The Body of Christ
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.
Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
This ancient prayer by St. Teresa of Avila is an echo of St. Paul’s teaching that the church is the body of Christ. We are Christ’s body with and for one another in the church through our prayers, our teachings, and our fellowship. But we are also the body of Christ to the world beyond our doors.
In the church we tend to call this “outreach,” reaching beyond ourselves and our own needs to serve the needs of those in the world, both in our own community and on distant shores.
There are many ways to do this, of course. One is financial. Sometimes money is what is needed in a crisis, or a way to meet an ongoing need. St. Dunstan’s has always been a parish that is financially generous. Our outreach endowment allows us to make financial gifts to organizations. And individual parishioners often make financial donations in time of need.
Here are some of the ways that we have done that this year: In recent weeks the vestry has allocated $7,500 to Episcopal Relief and Development for hurricane relief. We also allocated $2,500 (to which parishioners added another $2,000) to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Houston to help that community in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
This year the vestry has also allocated $3,000 to El Refugio, a hospitality house in Lumpkin, GA., which serves as a guest house for people visiting family and friends in the Immigration Detention Center there. We’ve allocated $1,000 to Path Academy in DeKalb County for their students’ needs (in addition to the school supply drive we held for them).
We gave $1,200 to Emmaus House to support a student in this summer’s Freedom School, a program to encourage children to continue reading through the summer. We have sent $5,000 to the Msalata Theological School in Tanzania to help that community with health care needs.
We’ve given $2,500 to New American Pathways to help support our refugee family, the Dallous, as well as other support – such as buying diapers for the family, and helping with medical bills for them.
We also every year make financial contributions to Family Promise, the program that helps provide shelter to homeless families; to Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, which provides services to people with mental illnesses and handicaps; and to Church of the Common Ground, a church outdoors in downtown Atlanta that serves many without homes.
All of these financial contributions provide much needed help to people in crisis or need. It is an important way for us to be the body of Christ in the world beyond ourselves.
But it’s not the only way. Equally important is the gift of time, of volunteering to help others. Many of our parishioners do that on their own, or through organizations outside of the church.
As a church community we have three major programs with which we provide “hands on” outreach – at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, where four times a year we serve the community Wednesday night dinner; through Family Promise, where four weeks a year we open our doors to provide shelter for homeless families; and through our new refugee ministry.
I’ve asked people involved in those hands on ministries to reflect on their experiences. I’ll let them take it from here.
There is nothing as fulfilling as helping those less fortunate. The folks at Holy Comforter struggle with life; most live in group homes and cope with mental challenges. Serving or cooking and buying food for the Holy Comforter folks can fill us with joy as we fill their tummies. It is an opportunity to serve the “least of these”, as Jesus instructs us in Matthew 25:40: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me.” Outreach is part of being an active Christian; attending worship and talking the love of God out into the world. It takes a village. Our next time to serve dinner at Holy Comforter is October 25. Please come join us!
Gilda Morris, Holy Comforter coordinator
Each time I volunteer during Family Promise week, I come away with heart-touched feelings. I’m awed by kids who easily give hugs and remind me that we need to say grace (which they lead!). Or special moments like when a mom tearfully thanks me for reading a story to her child. The best moments are those that make me so grateful to be able to help.
Mimi Gold, Family Promise coordinator
Shortly after moving to Atlanta I found St. Dunstan’s during a search online for a small Christian church close to my home. I decided to explore it even though I had never been to an Episcopal church. I drove by and liked what I saw. It reminded me of a song my father liked to sing called “The Little Brown Church in the Wildwood.”
On my first visit I felt a warm welcome. ON my second visit my niece and her little yorkie came with me to the Blessing of the Animals. Eventually I joined the confirmation class and united with the church. Following a subsequent service, the priest called for volunteers to coordinate the Family Promise program, which was in transition. I volunteered, but requested that she find someone to work with me. Lucky for me she found two proactive, energetic ladies (Mimi Gold and Ellen Taratus), who have been wonderful to work with.
When I volunteered I was thinking: this is an opportunity for ME to maintain my professional skills (licensed certified social worker); I can meet new people; I can learn more about the Episcopal church, I can learn my way around the city. Sounds self serving? Yes, it does!! While my motivations were authentic, I have learned it is true that when you give of yourself you get more in return.
This has been my experience working with the homeless families we host. I have seen myself and friends in some of the individuals we have served and I think we are motivating them to extend their reach. I know we are enabling them to achieve their short term goals of stable employment and housing. I have also been touched by the compassion and kindness of Family Promise volunteers.
Our next Family Promise host week is November 12-19. Join us!
Vivian Siggers, Family Promise coordinator
Starting on May 9 this year, I have been happily making the trip down I-285 to Clarkston every third Tuesday as a member of Team Sanaa – the three of us from St. Dunstan’s (my teammates are Sherri Crawford and Jen Boerner) who have been providing English tutoring to Sanaa, the young mother of five children in the family of Syrian refugees whom our parish has embraced.
The experience has been both heart-warming and enjoyable for me, and I hope that it has helped Sanaa to feel more comfortable in her use of English in her day-to-day encounters. We have been using a very helpful and comprehensive handbook provided by New American Pathways as we lead Sanaa through 11 units of study ranging from introductions and greetings to understanding directions to talking about employment and job skills. At all times, Sanaa has been an eager and willing student even though her responsibilities as a mother of five (including Munther, an under-2 toddler) must be quite a heavy load for her.
Sanaa seems to enjoy having the opportunity to build upon what little English she learned in Syria and to practice what she is learning from us and others around her. Although I refrain from asking too many questions about her past life, I find it gratifying to hear about what Sanaa experienced in her journey from Syria to Jordan, and finally, to America. I think that one of the most important things for Sanaa was and is being able to meet and interact with other adults since she is mostly confined to the house with Munther and her mother-in-law Aesheh. Sanaa has passed the written driving test, and I’m sure that she is looking forward to getting her driver’s license and being able to go out more in the future. (A trip to the dentist to have a tooth extracted should not be the highlight of her week!)
I was very eager to become involved in St. Dunstan’s outreach to Sanaa’s family because I have always considered it vital for myself and for any parish to which I belong to reach beyond our own natural borders to help others. As a child, I grew up learning the stories of Ruth and Naomi and the Good Samaritan; but as an adult and especially in recent years, I have become more and more aware of how often, both in the Old and New Testaments, we are urged to reach out to and support the “foreigners” and the “strangers” in our midst. Therefore, I will always be grateful for the opportunity that I have received at St. Dunstan’s to do God’s will and God’s work as I continue to be involved with Sanaa and her family.
“So you, too, must show love to foreigners…” (Deuteronomy10:19)
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers…” (Hebrews 13:2)
It is purely out of selfish greed that I volunteer (along with Suzanne Van De Mark and Susan Glenz-Pearce) to teach English as a Second Language to Aesheh al Mohamid, mother of Ibrahim Dallou, mother-in-law to Saana and grandmother to five beautiful children.
Aesheh and all of this beautiful family have the most incredibly precious gifts – of hospitality, of eagerness, of affection, perseverance, and sincere joy. They are smart, beautiful, and brave.
One hug from Aesheh feels as though my mother, God rest her soul, has me in her arms. It is emotional.
Here we are, meeting together despite our basic language barriers (although it’s coming along). And therefore, we have no choice but to use the most sincerest form of communication that exists, the extending of a hand, looking into Aesheh’s face, getting those hugs – it is communication in its purest form because sometimes words are not enough. Sometimes words are not adequate. Sometimes words get in the way. Sometimes we human beings mess up and say the wrong thing. But the act of reaching out to take their hands, to embrace the Dallous, seeing the light dance in their eyes…it is truth, and it is beauty in its rawest form. And there is the realization that we are not different. We really are “the same.”
I was not prepared for this, the deepest of connections. This initial experience of receiving the Dallous into my life washed over me like a great wind, waves of wind, followed by the sense that I was being enveloped by a soft, warm blanket as I sat in their home.
Aesheh hangs on my every inexperienced word as we go over her address, how to introduce herself, how to call 911. She is so eager and we throw our hands up into the air and celebrate, “Yes!” “Great job!” “Wonderful!” And more hugs.
They invite me to stay for dinner. Ibrahim kisses Sanaa on the forehead and tells her, “Thank you, my honey.”
To what can I compare this experience? Perhaps when I laid eyes on my children for the first time and when I get to see them again now that they’ve grown up and moved away. It is a sweeping of my heart and soul and it must be God sending me the love of Jesus as if I’m hearing it for the first time.
And this is why I go back again and again, greedily taking it all in. They are proud and lovely and it’s amazing just watching these new Americans-to-be bravely making the United States their home – and making us, St. Dunstan’s, part of their family.
Anyone interested in joining us in working with Aesheh and the Dallous – sharing the love, I would be happy to talk to you. You are bound to get hooked – in a skinny minute.
Thank You, Susan Teat
Susan Teat, who has been our faithful parish administrator for nine years, has decided it is time to retire. Please join us on October 8 as we recognize Susan and her years of faithful service at the 10:45 service and a reception afterwards.
Bless the Beasts
Our annual Blessing of the Animals will be October 8 at the 10:45 service. Bring your furry, feathered, or finned friends to church with you this day to receive God’s blessing. We ask that dogs be on leashes and cats and other animals in carriers. Note: No Sunday School this day.
Pigs Are Flying!
It is time for one of St. Dunstan’s most popular events, the annual Flying Pig BBQ. Join us in the Beech Grove on Sunday, October 1, for good food, music, and fellowship.
Tickets are $15; $5 for children under 10. Bring a side dish or dessert to share. There are sign up sheets in the parish hall for food, and help setting and cleaning up.
This year Geoff Walker, our chief BBQ guru for many years, is handing the tongs over to John Gimson. There are not enough words to express our appreciation to Geoff for all he has done.
And we thank John Gimson for taking on the mantle. If you would like to be part of his crew contact him.
Presiding Bishop Visits Atlanta
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the symbolic head of the Episcopal Church, will be in Atlanta this month. There are two chances to see and hear him.
On Wednesday, October 11, at 7 p.m. he will speak on moral leadership at Candler School of Theology at Emory. His address will be followed by a panel discussion with him, Bishop Rob Wright, and the Rev. Kim Jackson. The evening, which is open to the public, begins with a reception at 5 p.m.
At noon on Friday, October 13, Bishop Curry will preach at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. The service is open to the public.
If you can make either of these, I urge you to attend. Bishop Curry is a dynamic, exciting preacher.
Some of you spoke to me as a result of my Bellows article last month; you offered that music is a factor in your spiritual life and that it is important in your worship experience at St. Dunstan’s.
Your responses prompt me to comment on a recent Gallup poll, reported in Christian Century, dealing with why people attend church. The top two factors – about 75 percent each – are “sermons or talks that teach you more about scripture” and “sermons or lectures that help you connect religion to your own life.” Then come programs for children and youth, community outreach, strong leadership, and social activities.
Coming in at last place is everything music related; only 38 percent of respondents say that music is a factor. These numbers make music seem relatively unimportant. My experience suggests that is the wrong conclusion to draw. As a church musician, I wonder what I should do with this information.
One thing I should do is ask whether and how successfully music supports the other factors. We Episcopalians hopefully experience our liturgical worship as all of a piece, with scripture, sermon, and music all planned around the cycle of scripture readings called the lectionary, and all supporting a few central ideas or themes each week. Contrary to what the Gallop poll suggests, there are not separate factors, at least not at St. Dunstan’s.
At the end of communion each week, we pray that since we have been fed “with spiritual food,” we can now go out into the world “to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses…” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 366) Everything that happens at church, including music, is, it seems to me, intended to work together in support of this prayer.
Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth, with your breath you gave life to all creatures and declared them good. Keep us mindful of this first, most holy blessing as we offer our own blessings upon our companion animals.
Remind us always that we were created in your image – the image of a loving and compassionate God. And in this image we are called to care for your creation.
Open our hearts and minds to the lessons we may learn from our companions. To live fully in the present. To love unconditionally. To face each day expecting joy.
Help us always to do your will on earth, so that you may look upon our work and declare it good. Amen.
Lynn L. Caruso