On January 12, we will have a Taize Mass. The Taize Mass will have chanting and long pauses for meditation and silent prayer. On January 26, we will have a parish pot-luck after Mass.

And this is just the start. We will continue to expand the Blessing Bag’s program for our homeless friends and family. I have no idea how we will fund it, but I have faith that it will happen. I have faith all our programs will succeed. And so we will move forward. For Saint Francis Parish, 2020 will be a phenomenal year and I hope and pray you will join us.

Come experience a radically inclusive and welcoming Franciscan Parish!

Nov 282019

Being a better Christian

better Christian Liesel [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

This Sunday we celebrate the First Sunday in Advent. It is also the first Sunday of the new liturgical year. This start of the new year for me is more important than the new year we all celebrate on January 1. For me it is a chance to work to be a better Christian. It is a chance to work toward be more like the Christ that we will welcome as a child in a few weeks. We should all use it as an opportunity to be a Christian, not just in name only.

Being a Christian is not easy. It requires taking a serious look inside ourselves and finding those dark spots that need to be illuminated. We must look at the dirty parts of our being and work to clean them up. It is our job to look at removing the plank from our own eyes before we try to remove the speck from our fellow human beings eyes.

And we must also ask ourselves hard questions. Why don’t I help the homeless more? Why don’t I participate more in church or my faith walk? What is keeping me from loving my neighbor as myself? What is keeping me from loving my enemy? And why can’t I be more like Jesus?

Here at Saint Francis we are committed to giving you the tools you need to walk the walk. One of the things we are doing this year is to offer Taize services on the Saturday’s of Advent. So on December 7, 14, and 21 at 6:00 PM at 2321 Lumpkin Road in Augusta, GA, you can join us for this transformational service. In the Taize service we meditate on and pray for peace and unity in our world. So we will take this time to ask that we transform into beacons of love, light, peace and unity to the world around us.

Then and only then can we truly be an effective witness of God’s love to the world.

Come experience a totally different way to be Catholic!

Nov 162019

Support our community

community

Saint Francis Parish has been plugging along in the CSRA for almost 8 years now. We have been a parish community since 2003, but only under the name of Saint Francis for the past 8 years. Our parish has always been there for those who are in most need in our community.

We have struggled to build up a parish here in the CSRA since we started. A progressive, loving, welcoming, affirming parish that preaches God loves everyone is not what people in the south want. However, that has not stopped us from faithfully being present to those who need us. And it has not stopped us from faithfully offering mass every single Sunday.

At last count thousands of people have viewed our Mass video’s on Vimeo. Many more have used Roku and Amazon Firestick to watch them. Obviously there are those who enjoy the celebration of the Mass that we offer.

We started the Blessing Bag program last year and have worked to distribute bags to those most in need of food and daily supplies in our community. We continue to strive to build this very important program up so that we can reach even more people in most need.

However, very few actually come to our Masses and even fewer support our work financially. If we are to continue for the next year, we need your prayers and your financial support.

We cannot thank our generous benefactors who have donated monthly to keeping our parish and mission alive this long. Without their support, we would have closed 3 years ago. Thanks to them, we are still moving forward and working to bring the light of a loving God to everyone we meet.

It is time for our community, those who watch our Masses and who say they want to make a difference in the community, to step up and support our parish. Now is the time to commit to supporting this parish and ministry so that we can continue to do all these good works. Just $10 from each of our Mass viewers would make it possible for us to have our own facility and expand our blessing bag program!

We are asking you today to prayerfully consider making Saint Francis Parish a part of your monthly financial donation plan. We have even made it easy for you to do by visiting https://oursaintfrancis.org/donations/2020-operating-expenses/ or https://oursaintfrancis.org/support-us/.

You can ensure that we continue to be a beacon of hope and love in a world so filled with darkness and hate!

Nov 082019

Pastoral Care in the Parish

Pastoral Care

As a pastor, one of my many jobs is to provide pastoral care to those in our parish. As part of our on-going commitment to provide the best care possible to our parishioners, I have been in a Pastoral Care Practicum Class at AU Hospital. This class teaches up the best practices when visiting patients in the hospital or nursing home.

One of the thing I have learned is how multifaceted Pastoral Care can be. When working in a parish, the dynamic can be different. It can take years to develop relationships with your parishioners and to see any noticeable changes in their spiritual walk. However, in the hospital or nursing home, you see more of an immediate result or connection. The opposite can also be true. You can see an immediate mistake or missed opportunity to connect with someone.

I believe this class is also helping me to be a better pastor. Many of the skills I have learned and continue to learn in the hospital setting, I can apply to my work in the parish as well. Not just when a parishioner is hospitalized, but also when they need Pastoral Care while dealing with a crisis in their lives.

At Saint Francis Parish, we are always looking for ways we can improve not just the parish, but our ministry team as well. In the next few weeks, you will start to notice those changes. One of those changes is the start of our new Hospitality Team. Some one from the parish will be stationed at the front door of the mission and the parish to greet visitors and regular parishioners as well. It will be their responsibility to help visitors find all the information they need on our parish. They will also give them the materials they need to participate in the Celebration of the Eucharist.

This is all part of our continued effort to make you feel more welcome and included in our parish family. We will also start hosting our monthly potlucks starting in December. As always, you do not need to bring anything to come and enjoy our potluck. It is just a time to visit and fellowship in a more relaxed environment.

It is our hope and prayer that you will come and support Saint Francis Parish. We are trying to live a different way to be Catholic!

Nov 012019

All Saints, All Souls and Mrs. Muriel

All Souls

Today the church universal celebrates the Feast of All Saints. Tomorrow we pause to celebrate All Souls. These two feast fall near the end of the liturgical year for a reason. All Saints reminds us of those who lived Godly lives as an example to us. All Souls reminds us of those who impacted our lives and now live in peace and love with our Creator.

This Sunday we will pause as a church to remember All Saint and All Souls as well as to remember the life of Mrs. Muriel Widener. Many of you do not know Mrs. Widener. So I will take the opportunity to share a little bit about this remarkable parishioner.

Mrs. Widener was 88 years old and had 7 children. As a member of the Navy, she served her country at a time when women were not exactly welcome in our Armed Forces. She was a devoted daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great, great grandmother. She was a devoted women of faith. Even when she was unable to attend Mass herself, she made sure her children were educated in and practiced their faith.

I met Mrs. Muriel in February of this year when her devoted granddaughter called me to come visit her. It was after many calls to Roman Catholic parishes. Each parish told her they were too busy for someone who had not been to church in 40 years. Confession and communion were all Mrs. Muriel wanted. And I was happy to provide her with both.

Each week I would visit her. She would tell me story after story about her family, her life as a child in Philadelphia, and all her travels around this country as a child and adult. She could tell a story better than any Broadway playwright! And I enjoyed each one. I enjoyed learning of her time in the Armed Forces. The stories about each child and grandchild. And her eyes would dance with love and excitement as she spoke.

And she would always ask about the parish and my own family. She loved to hear about my daughter and her journey through high school and into college. Her eyes twinkled as she listened. “She is an amazing young lady. You did a good job raising her,” she would say.

Mrs. Muriel attended each Mass that was posted on Roku. She would talk about the sermons and how much she enjoyed watching the Mass. She was truly a part of each and every Mass. More than once she said that if she were not bed-ridden she would be there with us every Sunday. However, Mass came to her every Tuesday when I would give her communion. And tears would well up in her eyes each time the Eucharist touched her tongue. She loved our Lord and could not wait for the next chance to receive him.

Monday night, one of the last things she said to me before ordering me home to rest was, “Please give me communion.” And so I did. We both knew that it would be the last time until she was embraced by our Lord in her new body. When I got the call Tuesday morning early to return to her side, I knew God was calling her to him.

She died peacefully. Surrounded by the love of her family and the prayers of our parish and the OCCI as a whole. She walked into the eternal love and light to see her husband, parents, sister, and her two daughters. And oh what a celebration heaven had that night.

I will miss her. Even now I cry because of the loss of my friend. But I know I shall see her again. And that is what All Souls is about. It is remembering those we love, but also remembering that we will see them again. We are reminded that they still pray for us and still cheer us on. They are never far from us and will be ready to welcome us home when our time comes.

I ask you to come visit with us this Sunday as we celebrate the life of Mrs. Muriel Widener and all the great people we love.

Come experience the different way to be Catholic that Mrs. Muriel discovered.

PS. Mrs. Muriel gave her permission weeks before she died for me to post these details. She was honored that I wanted to memorialize her in our parish history. Rest in freedom and love, my friend.

Oct 252019

Blessing others

Blessing

In our world today, those who have little to nothing find themselves ignored by those who have their every need met. Our parish is working to be a blessing to those who are homeless and in greatest need in our community. We do this with the support of our national church, but very little local support.

In our readings this coming Sunday, we are reminded that God hears the cry of the poor and orphan. God hears their cry for mercy and justice and will act on their behalf. Like the reading from Amos a few weeks ago, we are warned that by ignoring the cries of those in need, we will be judged by God.

Starting this Sunday, we will start offering Blessing Bags in front of the parish for those who need it most. No questions asked. No strings attached. If you need something, you can take it. If you don’t, take a bag anyway and pass it to someone who does need it.

We are kicking our Blessing Bag program into high gear. In the next few weeks we will begin to offer times that the public can come and get Blessing Bags to pass out. You do not need to be a member of our parish to come and get bags to share. It is not important if you attend our church, a different church or no church at all. What is most important is that we have those around us who need it most.

If you would like to help with our program, you can visit the link below to donate money or to purchase supplies and have them sent to us. Either way, we will continue to help our family and friends who find themselves without.

I don’t want to stand before God and have to answer the question, “Why did you not answer the cry of the needy and orphan?” Do you?

If you want to help, you can donate via https://paypal.me/saintfrancis or visit our Amazon Wishlist at https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/3RH2DTASDCBWI.

Oct 112019

A little thank you can save a clergy person’s life

thank you

October is clergy appreciation month and this Sunday is Clergy Appreciation Day. It is one of those celebrations that very few people actually know about and even fewer actually celebrate. I don’t expect people to say thank you to me for the work I do, but it does my soul a lot of good when they do. Especially when I am struggling with my depression and PTSD.

I wrote almost a month ago about the statistics concerning clergy. It is rather eye opening to see the number of clergy persons who struggle with mental health issues, financial struggles and educational inadequacies. I struggle with all three of those and sometimes all at the same time.

I try to keep my posting on social media and my blog postings here light and upbeat, but even that can be a struggle at times. Sometimes though, I need to just talk about the dark times and let out the sadness that I feel.

In many cases, I turn to fellow clergy for this support. And I have so many great people who love and support me. If it were not for them, I would not be here today. You see, I am one of those sad statistics concerning clergy. In the past, I have twice tried to commit suicide. Thankfully, I failed both times. (Or this blog post would be a Halloween spooky story of posting from the great beyond!)

Clergy are there for people on the darkest days of their lives. We stand with you when you have lost loved ones, suffered heartbreak or divorce, or have lost everything and are facing financial or physical ruin. We cry with you, laugh with you, pray with you, counsel you and stand with you when others walk away.

And I love helping others so much. All of us do to some degree or another or we would not be clergy. Sometimes it hurts to hear what people say about us and think about the work we do. I have been told by people that I need to get a “real” job. Others ask me if I am a child molester. Some question whether or not I am educated enough to do the work of the ministry. And some seem to go out of their way to say the most hurtful things possible to wound me.

And yet, I still answer the phone and show up at the hospital when needed. I still provide care and concern for those who have hurt me most. Because that is what I am called to do.

Take time today to thank your pastor for all their hard work. Thank them for being there when you need them most. Show them some small sign of appreciation for their dedication to a calling that we can never shut off.

You might actually help save them from a very dark day by doing so.