An Update on COVID-19 for the people of the Advocate from Dr Peter Morris

On March 8, Advocate and former public health official Dr Peter Morris offered an open conversation for the people of the Advocate about COVID-19. As quickly as circumstances are changing within the state of North Carolina and in the Triangle particularly, Nathan Kirkpatrick invited Peter for a follow-up ZOOM conversation. You can watch a recording of their conversation from March 23 here.

Join us online on Sunday, March 22

As we continue to adjust to a new way of ‘being together’ as the Advocate during this season, tomorrow we add two new offerings to our morning lineup. 


First, at 9 a.m., Elizabeth Brewington will be hosting an online 45-minute version of Kids’ Christian Ed. Every kid who loves coming on Sunday mornings to the Advocate will want to be online! 


Then, immediately following our 10 a.m. service of Morning Prayer, we will take a 5-minute break, and then, at about 11:05, we will start an online coffee hour. Through the miracles of technology, all those wishing to stay for coffee hour will be subdivided into breakout groups for coffee and conversation (you’ll have to bring your own coffee!). If you don’t want to stay or can’t stay for coffee hour, no worries — you’ll just leave the meeting during the 5-minute break. 


You can access all of these activities through the links below. 

I look forward to seeing you in church online tomorrow!

Sunday, March 22 — Lent IV — Laetare Sunday

Online Kids’ Christian Ed
9:00 a.m. (the room will open at 8:50 a.m.) 
Join the Zoom room here — https://zoom.us/j/347477235

Morning Prayer, Rite II 
10:00 a.m. (the room will open at 9:50 a.m.) 
Join the Zoom room here — https://zoom.us/j/814965144
You can read the liturgy here — https://www.bcponline.org/DailyOffice/mp2.html
You can find the readings here — http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearA_RCL/Lent/ALent4_RCL.html

Online ‘Coffee Hour’
11:05 a.m.
Join the Zoom room here — https://zoom.us/j/814965144
(It’s the same Zoom room as Morning Prayer, but just in case we have any latecomers!)

Update for Saturday, March 14, and links for Sunday worship

The following letter was sent to the People of the Advocate by Priest Associate Nathan Kirkpatrick on Saturday, March 14, 2020.

Dear People of the Advocate –

I hope this finds you well.

As Lisa and I said in the video on Facebook yesterday, we are transitioning our worship services online for the coming weeks. Tomorrow morning, we will gather online at 10 a.m. for Morning Prayer with a homily offered by Marisa Sifontes, our beloved former intern. (If you are not familiar with the liturgy, you can read it here.) We will be using Zoom, and when the time comes to join us in prayer, you can follow this link. If you have never used Zoom before, you will want to log on a few minutes early to make sure that you have the software you need on your computer. If you have trouble with Zoom, their Help Center is actually that – helpful. Also, if you misplace this email, the link will be posted online, too.

Tomorrow evening at 8 p.m., we will be gathering by Facebook Live for Compline. Personally, I think Compline is the most beautiful liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer. It is a perfect way to end a day and to pray for peace through the night hours. If you aren’t familiar with Compline, you can read it here. Dan LaVenture will be leading us. Facebook Live is less participatory than Zoom, so we will not get to see one another, but we can pray together nonetheless.

In the days ahead, all church events remain canceled. That said, please know that the Advocate Chapel is – and will remain – open for individual prayer, meditation and reflection from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily. You are also invited to pray the Stations of the Cross around the Advocate pond.

We are committed to finding creative ways of nurturing our community besides Sunday prayer, as important as that is. As you have ideas, please do not hesitate to be in touch with me. In the meantime, though, let me encourage you to access the Advocate directory and reach out to one another. Let’s text each other, call each other, or send a quick email just to say “I’m thinking of you.” Reach out to the people who usually share your row on Sunday morning. Reach out to the person in book group or dinner group or altar guild with you. Reach out to that family whose kids always make you smile. Reach out to the person whose quiet presence gives you comfort or whose prayers always break your heart. Now more than ever, let’s keep on caring for each other.

As fragile and fraught as this time may feel, communities like the Advocate offer hope to the world that, though we are apart, we are never alone. I’m grateful to be part of the people of the Advocate with you.

See you on Zoom in the morning.

In hope,

Nathan+

For the time being, all church activities canceled

The following email was sent to the People of the Advocate by Priest Associate Nathan Kirkpatrick, on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Dear People of the Advocate — 

Social distancing. I had never heard that phrase before COVID-19 was the headline of every night’s newscast. Yet, it is a reality I have felt acutely for years now. I suspect you have, too.

As a country, we have witnessed social distancing between people who disagree politically – “red state” people and “blue state” people. We’ve seen social distancing between those who disagree theologically and ethically – what is the reach of grace? We’ve watched it happen between those in the top income brackets and those in the bottom. We’ve known it as feelings of loneliness and isolation rise even as we are more technologically tethered to one another than ever before. Social distancing.

Robert Putnam, the sociologist, saw this coming when he wrote Bowling Alone in the 1990s. What he observed in his research was that Americans had fewer encounters with people who differed from us, fewer opportunities to practice being in relationship with people who disagreed with us. We were becoming strangers to one another, and if strangers, we were becoming suspicious of one another. Social distancing.

It’s why being the people of the Advocate together matters. Week by week, we create real community with one another. We span generations and gender identities. We are gay and straight and everything in between. We cross political parties and theological beliefs. We are wealthy and comfortable and struggling to pay the bills all at the same time. We are healthy, healing, recovering and ill. We are hopeful, joyful, brokenhearted and anxious. But, week by week, when we come together, we reduce the social distance that so many of us know in other realms of life.

Now COVID-19 is requiring a measure of actual physical social distancing. As a people of faith and as a nation, we are confronted with a paradox. At a time when we need community the most, the tangible practices of being community must be adapted or suspended to slow the spread of the virus. As Advocate Peter Morris asked provocatively, “how will we adapt our life together to safeguard our people as best as we can while also continuing to provide real community?”

This is the question before us, especially since Lisa and I received word late this afternoon from our bishops that, effective immediately, all church activities across the Diocese of North Carolina are to be canceled for the next two weeks (through March 28). This includes Sunday and weekday worship, book studies, prayer groups, meals and meetings. The only exceptions the bishops offered are for funerals, food pantries, and churches that serve as shelters for housing insecure persons. In two weeks, the bishops, in conversation with the clergy of the diocese and appropriate health department officials, will reassess the situation to see if these cancellations will continue or will lapse. (You can read the bishops’ statement on the Diocesan website.)

Friends, to the best of my knowledge, these are unprecedented actions that underscore the seriousness of this moment. Lisa and I will be meeting tomorrow morning to discuss how we might gather for worship online and support one another generally in the weeks ahead. You will hear more from us before Sunday, and as you have ideas, please be in touch.

For now, though, it matters that we find creative ways to be community for and with one another even when we cannot gather face-to-face. It matters not just to the Advocate but to our neighbors and to the world. Our community is a witness of hope in the midst of fear, peace in the midst of panic, and faith in the midst of uncertainty.  

As ever, you are in my prayers. May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep all our hearts and minds. 

Peace, Nathan+

Sermon: March 1, 2020

A sermon preached by Nathan Kirkpatrick, priest associate at the Advocate

If they were taking nominations for an eighth deadly sin, 
To join the ranks of greed, lust, wrath, pride, envy, gluttony, sloth — 
Sandy Deal, my high school English teacher,
would offer lazy writing for consideration. 
Lazy writing, she would say,
robs language of its evocative, provocative, 
persuasive, catalytic power. 
Sloppy sentences, 
passive voice for no good reason,
an over-reliance on cliches — 
all were the bane of her existence.

But her chief annoyance in lazy writing 
was the use of the word very
Ms Deal dared us to expand our vocabularies 
so that we would never think to write that a book was very interesting;
instead, it needed to be compelling, arresting,
intriguing, enthralling even.
We would never imagine writing that a character was very sad; 
instead we would write that they were morose, brooding, melancholy. 
No one was ever very thirsty in Ms Deal’s room, they were parched. 
You get the idea.

As I have read and reread today’s Gospel lesson,
it occurred to me how pleased Ms Deal would be 
with the biblical translators.
Note where we begin. 
Immediately after his baptism, 
St Matthew tells us that the Spirit drives Jesus
out into the wilderness
for forty days of fasting and prayer. 
And at the end of those forty days, 
St Matthew writes that Jesus is famished —
not a little hungry, not very hungry —
but famished,
that word that comes from the Middle English “to starve.”
More than hungry, more than very hungry, 
literally starving. 
Ravenous. Famished. 
Ms. Deal would approve. 
Sure, there are other translations that say
that, after forty days and forty nights,
Jesus was very hungry or even just plain hungry. 
Ms. Deal would not approve
because, of course,
what St Matthew is describing is not just a hunger pang
but a state of being — of being at your limits, beyond your limits, 
worn down, worn out,
nothing left, yearning, searching,
longing for a morsel, a crumb 
something to sustain, something to satisfy. 
Ravenous. Starving. Famished.

And it’s then when Jesus is in that place
that the voices come — 
in what the tradition has called the temptation of Jesus. 
It’s then that the devil appears and offers him three things.

Quick sidebar. 
As you know, as sophisticated hearers of Scripture,
that when we are talking about the devil,
about Satan in Scripture, 
we are not talking about the terrifying figure of medieval paintings 
or the sinner-devouring creation of Dante 
or even the little guy in the red pajamas with a pitchfork.
When Scripture speaks of Satan, of the devil,
it speaks of the angel who went rogue and went wrong,
it speaks of the Adversary, the one who is against us,
the Accuser, the prosecutor who charges and condemns us, 
the metaphorical roaring lion who seeks to destroy us. 
In this instance in particular, Satan is the voice of self-satisfaction,
self-protection, and selfish ambition:
Turn these stones to bread (self-satisfaction),
Throw yourself down (self-protection),
All that you see can be yours (selfish ambition). 
In the reading from Genesis, 
Satan in the form of the serpent
is the voice of amnesia — 
forget who you are,
forget who you were created to be.
“If you eat this, you will be like God,” the snake hisses,
when we are clearly told just verses before that
Adam and Eve were created in the very image of God
and were already like God in every way that mattered.

I digress. 
It’s when Jesus is famished, 
run down, worn out, depleted, 
that the voices come, that temptation comes to him. 
Satisfy your own need. 
Preserve yourself at any cost.
Serve your own ambitions.
And, of course, Jesus foils each temptation, 
with the story concluding that Satan leaves him 
and the angels arrive to care for him. 
In St Luke’s telling of the story,
it ends somewhat more ominously —
with the devil departing from Jesus “until an opportune time.”

I wonder if you know something about
the heart of this story in your own life, 
if you know what it means, what it feels like to be famished in your spirit. 
I wonder if you know something
about being at your limits, beyond your limits, 
worn down, worn out, with nothing left,
yearning, searching, 
longing for something to sustain, something to satisfy. 
If you know something about being ravenous, starving,
about being in that very place — that wilderness place —
maybe where grief weighs on a soul;
where regret takes its toll, 
where choice and possibility paralyze. 
If you know something about
what it means to carry shame with us and within us. 

I wonder if you know something
about the voices that sound so loud
when we’re in that kind of soul space. 
The voices of self-doubt  that taunt 
you are not enough and who do you think you are
The voices of despair that 
tempt us to abandon hope.
The voices of suspicion 
that make us strangers to one another
and, if strangers, then also threats.
The voices of rage that divide and destroy. 
The voices of self-satisfaction that tempt us to get our own first. 
The voices of selfish ambition that call us
not to our better angels 
but to our lowest scheming selves. 
The voices of self-protection 
that whisper to us in this moment to stockpile a lifetime’s worth of Clorox wipes or buy out a nation’s supply of surgical masks.
The voices of fear 
That say that this is 1929 or 1939 all over again. 

If we know something about being soul hungry,
if we know something about standing in the wilderness,
if we know something about the voices that come,
then this Lent
these forty days are an opportunity, a chance really to find our way out. 

In 1760, the Anglican priest John Wesley
wrote this to one of his colleagues 
who was teetering on the edge of burn out: 
“Do not starve yourself any longer 
…Do justice to your own soul;
 give it [the] time and means to grow. 
Fix some part of every day for private exercise … 
Read and pray.
You may acquire the taste which you have not; 
what is tedious at first will afterward be pleasant. 
It is for your life; there is no other way;
else you will be … a pretty, superficial preacher.”

That’s the invitation Lent offers to each of us and all of us.
The paradox is that this fast can become our feast.
We don’t have to starve our souls any longer. 
In this season, we can
Feast on the bread of life,
Drink from the cup of salvation.
Fix some part of our every day to read, to pray, to dream, to hope,to work, to remember who and whose we are. 
So that we might hear a different voice. 
A voice that says:”You are my beloved, with whom I am well-pleased.” 
A voice that says: “Be not afraid.” 
A voice that says: “You are not alone.” 
Whether it’s here on Sunday mornings 
or Sunday night’s evening prayer
or Wednesday night’s book study 
or contemplative prayer or the weekly house dinner
or walking the stations of the cross around the pond,
or offering food, money or time,
or working the land or cooking for the men’s shelter —
whatever this Lent will give your soul 
the time and means to grow. 
Figuring that out, committing to it and doing it — 
Well, that seems like a very good idea. 

Oh. Sorry, Ms. Deal.  That seems like a stupendous idea. 

Amen. 

Let’s Walk the CROP Walk together March 29!

Help combat hunger in our own communities and throughout the world by participating in the annual CROP Hunger Walk on Sunday, March 29.  The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Hunger Walk steps off at 2:30 p.m.  at the Carrboro Town Commons.

Register and Raise funds in Person 
You can register in person by completing a Sign-in Sheet and Donation Envelope, available in the Advocate Bell Tower or from Team Co-captains Nancy Trueblood or Sallie Moore. 

Register and Raise Funds Online
Visit https://www.crophungerwalk.org/chapelhillnc/Click on Join Our Team (Advocate Episcopal Church) create your own account and learn how to share your online profile through a custom url, email, or on social media so that friends and family can donate to the walk through you.

Purchase a T-shirt
For $6 you can purchase a T-shirt to show your solidarity with our walkers.  See Nancy or Sallie, or email trueblood.nancy@gmail.comor sallie305@gmail.comso we can set aside one for you – even if you’re not able to walk, you can wear the shirt to show your solidarity with our team.

THANK YOU!