in New York
This Week at Grace
This Week’s Services
Wednesday, January 16
6 p.m. Holy Eucharist, in the Chantry
Sermon: The Rev. Chase Danford
Sunday, January 20
The Second Sunday after the Epiphany
9 a.m. Holy Eucharist
Sermon: The Rev. Julia Macy Offinger
Music: The Parish Choir
11 a.m. Morning Prayer
Sermon: The Rev. Julia Macy Offinger
Music: The Adult Choir
6 p.m. Holy Eucharist
Sermon: The Rev. Julia Macy Offinger
Music: Hymns with Instrumentalists
My Journey with Unity House
Duy Nguyen, Episcopal Service Corps Fellow
When I was a kid in Vietnam, I two of my friends were neighboring boys who were cousins. They lived, along with their parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, in three different but interconnected living spaces. The family of one boy was Buddhist, and the other was Catholic. Like many Vietnamese families, each family had an altar in their living room that displayed images of divine figures from their respective traditions – the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for one family, and Jesus and Mary for the other. Despite their differences, the boys and their families were just like any other family. They cooked, they played, they fought, and when one of their loved ones dies, they mourn together through Christian hymns and Buddhist sutras.
The boys and their families are not exceptional. Many Vietnamese families are interfaith, and like those in the US they learn to live and love one another as they also live and love their faith traditions. Here in New York, interfaith coexistence is also a way of life. We share our lives with loved ones and strangers whose religious beliefs and practices differ from ours. However, with the tragedy of 9/11, along with the arrival of prominent actors on the political stage whose platforms rely on fear and resentment of those deemed different, many Americans both here and elsewhere have started to forget how to coexist with their neighbors of different faiths. In the midst of this chaos, Grace Church and the Islamic organization Who Is Hussain decided to work together at the Unity House to remind New Yorkers and the world of great things we could accomplish when we work together.
I first learned about Unity House during my interview with Father Waring for my position at Grace. I remember loving the idea of working with another faith community. I even bought a Qur’an before departing for New York. But I must admit I was hesitant about working at a construction site, having had little to no prior experiences. I was also worried about the winter and how it would impact our work. When I arrived at the site, it was truly daunting. The house was a dilapidated structure in Queens, surrounded by finished, attractive homes serving as reminders of how much work waits ahead.
At each build day we begin with a quick introduction to the site and instructions regarding proper clothing, as well as the locations of various tools. A Habitat site manager then explains different tasks around the house. On my first build day, I was tasked with nailing down the plywood to the floor of the house. Having no prior experience, it took me many tries before the first nail was successfully put down. By the end of the day my arms were sore and my body exhausted. I remember thinking to myself that maybe I had made a mistake in signing up for this program, and I certainly did not look forward to the next time I would be on site.
But, as I attended more of these build days, I began to enjoy the work more. I love learning new skills. I love the sense of accomplishment that accompanies every bolt and nail that I am able to put into the wall or the floor. And most of all, I love the camaraderie between the volunteers. Of course, we’re aware that there are differences between the people of Grace Church and Who Is Hussain. We came from different traditions, different places in the city (even outside the city), and different ethnic backgrounds. But these differences do not outweigh the one thing we do share – our commitment to the house and to the people who will inhabit it. And so, the volunteers work with one other seamlessly.
With each hammer swung and each meal shared and each conversation traded, we learn more about one another and grow to appreciate each other’s presence more than when we started. Like the neighboring boys of my childhood, we become an interfaith family.
In his early essay on non-violence, Martin Luther King spoke of “the beloved community” as a way to seek justice and forgiveness without revenge and retaliation. How do we understand this concept, ethically and theologically, in our own times? Led by Dr. Nicholas Birns, Professor at NYU. Held in the Reception Room; coffee is served.
“Unity House” is a Habitat for Humanity home Grace Church is working on in partnership with the Muslim community Who Is Hussain. Generally there is a carpool leaving from Grace Church at 8am. Sign up at our Outreach page. Contact the Rev. Chase Danford for more information. Next build day is Feb 23.
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January 20, 2019
This coming weekend the nation will observe the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Baptist preacher whose work and witness galvanized the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The United States is by no means a perfect union, but we are a better country today than we would have been without Dr. King. His words still inspire, and at the Sunday Forum Grace Church parishioner and NYU professor Nick Birns will lead us into a deeper understanding of an essay that King wrote about nonviolence. Please read below for more information about the session. Also, at all three of our worship services we will sing the rousing hymn that is associated with the civil rights movement: Lift Every Voice and Sing. If you plan to be in the city during the long weekend, do plan on joining us.
Martin Luther King, Jr. made a positive difference in the world. So can we. A date to mark on your calendars now is Saturday, February 23rd. We are calling it “The Parish Day of Service.” Our goal is to get as many Grace Church parishioners as possible involved in an outreach project that day, so that in a small way our community will be a better place than it would have been had we stayed home and slept late (one of my favorite things to do on Saturday). Not only will our geographical community improve, but our parish community will grow deeper and closer as we work side-by-side and get to know one another.
We are offering three opportunities to reach out: 1. Serve a meal to the hungry, 2. Offer food and shelter to the homeless, and 3. Build an affordable home for a family (this one is our ongoing Habitat for Humanity partnership with the Muslim organization.) Check out the announcements posted below for more information. Yes, February 23rd seems like a long way off, but the nature of our busy schedules requires five weeks if not more advance planning. Do some thinking and praying about which opportunity seems right for you, and then sign up by emailing Chase. I hesitate to set goals that are too lofty, but let’s see if we can have 50 Grace Church people involved across the three ministries of The Day of Service.
Much of the news these days is full of darkness. Here’s a chance to shine some light. See you in church.
Parish Day of Service, February 23rd
Hope for Our Neighbors in Need: Church of the Village (201 W. 13th Street), 11:30 am- 3:00 pm, all ages welcome
Don’t Walk By: Homeless Outreach: New York Chinese Alliance Church (160 Eldridge Street), shifts between 12:30 – 8:30 pm, must be 18+
Unity House Build Day: Jamaica, Queens. Carpool departs Grace at 8:00 am, must be 16+