Notes from the Vicar of Grace

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The Rev. Bill Harper

Hey All.

 Sometimes it seems that the most important part of an email is the subject heading.  Will it get the email opened and read, or not?  I'm hoping that this one has you opening and reading.  I've promised weekly connections, and this is the second one.  I'm imagining that these notes will have both practical and inspirational content.  I'm not sure that I'll always succeed on either front, but it feels worth the effort.  This week . . . well, this week I've likely taken a bite that's just too big.  But you opened it-or bit on the bait-and I'm truly hoping that you'll have the patience to read on.

 Religion and Politics

Against polite advice, I've always mixed my faith and my politics.  And yet I have rarely presumed to impose or even reveal my political decisions and ideals in specific ways.  In the big picture, being a Christian-or trying to be-causes me to see the world through the lens of the Gospel.  For me, that means forgiveness, compassion, change, growth, inclusion.  It means hope and commitment and responsibility to and for each other.  It means life itself, and each life, is sacred.  And so somehow I try to translate that faith into my life as a local and global citizen.  I suppose it could be said that I vote my values.  Or my faith.  And I know that many do the same.  What I like to do is share my faith and do the best I can to hold myself accountable to that faith.  Rarely do I think I should hold others accountable to my faith.  Share, learn, consider-and then do the best I can, while others do the same.

However, recent debate around our State Referendum 71 has put all of my political and religious tolerance to the test-precisely because one religious perspective is being promoted as "God's mandate" for Washington State Law.  Imagine that.  If you are so inclined, you can navigate to the website of Protect Marriage Washington and get a sense of what challenges me in their promotion of a position.   I guess it will be little surprise for people to know that my own faith, and heart, call me to active support of Referendum 71 because I believe that the Referendum seeks to treat people as equals and is respectful of what is sacred in all of us.  But I could never imagine telling anyone this was "God's mandate."  I will support this ballot initiative because of what I believe, and I can ask others to consider what they believe when they make decisions about our shared, civic life.  But it is cynical, and manipulative, to claim issues such as this as the direct word of God.  I take God, and people, far too seriously to think that I can easily speak for either of them.  I hope you and I will be thoughtful, faithful people when we vote-this November, and every November.  I hope that we will consider what the Gospel means to us, and then act, vote, live accordingly. 


OK, that's religion and politics.  Now let's try talking about money!  As we know, our Annual Giving Campaign has begun, and our community of faith is actively seeking support for another year together.  As I said on Sunday night, I hope we will all step up, step in, and make a pledge.  Without question, pledge support means so much-because knowing that we have support means that we can then get on with being the grace-filled community we strive to be.  Please pledge in any way that works for you-but please do.  And thank you.  Enough said!

 And, the Flu!

Here's something that is a human marvel: big, strong, creative, brilliant humans are not immune-to anything!  Microscopic viruses and errant cells remind us that we are vulnerable, in spite of our great pretense not to be.  And so we are reminded with this latest wave of N1H1.  I know many of you have had firsthand experience with this virus, and I also know that it is a thoughtful concern in our common life as a community.  There are tons of kids at Grace, and lots of other "vulnerable" folk, and all of us are in weekly, personal contact.  Many churches are trying to offer advice to members about minimizing exposure and vulnerability.  A recent New York Times article describes some of the helpful measures, and extremes.  (And you should laugh that one article can bring together the Eucharist and Beer Pong!)  At Grace we keep the "purell" handy.  You'll find sanitizer dispensers in classrooms, bathrooms and in the kitchen.  Be practical: use them.  And then there is that "common cup."  I wish I had some magic advice here, but at least let me offer something practical.  If you are worried about viral vulnerability then let the cup pass.  Stay in the communion circle as the chalice comes by, but keep your arms folded across your chest.  Dipping the bread is really not a helpful/healthy alternative-particularly because the N1H1 virus crystals like to live on our hands.  Yes, I disagree here with the advice the Bishop offered-but so be it!  I myself will continue to use the common cup-and I think that for most of us, it is safe and fine.  But more than that, I hope that you will do what feels best for you and your family.  We are in this together, and we stand in that circle together,  as we break bread together.  God is present in all of that, and in everyone.


Peace.  And thanks for your patience.  Next week?  Short and sweet!

Bill's Signature

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