Thursday, October 1, 2015

Why I Give

I wrote this reflection for the October 2015 Grace Church Newsletter

In the Episcopal Church, members of the congregation are asked each year to make a pledge of what they plan to give to the Church for the entire coming year. At Grace Church we do this in late October to early November, with special events and mailings during this time. For some people, especially for those new to the Episcopal Church, making a pledge may be a new experience.

Why do I make a pledge each year?

First, in pledging I am supporting the parish community to which I belong, and its mission. Grace Church is a self-supporting parish; we as a community have to support our shared work. By making a pledge, I am giving the Vestry and parish leadership the ability to plan for the ministry of the parish in the coming year. By making a financial pledge, I am also saying that I support and want to be part of the mission of the parish. Each year that I have been at Grace Church, I have more and more deeply come to believe that what we do together is the work of God.  Part of God’s work to care, to serve and to welcome all at God’s table.  That’s something I want to be a part of.  So I give.

Second, pledging is a spiritual discipline. Giving is a discipline that people of faith have practiced for millennia. Spiritual disciplines are acts that we choose to do not because we always feel like it or want to, but because they are part of our commitment to God, to each other, and to ourselves. Pledging helps us to know that all that we have, things material and spiritual, is a gift from God. By giving generously, we thank God for God's loving care for our lives, and we dedicate what we have been given to God’s purposes. Giving is a practice of thanksgiving that over time makes us even more grateful for the abundance of God’s grace in our lives. It opens our hearts to the awareness that all life is a wondrous gift. Over the last few years, my wife Sara and I have come to learn how we can build our own family budget around our giving. It has taken time to get there, adjusting our budget each year, but now we tithe.  We give 10% of our income away.  We give about 1/3 of that tithe to Grace Church through our Annual and Capital Campaign pledged.  We give about 1/3 to my wife’s church, Christ Church in Waltham, through Annual and Capital Campaign pledges and about 1/3 to other causes and needs that are important to us.  Giving is an important part of our lives, and something we try to teach and demonstrate to our children as well.  This discipline helps to remind us on a daily basis that all that we have and do is truly a gift from God.  Our giving helps us to know more deeply to grace God has given us all. 

My prayer is that pledging will bring you the joy it brings my family and me.  My prayer is that it can bring you a greater awareness of God’s grace in your life.   And it is my hope that you will join me in supporting the work of this amazing community and church! 

Please think and pray about how you can be part of God’s generosity in your pledging and giving to Grace Church this year.  And look for a stewardship packet in the mail in the coming weeks, and reflect with us on our giving during our month of stewardship events.  Thank you for all you give to our ministry and work together!


The Rev. Noah H. Evans, Rector

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Celebrating 'Eid al-Fitr

This is reprinted from the Grace Episcopal Church Blog

On Friday, July 17, our Muslim brothers and sisters all over the world celebrated 'Eid al-Fitr, the holy day marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. On Sunday, July 19, several Muslims from the Bangladeshi Islamic Center of Massachusetts took time out of their festivities to attend Grace Church's 9:00am Eucharist service, joining us afterwards for coffee hour and homemade Bangladeshi sweets traditionally served during Ramadan. The Bangladeshi Muslim community of Medford, Somerville, and the surrounding area has been praying each evening in our parish hall throughout the thirty nights of Ramadan. In his sermon, the Rev. Noah Evans shared about the moving moment in his office when the leaders of the prayer group expressed just how meaningful it had been for their community to finally have a space to gather and pray. That moment, Noah explained, made him a better Christian, just as the experience of providing hospitality to our Muslim neighbors has been a beautiful opportunity for our church to grow more fully into our Christian faith. 

Dr. Mawdudr Rahman, whose vision initially created the Muslim prayer group in downtown Boston that has been praying at St. Paul's Cathedral on Tremont St. for over three decades, spoke to our parishioners about why his faith inspires him to reach out in peace to Christians. The Muslim, Christian, and Jewish faiths are all of the same Abrahamaic root and we share a great-great-great-grandfather in the Prophet Abraham, Dr. Rahman reminded us. Dr. Anwarul Hasan, the President of the Bangladeshi Islamic Center of Massachusetts, helped us understand how the central practices of Ramadan--fasting and obligatory charitable donations--are spiritual practices of solidarity with the starving and impoverished of the world. He stated that we all have a moral obligation to reduce the growing divide between the have and have-nots of the world, especially when so much of humanity goes to bed hungry. 'Eid al-Fitr, the festival at the end of Ramadan, was declared by Prophet Muhammed to be a day when no person in the world should ever have to beg for food. 

In answering questions from parishioners about Ramadan and Islam, Noah and the two Muslim leaders emphasized how important it is for Americans to recognize media bias surrounding individual acts of hatred and terrorism prepetrated by radical and disturbed Muslims, such as the recent shooting that killed six in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The leaders explained that we must consider them to be individual acts by people intent on using religion to further their own agenda, the same way we might consider domestic terrorism by Christians to be unrelated or anti-thetical to the true Christian message. Dr. Anwar urged each of us to use our voices to call for peace and an end to division, even when it might seem that voices calling for violence are amplified in the media. 

Most of all, the celebration was infused with a overwhelming sense of immense gratitude. We as Grace Church are very grateful to get to know our Muslim neighbors in a new way and to share a piece of our faith with them in our service and fellowship afterward. We greatly look forward to continuing in partnership with the Bangladeshi community throughout the year. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Grace Episcopal Church, Medford Celebrates Marriage Equality

Grace Episcopal Church, Medford Celebrates Marriage Equality 

Grace Episcopal Church in Medford celebrates the arrival of the right for all people to marry across the country and in the Episcopal Church.  After the June 26th Supreme Court’s ruling granting marriage rights to all people across the United States, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, voted July 1 to make the canonical and liturgical changes to provide marriage equality for all Episcopal Churches across the United States.  For a number of years, Bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts have allowed clergy, including those from Grace Church, to solemnize same-sex marriages within the Diocese.

Grace Episcopal Church in Medford celebrates these long awaited civic and religious rights being extended to all people.  In a sermon celebrating marriage equality the Sunday after the Supreme Court ruling, Grace Church Rector, the Reverend Noah Evans, told the story of Supreme Court plaintiffs Jim Obergefell and John Arthur and “how the seeds of change came from the love found in the relationship between these two men.  It shows us how love grows to change the world…God’s love wins.”  In a statement after the Supreme Court ruling, Massachusetts Episcopal Bishops Alan Gates and Gayle Harris described marriage equality in an official statement as “A thing to be celebrated.”

Lucia Page, Grace Church Warden (senior lay leader) said, “…the Episcopal Church's passing of marriage equality is the formal ratification of what our church already actively practices and preaches. It's a community that's truly welcoming of all, and proudly proclaims its belief that all marriages and families matter - that my marriage and my family matter. The announcement further strengthens my faith in God, and makes me so proud to be part of my religious community.”  The Rev. Dr. Maggie Arnold, Grace Church Assistant Rector stated, “It is a profound honor to be able to serve all of our members more fully, with the pastoral office of marriage. I am so glad to be part of a church that seeks and serves Christ in all persons.”

Grace Episcopal Church in Medford, located at 160 High Street, is a dynamic, vibrant and welcoming community that is the spiritual home to a diverse congregation of over 200 families with different racial, social, ethnic, cultural, family and religious backgrounds.  All are welcome to join in the life of its community.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Interfaith Iftar at Grace Episcopal Church

Re posted from the Grace Episcopal Church blog

Grace Episcopal Church hosted an interfaith Iftar celebration on Sunday, June 28th for the Bangladesh Islamic Society of Massachusetts. During the Holy Month of Ramadam, Grace Church is hosting this local Muslim community for their daily evening prayers as they break the fast. This evening there was an interfaith panel, including our Rector, the Reverend Noah Evans. It is a blessing to be able to offer hospitality for, and support, our local Muslim brothers and sisters.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Prayer from Medford Overcoming Addiction Prayer Vigil

This is the text of the prayer that I offered at the Medford Overcoming Addiction Prayer Service on March 22nd at Medford City Hall.

God of love, Creator of us all, we come together this night in vigil for all of those who we have lost to the disease of addiction.

We pray for those who have died.

We pray for those who lives were cut short.

We pray for all of us who grieve, those who have lost family and friends.

We pray for those who are currently lost in the darkness of addiction.

We pray for those who walk with you , o God, in recovery.

We pray to break the silence, to break the stigma, around addiction.

We pray to break the silence about the depth of the crisis of drugs in our own community.

We pray for this community to see and know hope.

The hope that comes through recovery.

The hope that comes through living day-by-day.

The hope that comes as we gather together as a community to be light to the darkness of addiction.

We pray for power.

Your power to change our lives.

Your power to end silence and stigma.

Your power to change our community. To change our community more fully into a place of health, of acceptance, of empowerment, of love.

We ask this in the name of the creator and lover of all life.


Here is the Medford Transcript story about this amazing event:

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Lent Is Time to Prepare

I wrote this reflection for the Grace Church February 2015 Newsletter

Lent originated in the very early days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter when the faithful rededicate themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. It is believed that by observing the forty days of Lent, individual Christians imitate Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days at the beginning of his ministry.

When I think of Lent, my thoughts turn to Lenten sacrifice. What do I give up for Lent? Some people give up chocolate for Lent, others give up Facebook – I am sure you know many things that you or others have given up in the past. I always think of Lent as a time to break an old bad habit, time to reject something that somehow causes a prick of my own conscience.

Frankly, I am unsure whether God really cares about how much candy I eat, or whether I can’t miss my friends social networking posts. Instead, God does care whether I love others and not just those closest to me. God does care whether I help to feed the hungry or nurture a relationship with my community. God cares whether I spend time with God in prayer and worship.  Lent is not just a season about self-denial; Lent is a season about reordering our desires, our patterns of being, and our patterns of living to seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. And it is also a time to explore and deepen our relationship with God, who so desires that we know God.  This Lent, I hope to look up from the self-indulgent guilt of worrying about chocolates and “screen time” and instead look out to a world that is crying for my compassion, and towards a God who so desires my attention.

Our Wednesdays at Grace Series during Lent is entitled “Visions of Jesus”   We will be asking, who is Jesus, really?  Understanding the person, teachings and interpretations of Jesus is central to our faith – yet there are so many different traditions and strands of understanding him.  During this series we will explore some of the many, many perspectives and understandings of Jesus, his teachings and what he accomplished through his ministry, death, resurrection and ascension.  Sessions will be taught by a variety of presenters showing the variety of perspectives on Jesus, more details can be found inside the newsletter. 

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, Wednesday February 18th.  We will have services at noon and 7PM, and a Children’s service at 5:30PM.  Join us as we mark the beginning of this season.


The Rev. Noah H. Evans