All Saints Messenger

All Saints Messenger - March 23, 2017

posted by Church Secretary

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Greetings in the Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
This Sunday's Gospel from John is about the man who has been blind from birth. In this story of healing I find myself so often focused on the matter of the blind man receiving sight that I fail to see effects of Jesus' vision. Right from the beginning of the passage Jesus sees the blind man. Furthermore, Jesus sees beyond the man's blindness. To Jesus, the man isn't reduced to his condition of blindness; neither is he reduced by sin. Instead, Jesus sees that God's works will be revealed in him--Jesus sees the potential of a new disciple.  

So Jesus gets his hands dirty in healing the man. Then he sends him with the command, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam," and the man follows the order and comes back able to see. From there his literal sight gives way to the growth of his vision, his recognition, his understanding. His new vision is such that he sees in himself what Jesus also saw--a disciple. Jesus' vision moves the blind man from darkness to light, from unbelief to belief, from beggar to disciple.

Much of John's Gospel is about light...light coming into the world through Jesus Christ. So true, yet so difficult. Hopefully this quote attributed to Mother Teresa may help, "Christ must be the light that shines through you, and the people looking at you must see only Jesus. You have a challenge from Jesus to meet: He has shed the light, and you will take His light and lighten every heart you meet."

See ya Sunday!  
Fr. Gary+

All Saints Messenger - March 16, 2017

posted by Church Secretary

Greetings in the Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Over the past few months our nation as well as our parish have been affected by some executive actions by the current administration that have brought up sensitive issues and feelings within many of us. Bishop José has written a Pastoral Letter about Immigration that I believe offers understanding, comfort, hope and perspective:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, 

In the past five months as your bishop, I have traveled extensively throughout Western North Carolina, visiting parishes and exploring the various communities that encompass our diocese. I am continually blessed by the opportunity to learn and know your congregation's story as well as the unique, personal narratives from many of our lay leaders. These stories have deepened my appreciation for the grace that flows through this wonderful diocese. 

I also hope that through our conversations and prayers, you have heard my story and witnessed the grace of God that flows through my life. I hope you have come to know that it is not my custom to officially address every issue discussed in the public square. As your bishop, I value "the middle way," recognizing that our church is a community that welcomes all people, in the diversity of their convictions, to join together at the Lord's Table and share in the one bread and the one cup. 

Nevertheless, I must speak out and stand firm in solidarity with the immigrants among us and the refugees seeking a safe harbor for their families. 

As you might know, I am the son of a refugee. In 1961, my mother fled Cuba and the oppressive, communist regime of Fidel Castro. Along with other members of her family, my mother lost all she had and risked her life in pursuit of freedom and the possibility to realize her potential. My family made their way to Puerto Rico, where they were welcomed and given an opportunity to become citizens of the United States and contribute to the common good. And all along the journey, the Church demonstrated the radical welcome of Jesus, which profoundly shaped their new lives. 

From the very first time I introduced myself to you, I shared my belief that I am called to be a bishop who not only proclaims the Gospel in words, but also in actions. This principle was set out in my ordination, when I was asked, "Will you boldly proclaim and interpret the Gospel of Christ, enlightening the minds and stirring up the conscience of your people?" Ever since, I have taken seriously how we nurture our lives as disciples of Jesus, as well as explore innovative ways to stand alongside and serve those in need. 

Our Lord Jesus served within an ancient tradition that firmly welcomed immigrants and refugees. "The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19). Jesus himself was clear when he said, "I was a stranger, and you welcomed me" and "that which you did to the least of these, you did to me" (Matthew 25). We put our faith into action when we demonstrate radical hospitality and solidarity for all people, including the immigrant and refugee. We put our faith into action when we speak out against both hateful language and acts of bigotry. 

Likewise, as Americans, one of our core values is echoed by the poem etched in the base of the Statue of Liberty: "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." My earlier years in law enforcement as well as serving at the Department of Justice emphasize that I will always honor the work necessary to ensure that proper safeguards are in place to help secure our nation. However, we also need to take every precaution not to impose restrictions or preferences based on religion, and we must always keep in mind that refugees and other immigrants have been a consistent source of creativity, ingenuity, and productivity - a true blessing to this nation and those who love it. 

Finally, while there may be some in our communities who cheer the anti-immigrant sentiments and actions being unleashed, as your bishop, I entreat each of you to remember the grace of Christ that brought each of us into the safe harbor of God's love, and then I invite you to join me in proclaiming a Gospel message of peace and solidarity for the stranger and foreigner in our midst. 


The Rt. Rev. José A. McLoughlin 
VII Bishop of Western North Carolina 

All Saints Messenger - March 9, 2017

posted Mar 9, 2017, 12:24 PM by Church Secretary

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Greetings in the Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

This past Sunday through Tuesday the clergy of the diocese met for their annual Lenten Clergy Retreat. This was our first opportunity to be in retreat with our new bishop.

Bp. José practices Ignatian Spirituality which emanates from Ignatius of Loyola, a 16th C Spanish Priest and Theologian who founded the Jesuits. The Bishop brought in a good friend who also follows Ignatian Spirituality and I found it quite interesting and comforting.

Ignatius required no specific clothes, no rote prayers...his spirituality called upon his practitioners to live in the world seeing all of God's creation as their monastery. I find that reassuring and comforting.

As part of the retreat we were exposed to various poems and I would like to share my favorite. It is called "The Pulley" and it was written by George Herbert, who was a 17th C poet and Anglican priest.

The Pulley

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When God at first made man, 
Having a glass of blessings standing by, 
"Let us," said he, "pour on him all we can. 
Let the world's riches, which dispersèd lie, 
Contract into a span." 

So strength first made a way; 
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure. 
When almost all was out, God made a stay, 
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure, 
Rest in the bottom lay. 

"For if I should," said he, 
"Bestow this jewel also on my creature, 
He would adore my gifts instead of me, 
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature; 
So both should losers be. 

"Yet let him keep the rest, 
But keep them with repining restlessness; 
Let him be rich and weary, that at least, 
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness 
May toss him to my breast." 

I think what this poem means to me is that Herbert is reminding us that humanity is always restless and striving for more, and that we are naturally drawn to God and can only truly find rest in God.

This Lent may we remember that God calls each one of us very good and that we can only find true rest in God.

See ya Sunday,

Fr. Gary+

All Saints Messenger - March 2, 2017

posted Mar 2, 2017, 11:07 AM by Church Secretary

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Greetings in the Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

It began last night night - Lent is beginning.

Christ is going out into the desert.

Why is He going into the desert?

He is going to meet you there.

You are a fallen creature in a fallen world. Heaven is your home, but you were not born in Heaven. You were born on the fallen earth. You've felt it all your life. You've known that it's there. You ought to be in Heaven, but you're not. You ought to be happy, but you're not. You ought to love readily, but you don't. You ought to see light, and by the light see everything, but it's dark.

There is a vast desert between yourself and Heaven. You are there already; you were born there. The only way home, to light and love and happiness, is to cross it. I can't tell you what that will look like, for you. There are all kinds of deserts. Some are all sand dunes; some are hard packed dirt. Some are alive with cacti and some are barren. Some are blazing hot, but not all - the South Pole is is a desert, after all. And most every desert is cold at night. Night comes to all deserts - dark, chill night where you can't see where you're going. It will come to that eventually, though I can't say when. And when it comes, Christ will meet you and lead you by the hand.

Christ will lead you to Calvary. He has to, you see. It's the only way out of the desert. Calvary is the way home. Every human being is suspended painfully between Heaven and Earth, and Calvary is how we're freed from Earth. He went there Himself, so you wouldn't be alone, and now He shows you the way.

I can't say it won't hurt to travel home. It will. I don't know how much. I can't say why it hurts some so much more than others. I don't know why some deserts seem alive and some are so dead and lonely. I can't understand why the nights are different lengths for different people.

But everyone will go through the desert, and everyone will have a dark night, and everyone will be crucified on Calvary.

And when it's over, we'll all be home.

This is where we are, every day of our lives. The brilliance of Lent is that it shines light on the desert.  It reminds us of where we are. This is the time of year when we can't look away from our fallen state. We fast, as we are able, to remind ourselves that our souls are hungry. We gaze upon the Crucified Christ and see that our souls are crucified. We meditate on the Via Dolorosa and find it's the road we've always walked.

What a wonder, to see our King there. The One who is without sin; the One who has no desert between Himself and Heaven, has left Heaven and come to the desert, to bring us home. The One who cannot die is submitting to death on Calvary, so that our death will lead us home.

Christ is going out into the desert.

He is coming here, to the desert, to lead us on the Via Dolorosa, to Calvary and from there, to home.

Make ready your heart. Prepare yourself for the Bridegroom.

Christ is coming to lead us home.

See ya Sunday,

Fr. Gary+

*With thanks to Mary Pezzulo

All Saints Messenger - February 23, 2017

posted Feb 27, 2017, 12:40 PM by Church Secretary

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Greetings in the Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

This Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday. We have Jesus, Peter, James and John up on the mountain and something miraculous happens.

It starts out innocently enough. A stroll up the mountain with Jesus. But then company comes. Jesus is joined by Moses and Elijah. What a sight that must have been! Moses, representing the law; Elijah, representing the prophets; and Jesus, representing the fulfillment of both. I'm sensing a theme in the image of mountains in this week's readings. Moses' face on Mt. Sinai outwardly reflects God's glory. On this mountain, Jesus' face radiates God's glory from within. His divine nature is revealed. Here once again on a mountain God shows up in a cloud that both terrifies and elicits worship. It is on a mountain that God's voice gives authority to the Ten Commandments. It is on a mountain that God's voice gives authority to Jesus' words. "Listen to him," we are told. 

Sometimes I find myself dwelling on how I would have acted had I been on that mountain? Would I have cowered, would I have rejoiced, would I have felt unworthy? Reality is that all are one time or another. We all have mountaintop experiences, but we also experience life's valleys. Isn't it nice to know Jesus meets us in both places?

Father, thank you for being a God of not only mountains, but of valleys as well. Wherever we find ourselves, we thank you that you meet us where we are. Amen.

See ya Sunday,

Fr. Gary+

All Saints Messenger - February 16, 2017

posted Feb 27, 2017, 12:38 PM by Church Secretary

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Greetings in the Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Wow, what a time in the life of our nation to be hearing Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. This Sunday we find ourselves about a third of the way into the Sermon on the Mount. A few weeks back, the sermon began with the Beatitudes, those lovely petitions about blessedness. Surely the crowd gathered around Jesus--the poor, the meek, the marginalized, the hungry--found solace in those poetic blessings from God. However, now we hear Jesus preaching about revenge and vengeance, or rather, the lack thereof...the command to turn the other cheek, give up your coat and to go the second mile...tough stuff. He dares to tell his followers to love their enemies, and even to pray for them. Surely by now members of the crowd are looking for a way exit strategy to get as far away as possible from this itinerant preacher and his impossible call to them (us). 

What would you have done had you been there? I believe I would have run. I often find myself still running. That's what these last few weeks have been about for me. I find myself being convicted guilty of not following my Christian call when times get rough and so I have to meditate, study, reflect, pray and talk about them. If I stay I'm called to love everyone: political leaders, relatives who make me cringe, members of churches unlike ours and so on. So just as I start running, I remember that Jesus' call-painful, difficult, unpleasant, uncomfortable as it is-is, most likely, the most desperately needed action of our day: loving all, especially those we deem unworthy.

Jesus, sometimes your call to love my enemies seems impossible. Perhaps it is. Give me strength to try. Teach me how to pray for those who hurt me and oppress others. Make me a witness of your counter-cultural love. Only by your grace will this happen. Amen.

See ya Sunday,

Fr. Gary+

All Saints Messenger - February 9, 2017

posted Feb 9, 2017, 11:48 AM by Church Secretary

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Greetings in the Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Last week's preaching experience was both heartbreaking and liberating. Heartbreaking because I never intend on offending or hurting anyone; Liberating because being who God called me to be and speaking MY truth (What the Holy Spirit has moved me to say) means I am being honest and transparent. I struggle with things the same way each of you do. We don't struggle about the same things, we don't feel the same ways...but, the important thing is, we struggle together and we come to the altar rail together raising our palms upward to receive the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood and we are, once again, refreshed, made clean and new.

As Episcopalians we live in a world of dynamic tension. We encompass such a degree of diversity, and that is very good, that all of us are bombarded with issues that tense us and go against some basic understandings and beliefs that have been with us since childhood. When we face these "tensions" one of our natural human responses is fear: fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of change, etc.

We follow a Resurrected Savior who was a refugee, rebel, lover of all people who sacrificed himself for these beliefs. If we are to follow Him we have to act in His name.

I grew up believing God doesn't give us a spirit of fear. However, it seems like our nation is acting out of fear more and more each day. For us Christians, who get wrapped up in this fear, we forget who it is we follow and are already saved through Christ's death and resurrection.

In the Gospels, when the disciple Peter is asked if he is associated with Jesus, he denies him, later saying he doesn't even know him. It isn't anything he does that rejects his faith; it's what he refuses to do. Like it or not, we (myself included) are denying Jesus in these times of national discourse (or lack thereof) as we tolerate words, actions and conduct that are entirely opposed to Jesus' life and ministry.
We are The Episcopal Branch of The Jesus Movement. We are on the same side, each and every one of us: the side of love and mercy and justice and gentleness and joy; the side of loving our neighbor and of turning our cheek and washing feet. We need that; our communities need that; our country needs that; our world needs that. If our faith can't surpass man-made politics, it isn't worth much. If we can't be united in love for all people, we will surely become the worst kind of clanging cymbal. May we act, speak and listen in ways that open our hearts and model respect for those with whom we disagree.

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
See ya Sunday,

Fr. Gary+

*Some of these words were inspired by an article by John Pavlovitz 

All Saints Messenger - February 2, 2017

posted Feb 2, 2017, 12:18 PM by Church Secretary

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Greetings in the Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

The first time I was at sea on a destroyer I went forward to the Forecastle (foc'sle in Navy terminology) also known as the front part of the ship or bow. As I climbed the ladder to the main deck I was struck by the power of light in the darkness of the night. Once my eyes had acclimated to the darkness after emerging from a well lit passageway the moonlight seemed to be able to light up everything. I could see the horizon, the ripples of the waves and yes, the dolphins swimming alongside us. It seemed like I could see forever, even though it was very dark. It was as if nighttime were not so. Light truly was not overcome by the darkness.

In Mathew's fifth chapter Jesus calls his followers to be the ones that shine bright in the darkness...that is Jesus' reality. This calling has found its way into the liturgy of baptism and in many ways serves as the marching orders for those of us who follow Christ. Like the moonlight on a dark night at sea, you also are called to shine in such a way that the power of darkness is overcome by the gift of light. How will you do that this week?

God of creation, give us the courage and strength to be, speak, live and love in a way that brings light into our world so often filled with darkness. Ignite the fire of justice and mercy inside us so that it overflows from our very being. Amen.

Blessings & Peace!

See ya Sunday,
Fr. Gary+

All Saints Messenger - January 20, 2016

posted Jan 24, 2017, 11:14 AM by Church Secretary

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Greetings in the Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Our son would occasionally wake up screaming at night when he thought that his beloved stuffed animal had somehow swam away and forsaken him.

"Lobby is gone!" he would shout in a panic. One of us often had to run into his room and turn on the light for him so that he could see that "Lobby" was indeed still in the bed lying next to him.

Today is the inauguration of our new president. I know that there are people on each side of the aisle at All Saints and that's OK...that's your right and I honor that...even more than that...I fought and some of my friends died for that right with 31 years of sacrificial service. Our place as The Body of Christ in Gastonia and the world is to remember that our only true allegiance is to Jesus Christ. It is in him that we place our trust.

There are many in our nation right now who are screaming, "God, your kingdom is gone!" For those who are suffering now and for those who will suffer in the future place in the center of your fears, the knowledge and assurance that our Savior, Jesus Christ is the light of the world, and shines on us to reveal that God's kingdom has been here all along and it is always closer to us than we think. As Kabir Helminski puts it, "We are knee deep in the river looking for water." We need not be afraid of the dark. God's kingdom hasn't gone away just because we think that it has been misplaced. The light visits us and constantly reminds us that God is much nearer than we think. Strive always to remember the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., "Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that." 

God, help me believe in the sun, even when it is not shining. God, help me believe in love, even when I don't feel it. God, help me believe in you, even when you are silent. Amen (from words found on a wall at Auschwitz).

See you Sunday!

Fr. Gary+

All Saints Messenger - January 12, 2017

posted Jan 12, 2017, 12:16 PM by Church Secretary

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Greetings in the Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

This Sunday is special and exciting for a couple of reasons. First, it is our Annual Parish Meeting where we gather for food, fun, fellowship and business. Contrary to other denominations we have only one meeting of the parish each year. This is because the Vestry of the church conducts all business of the church up to and including the selection of the rector. Since the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church were written at the same time as our country's constitution it is easy to see certain parallel in our polity (how we govern ourselves). The parish's input to the Vestry is your opportunity to have your voice heard through the people you elect to serve on Vestry. We do this at our Annual Meeting this Sunday so it is important that you join us. Additionally, you will hear reports on ministries, finances and Fr. Gary will share with us his "State of the Parish." Please join us.

Secondly, this Sunday is exciting because Bishop José has assigned The Rev. Cris South as deacon at All Saints. Cris has been worshiping with us for over six months and has gone through the appropriate checks and balances in our diocese to be assigned as deacon. Cris has been ordained about three years and comes to us from The Diocese of Hawaii where she served a couple of parishes. She moved to North Carolina to be closer to her family. Her passions are Outreach and Pastoral Care. Deacon Cris will preach this Sunday and will share with us parts of her life story and call.

Some of you may be asking if Cris' arrival affects Martha being with us. The simple answer: No! Martha remains an essential part of the ministry team here at All Saints and the assignment of Cris will allow both Deacon Martha and Cris to support one another, the parish and me more deeply. Thanks be to God!

Please join me in welcoming The Rev. Cris South into the All Saints Family!

May the Light of Christ shine upon you this Epiphany!

See you Sunday!

Fr. Gary+

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