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Peace in a High-Stress World with “The Presence Project”

We’d like to remind everyone of a wonderful resource produced by Rev. Summer Joy Gross. She created her podcast, The Presence Project, last year and continues to offer tools for peace and hope in the midst of anxiety, stress, worry, loneliness, and suffering — combining prayer practices, scripture, and modern brain science.

Rev. Summer Joy Gross is offering a new resource for those desiring to know and draw on God’s peace in their lives: It’s called The Presence Project… offering 12 simple and repeatable spiritual practices to take followers from anxious to resting in God.

“A lot of people have trouble listening to God,” says Rev. Summer. “This creates space.”

Rev. Summer Joy Gross

Rev. Summer is a spiritual formation director, who started The Presence Project after ten years of teaching inner healing small groups. In those groups, she found that deep healing could not begin until people had developed a secure attachment to God, and she began incorporating the spiritual practices that she now shares in The Presence Project: tools from healing prayer ministry coupled with modern neuroscience on retraining the brain.

Though it began as a longer-form monthly webinar, The Presence Project is now available in a shorter podcast format of just 30 minutes each – which also allows anyone to join in on the 12-month learning process at any time.

“It’s geared toward the busy person who’s trying to find a way to practice the presence of God in their ordinary life,” she says, such as the parent in the car, those with a long commute, or anyone out for a short walk.

Though she says most people following along with The Presence Project are those who struggle with chronic anxiety, Rev. Summer says it’s appropriate for anyone curious about spiritual disciplines and needing an introduction to them… and also for help finding God’s peace in a tech-heavy, scattered world.

“I think it’s one of the major spiritual issues of our day. Our phones have become so addictive, and it’s ruining our ability to focus and listen to God,” she says. “We need to mine our historical Christian practices that are body, mind, and spirit and connect us to communion with God.”

The Presence Project incorporates lectio divina readings, a practice of praying and absorbing Scripture that dates to St. Benedict in the 6th century – which is also the focus of Rev. Summer’s Slow Word Movement, a lectionary-based weekly lectio divina reading.

“I call it the second half… Bible study is great, but lectio divina brings what you know and brings it into prayer,” she says. “You’re allowing the word to master you instead of you mastering the word.”

The Presence Project will also eventually be discussing St. Ignatius’ Daily Examen as well as his exercises. And Rev. Summer often references her own story of spiritual growth, “so that I use my own vulnerability, in order to give people a touchstone to know that they’re not alone with their own growth.”

Ways you can learn more and join in:

• Listen to the podcast on The Presence Project podcast page or in the iTunes Store
• Read an overview and watch an introductory video here
• Request to join the closed Facebook group

This article was originally published on June 3, 2019.

Re-fired, Not Retired: Fr. Mark Goldman

We have several clergy retiring from ministry in ADOTS this year: Rev. Bill Sharp, Rev. Robert Hart, Rev. Ray Kasch, and Rev. Mark Goldman. Today we would like to feature Rev. Mark and his ministry serving All Saints Anglican Church in Huntington, WV, and sincerely thank him for his shepherding and leadership.

“I guess you can say my greatest joy was serving God’s people.”

Fr. Mark’s path to ministry began in 2004 after his profession of vows as a third order Benedictine, under the direction of Fr. Andrew Counts. But he felt a strong call to continue on and pursue the Diaconate, and it was under Fr. Andrew’s guidance that he became ordained in 2005.

His profession of vows, the strong leading to pursue the Diaconate, and God’s plan culminated in the founding of All Saints Anglican Church in Huntington, WV, as “a small group of Anglicans from the Tri-State area of Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio” – meeting for the first time on Sunday, October 1, 2006.

Beginning on Christmas Eve of 2008, they began worshiping at the Convent Chapel of St. Mary’s Hospital – “thanks to a collaborative effort with the Pallottine Sisters” – which would be the congregation’s home until 2020.

“Fr. Andrew Counts became the first rector and invited me to become his deacon,” says Fr. Mark. “In 2007, I was ordained an Anglican Presbyter.”

Fr. Mark Goldman, All Saints, Huntington, WV

During his time at All Saints, his ministry progressively evolved from deacon to Assistant Rector. “Then in 2013, during a rector search, Archbishop Foley Beach contacted me and asked if I would be interested in the rector position.” He has served in that capacity for the past seven years.

“As a priest, I have experienced numerous joys. I enjoyed our liturgical, sacramental, and evangelical service structure along with blending of music. I have witnessed the move of the Holy Spirit many times with miracle healings. Baptisms were a favorite since it brought people into the kingdom,” he says.

“There were house blessings, welcoming visitors, hearing confessions, our yearly outreach to Marshall University incoming freshman, mid-week and monthly fellowship gatherings, and as a licensed professional counselor listening individually to the hearts of the saints. I especially enjoyed my role as a mentor supporting others in church ministry and those pursuing priesthood.”

One Sunday will always be an especially fond memory for him. That Sunday – which was also his birthday – he baptized his one-year-old granddaughter, “an association she will carry for life, and the picture of that moment is proudly displayed in our home.”

He has also had the honor of caring for families at the end of life. When a parishioner’s mother was hours from death, the family called him to lead the Ministration at the Time of Death. After conducting the Eucharist and using intinction, he offered for the parishioner to place the wafer on his mother’s tongue.

“Not only was this a moving moment for the family, but the parishioner was appreciative for this final interaction with his mother,” he says.

Fr. Mark was grateful for the support of his congregation and the Diocese of the South when his adopted daughter unexpectedly died at the age of 26.

“I cannot express enough my gratitude for the support I received from ADOTS, and especially to Fr. David Brannen, rector of St. Andrews Anglican Church, for his assistance in helping to develop and lead the funeral service,” he says. As a priest, “it was an honor to conduct the grave side services for both my father and daughter.”

Now after 14 years of ministry, he’s taking time to concentrate on spiritual renewal while in retirement.

“I refer to this season in my life as my ‘Inner Retreat Pilgrimage’ by praying the daily offices, focusing on the Psalms, reading spiritual classics on the saints, as well as incorporating centering and contemplative prayer,” he says. “It sounds like a lot, but easily done spaced throughout the day.”

Retirement has also reawakened his calling as a priest.

“On the day we officially disbanded All Saints and moved out of the Convent Chapel, I noticed the despair in the faces of our remaining congregants and sensed their anxiety of not being able to receive the Eucharist,” says Fr. Mark. “At that moment, I literally saw them as ‘sheep without a shepherd’ and knew instantly what God was calling me to do.”

So he now meets with them periodically throughout the month, continuing their Anglican worship in homes, “like the early church.”

“As a good friend of mine once said, ‘I am not retired, I am re-fired for the Lord,'” he says.

He offers up this quote from C.S. Lewis to express his association with ADOTS and “my sincere gratitude for the privilege to serve as a Presbyter”:

It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”

 

September is Suicide Prevention Month

By Dcn. Rebecca Henderson, a Licensed Master Social Worker and ordained deacon in the Diocese of the South. She lives in Birmingham, AL where she works as a sexual assault counselor. Dcn. Rebecca serves on the ADOTS Sexual Misconduct Advisory Committee, which works to review policies and procedures surrounding sexual abuse and harassment.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and is a time to both remember those who have lost someone to suicide and also to work towards preventing it in our community and in our churches. Even today, suicide can feel like a taboo topic and one that is not discussed openly — however, remaining silent and not bringing light to the darkness is a major failing of our call as Christ’s ambassadors and ones who have the hope of the Gospel. And, with social distancing, economic hardship, disconnection from worshiping and faith communities, and the overall uncertainties and anxieties related to COVID-19, the topic of suicide is even more pressing.

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America, with approximately 132 suicides every day. For certain populations, however, the rate is even higher. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34 and the fourth leading cause of death for ages 35-54. This means even children’s and youth ministers should be aware of the risk factors and warning signs of suicide. And, with the pressures of COVID, it is likely that suicide rates will increase as people struggle with hopelessness and isolation.

What Contributes to Suicidal Ideation?

While there is no single reason for suicide, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states, “Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair.” As someone whose job has shifted to assisting with answering my organization’s crisis and suicide hotline, I’ve come face-to-face with the struggles that many are facing and the numerous reasons people think of suicide — it can be the loss of a loved one, financial strain, maladaptive thinking patterns shaped by mental health struggles, chronic pain, and beliefs that the world is better off without the person, or something else. While many times suicide is described as the ultimate selfish act, for those who struggle with those thoughts, they may believe that this would actually be the best thing for those in their life or as the only way out of a pit of despair.

Warning Signs and Risk Factors of Suicide

Just like the reasons for suicide are numerous and complex, the warnings signs that a person is thinking of suicide can also vary. A person’s mental health and history can increase their risk of suicide. While a previous attempt or battle with a mental illness does not mean a person will attempt suicide again, it does increase their risk. Being aware of a person’s previous history, their mental health, and their environment (do they have a support system, access to means of attempting suicide, etc.) is crucial to assessing both vulnerability and risk of suicide.

Warning Signs

Warning signs of suicide include a person’s speech, behavior, and emotional state. A person who talks about killing themselves, feeling hopeless or unbearable pain, or feeling trapped may be thinking of suicide. Other signs of suicidal ideation or plans include giving away items, isolating and withdrawing from others, increased use of substances, and change in eating or sleeping patterns.

It’s Okay to Ask

If you notice these things or other patterns of behavior that seem like warning signs, the best way to know is to simply ask. It is okay to ask a person, “Are you thinking about suicide?” Many times when I share this with people, they are afraid that by asking the question that they are “putting the idea of suicide” into a person’s head. The truth is that this is not how suicide works. A simple question cannot implant the idea of suicide — even when we don’t speak about it, people know about suicide, including children and young adults.

Rather, by asking this question in a nonjudgmental and open way, you are giving the person opportunity to be honest about their thoughts — whether they are suicidal or not. I also encourage people to say, “Are you thinking about suicide?” vs. “You’re not thinking about suicide, are you?” The former wants an honest answer and is open to “yes” being that answer — while the latter is looking for the answer “no.” If they answer yes, try to understand how they got to feeling this way before offering advice (unless they are at immediate risk, i.e. have the means of suicide readily available). Feeling understood and heard are important ways of helping a person feel less alone and less ashamed of their struggle.

Take It Seriously

It is also important to not take a person’s threat of suicide lightly. I have spoken to many parents, friends, and spouses who say, “I think they just want attention.” This dismissive attitude can be deadly. Any threats of suicide should be taken seriously.

How to Support Those Struggling with Suicide

When a person shares that they are struggling with suicide, it is important to support them and also help create a plan to keep them safe. If they are at immediate risk to themselves or someone else, you may want to accompany them to an Emergency Room so they can get immediate psychiatric help. If not, coming up with a safety plan can be extremely helpful.

Create a Plan

A safety plan can include things like securing things they may use to attempt suicide (guns, knives, pills, etc.) with a trusted person. It can include having a trusted person check in with them or go with them to psychiatric or counseling appointments and having someone pray with and for them as they navigate the mental health system. It also can include finding things that bring them life and joy to help support them as they struggle and by encouraging them to open up to trusted family and friends so they don’t struggle alone.

Actively Minister

Another way to support those struggling with suicide or those who have lost someone to suicide is to not shy away from the topic. We as God’s people should implore him for his healing and his comfort to those who struggle. I especially encourage churches to include a prayer in the Prayers of the People for those who have lost someone to suicide and for those who struggle with suicide. Ultimately, we need the Holy Spirit to empower us as we minister to those who are afflicted with suicidal thoughts.

More Information

For more information, visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at afsp.org.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicide, you can also access 24/7 help via the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Also check out your local crisis center to see if they have in-depth suicide prevention or education programs. For example, the Birmingham Crisis Center offers training for free from time-to-time to anyone in the community.

Rwandan Food Relief Efforts Report

The Covid-19 lockdown in Rwanda has created a food distribution emergency. All Saints Peachtree City, GA partners with the Kibungo Diocese in Rwanda, and Fr. Don Hutchens has an update on the funds sent by many ADOTS churches and individuals for this urgent need:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I bring greetings and thanksgiving from Bishop Emmanuel NTAZINDA, Bishop of the Diocese of Kibungo, Rwanda. Your generosity and compassion in the Name of Lord Jesus Christ has blessed many who were so dramatically impacted by the Rwandan government shutdown emanating from the Covid-19 outbreak! Bishop Emmanuel has provided two summary reports that chronicle what your love in Christ has done for your fellow Christians in the Diocese of Kibungo. I am providing a summary in effort to reflect the hope and care our work together has provided others in the name of our Lord.

Donations that are applicable to this summary total $7,600 and were donated in the name of three specific congregations, while many others were received electronically from other unnamed congregations and individual parishioners. It is important to note the total giving was reduced by transfer fees totaling approximately $300 at the time the funds were sent and received in Rwanda. We bundled the donations when possible to minimize the transfer costs. We recently received a donation of $5,000 from an ADOTS congregation, which will be applied to further work in feeding those throughout the diocese that are in need. To date, in total, you have generously given $12,600 to providing food to our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Kibungo!

Here is a summary of Bishop Emmanuel’s two reports:

“The vulnerable families that received relief food were selected from different parishes of Kibungo Diocese, depending on their situation they were in and and the ability to support.” (Bishop Emmanuel’s report)

264 families in six of the most impacted parishes (Rwamagana, Kanazi, Gashongora, Musaza, Bukora and Gatore) received vital food and cleaning supplies.

1465 KG of Maize flour, 1441 KG of Beans, 1265 KG of Rice, 369 Liters of Cooking Oil and 129 Bars of Soap were purchased and distributed.

A total of 4,894,250 fr were directly applied to the purchases chronicled in these two reports. That represents approximately $5,300 with the remaining transferred being utilized in the ongoing effort.

Below are pictures from Rwamagana and Gatore:

Provisions in Rwamagana.
Provisions in Gatore.

The last pictures we received were from Bukora and Gatore. The Government of Rwanda has stopped photos being taken while people were receiving the support. However, looking at the photos you can see great care was taken to pack the food in small containers for families to carry home.

The effort continues as the need is still great. Donations can still be made through All Saints Anglican Church and will be directly applied to feeding those who are most vulnerable. On behalf of the Christians in the Diocese of Kibungo, their shepherd Bishop Emmanuel and all of us at All Saints Anglican Church, thank you and God bless you for your response to the need of your fellow Christians! But, let me leave you with the direct words of Bishop Emmanuel from his second report:

We are very thankful to the Lord and to you for this provision. A true friend stands with you in happy times and in sad times. This is what friends are for. Bless you, and be assured of our thoughts and prayers.
Bishop Emmanuel NTAZINDA, Kibungo Diocese, Anglican Church of Rwanda.

Respectfully submitted your servant in Jesus Christ,
Fr. Don Hutchens (Rukundo)
All Saints Anglican Church, Peachtree City, GA

Click here to make donations through the All Saints Peachtree City online giving page. From the “Fund” drop-down menu, choose “Kibungo Diocese,” which will designate your individual or parish gift for Kibungo Diocese food relief.
Read the original article on the urgent need for food relief here.

Website Design Services by Fr. Allen Willis

Fr. Allen Willis was working for a tech company in the Nashville area – one of several companies he’s worked with in the city over the past decade – when COVID-19 surged in late March. As a result, the company underwent a massive layoff and “all but shuttered its doors,” he says.

“I took this as a ‘Divine nudge’ to launch out and create a new company from the ground up.”

Fr. Allen Willis and family, St. Michael’s Anglican

Fr. Allen is Rector for St. Michael’s in Gallatin, TN, and had already been building websites for churches and non-profits in his spare time. His new venture, New Wave Creative, focuses on web design and digital marketing specifically for small businesses, churches, and non-profits. You can learn more about the company’s passion for helping churches here.

“I’ve been able to work with several ACNA/ADOTS churches already, building websites that are affordable and incredibly easy to manage,” he says. “I think many churches have already seen the crucial nature of their web presence, especially over the last few months.”

In fact, he’s heard a number of stories from churches who struggled to update their existing sites during the pandemic, trying to deliver real-time information to parishioners and visitors amid changing local regulations on public gatherings – but finding it difficult with their current site.

“A church’s website is the single most important tool of delivering information to visitors and potential members. It’s a critical piece of both internal and external communication,” he says. “Having a website that is clear and effective and easy to update cannot be overstated.”

Church of the Messiah in Canton, GA is an ADOTS parish that has recently employed Fr. Allen’s web design services.

Fr. Jeff Falkowski, Church of the Messiah

“He has a knack for listening to what you want and putting it all together,” says Fr. Jeff Falkowski, Lead Pastor for Church of the Messiah. “I told Allen, I wanted [a] simple, but visually oriented website that told our story, while allowing us to easily update relevant information as needed. He delivered on that.”

Even though their site will have to wait for some final touches (they’ll get professional photos taken when they can gather together again in full community), Church of the Messiah has been able to stream live services during the pandemic, increasing traffic to their site.

“Overall, the webpage is far better than before and a much more pleasant and inviting place for people who want to check us out,” says Fr. Jeff. “Allen sent an easy to follow tutorial on how to make basic changes to the site. For more complex issues, Allen is available and will make those changes. If they go beyond the scope of his monthly consultant subscription, he’ll work with you to do what you want.”

The congregation of St. Stephen’s in Tullahoma, TN also recently hired Fr. Allen to build their website. Rector Fr. Terry Sweeney says Fr. Allen is flexible, knowledgeable, easy to work with, and ready to teach.

“Our goal is to make the website the place for members and quests to go for everything parish related,” says Fr. Terry. “We’ve barely begun but thus far Allen has been a very good partner in helping us reach our short term and long term goals.”

He adds that Fr. Allen’s fee structure is within reach of small church budgets.

“It’s possible for any size church to have a basic site which can be the foundation for added future features,” he says. “Our site will always be evolving. It currently has the very basics which Allen has been helpful in organizing and implementing. I’d suggest any church considering a new or first time website give him a call.”

Why Your Church Website Matters

Nearly half (46%) of church attendees said that a church’s website was important in choosing a church to visit – according to a 2012 study by the Christian Reformed Church in North America. In that same study, 33% said the internet was the first place they learned about their church.

Fr. Allen quotes another study published in Forbes, in which 94% of people cited poor web design as the reason they mistrusted or rejected a website.

So what makes an effective church website?

Fr. Allen focuses on four key areas in his design approach:
High-quality images.
Concise and compelling copy to quickly convey the most essential information.
Clear calls to action to a site visitor.
Mobile responsiveness, so it looks great on any device — whether phone or PC.

Since a website is a congregation’s online billboard, “it’s important that the DNA of the community is accurately represented through relevant content and high-quality imagery,” says Fr. Allen. “It’s also important that the most essential information is available in a well-organized way.”

From the initial design to the website’s launch, the process usually takes around four to six weeks.

“This includes a thorough discovery up front where we learn about what makes your church unique and map out a plan for content,” says Fr. Allen. “We work with churches to build sites that match their unique ministry DNA and are easy to update without the need of a web developer.”

Check out some of Fr. Allen and New Wave Creative’s recent work at the following sites:
Saint Michael’s Anglican
Holy Family Anglican
St. Stephen’s Anglican
Church of the Messiah
Solace Counseling