News and Events

So Many Things to Celebrate Today: +Sam Rodman’s Sermon for our 15th Anniversary

There are two hymns that have been running through my head as I looked forward to today. “There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place …” and “Every time I feel the spirit …” There is something about today that makes me want to sing and dance, with you.

Now those last two words are the key words, “with you.” Not only am I too self-conscious to sing and dance without you, (remember I am, after all, a native of New England). But more important, the movement of the Holy Spirit is something that, by its very nature, is meant to be shared, to be experienced in community, to be celebrated together. As my seminary Professor Charlie Price used to say participation is a Holy Spirit word, and today is all about participation.

So many things to celebrate today, and such a joy to be with you. 15 years of the Church of the Advocate. 15 years of the gift of the Holy Spirit moving through you, through your community, through your leadership and your witness.

15 years of innovation and initiative grounded in the liturgical richness of our Anglican tradition. Or to borrow from the Orange County slogan – 15 years of living “around the corner AND ahead of the curve…”

Let me suggest a couple of visual images for today. One comes from our Presiding Bishop, who played a key role in your beginnings. Bishop Curry, in one of his first videos after he became Presiding Bishop, spoke about being asked what the Jesus movement looked like. And of course the video was filled on the streets of New York, and Bishop Curry is moving about walking and talking, and is in fact, himself, an embodiment of the Jesus movement. But he is also wise enough to know that we all need to be involved, to participate together. So he shared an image from our liturgy, of the moment, as the gospel is processed, where all the people turn together, to face the gospel. He said, that is an image of the Jesus movement. And you all here, have taken that to a deeper level with the opportunity to reverence, to touch or kiss the gospel as it moves through the community. For me, this captures a moment where the Jesus movement meets the movement of the Holy Spirit, in worship.

And as you well know, the Jesus movement is not just about what takes place inside the church. An equally vital dimension of the Jesus movement is what takes place outside the church. And here, the image that comes to my mind is the journey, literally the movement, of this building, which was St. Philip’s church, in Germantown, NC as it made its way to the Homestead Site here, in December of 2012. They had to remove the roof for the move, but the visual image of this church moving, on a flat bed truck, from that community to this one, is an icon of the church literally moving through the world.

The Holy Sprit is all about repurposing, reimaging, recreating and renewing. And in an age where many churches are struggling under the burden of what has come to be called our edifice complex, you were showing how the building itself can remind the church that we are called to be on the move: in, through, and for, the communities we serve.

And your name, Church of the Advocate, conveys this deep commitment, which is embedded in your missional DNA. You are the embodiment of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and you are all about what it means to be an Advocate – as your T-shirt puts it – “Be the noun, do the verb.”

And here there are numerous examples of the ways you have done just that. Compassion, justice and collaboration have been the values that stand at the center of your advocacy. And today, we celebrate with you two initiatives in particular, which have been at the heart of your connection to the community: the Piedmont Patch Collaborative and the Pee Wee Homes Collaborative.

The first is a model for how we are called to be good neighbors and stewards of the land, and the ways we can learn to “serve rather then harm God’s creation.” The second is an initiative which invites a broad cross-section of the community to collaborate in an innovative approach to affordable housing, partnering with town, county, individuals, organizations, and other non-profits, including Orange County Habitat for Humanity, to create another pathway to homeownership. This is the stuff of the gospel! This is what we are called to do and be!

Not that accomplishing all of this has always been easy. At times it has been discouraging, frustrating and disheartening. And occasionally, truth be told, bureaucratic impulses from within our own church structures have gotten in the way … imagine that. But here is where the Holy Spirit, the power of your commitment, faith in God, trust in Jesus, holding to your guiding values at the center have helped you to persevere and prevail.

Bishop Steven Charleston has written words which remind us that the spirit is at work even when we are facing challenges and resistance:

“Don’t let the dark clouds fool you. They may pretend to own the heavens, to stretch from horizon to horizon, ominous and commanding, a permanent shadow hanging over our lives, but don’t let the clouds fool you … there is world of sunlight behind them. One day, when the wind of change pushes them apart, that light will return to bathe the earth, to restore the vision of every person, to set right what has been broken. Stand firm then in what you know and believe. Look up and do not be afraid, for when you feel the first breeze of hope, you will know the clouds will soon be chased from the sky.”

The wind, the breath, the breeze, these are all signs of the Holy Spirit. And our readings today all celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Isaiah, the Spirit of the Lord is upon the prophet as justice, healing, and Good News are proclaimed. In I Corinthians, it is the variety of gifts that are celebrated, all in the one body. And Luke is a kind of backhanded affirmation if we, who are less than perfect know how to give good gifts, how much more does God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, when we ask.

The Holy Spirit is a relentless advocate for justice, for compassion, and the witness of the Holy Spirit for generations has been that this is work we must do together, in concert, as part of the Body of Christ.

And today, we celebrate this gift and the 15 year journey that has brought you to here. The winds of change are blowing through you in a way that has opened us as a diocese and opened the wider church.

Not coincidently, this week, the Standing Committee and Diocesan Council both voted to recommend that a new church plant, Christ the Beloved Community, in Winston-Salem, be recognized and received into communion with our convention next month. There was great excitement as we talked about this. Christ Beloved Community serves a Latino neighborhood and it has been a partnership with the Lutheran Church from the very beginning.

A couple of people said they couldn’t remember the last time this happened in our diocese. But you can! It was in January of 2004, back when our convention was held in January. You were that mission! And there is a connection between that moment and the one we will celebrate next month.

Justice, compassion and collaboration are part of their values, too. Your journey has inspired theirs. Without your witness and your trailblazing, who knows if this community would ever have been started. Their journey is part of your legacy.

The breeze of the Holy Spirit is stirring among you and within you. And those being confirmed and received today are a testimony to that movement. They are part of it. All seven of them, and Lisa counted them just before the service to make sure they were all here. And we are all part of this movement of the Holy Spirit.

It is a movement that invites and involves all of us. It means to be an Advocate/ to Advocate: be the noun, do the verb. It is the Jesus movement alive and well in this time and in this place.

And today we celebrate loud and long the gifts of the spirit that have made this possible, and the compassion, collaboration and justice that through you, has been born in our community and reborn in our church There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place, and we know that it’s the spirit of the Advocate. AMEN.

Advocate long sleeve t-shirts available

Our Bishop, Sam Rodman, and our Vicar, Lisa Fischbeck, enjoy the shirt in red and in grey.

Advocate 15th Anniversary  t-shirts in grey or red are available in kids small and medium, and in adults small, medium and large.

On the front, the shirts read:
ADVOCATE
BE THE NOUN
DO THE VERB

On the back, the shirts read:
Welcoming people of every kind of household and at every stage of life and faith and doubt since 2003 – The Advocate. (and there’s an image of the Advo-cat, Smoke)

A donation of $15 is requested for each shirt.
Cash or write checks to ECOTA, with T-shirt in the memo line.

Shirts are available at the Church House, especially on Sundays.

For an additional $7.50 plus you address, we will send one to you!

You can order in two ways:

  1. Online. Send your mailing information and your size to:
    The Advocate Church Office <theadvocatechurch@gmail.com>
    Then go to our online donation page and donate $22,50 (or more!). For convenience, use the general operating fund designation. We will assume that gifts of $22.50 are intended for t-shirt purchase and mailing. But will need an email let us know where to send it!
  2. Send a check and your size in the mail to:
    Advocate t-shirts
    8410 Merin Road
    Chapel Hill, NC  27516

 

 

We are now debt free!

The story of Advocate Loans and Debt
In 2013, The Advocate was at the peak of our campaign to worship on the land. We had raised the funds to buy the land and to move what would become The Advocate Chapel, and we still needed to restore the chapel and to get the site up to code for use by a church (parking lot, sewer, pond repair, etc. etc.). We had raised a lot of money (over $1.7 million), but not enough. So we took out two loans

 

First, a $180,000 loan from an anonymous individual loaner. This is the loan that we paid off in January 2018, after a lot of hard work and generosity from Advocates and friends, including a final $20,000 from the loaner!

Second, a $150,000 loan from the North Carolina Episcopal Church Foundation. This loan was taken out in 2013,  to be paid at 2% interest over 10 years, ending in 2023.
For 5 years, the $15,000 a year and the 2% interest were budgeted in the Advocate’s Annual Budget. In January, 2018, though, we began to accelerate the payments, knowing that the sooner we paid off this loan, the sooner we could use that $15,000 a year to augment our life and ministry instead.

When we had $50,000 left to go, a generous friend offered to match any gift given, up to $20,000, in time for the 15th Anniversary of the Advocate’s launch on September 21, 2018, bringing us within $10,000 of our final goal. And we did it!

But we still had $10,000 to go …

In the days that followed, enthusiastic support kept coming in. It was amazing. And sure enough, by the time of our official 15th Anniversary Celebration, October 21, the final $10,000 was in.

The Church of the Advocate is now DEBT-FREE!

This is, quite frankly, stunning.

Thank you!

 

Celebrating Our 15th Anniversary October 20-21!

In 2003,The Advocate was born of the collaboration,strength and vitality of the Diocese of North Carolina and the three established Episcopal Churches in Orange County, North Carolina — St. Matthews in Hillsborough, The Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, and Church of the Holy Family in Chapel Hill. We were launched on St. Matthews Day, September 21, 2003. 15 years ago. We’ve been welcoming people of every kind of household and at every stage of life and faith and doubt ever since.

The celebration of our 15th anniversary comes into focus October 20 – 21.

On Saturday, October 20, there will be a Pee Wee Homes build in the morning and the afternoon.
We will gather for a talent show in the Chapel at 6 PM, followed by a campfire with toasted marshmallows and s’mores.

Through the night, the pig will be roasted.

On Sunday, October 21, we will gather for an outdoor Eucharist at 10:30 AM with our Bishop, Sam Rodman, and will also dedicate the three Pee Wee Homes under construction. Then we will have an old time pig pickin’ with lots of good side dishes and music from the Dogwood Blossom Band. There will be cake!

2-4 PM The Third Sunday Shape Note Sing in the Advocate Chapel. See more here.

Please join us for any and all!

As part of our celebration, we’ve made long-sleeved t-shirts. These will be available through the celebration weekend. A donation of $15 per shirt is requested.

 

 

Chapel Hill Merchants and Students Support Pee Wee Homes

UNC student Justin Pacher has produced this short video to help raise awareness of the Pee Wee Homes.  It’s part of an assignment from Jim Kitchen, Entrepreneur-in-residence at the Kenan-Flagler Business School. Student are practicing the social entrepreneurship skills they’ve been learning in class and will donate funds raised to the Pee Wee Homes.

Justin arranged for  local merchants to offer discounts to anyone with a Pee Wee Homes coupon card. Cards are available for a $5 donation at The Advocate next Sunday!

Readers Roundtable 2nd Wednesdays at 7

IMG_0382The Readers Roundtable gathers the second Wednesday of the month, 7:00-8:30 PM in the Advocate House  to talk about a book selected by those who participated in the Roundtable the previous month. Books are largely fiction, but are not limited to fiction.
Books so far have included Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Mary Doris Russell’s The Sparrow, and Mary Oliver’s Thirst, Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River, Wendell Berry’s A Place on Earth,

Each month the conversation is open to everyone and their friends.

In the season ahead, here are the books that will be discussed:

Readers’ Roundtable – Spring 2019

Second Wednesday of the Month, 7:00-8:30 PM

At the Church House

Wednesday, January 9

The Solace of Leaving Early

Using small-town life as a springboard to explore the loftiest of ideas, Haven Kimmel’s irresistibly smart and generous first novel is at once a romance and a haunting meditation on grief and faith…

Deftly walking the tightrope between tragedy and comedy, The Solace of Leaving Early is a joyous story about finding one’s better self through accepting the shortcomings of others.

 

Wednesday, February 13

The Golden Compass

The modern fantasy classic that Entertainment Weekly named an “All-Time Greatest Novel” and Newsweek hailed as a “Top 100 Book of All Time.” Philip Pullman takes readers to a world where humans have animal familiars and where parallel universes are within reach.

A masterwork of storytelling and suspense, Philip Pullman’s award-winning The Golden Compassis the first in the His Dark Materials series, which continues with The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

A #1 New York Times Bestseller

Winner of the Guardian Prize for Children’s Fiction

Published in 40 Countries

Wednesday, May 8

The Nightingale: A Novel

A #1 New York Times bestseller, Wall Street Journal Best Book of the Year, and soon to be a major motion picture, this unforgettable novel of love and strength in the face of war has enthralled a generation.

France, 1939 – In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France … but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive…

 

For further information, contact Paul Marvin. pmarvin64@gmail.com

Whether you’ve read the book or not, all are always welcome to join in the conversation!

Stanton Lanier, Pianist of Peace Concert, Saturday, August 25

 

Stanton Lanier, the Pianist of Peace, makes his first concert appearance in Chapel Hill right here at the Advocate at 7 PM this Saturday, August 25!

Lanier is an award-winning pianist-composer with a passion to touch lives through instrumental music. All 11 of his albums contain Scripture-inspired piano melodies that bring peace, rest, hope and healing to listeners around the world. His music touches five million listeners annually across 140 countries. You can listen to a music clip here.   (link http://www.stantonlanier.com/walking-on-air-music-video/ )

All the proceeds go to the non profit Music to Light the World, through which the artist shares his calming, peaceful music to families with someone going through cancer treatment or other serious illness.

Get more information here. (link http://bit.ly/stantonchapelhill)

 

 

Notes for the Season Ahead! (an evolving post)

Sunday, September 9, Celebrate and Connect,  a “Mission Fare” from 10 – 10:50 AM, ahead of the 11 AM liturgy. Come a discover ways to engage with God, the community around us, and the Church of the Advocate in the seasons ahead!
The 9 AM liturgy will be added on Sunday, September 16.
See the regular Sunday schedule here.
Here are some other Dates to Note (this is an evolving calendar, please check back for updates!).
Saturday, September 8, Grass Plugging!  Once again, the Piedmont Patch at the Advocate has been gifted with 1000 plugs of native grasses that need to be planted as soon as possible. Join us, 8 AM – 11 AM, to plug these grasses into the ground!
Wednesday, September 12: 7-8:30  The Readers Roundtable talks about CS Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet. See more here.
Saturday, September 22, 10 AM – noon. The Piedmont Patch at the Advocate, in collaboration with the New Hope Audubon Chapter presents: Native Piedmont Birds. See more here.
Saturday, October 13, 9 AM – noon. An Advocate Site Stewardship autumn work day. Did somebody say “Mulch!”?
October 20-21, A Celebration of The Advocate’s 15th Anniversary, with music, food, festival liturgy, Piedmont Patch and Pee Wee Homes events. Our Bishop, Sam Rodman will join us Sunday morning.
Sunday October 21 at 1PM: Ribbon cutting for the Pee Wee Homes!
Other Good Things Ahead
Construction of the three Pee Wee Homes at the Advocate has (finally) begun. Volunteer Days will begin one the framing is up. To sign up to volunteer, see here.
A Study of the Hebrew Scriptures will begin September 23. See more here.

The Liturgy and Community — Teachable Moments September 16 – October 14. Details coming soon.

The Episcopal Church and The Advocate: Questions and Conversations.  7-8:30 PM, Wednesdays September 19 and 26, and October 3 and 17.

Readers Roundtable — Second Wednesdays — September 12, October 10, November 14, December 12. See more here.

Third Sunday Shape Note Sing  — August 19, September 16, October 21 — 2PM – 4 PM. In the Advocate Chapel. See more here.
check TheAdvocateChurch.org for updates and additions)

“For Tom Fisher, On the Day of his Funeral” The sermon by Sam Laurent

The community gathered in the Advocate Chapel on Sunday, July 15, 2018,for the Burial Office for Tom Fisher.
Sam Laurent offered this sermon for Tom.

It’s there in the pictures. Looking at the photographs he took, the ones he exhibited, the ones he hung on his walls or that others of us have hung on our walls, you can see a bit of how Tom tried to see the world. It was a vision that didn’t come by accident. He cultivated it. Studied it. It ran deep in who he was, why we grieve him, and how we will know his presence again.

Street photography would be the name for the genre, and like many who were inspired by the french photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, Tom’s most creative work spurned grandeur and poses in favor of finding something beautiful in the mundane. A picture of someone doing their job. A picture of two people meeting on the street. Almost always, there were people.

So I asked him. Why these candid shots of people? In that way we had of giving his sophisticated wisdom a veneer of folksiness, Tom said “well, they’re a hell of a lot more interesting to take pictures of than rocks.”

And then he stared into the middle distance, lined up an imaginary shot in his mind and said “so there are two people coming together on the street. My job is to have my camera set up so that with minimal fussing with it, I can capture that moment. Just the encounter of two people is so fascinating. Maybe they know each other. Maybe they’re strangers. There is so much between them that I don’t know. I just want to capture the moment.”

The art in his images, then, was his reflexive attraction to wonder. Capture the moment, and you can return to it. You can imagine what was going on with the people in the picture and the space between them. But they remain mysteries. The photograph holds you in your unknowing, inviting you into a space of wonder.

And, well, so did Tom. As a financial planner, he made it his business to help people handle the uncertainty of life. His work helped people be able to turn their eyes from the nagging worries of the future and be attentive to the present.

Tom loved books. Specifically, he loved novels with the kind of characters you think about months later, characters that open up a space within you that you hadn’t known about before. Tom’s favorite characters felt compassion in their bones. They spoke to the beautiful experience of the unknowability of human life.

Tom loved live music. He and Candy travelled for concerts. He helped produce God only knows how many shows with the Forty Acres organization he cofounded. Those performances gathered people together to exalt in the creative potential of the moment.

Maybe all of this is why he was so captivated by this building. Probably he took more pictures of it than anything else that’s not a person. This chapel stood somewhere else for 120 years before we moved it here to Chapel Hill. It is a space consecrated over and over again by the gathering of generations of people we can’t know. These walls heard prayers and laments and hymns for decades before ours echoed through. This wood is seasoned like one of Tom’s old guitars, richer and warmer for the history that rippled through it, and drawing us into a present moment where the mystery of the past opens us to the mystery of the present, where our reality meets God’s.

God’s reality. That reality is particularly mysterious—acutely mysterious—to us today, and it was something that fascinated Tom throughout his life. The man who was known for being a terrific listener to his friends and family grounded himself in listening for God’s movement in the world. That mysterious depth that lies behind each person is a reflection of the primal mystery of the divine.

Divine mystery is an antagonist today. We always want to understand God. We want to say that everything that happens, even cancer, somehow has divine purpose behind it. But what we see, what we hear in the readings Tom chose for today, is that God’s power is manifest as love. Nothing, Romans says, including death, can separate us from the love of God.

A God of mystery who is insistently present with us in the form of love. I spent a lot of hours and drank more than a few pints of beer talking about this God with Tom. The conviction that divinity flows through each person and calls us to defend the dignity of each person… the conviction that the divine mystery calls us to listen steadfastly for God in our midst… this is the spirituality of Tom Fisher.

This was no accident. It was no affect that he put on. This was Tom. The man who worked for Civil Rights knew something of the sacred mystery of each person. The father of Morgan and Jess knew something of the beauty of possibility, the unfolding mystery of each child, and the love that allows them to thrive. The man who went to seminary before becoming a financial advisor knew something of the importance of letting each person decide who they are, of being prepared to act. The man who helped lead this church into existence knew something of patient listening and of the transfixing mystery that guides people of God. The photographs reflect the man who took them.

And so we are gutted today, because we have lost Tom. His steadiness, wisdom, and love were never more evident than in the months since his diagnosis, when Tom’s choices were guided by the value of the present, by his ability to find depth and love in a time freighted with the grim prospects of a dire disease.

More than anyone I’ve known, Tom led those he loved through the end of his life. He took care of us. He sat and talked frankly about the end of life. He told me stories of gratitude for time with Morgan and Jess and their families, of his delight in the people his children had become and the people they had married, stories of the magic of his grandchildren, of his sheer awe at the compassionate force of Candy’s love. Life, he knew, had been good.

So this hurts. And it will hurt. It is love’s dark insult to us. To love is to eventually be heartbroken. And Tom knew that love is simply the most important thing. He was right. So this hurts.

But those pictures…

The moments that Tom sought to capture are sacred, but they are not rare. Our days are infused with the potential for something new to happen, something more than we would imagine. This is the movement of the insistently loving God of mystery, the God who now bears Tom in the glory of divine memory and presence, working through the miracle of relationship to ensure that when we notice the depth of mystery in a seemingly ordinary moment, Tom will be with us. And we will feel gratitude, and we will feel pain. At the same time. There is no prescribed ratio of the two.

Those ordinary moments, when refracted through the prism of clear presence to the moment, are the kingdom of God. To be fully present in God’s creation, in this precise moment which is the only moment that is actually happening, is to see that the boundaries between us are not so clear. We will miss Tom, but we will feel Tom’s presence when we allow ourselves to be present, because Tom is, in a very real way, a part of us. All of this.. this life… is space held open by God so that we might intertwine in relationship, so that we might, acting from love, create beauty from the very possibilities that lie before us. I understand this better than I did before because I was given the tremendous gift of being Tom Fisher’s friend.

It is all a wildly improbable miracle, one in which we are now rightly grieving the loss of this man who was woven deeply into so many lives. Even in this painful moment, the beauty and mystery of Tom’s life draws us in like one of his pictures. We want to know more. We want another conversation. Another dinner.

This is the mark of a life well lived. Of a man who was deeply loved and who loved deeply. It is grace that intersected our lives with his, and it is grace that will allow us to know his presence in those future moments when the mysterious unknown of life speaks to us of something more. Something we can’t touch but can marvel at.

There is so much in those pictures. So much behind them. God knows we will miss Tom, and God knows we will feel him with us yet. It’s in the pictures.

AMEN