Aug 222020

Unbinding hate with love

I have recently started spending time on the social media app called Tiktok. Despite the news that has been spread about its evils, I have found it to be a place of great ministry. Many progressive clergy spend time on Tiktok reaching out to the younger generation.

I have also found it to be full of people who have been hurt, damaged and forsaken by the church. People who have been told they cannot be Christians and be LGBTQI+. And they are in need of our love and support. I would say that for every hateful “Christian” I encounter on Tiktok, I find 20 other people who are loving and in need of support.

The scriptures this weekend speak to our job as clergy to bind and loose peoples bondages. For many people this has been equated to binding and loosing their sins from them. However, the scripture does not say that it applies to sins only. It is my belief that this authority has been given to us to even loose the bonds that bind people emotionally, mentally and physically.

That is why I preach love instead of hate. I feel that by doing so I can loose the bonds that have bound people for so long. All the hateful rhetoric that makes them physically sick, emotionally damaged, and mentally hurting can be healed with love. And by showing them real love and support, we can free them from a lifetime of hateful bondage.

That is why I choose to continue to preach that Hate Has No Home in the church, in my life, or in the world around us. We must work together to spread the love of God to all we meet. Regardless of their faith practice, nationality, race, gender expression/identity, sexual orientation/identity, social status, or financial status.

You will see me standing with Black Lives Matters protestors, LGBTQI+ individuals, the homeless, the unwed mothers and fathers, those protesting the death penalty, and those fighting for healthcare and living wage. Not because I am trying to be political. But because I am trying to live the Gospel.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25:40. NIV)

You are loved!

Father Greg.

Feb 072020

Will we pass the test?

I have been thinking about tests a lot this week. It may be because I had two major tests in Spanish and Math at college this week. Or it may be the great test our nation is undergoing right now. I believe we are being tested in ways that we do not fully understand or appreciate right now.

The Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a martyr for the faith during the Nazi oppression of Europe, had a quote that sums up how I feel about our nation right now: “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” Given the event of the last few years, I have to question how we as a society will fair in this test.

I sadly suspect we will fail unless more good people are willing to stand up to the darkness that is invading every part of our lives. We are called to love one another even when we disagree. Forgiveness is to flow freely from our hearts. And grace is to be given without condition. This is why we offer an open communion at Saint Francis.

It is also why we believe that our faith is not merely a spectator sport either. Another great quote from Rev. Bonhoeffer is, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” When we refuse to act, we allow the darkness to take over. We allow ourselves to become callous to the change needed in our hearts. And out of that grows a darkness that breeds hatred, bigotry, and violence.

We as a church can no longer remain silent. Being part of a community means speaking up for all our beloved in the community, especially those in most need of our support and care. Community means helping even when it is not convenient. And so we work to make our community a better place.

You can help us too!

Saint Francis can be a home for you too. We are working to build something different, something that is radically inclusive and welcoming. Saint Francis is a place where we work to support one another, without judgment, and to help the community around us. We understand that you may have been hurt by other churches. Most of us have been. And now we work to bind up those wounds and help others do the same.

Won’t you join us this Sunday and discover a different way to be Catholic?

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

Sep 272019

To be an authentic Christian requires action

christian

Being an authentic Christian requires more than talk, it requires action as well. This is a hard lesson to learn, but one that is vital to our salvation.

As a small parish, we don’t have a lot of parishioners. That does not mean that the work is any less important or that the struggle is any less difficult. In some ways, the struggle is greater. We have fewer people to help with vital programs that our community needs.

We started a new mission in Graniteville South Carolina in the hopes that we will be able to grow a parish in the Midland Valley area. Our attempts at growth in Augusta Georgia have been difficult. Sadly, the South is a difficult area for liturgical churches, especially progressive ones.

One of my greatest fears as a pastor is that the parish will fail. After 7 years of attempts in Augusta, that fear is becoming all the more real. Yet, we continue to try. We look for new ways to reach out to those who are in most need of our help. Our parish started the Blessing Bags program to aid the homeless in our area. We are working to find a location to place a Blessing Box that the parish will keep stocked with basic food items. We are reaching out to the ministries in the area to provide assistance to programs already in progress.

And every Sunday, Father Matt and I celebrate Mass for the needs of our church and the community at large. This Sunday we are offering Mass for all our beloved homeless who are in such great need. Just like Lazarus in this Sunday’s Gospel reading, they are ignored and abused by those who could be helping them.

So many people wish to call themselves a Christian, but lack the desire to actually help those in need. Our ministries and parishes in the OCCI continue to astound me as they work to provide much needed services to those in most need. We don’t just talk about helping others, we actually do it.

At Saint Francis Parish we decided that despite the lack of people in the pews, we would build programs to help others. We are continuing to help those in need with the meager resources we have. And thanks to our family in the OCCI, we continue to build blessing bags stocked with much needed supplies.

And you can help too. All you have to do is come to Saint Francis Parish in Graniteville or Augusta and volunteer to help. Become an active part of our parish ministry and help us help others.

And in doing so, you will experience a new and authentic way to be a Catholic Christian.

Sep 212019

Serving two masters and a new mission

serving

This Sunday we read about how serving two masters is impossible. We also hear that the Lord remembers how we treat the poor and needy in our midst. These are hard readings to hear sometimes. Especially in our society where the poor are dismissed and abused and the rich are praised and exalted.

Our new mission that opens this Sunday sits in a unique location that affords us the opportunity to help people of various walks of life. Saint Francis Parish – Graniteville sits in an area that will afford us the opportunity to help those who need it most.

Our mission will continue our work to help the homeless with food and supplies they need most. We continue to work to build up our blessing bag program. A list of supplies we need will be posted soon so that you can help support this ministry.

The vision of the new mission is to build up a faith community that then goes out into the world to live the Gospel. It is not just enough to preach the Gospel with our mouths, we must also preach it with our very lives. This is what is meant by not serving two masters. We must serve the God of compassion, love, and service rather than the gods of greed, hate, and selfishness.

In order to do this, we need your help. We need you to come be a part of our parish family. We need you to commit to supporting our work and efforts by tithing with your money and your time. It is our hope that we will someday be in a building that we own so that we can offer even more services to the community as a whole. However, we will need your help to make it possible.

Please join us this Sunday, September 22, as we launch Saint Francis Parish – Graniteville. We will celebrate Mass at 10:00 AM at 6 Hickman Street in Graniteville, South Carolina. We meet on the campus of the Hope Center School. You can also join us for Mass at 3:00 PM at 2321 Lumpkin Road in Augusta, Georgia at the beautiful Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church.

It is our parish family’s commitment to be a beacon of hope, light and love to the CSRA. Come and experience a different and exciting way to be Catholic!

Sep 132019

Please thank your pastor today

Thank your pastor

This past week a pastor commented to me how tired they were and how they are rarely if ever told thank you. I understand that feeling of tiredness and being unappreciated. I also understand how hard it is sometimes to feel so alone in a ministry field. Please take a moment to read this entire blog post. Your pastor’s life may depend on it.

I and my fellow pastors need you to understand a few things about how ministry works. Take a look at these numbers:

  • 72% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
  • 84% of pastors feel they are on call 24/7.
  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
  • 78% of pastors report having their vacation and personal time interrupted with ministry duties or expectations.
  • 35% of pastors report the demands of the church denies them from spending time with their family.
  • 66% of church members expect a minister and family to live at a higher moral standard than themselves.
  • 57% of pastors believe they do not receive a livable wage.
  • 57% of pastors are unable to pay their bills.
  • 75% of pastors report significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
  • 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses have felt unqualified and discouraged as role of pastors at least one or more times in their ministry.
  • 52% of pastors feel overworked and cannot meet their church’s unrealistic expectations. 
  • 54% of pastors find the role of a pastor overwhelming.
  • 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once in the last year.
  • 35% of pastors battle depression or fear of inadequacy.
  • 26% of pastors report being over fatigued.
  • 28% of pastors report they are spiritually undernurished.
  • Over 50% of pastors state the biggest challenge is to recruit volunteers and encourage their members to change (living closer to God’s Word).
  • 70% of pastors report they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
  • 70% of pastors do not have someone they consider to be a close friend.
  • 57% of pastors feel fulfilled but yet discouraged, stressed, and fatigued. 
  • 1 out of every 10 pastors will actually retire as a pastor. 

I know that is a lot of statistics, but I feel you need to hear what we go thru. On top of all those, the one thing I hear most from my fellow pastors is that they rarely are told thank you. It may seem like a really small thing, but trust me, it is huge to a pastor.

Right around the corner is Clergy Appreciation Month. We take the entire month of October as an opportunity to thank those clergy people who serve us in ways we do not fully understand every day. And yet, so many people fail to take time to thank their pastor.

Why not start now? Why not take a moment to thank your pastor?

If you would like to show your appreciation in other ways, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Say thank you to your pastor on a regular basis. This is the most simple way to show your gratitude.
  2. Give your pastor a gift. It can be something as small as a handwritten note telling them how thankful you are for them and how they impacted you in positive ways. Or it can be something as elaborate as a gift card to a nice Resturant or their favorite coffee spot.
  3. Donate to the church in their honor. Most pastors spend hours on top of hours worried about their church’s finances. You can help to alleviate that worry by donating and say thank you by doing it in their honor.
  4. Volunteer at church. Most pastor’s end up doing a lot of work at church because there are not enough hands to help. You can help lighten their load by volunteering to help in the parish. You can do something as simple as cleaning the bathrooms or refilling the paper towels. That is one less job your pastor has to do.

These are just a few simple ways you can show your gratitude. This will help to lift your pastor’s spirit and keep them from possibly burning out.

Please join me in celebrating Clergy Appreciation Month just a little early!

Jul 132018

Power made perfect in weakness

weakness

Last week I was struggling to come up with something to say. I spent days working myself to the bone and trying to avoid the elephant in the room. I was depressed and I was feeling very insecure about my abilities. My struggle was with my weakness. I cannot say that I am better this week, but I am trying to find my path through this struggle.

I know you are tired of hearing of my struggles. Everyone has their limits. I have been told time and time again that I need to stop talking about my brokenness and my struggles. However, Saint Paul did just that in last Sunday’s reading:

Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

(2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Saint Paul talked about his brokenness a lot. And he said that we find strength in our weakness. That God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

I talk about my brokenness not to puff myself up or to make people feel sorry for me. I speak about it so that others know the struggles I have gone through and they too can find hope. It is my desire to help people find hope even when they feel so hopeless.

So talk about your struggle. Share your brokenness with others. Yes, it makes you vulnerable and some may hurt you by rejecting you. But they did that to Jesus too:

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
Are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

(Mark 6:1-6)

Let us move forward in proclaiming the love of God and showing his power through our weakness!

Jun 292018

My own battle with worry

Worry

I worry a lot. It is something that has plagued me for years. Don’t get me wrong, I have faith in God and faith in my church family. I just allow myself to worry about things I have no control over.

I think we all do that to a degree. We allow ourselves to envision the worse possible scenario for every situation. I know that this is my great curse. I always “prepare” myself for the worst possible outcome. This, of course, causes me to worry and takes a tremendous toll on my health.

I do this for a wide range of things too. A couple of weeks ago I had to leave an event early because I was sick. I should have left far earlier than I did, but I stayed because I was worried about what people would think or say about me. I consider all those people my friends and I have a great amount of respect for them. But I still worried about what they would say or think of me because I had to leave.

And a part of me still worries about it. You see, I have spent years of my life trying so very hard to earn people’s respect. I have always felt like I am inferior to everyone. I am the least educated of my friends and family. I am not as healthy as many of them are. I am broken and damaged. Even down to the fact that I suffer from PTSS and depression.

I allow all those things to bounce around in my head and convince me that I am not worthy of love or respect. And then comes the worry. What if I am not good enough? What if I say the wrong thing? Will I end up running everyone off because of my brokenness? What will happen if I cannot do all the things they can do or stay through all the events they need me to stay for? Will they still respect me, love me, want me around if I cannot be what I think they want me to be?

And then the race has begun. The great race in my own head. It keeps going and going until I am almost paralyzed with fear, worry, anxiety, and overwhelming sadness.

I speak about these things not to get sympathy, but so that you can understand the struggle that I and many others deal with on a daily basis. Pastor’s deal with depression and anxiety in record numbers. That is why so many quit and so many loose their faith. They cannot continue fighting the battle that wages within themselves.

Yes, I still worry. I am far from perfect. But I continue to fight everyday to improve. I try to be there for others despite my own struggles. But I am also learning that I must take time to care for me too. And I am working on that. I am going to take a day off every week. I may not return emails or phone calls on that day unless it is an emergency. And at some point, I may have to give up some of the organizations I work with now for my own health’s sake. (Not the church, but other civic organizations I volunteer with. )

I understand your struggle with worry and anxiety. And hopefully, if you do not experience worry and anxiety, maybe you at least understand the struggle many of us have with it after reading this.

The goal is to keep on keeping on and to rest from time to time so that we can keep on going!

And do not worry, I still love you just the way you are!

Jun 222018

Hate has no home at Saint Francis

Hate has no home here

Yesterday marked the beginning of my twentieth (20) year since I was consecrated as a Bishop. It also marked my 39th revolution around the sun. In all that time, I have never seen the kind of hatred, bigotry, and racism that I have seen in the last couple of years. And this week, that hatred, bigotry, and racism touched our sister parish in Flourtown, PA.

Bishop St George, the pastor of Saint Miriam Parish arrived at the parish to find the parish had been vandalized. They had damaged one of the Saint Francis statues and torn up the “Hate has no home here” sign. It is sad that someone destroyed a sign calling for an end to hate because of the hate in their heart. They destroyed a statue of the saint who said, “Let me be an instrument of your peace.”

This person had so much hate in their heart that they could not see the great irony of their actions. They could not see that they were damaging the very church who would welcome them into the fold with open arms and not condemn them for their past.

At Saint Francis we have seen our share of hate. I get hate mail on a regular basis. I even had someone advocate for branding other human beings by tattooing their crimes and sins on their foreheads. And sadly, they did this in the middle of Mass, right in the middle of my homily on forgiveness!

We have allowed hate to overrun our society and it is creeping into our churches. We as a church have a moral obligation to stop it. It is our responsibility to call it out, to shine the light on it wherever it resides. Sometimes we have to turn away people who damage those seeking refuge in the church. It does not mean that we love them any less, it does not mean that we hate them. No, it means that we must protect those in our flock from the hatred and bigotry that resides in them. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 5 Saint Paul tells us that sometimes we have to remove those who are disruptive and dangerous to the church as a whole.

We will continue to love them from afar and to pray for them. Even those who vandalize and damage our parishes. But we cannot give hate a home in our parishes. This is why we have the Covenant at Saint Francis. It is a pledge to build up the community while leaving behind the hatred, bigotry, and damaging behavior that we have all experienced in other churches.

And at Saint Francis we will continue to love everyone while still protecting the body of Christ from hate and violence.

Jun 152018

Change is needed

Change

The world seems to have gone crazy lately. In fact, many people seem willing to exchange the truth for a lie and to exchange compassion for hatred, bigotry, and violence. Change is considered to be a dirty word, and yet, change is exactly what we need!

We have been warned throughout Scripture that such times would come. Many people think that these are the end times, but I believe we are merely at the end of an age. We are at a point where the pendulum will swing back to a more compassionate and caring place.

That said, we must be willing to be the instruments of change in the world around us. We cannot bury our head in the sand and expect things to improve on their own. Throughout history good men and women chose to hide their eyes from the horrors around them. And by doing so they, at very least, allowed bad things to happen, and at worst, approved of those acts.

For years I have preached about walking the middle of the road and now I see now the error of that teaching. By walking the middle of the road, I have allowed the evil the world to triumph. Rather than walk the middle of the road, we need to be willing to speak up against the horror of hate, bigotry, anger, and violence that has taken over our society.

Make no mistake, you will loose friends and family if you choose to speak up. People will label you as a troublemaker or worse. They even treated Jesus this way. Everyone abandoned Jesus. You are in good company.

Now is the time to stand up. It is time to stop hiding from the darkness and to confront it. It is time to live our faith. And our faith calls us to love others, to take in the stranger and refugee. Today is the day to be Christ to the world!

And if that cost me everything, I will give it all up to serve others and to follow my Christ!