Aug 222019
Saint Francis

If you have visited our parish website recently, you may have noticed that things look a little different. We decided to do a little rebranding of the parish to highlight the Franciscan nature of our parish. In our world today, we believe the message Saint Francis taught is even more important now than ever.

Saint Francis taught us to love one another regardless of our health, wealth, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, race, or creed. He hugged on lepers, sinners, saints, people of all faiths or no faith at all and worked to bring aid to the most impoverished in society. Saint Francis truly believed that when we help the most vulnerable and poor among us we are helping the Christ.

It has become acceptable in our society today to vilify the poor, those from other countries, individuals who identify as LGBTQI and those who do not think or believe like we do. This run against the message of the Gospel, and the basic tenants of being a good human being.

At Saint Francis Parish we take our role of being a beacon of hope and light in the world seriously. We welcome all people to come and celebrate the great mystery of God with us in the sacraments. It is our sacred duty to look out for those who are poor, homeless, sick, as well as those who are rich, in good health, and have homes to spare.

After our wonderful National Synod, Father Matt and I returned to Augusta full of new ideas and a renewed sense of purpose. That is why you will notice a few changes to the way we do things. The first major change was to our name and logos. We are Saint Francis Parish now. This is to highlight the family atmosphere we hope to develop at our Parish. The new logo is a design by one of our in house artist Luna Godsey. Its purpose is to remind us of the simple yet amazingly transformative nature of Saint Francis. An image of Saint Francis will grace our page about his life designed by another of our artists Lilith Chapman.

The second change will be to way we celebrate the Eucharist. The Eucharist is a celebration and as such, we will be celebrating it every Sunday. We will have new mass settings in the very near future thanks to our sister parish in Flourtown, PA. Also during Mass, everyone will be invited to stand around the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer. We are, after all, celebrating the Eucharist as a community or family of believers. As you stand at the altar unite your prayers with ours as we participate fully in the Celebration of the Eucharist.

The third change will come later this year when we introduce a small group to discuss the Old Catholic Faith. We will have more information on that coming soon.

As we work to create a more family centered parish, I hope that you will come and experience a completely different way to be Catholic!

God Bless you all!

Bishop Greg

Aug 092019

Synod and a new focus

Synod

This past week has been exhausting but wonderful! Father Matt, Deacon Dana, Subdeacon Luna and I are in Flourtown, PA for the National Synod of the Old Catholic Churches International. Synod is a time for learning, conducting church business and fellowship with our fellow clergy. It is also a great time to reflect on our church’s mission and goals.

Here at Saint Francis, we will be implementing many of the changes discussed at our National Synod. As the “National Cathedral” for our jurisdiction, we must lead the way in these things and I intend to. Likewise, we learned a lot from Bishop James St. George on how to better grow the church. And we will looking to implement many of those suggestions as well.

One of the major suggestions involved small groups. While we are still working to grow the parish and membership is low, we plan to work with Saint Alban’s to find a time that we can use the church for a weekly small group. It might be after Mass on Sunday or one day during the week.

Regardless, we will make it happen. We continue to distribute Blessing Bags and will be making up a new batch soon with some enhancements. We will also begin to build add on bags for those Pets with People, female add on bags, and add on bags for our transgender family and friends who find themselves homeless.

All of this is to make Saint Francis even more Franciscan, even more Christ-like and even more loving.

Won’t you come experience a different way to be Catholic?

Aug 022019

The church and reality

church

One of the excuses I hear from people as to why they don’t want to come to church is there are so many hypocrites in the church. My response to them has been, “There is always room for one more!” The reality is there are people in the church that are hypocrites. Some of them are hard to get along with and will try your last nerve. And there are some that you cannot help but love and want to spend time with.

When you live in community, whether it be a parish, religious order or national church, there are going to be a wide variety of personalities. And it is not our job to judge them or condemn them for who they are. Rather, it is our job to be as Christ-like as possible in the hopes that they will see our example and it will inspire them to be more Christ-like.

If you are looking for the perfect church devoid of broken people, you will never find it. There is no church that is perfect. And just like the church, none of us human beings are perfect either. Many people try to hold others to a standard that they themselves cannot achieve. And when we try to reach other people’s standards, we only hurt ourselves and damage those around us. God loves us and accepts us as we are. That should be good enough for all of us.

The church’s job is not to change you. It’s job is to inspire you to change. When it inspires you to change, then you are making the choice to be a more Christ-like person. When the church tries to make you change, it is forcing you to change. Change can only happen when you want it.

Here at Saint Francis we want to inspire you to be more Christ-like. We are not here to force you to be Christ-like. We are here to love you as you are and to be there for you as you work to follow the way of the Christ.

Come and experience a different way to be Catholic!

Jul 252019
difficult

I need to have an honest and frank discussion with you. This past week has been particularly hard for me. As pastor of Saint Francis, I put a lot of work and effort into building our parish. And sometimes that work is difficult and depressing. It is not just a nine to five job. And I cannot just turn it off when the sun goes down.

Being a minister means being there when people need you most. It is not easy and I cannot tell you the number of family meals I have missed. My wife and daughter are just as committed to the church as I am. They almost have to be or this would not work. So they understand when I have to take a call in the middle of dinner. Or when I have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the hospital or hospice.

It is even harder for me when I see ministers (or candidates) who think that ministry should be all about them. They believe that people should look at them, praise them and give them accolades. These ministers refuse to learn from those of us who have been ministers for 20+ years. Instead, they ignore our experience and work to reinvent the wheel. Some of them even take the work we have done and denigrate it and attempt to destroy it.

I have had many ministers, who I respect and admire, walk away from the ministry because of all we endure. It can be tempting sometimes, but I cannot turn my back on my calling.

And yet after 20 years, I am still plugging away. Every Sunday, without fail, we are at church waiting for you to come visit. We wait and watch for every opportunity to help our community. That is why we started the Blessing Bags program at our parish.

We continue to look for way to spread the message of God’s love to the world around us. However, we need your help. We need you to come and be a part of parish life of Saint Francis. You can make all the difference in the world! One person inviting one person can build a parish that can be a beacon of hope and light to the world around us.

Won’t you come and experience a different way to be Catholic?

Jul 192019

Growing our parish

Here at Saint Francis, we continue to work to build up the body of Christ in new and inventive ways. This week, in conjunction with MyOCCI Live, our mass videos were submitted to be included in the Roku and Amazon Fire channel line-ups so that more people can watch our broadcasts. But this is just the beginning. As we focus on growing our parish family, we will be doing more to reach out and help those in our community.

As Christians, we are called to be proactive and to help those who need it most in our community. Whether it is standing up for the immigrant among us, helping the homeless, directing those with mental health concerns to the right outlets for help, or just being present for those who are sick and suffering, we are called to do more than just watch. We are called to do.

This year our national church is holding its National Synod. Our National Synod will focus on Deepening our Commitment. This message will become part of our parish engagement and part of our outreach for the next several years. It will become our way of life.

Please join us on this exciting adventure as we work to build a loving, caring, compassionate, proactive church in the Augusta, GA area!

Come experience a different way to be Catholic!

Jul 112019

We are stronger than the wolves

wolves

Last Sunday we heard the reading about Jesus sending the 72 disciples out into the world and his warning that they were going out among wolves. This Sunday, we read about the two greatest commandments and the story of the Good Samaritan. It is a story about how we as Christians must act even in the midst of the wolves of this world.

It is hard to exhibit Christian virtues sometimes. There are so many people in our world who look out only for themselves and do not care about anyone else. They are like the priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan. They would rather walk past the bleeding and broken man than to risk getting their hands dirty.

We see this every day when people refuse to stand up against the hate and bigotry all around us. They do not want to get involved as someone racially profiles someone. It is not their problem when their neighbor has their property defaced with some bigoted hateful word just because they love someone who is the same gender as them. They turn away when words like “tranny” or “faggot” gets hurled by someone who is close-minded and bigoted.

Even worse, they see someone beat up in the street because they are from another country or because they have a darker complexion than their attacker. They refuse to support programs aimed at stamping out poverty because they feel those people do not deserve help. It is easier for them to accept that “those people” must deserve to be poor.

We as Christians, the followers of the Christ, must follow the example of the Samaritan. We must bend down and bind up our neighbor’s wounds, protect them from further harm, and show them love, compassion, and care. It is up to us to step in and stop the abuse. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the suffering around us.

Here at Saint Francis Old Catholic Church we have made a commitment to walk the path of the Christ. We do this regardless of whether or not it is popular. We cannot just pay it lip service, we must live it. And so we have started our blessing bag program to help those who need it most. Our homeless neighbors need our care every single day. In the coming year, we will be working to develop and deploy parish training on deescalation techniques. It is our hope that the use of these techniques will protect our neighbors from abuse and keep the wolves at bay. And we will continue to work on a Contemplative Prayer workshop later this year. This couples action with spirituality in our parish.

We hope you will come and experience a completely different way to be Catholic!

Jul 052019
sinners

I was speaking with a gentleman the other day and he had a lot of questions about our Old Catholic Faith. After talking with him for a bit, I asked him where he went to church. He replied that he did not go to church because it was full of sinners and hypocrites. I replied, “There is always room for one more!”

After laughing about this, the gentleman continued to discuss the situations that caused him to leave the churches he had been a part of. My hope is that the underlying message took root.

The church is not just a home for the perfect, well-adjusted, saintly Christians. In fact, the mission of the church continues to be reaching out to those who are hurt, sick, living in pain and sorrow. We are a hospital for the soul!

However, many churches do not want the suffering and sick to be part of their family. They view them as disruptive to their normal piety. Not long ago, our sister parish in Flourtown, PA hosted the art exhibit called We are all Homeless. They had signs hanging all through the church that homeless people has made asking for help. There were a couple of people who got rather angry at the whole idea. Some even decried the possibility of “those people” coming into their church.

Last Sunday we heard the Gospel where Jesus tells the disciples that the birds of the air have their nests and foxes have their dens, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. In fact, Jesus was essentially homeless! And yet his message of love, forgiveness, peace, and compassion set the world on fire.

More today than ever, we need to return to that message. Here at Saint Francis we welcome everyone. It does not matter if you are rich or homeless, sick or healthy, sinners or saints, we love you all just the same! Race, creed, sexual identity/orientation, gender identity/expression, and/or social standing does not change our love and acceptance of you.

And here at Saint Francis, you are not just welcome, you can participate fully in the life of the church. That is the call of the Gospel and we intend to live it to the fullest.

Come experience a completely different kind of Catholic Church!

Jun 292019

Growth is coming

growth

Tomorrow we will install Father Matthew Schnabel as the Associated Pastor of Saint Francis Old Catholic Church. It will be a huge milestone in the life of our parish and in the life of Father Matt. I really believe this is the start of the growth and expansion of our parish.

Growth is hard. Many people do not like to come to small parishes and would rather have groups to join, events to participate in and various people to get to know. In a small parish like ours, we do not have the groups or events yet.

In order to get to that point, we have to have people willing to join our parish and attend faithfully. It becomes a chicken and egg situation. You know, what comes first the chicken or the egg? In order to grow, our parish needs people to come and stay in our parish. But many won’t come or stay because we are not large enough to have the groups or events they want.

So we end up at an impasse. When we started Saint Francis I was confident that someday we would grow. We would become a beacon of hope, love, and light to the world around us. Our parish would be a place where everyone would be loved and welcomed. Not just welcomed, but fully part of our parish.

Time and time again I am told by visitors that they love our parish and have been looking for a parish that preaches love, acceptance, full inclusion, and hope. Many of them come once or twice and never return.

This Sunday, I encourage you to give Saint Francis another chance. If you have never come for a visit, please come this Sunday. Bring a dish for the potluck if you can. If not, please stay anyway to enjoy the food and fellowship.

Our parish will grow and will become a great beacon to the world around us. Of this I am confident. But we need you to make that happen!

Come this Sunday and experience a more loving and affirming way to be Catholic!

Jun 202019

The Messiah is among you!

Messiah is among you

There is a great story that a dear brother shared with me called The Rabbi’s Gift. In this story, an order of monks is distraught because their order is dying. The Rabbi come for a visit and leaves them with one word of advice, “The only thing I can tell you,” said the Rabbi, “is that the Messiah is among you.” As these monks reflect on the story and start to wonder about who is the Messiah, they start to treat each other as if that one is the Messiah.

Soon the whole community around the monastery notices a change. The monks are nicer, have a bit more internal peace and they seem to be enjoying their vocation. Little by little the order starts to thrive and grow again.

Today, my dear friend reminded me of this story. It came as I prepared to head to the school that has caused me so much difficulty lately. To my surprise, as I focused on treating each one of these people who have worked so hard to end what I am working to build as though they were Christ, I saw a change. They seemed less sinister, less mean, less angry. And I felt less threatened, less angry, less depressed.

Seeing the Christ in each other is a huge part of what it means to be Christian. However, we are called not just to see the Christ in our friends and fellow Christians, but even in our enemies and those who want to do us harm. We are called to love them just as we would love Christ! That is what makes us different from the rest of the world. And that is what makes our form of Catholicism different.

We should love all human beings. It is our mission in life to bring the love of God to the world. And that means even to those we consider different than ourselves. The reality is that none of us are different. We are all Children of God. And once we begin to realize that, once we start looking for the Christ in each other, we begin to see that nothing else matters. Race, creed, sexual orientation/identity, gender identity/expression, social class, or any other classification should no longer separate us if we truly look for the Christ in everyone.

And that is what we strive to practice at Saint Francis. We are standing in Augusta, Georgia with our arms wide open ready to welcome everyone. Because we strive to see Christ in each and every person who we come in contact with. And not just on Sunday afternoon either, but every day of the week.

Won’t you join us this Sunday and experience a different way to be Catholic?

Jun 132019

Happy Father’s Day to ALL our fathers

fathers day

Today I was gifted with the opportunity to visit our dear friends at the Convent of Saint Helena and visit with the sisters. The new convent (almost 3 years old!) is a beautiful and prayerful place. Tonight, they will host an art gallery with the community coming to view art and see the convent. The sisters invited my daughter and I to participate in noon prayer followed by a wonderful lunch. They said it was not much, just soup, salad and sandwiches. However, to us, it was a gourmet meal! Why? Because it was offered in love. And this got me thinking about family and fathers again.

You see, despite being from slightly different walks of life, them Episcopalians and us Old Catholics; members of the Order of Saint Helena and me a Franciscan, we sat, ate and talked like family. And we are family. Just different branches on the same tree.

This weekend we celebrate family once again as we honor our earthly fathers and our spiritual fathers. For me, my father was often gone and very distant. In fact, he did not say that he loved me until I was almost 21 years old. To this day, he has never said he was proud of me. And I doubt he ever will because he was not raised to show emotion or affection to his children.

Yet, I have had many spiritual fathers in my life that have taught me so very much. Some came into my life to teach me how not to act and behave. Others came to show me a better path of love, acceptance and mercy. I want to take a brief moment to thank a few of them.

Father David Jennings has been a father figure to me for many years. I do not think he fully understand just how much he means to me. And maybe now he will. (LOL) Even though I was the one who ordained him, he has taught me so much about love, patience, and forgiveness. Even when I was so mired in my own self-loathing and anger, he gently guided me back toward the love and grace of God. When I tried to cut myself off from him and pushed him away, he showed the love and forgiveness of God to me in his actions. As he lay on death’s doorstep a decade ago, I prayed so hard that God not let him die. I knew I still had so much more to learn from him. I love Father David so very much and I am very thankful for his guidance and care for me.

Bishop James St. George has been a constant source of love and guidance to me over these many years now. He has built me up when I was ready to give up. He has reminded me of the great need to look at the good in life, to stop and smell the roses. And when things looked the darkest in my life, he was always there with a heart emoji or a telephone call at the right moment. It is my honor to call him a friend and a part of my family. I hope he also knows just how much I love him and the love of his life Kate as well. He is a great Father and will be a great Father to his own children someday as well.

And finally, Father Kenneth Nelan who has never walked away. He has taught me more than a simple blog post can express. His zeal for life and willingness to challenge me to be a better version of myself is invaluable. He has always been there in my darkest moments and has taught me that I am worthy of love. And that I can love myself too! He continues to teach me about how to better love others and accept them no matter what. And he reminds me to take time to recharge and care for myself. And that is worth its weight in gold! I love you, Father Kenn!

These three holy men of God continue to inspire me every day. They all inspire me to be a better version of myself. And with their help, I hope that I have been a better Father to my daughter.

Join us this weekend as we honor our fathers, regardless of who they are. And in the process, experience a different way to be Catholic!

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