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.