Why We Now Accept On-Line Giving

You can now give to Redeemer on-line

From Fr. Thomas

Giving financially to your church is not "normal." I say that because it's more than just supporting a favorite non-profit. It's an act of worship, as well as an investment in your own spiritual community.

Anglicans take giving so seriously that we do it as part of our worship. Each Sunday, we have a special time called the "offertory." At the end of it, we place our gifts on the altar. There we make our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, while also remembering the sacrifice that Christ made once and for all. The collection plates are up on the table, along with the bread and the wine. Why? Because the money that you give represents your work, and it is one of the main ways that you sacrificially give back to God.

Because of the liturgical importance of this sacrifice, we've been very slow to receive giving in other ways. For many years our church has not made it easy to give, unless you do it through check/cash in worship (though we have other ways, including direct giving from checking accounts and transfer of stock). 

This has created a problem, though. More and more people don't use checks at all. The younger you are, the more likely that you don't use checks, or carry cash. You may well do all of your banking on-line. For some people, even using a credit or debit card is becoming outdated with the rise of all the phone apps through which we can give and receive money. 

The end result of this societal transformation has been that there are members of Redeemer who are effectively prevented from giving to our church. It's almost like we're saying that their giving isn't important. In reality, everyone's giving is important. Of course giving is important to the church herself. After all, we utilize those gifts in the funding of all of our ministries. But giving is even more important to the giver (2 Corinthians 9). 

For these reasons, Church of the Redeemer now accepts giving via credit or debit card on-line. You can also set up a recurring gift if you'd like. Entirely up to you. Simply go to https://portal.icheckgateway.com/ChurchOfTheRedeemer 
We have made every effort to find a secure and responsible way of receiving your giving. 

Giving financially and sacrificially to your church is an act of worship. We hope that this system helps facilitate that aspect of discipleship in your own life.

Easter Blessings,

Thomas+

Our Incoming Children's Pastor

After an extensive period of discernment, Fr. Thomas (with the unanimous affirmation of the Vestry), has asked Mary Cady Bolin to serve as our next Children's Pastor. As with Grace Spriggs before her, Mary Cady will continue to develop our Godly Play ministry, as well as other discipleship opportunities for kids and their families. 

Mary Cady currently serves as the Bible teacher at the Oak Hill School, and she's also the chaplain of a Christian summer camp for girls. She will officially join us on July 1st, though you'll see her and her family worshiping with us from Easter Sunday on. Let's all welcome the Bolin family, and pray for God's grace and blessing as they take this new step in their life and ministry. 

Rebekka Seale will continue serving as interim Children's Pastor until Mary Cady comes on board. We're grateful for her years of volunteering, and the good work she's doing for us in this time of transition. 

Mary Cady Bolin ("Cady" pro-nounced like "Katie") grew up on Lookout Mountain, just outside Chattanooga, and she has never found a reason to live anywhere other than her beloved Tennessee. In 2001 she moved to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt University where she received a BA in Religious Studies and Art History. She later studied at Vanderbilt Divinity School where she gained her Masters of Divinity.

In the years since college Mary Cady has worked with children in clinical, recreational, academic and church settings and has loved every minute of meeting children and their families where they are- in joy, in grief, in celebration, and in growth. Mary Cady’s passion for sharing the gospel with children has led her back to her childhood camp, Camp DeSoto, where she serves every summer as Camp Pastor to 300 girls from all over the south.

Mary Cady and her husband, Brian, have two daughters: Caroline (12) and Harper (6). They also have a delightful yellow lab named Dixie with whom Mary Cady shares a daily morning run. In addition to running, Mary Cady enjoys baking, reading, and anything that involves being outside. She has weaknesses for country music, anything monogrammed, and sweet tea.

Prepare for Lent

Three of the four Gospel books tell us that Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert. Since early days, Christians have symbolically followed Jesus to the desert as a way of preparing for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The forty days leading up to Easter are a time of prayer, fasting, and self-denial. This year, Lent begins on March 1st, Ash Wednesday.

During Lent, we take on spiritual disciplines. This is the time to pray about what disciplines you will take on. You may want to give something up (sweets, alcohol, television, Facebook, etc.), or take something on (special reading, serving the poor, extra financial giving, etc.). The purpose of these disciplines is not to punish ourselves for our sins. Jesus took all the punishment for us. Rather, the disciplines are meant to empty us so that the Lord may fill us. We are making ourselves available to Christ in hopes of growing in our faith.
 
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 1st. On this day, our church offers you the chance to kneel and receive the “mark of our mortal nature.” Palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday have been gathered, burned, and turned into ashes. A priest will put this ash on your forehead in the sign of a cross while saying, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The ashes of Palm Sunday remind us that even our greatest victories fail, and that all of our glory is destined for the trash bin. We are made of the basic elements of the universe: the dirt and the dust. What we are made of, we’ll return to. Ash Wednesday sets the tone for the rest of this holy season.

Ash Wednesday Services will be held on 7:00 a.m., noon, and 7:00 p.m. The evening service will include music and childcare. All are welcome.

Keep the Mass in Christmas

I have recently engaged in conversation with some of my brothers and sisters in Christ on  the question of why a congregation should worship on Christmas Sunday morning.  Some churches are not worshiping together this Sunday because they feel that Christmas morning is a time for families. In the orthodox Christian tradition, Christmas Day not a family gathering but  a feast of the Church.  

Christians have met for Word and Sacrament every Sunday morning for 2000 years. Each Sunday morning is a Feast of the Resurrection. This Sunday is no different simply because it happens to fall on Christmas Day. On this Sunday we gather for two reasons: to celebrate the Incarnation and the Resurrection. I personally find this to be a compelling reason to at least offer the possibility of worshiping together on Sunday morning, even though there will be many who will choose not to join us. 

So, why gather for worship? The Nicene Creed says that there are four "marks" of the Church. The Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Meeting this Sunday is one important way that we show ourselves to be the Church. 

The Church gathers this Sunday because we are one. We are scattered throughout the world during the week, but we constitute the Body of Christ on Sunday, both revealing and participating in the Oneness that Jesus prays for us to have (John 17:21). Oneness is not merely theoretical, it is practical as well. Incarnation is not just something Jesus did, it's something the Church does as well. If we are not physically in proximity, at least weekly, how can we be truly one?

The Church gathers this Sunday because we are holy. That word means "different." We are not like the world. The world stays home, gathered in select groups. We may do that, too, but we also set aside time to be with all of our Christian brothers and sisters. By doing this, we are an affront to the culture that says "family first." We say to all people--to singles, the widowed, the divorced, the homeless, the lonely--that they are equally part of the Body of Christ. They don't have to "find a place to be" because they have a place to be. Your family status does not determine your value.

The Church gathers this Sunday because we are catholic. Catholic means "for all people, of all people." We meet in public, and invite the public to all of our worship services. We hold no one back (unless in the most extreme of circumstances) from meeting with us. No one is greater or lesser in a place that is here for none of us, but for all of us. Our worship is not centered on any generation, race, gender, class, or group. Rather, it is centered on the One who has made the day.

The Church gathers this Sunday because we are apostolic. The apostles themselves told us to gather (Hebrews 10:25), and from early days this meant worship on Sunday mornings (Revelation 1:10). Jesus commanded us to preach his Gospel (Mark 16:15) and remember him in Communion (Luke 22:19). We believe that Word and Sacrament are fundamental not only to Christian worship but to Christian life. By participating in worship with a community that is under apostolic authority and open to the public, we are doing everything we can to ensure preaching of the true Word and right administration of the Sacraments. 

One issue I am running into is that we Christians have different understandings of what is happening on Sunday morning. For some, our gatherings are just one of many programs. True worship happens anywhere, at any time. Sunday morning isn't categorically different. For those folks, I totally understand not meeting on Christmas. I'd frankly understand not attending church services at all. If my faith is about me, my family, and Jesus, then why not?

But that isn't the Faith as the Church has understood it throughout most of the earth through most of the centuries. The Faith is corporate, as well as personal. Catholic, as well as individual. Sacramental, as well as experiential. When we catholically worship together in Word and Sacrament, His grace is poured out, and we are given the opportunity to worship in Spirit and in Truth in a way that doesn't happen otherwise. 

Finally, let me remind you of Paul's words in Colossians 2:16-17: "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ."  Some of you will not go to church on Saturday night or Sunday morning.  Let no one judge you, and let none of us judge those who do not attend church. This is not about what any individual chooses to do; rather, this is an explanation of what we are doing, and an exhortation to consider joining us. I don't judge pastors who cancel their worship services. However, I will happily challenge them to consider what they are doing, and what they are communicating to the Church and the world. 

Bless you all.  Have a blessed Advent and a joyous Christmas,

Thomas+

St. Verena Coptic Orthodox Church

I am thrilled to tell you that St. Verena Coptic Church will begin meeting at Redeemer's facility on January 13th. 

That sentence requires some explanations, and some thoughts on hospitality. First, the explanations.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is the form of Christianity practiced primarily in Egypt and Ethiopia. The Copts trace their spiritual ancestry to Acts chapter 8, in which the Ethiopian Eunuch is converted to Christ. It is said that he brought his new faith to the Nile River Valley, and Coptic Christianity began. Today, the Coptic Church is the primary expression of Christianity in northeastern Africa.

There are presently about 20,000 Egyptians living in the Nashville area. A great number of these are Coptic Christians, and they attend seven congregations in the are. Copts worship in Arabic; however, their bishop has concluded that Nashville needs an English-speaking congregation. So, he dispatched Father Theodore to our city, and a new church plant is underway. 

After looking for a place to meet for about six months, Father Theodore and I connected recently. I was thrilled with the idea of offering him space of their church plant to worship. After dialog with the Elders and Staff, and after forming a committee to guide the process (under the direction of Fr. Kenny), St. Verena will begin to worship here in mid-January.

What does this mean for us? Primarily, we will need to give them access to the sanctuary on Friday night and Saturday morning until about noon. Other parts of the facility are still open for our use (so any 12-step meeting won't be moved). If you typically do your work on altar guild, flower guild, music, etc. during that time, you'll need to rearrange things a bit. Also, we'll have to keep this in mind when we schedule weddings. Otherwise, that time period is pretty quiet around here. Fr. Theodore is also aware that something might come up that would cause them to have to bump their time a bit on a particular weekend, though we'll work hard to avoid that.

We expect some extra strain on our facility, and I'm sure that there will be some unintended consequences. We'll be maintaining open communication, and adjusting things as we go. We'll have a period of trying things out, and then determine how to move forward in the future.

So, why are we doing this? Well, it isn't for money. They will have some costs associated with cleaning, sound, etc. But we aren't charging them for the facility. So, why? Because of Christian Hospitality. 


An Oral History of Church of the Redeemer and Christian Hospitality 

This is an edited version of a letter I wrote to our Staff and Elders a few weeks ago. We discussed the Coptic Church at an Elders' meeting, and your leaders were 100% gracious. I decided it would be helpful to write to them, letting them know my thoughts on how Redeemer has been both giver and receiver of Christian hospitality. 

I’m grateful for the discussion we had last night about the Coptic church plant. I’m especially thankful that the discussion wasn’t about IF we should do it, but HOW. That is a mark of our generosity as a congregation. Many churches wouldn’t have even considered it, and those who did would have gone back and forth for months, ensuring that it would never really happen. I have to say that I’m proud of us.

The discussion made me think about our culture as a church, and reminded me that not everyone has been here since “the beginning,” a mere 12.5 years ago. I woke up this morning at 5:00 a.m., filled with emotion about our culture, and wanting to make sure that the best of who we are is preserved as we move forward. And that’s why I’m writing today, to preserve a little institutional memory.

Before Redeemer was a church, when we were just an idea, I met with Tim Woodroof, the then-pastor of Otter Creek Church of Christ. Troy Smith, who grew up in that church, introduced us. We had breakfast at the Puffy Muffin; Troy, Tim, and me. We talked about a lot of things, but eventually talked about our space-needs. Tim offered to host us on Sunday evenings at Otter Creek. He also told us that he would not charge us rent, though there would be a cleaning fee. He was warm and welcoming.

At our first service, many folks from Otter Creek showed up. Several continued to visit throughout our time there. When we finally left, about a year later, I was asked to come on Sunday morning and give them the Benediction. I still get stopped in public places by people who were there that day, people for whom that blessing was profoundly moving. What to me felt like normal liturgy, for them felt like a move of the Father.

We met at 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. After service, we often had dinner in their fellowship hall. We used their childcare areas, too. We had special services there as well, like Christmas Eve and Maundy Thursday. 

There were some odd moments. Sometimes, we had to move to other service times, once with only a few hours of notice. One Sunday, the “stage” was decorated to look like ancient Egypt. The year we celebrated the foot-washing on Maundy Thursday, they had an incredibly loud square-dance event going on in their fellowship hall. Teenagers in odd Western costumes kept poking their heads in to watch us. You can’t make this stuff up. 

The people of Otter Creek were amazing to us. So kind, so helpful, so welcoming and loving. If something went wrong, like the time our babysitters did nothing to clean up the childcare space, I would just get a polite e-mail or phone call. We would take care of it immediately.

We left Otter Creek because we wanted to find a Sunday morning worship space. While we were looking, we were pointed toward this building on Caldwell Lane. The negotiations for buying the property were great. The price was amazing, far less than they could have demanded if they had sold the land to housing developers. However, we did have to negotiate a time of overlap. We ended up sharing this space with Brookhaven Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the previous occupants, for several weeks. We all got another chance to practice hospitality. 

Soon after moving onto Caldwell Lane, we had the opportunity to host a new church plant. Steve Fry was leaving Belmont Church, and was starting his own congregation. We invited them to meet here, which they did, on Sunday evenings for about a year. They took over the sanctuary, for sure. A huge video screen came in, and you could clearly hear the praise music from the street. Sometimes the bathrooms got overloaded, and sometimes our children’s stuff got moved around. But it was a blessing to them, and to us. They were grateful, and we offered our space at no rent. We felt like we should love our neighbors as we had been loved.

Since that church left, we have hosted two others. Each of them were smaller, met on Sunday evenings, typically in the chapel, though sometimes in the living room. They both left not long after they got big enough to meet in the sanctuary. 

Besides churches, we also host other groups. Homeless men with Room in the Inn, small Christian concerts, Hutchmoot, 12-step groups, parties, fund-raisers, Anglican meetings, book-clubs, voting booths, and even an occasional youth group traveling through town have all received our hospitality. 

Starting a new church is hard, or at least there are hard things about it. One of the hardest is finding a space that will work. Some churches are happy to meet in an unused movie theater or in a hotel conference room. But for some of us who are more embodied, a sense of place is quite important. Those of us who were here “in the beginning” know this well, which is why we’ve historically been as generous as we could be with others in the same position.

God has richly blessed us. Our facility is amazing. We’ve worked hard to make it this way, to be sure. But God has been awesome. We have this place debt free, and are doing very well in both giving and attendance. I feel like a key way we show our gratitude to the Lord, and a key way we maintain our character as an institution, is to pass love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and to lay down our lives for fellow believers. 

When the Coptic church meets here, there will be struggles. They will break something. They will leave something dirty. Something might event get stolen, or at least lost. We’ll probably have to move them around a couple of times. Feelings will get hurt. That’s what happens. But what an opportunity we have! To engage in partnership with fellow believers from a different culture, to offer a home to the “homeless,” to love others in Jesus name. I’m thrilled!

Church of the Redeemer is such a great community. I’m honored to be part, and I’m so thankful that you all are so generous. Thank you.

Blessings to you, and blessings to our Coptic brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thomas+