Dear Parishioners of Grace,

Greetings in the name of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ! What a joy it is to finally be here with you! When Pam Fite, our Sr. Warden, called back after my interview, you could have knocked me down with a feather. Yet, deep in my heart I knew it was right, and that Kathy and I were called by God to serve here at Grace Episcopal Church in Anniston Alabama.

If you were able to follow us on Facebook as we traveled across the country in a rented RV, you know we had a grand adventure with our dog Stella. The trip served as a transition time of saying goodbye to our parish family in New Mexico and preparing our hearts to say hello to you, our new parish family.

Psalm 133 begins, “Oh how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” The word that grabs me here is together. God has brought us together to serve the Gospel. The good news that Jesus is not only alive but is here with us in Anniston AL. The Bible is filled with stories of people God sends on a journey, only to find their new home. All of us are on a heart journey. How good and pleasant it is to land in our new home, together with God’s people.

Though I have not met many of you face to face yet, Kathy and I have been warmly welcomed here. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We look forward to the time when more than “two or three are gathered together,” (Matt 18:20) and we can be like the disciples on Pentecost, “all gathered in one place.” (Acts 2:1)

For now though, we gather cautiously and as safely as we can. Bishop Sloan, at this time, has asked us not to meet in our churches until after June 1st.  As our country and state opens things more and people ease up on social distancing, we must remain vigilant. Many of our parishioners are in a vulnerable category and large, indoor gatherings are a particularly high risk.  As your Rector, your safety is of the utmost importance to me and to your Vestry. Thank you for your patience as we move slowly forward together.

After some extended discussion at Vestry last night, we came to the conclusion that at this time it is not safe for the majority of us to meet together in a large group. For now, we are going to do Sunday worship “virtually.” We will celebrate Morning Prayer from the church and broadcast it by Facebook Live at 9:00 and also post it on our YouTube channel. I know this is not ideal, nor is it an adequate substitute for Sunday Eucharist. Please bear with us as we seek to make good decisions for the safety of our Church family. I thank you in advance for your understanding, patience and flexibility.

So how does the new Rector get to know his flock if we are not meeting? I’m glad you asked! You can expect a call from me in the next weeks and months. When you get a call from a New Mexico (575) area code, don’t’ immediately assume it’s a robo call. It will likely be me!

I have not worked out the details yet, but I hope to find ways to safely meet with you as individuals and as small groups. Perhaps a meet and greet coffee on Zoom? Perhaps I can drive to your house and visit with you on your porch? Please feel free to offer suggestions when I call you.

I want to thank you for your continued financial support during the quarantine.  It is important that we keep our giving up, as we still have our large expenses to support the Church. Please mail your checks to PO Box 1791, Anniston, AL 36202. You can also use Tithe.ly on our webpage. Click the GIVE button near the top of the page. Thank you so much.

We are in this together, and we are in it for the long haul. Covid-19, public health crises and quarantines will come and go, but the love of God is here to stay. This is a great time to think in fresh ways how we are the Church, the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement in today’s world. In the midst of all this, be assured of three things: God’s undying love for you, the sincere love of your brothers and sisters at Grace, and my love for you as your new Rector. Amen, Alleluia.

In Christ’s Love,

Fr. Wally LaLonde

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