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Dean’s Bulletin Board 03.20.2020

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The effects of coronavirus go deeper than we might think.  This is not just a blip, but for some, a matter of life and death.
The more we can pull together, praying, and isolating ourselves, the sooner this will end.  Let’s keep our most vulnerable healthy and get food on the table for those who struggled financially even before COVID-19.

Coronavirus and Poverty: A Mother Skips Meals So Her Children Can Eat

Americans with tight financial resources have fewer options as they navigate coronavirus closures and layoffs.

Summer Mossbarger’s children say grace before eating dinner.
Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

BRENHAM, Texas — With her six hungry children in the car, Summer Mossbarger was one of the first in line for lunch at the drive-through. Not at a fast-food restaurant, but outside Alton Elementary School.

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Fort Worth

Alton was closed — all the public schools in Brenham, a rural Texas town of 17,000 about 90 miles east of Austin, have shut for the coronavirus — but one vital piece of the school day lived on: free lunch. Ms. Mossbarger rolled down the window of her used, 15-year-old S.U.V. as school employees handed her six Styrofoam containers.

Even as the carnival aroma of mini corn dogs filled the vehicle on the drive back home, and even as the children sat on the porch and ate from their flipped-open containers with the family dogs running around, Ms. Mossbarger ate nothing.

She skipped breakfast and lunch, taking her first bite of food — food-pantry fried chicken — at about 5:30 p.m. All she consumed from the time she awoke that morning until she ate dinner were sips from a cherry Dr Pepper.

Money was tight. Ms. Mossbarger, 33, a disabled Army veteran, does not work. Her husband’s job as a carpenter has slowed in recent days and gotten more unpredictable as people cancel or delay residential construction jobs. She had plenty of worries — paying the $1,000 rent was at the top of the list — but lunch for her children was not one of them.

“If we didn’t have this, I probably would have a mental breakdown with stress,” she said of the free meals at Alton. “I’m not going to let my kids go hungry. If I have to just eat once a day, that’s what I have to do.”

The power of the coronavirus to produce upheaval in people’s lives depends in part on income. Americans with fewer financial resources have fewer options as they navigate the new normal of school closings, shuttered businesses and shelter-in-place orders.

Poverty experts said that in times of natural disasters and large-scale emergencies, low-income families who are already living on tight budgets with overdue bills, unstable housing, poor health care and unsteady employment often bear the brunt of the pain.

Ms. Mossbarger, a disabled Army veteran, right, does not work, and Jordan Spahn, left, her husband, has seen his work as a carpenter slow in recent days.
Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times
Ms. Mossbarger’s  children playing outside the rental home where the family lives.
Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

“They tend to be the first hit when things go wrong and then also to take the longest time to recover,” said H. Luke Shaefer, a professor of social work and public policy at the University of Michigan and the faculty director of its Poverty Solutions initiative.

Ms. Mossbarger’s self-imposed starvation was one quiet, anonymous moment amid a national crisis, and one sign of the depth of the virus’s impact on the working poor.

The Brenham Independent School District’s free-lunch drive-through was one of many underway this week in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Oregon and other states attempting to ensure that schoolchildren continue to receive free meals Monday through Friday during weekslong virus-related closures. Educators and school nutritionists said that for some impoverished children, the free breakfast and free lunch at school are the only substantial meals they will eat in a day.

Albuquerque Public Schools, New Mexico’s largest district, where about 69 percent of students receive free or reduced-price meals, began passing out free breakfasts and lunches at dozens of its schools starting Monday. In California, the Elk Grove school system in Sacramento has since last week provided nearly 11,000 students with two daily meals, lunch and tomorrow’s breakfast.

In Brenham, where 60 percent of the 5,000 public-school students qualify for free or low-cost meals, the school district handed out more than 1,000 lunches and more than 800 breakfasts to children over the program’s first three days this week.

Brenham is a working-class town, known in Texas as the home of Blue Bell ice cream. Cattle and horses graze in the pastures that line the roads and highways, and the cowboys don’t bother to take off their hats when they climb into their trucks. The town is the uncredited backdrop of countless postcards, posters and Instagram accounts — the bluebonnets are bright and ubiquitous, and even color the grassy medians. But beneath its rustic beauty and ice-cream-company charm lies financial hardship. Brenham has a median household income of roughly $44,000, and a poverty rate of 18.6 percent.

On Tuesday, the long, tranquil driveway outside Alton Elementary was the coronavirus equivalent of an old-fashioned soup line, roughly 10 cars deep. District employees who volunteered to pass out meals recognized some of the drivers — they worked for the district, too, and had brought their children to get a free lunch.

The nation’s free or reduced-price lunch program has long been used as an indicator of a community’s poverty level, but there was no sign of embarrassment, resentment or shame in the drive-through line. Some drivers hollered a loud thank you to the volunteers as they pulled away, and most didn’t even bother to ask what was inside the lunch containers: mini corn dogs, baked beans, baby carrots, an orange. People seemed more concerned with social distancing than any social stigma. One woman kept her driver-side window rolled up as she interacted with the volunteers, to avoid having them get too close to her.

They pulled up in beat-up cars with rattling engines, newly washed trucks, sleek Cadillacs, old minivans. They were white, black, Hispanic. Mothers were behind the wheel of most of the vehicles, but there were a few fathers, too, and high-school students with their younger siblings inside. The only requirement was that children under 18 had to be inside the vehicle to receive the meal, but no one was asked to prove the children attended a district school.

Alton Elementary School has closed, along with the rest of schools in the Brenham Independent School District.
Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

For many of the families, the free meals were not the difference between their children eating or not eating. Instead, they said they viewed it as a way to stretch their budgets a little longer, so that the money they would have spent on that day’s lunch could instead go to tomorrow’s dinner or next week’s bill. Word had spread while families idled in line that the Texas governor was activating the National Guard, that some of the shelves at a local grocery store were still barren. The drive-through at Alton was one small bright spot at an anxious time, even though their county had no confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Gabbie Salazar, 28, made two trips to the drive-through, each time with different sets of nieces, nephews and cousins in her car. She knows Alton well: She manages the school cafeteria. She is a single mother who works two jobs, at the school and at a day care, and makes a total of about $2,000 a month, with a rent of about $800 monthly.

“Save a little money, you know?” Ms. Salazar said of the free meals. “I’m a single mom. I only have to do one meal at night, so that helps a lot.”

Before Ms. Mossbarger pulled up in the drive-through line on Tuesday, she took her six children to the H-E-B grocery store. She went to the aisle for paper towels and toilet paper, but there was nothing left — the shelves were empty, and customers were crowding around to grab whatever they could. She gathered the children, left the cart in the middle of the aisle and walked out, frustrated that she had wasted gas in her Chevrolet Suburban.

“I couldn’t deal with it,” she said of the grocery store. “It stresses me out. Because me as a mother, it makes me feel like I’m not going to be able to provide for my kids.”

Her husband, Jordan Spahn, 47, said they do not have the luxury of stockpiling. When he found out he didn’t have any carpentry jobs on Tuesday — usually, he makes about $180 daily — he worked on a friend’s patio-furniture set to make a few extra dollars.

“We live check to check,” Mr. Spahn said. “We’ve seen those that have more than others be the first ones to get everything they could get their hands on. It shows a little bit of the state of society these days. What if it gets 20 times worse next week, and now we don’t have nothing to get?”

The family moved into a rental home a few weeks ago. Empty fields sprinkled with bluebonnets gave the children space to run around, ride their bicycles and swing from the tire hooked to a tree branch and from the hammock on the porch. Ms. Mossbarger thinks of her military training when she thinks about mealtime for her four boys and two girls — Tristan Spahn, 5; Layla Ray, 6; Stasy Spahn, 7; Hayden Brown, 9; Gavin Brown, 9; and Joseph Brown, 10. “I was a cook in the military, so I’m used to feeding the masses,” she said.

Ms. Mossbarger was raised in Brenham. Years ago, her father was one of her husband’s high school teachers. They laugh about it now and said that’s just how things work in a small town. She wears her devotion to her children on her skin. The tattoo of the Teddy bear on her arm was for 10-year-old Joseph, the initials on her chest for 6-year-old Layla, who is named for the Eric Clapton song.

The spread of the virus, for Ms. Mossbarger and Mr. Spahn, was one struggle in a lifetime of them. Ms. Mossbarger said that years ago, there was a time when she was homeless. Two of Mr. Spahn’s older sons — Matthew, 21, and Jonah, 24 — were both struck by vehicles in separate accidents and killed in the past year and a half. Their pictures and track jerseys cover the walls of the living room.

“We’ve been through some hard times in these past 16, 17 months,” Mr. Spahn said. “We’ve had heartache, heartbreak and now with this coming on, it’s kind of like, all right, bring it.”

Dinner, like lunch, was served on Styrofoam.

The entire meal was provided by Ms. Mossbarger’s sister-in-law and by a food-distribution nonprofit, Bread Partners of Washington County. The children ate leftover spaghetti, canned vegetables, microwave biscuits and Goldfish crackers. Ms. Mossbarger and her husband ate fried chicken with rice and the canned vegetables. The children said grace before their parents even sat down.

Ms. Mossbarger hardly mentioned it, but she was starving. “I honestly wasn’t going to eat, but Jordan was like, ‘You got to eat something,’” she said.

The next morning, she again skipped breakfast and was sipping a Monster Energy drink. She was tired and her head hurt.

“I feel it,” she said.

Her husband’s job was called off yet again, heightening her financial concerns about the coming days and weeks. “I’m constantly thinking what’s the next move going to be,” Ms. Mossbarger said. “Basically, if he’s not working, I’m going to eat as little as possible because I know that’s less food in my kids’ mouths.”

Soon, it was almost 11 a.m. She packed the children into the Suburban. She was headed again to the drive-through at Alton.

Simon Romero contributed reporting from Albuquerque, N.M.

Dean’s Bulletin Board 03.19.2020

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Although the President called for a national day of prayer last Sunday, I am afraid that it was lost in the avalanche of information we were receiving about COVID -19.  It’s still not too late, and I am glad that GAFCON (Global Anglican Futures Conference), a renewal movement within the Anglican Communion, is calling for prayer and fasting this Sunday, March 22.  As you are able, please do join in praying and fasting for God’s deliverance in this time of need.  

In Christ,

Dean’s Bulletin Board 03.17.2020

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Not that I have any extra time on my hands, (I am busier than I have ever been in ministry), but I am taking the time to look into the Spanish Flu epidemic in Birmingham in 1918.  I am trying to learn what ministry looked like then because the circumstances are eerily similar.
Because the Spanish Flu hit Birmingham in October 1918, it did not effect our Lenten preaching series.  Yes, it was happening then.  However, it did impact Sunday gatherings and meetings throughout the week.  
On October 8, the City Commission of Birmingham closed all places of public assembly for two weeks, including churches.  Before the two weeks was up, it was extended an additional two weeks.  However, the ban was lifted on October 31, but further precautions (like wearing gauze masks) were encouraged. (https://www.influenzaarchive.org/cities/city-birmingham.html#)
If possible, I’ll try to get over to the Linn Henley Library where our archives are housed to see what it was we did during those weeks.  
This article from 9 Marks (https://www.9marks.org/article/how-dc-churches-responded-when-the-government-banned-public-gatherings-during-the-spanish-flu-of-1918/?fbclid=IwAR1rf_rM-9umq7zO_Uk6X4Khpwy9J21xRqLbVxEMBg2DTvbLohMUV0VbqEc) talks about what happened in Washington, DC during the epidemic.  I have a feeling that Birmingham reacted similarly.
Let’s continue to pray and look out of those who will especially need their church family in the coming days.  
In Christ,

Dean’s Bulletin Board 03.14.2020

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In the midst of one of the greatest challenges we may ever face in our lifetime, state legislators in Florida have set their sites on who the NCAA Men’s Basketball champion ought to be.  You will be surprised to learn that after much discernment and deliberation, they have decided on the number four ranked team in the nation, Florida State.  

Lord, have mercy.

Dean’s Bulletin Board 03.13.2020

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My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Bishop Sloan has issued a directive that all congregations in the Diocese of Alabama cease public gatherings March 15 through March 29. As such, we will not be gathering at the Advent for corporate worship, Sunday School, Lenten Preaching, Lenten Lunches, or other meetings that might take place during the week. (This pertains only to those things on our campus.) 

To be clear, this means that we will not be holding public services on March 15, 22, or 29.  Our Lenten preaching and lunches will resume, God-willing on Monday, March 30.  

This comes as a great disappointment as gathering together is essential to the nature of God’s church.  I would commend Bishop Sloan’s letter to you to help better understand why he is making this decision. I anticipated this decision and, in some way, glad that he was the one to pull the trigger.

Though we will see change, ministry has not ended. I would encourage small groups and Bible studies to continue to meet. It is vital that we continue to meet together around God’s word, albeit in smaller groups. If, however, you are ill or are caring for someone who is ill, you should not join in these activities. I would encourage these folks to join in via Skype or by speaker phone rather than just drop out altogether. So please do continue to encourage one another on in the ministry of God’s word. 

Along those lines, Elizabeth Wilson and Cameron Cole put together a resource for families to continue speaking the gospel to one another while we cannot gather downtown. Click here for the March 15 lesson and read Cameron’s thoughts on how to talk with children about coronavirus

On Sunday mornings, we will be livestreaming a service of Morning Prayer with a sermon at 9:00 a.m. followed by the Dean’s Class.  You can access this at AdventBirmingham.org/Live and find a worship bulletin by clicking here

We still hope to continue our Lenten preaching, even without a congregation.  We will do this by streaming our 12:05 p.m. service on our website

More than anything, now is a time to turn to the Lord in prayer.  I hope you will join me in setting an alarm on your phone for 12:00 p.m. each day. When it goes off, stop and pray. Click here for a downloadable prayer resource we can all use during this season

Finally, this is not the first time the church has found itself in this kind of situation.  I have spent the past several days reading about how John Calvin and Theodore de Bèze ministered to their flock in Geneva during the plague of the 16thCentury. 

If someone was sick in Geneva, bedridden for three days, they were to call for their pastor to visit them.  And during that visit, Calvin exhorted the pastors to remind those under their care of three things: 

One, death does not have power over the Christian. Death is not the final word for those who trust in Christ and therefore should not be feared. Even at the grave our song is Alleluia. 

Two, remember the gospel. When you’re ill and contemplating your own mortality, repent and flee to Jesus. He is merciful and stands ready to receive you. 

Three, God loves, cares, and protects his people. He leaves the 99 for you, he knows the number of hairs on your head, and even as you suffer, God is there. 

At the outbreak of the plague, a pastor was designated to minister solely to those who had contracted this awful disease. While Pierre Blanchet ministered faithfully to those who suffered under the plague, he too contracted it and died.

Understandably, a replacement was not forthcoming, so they decided to casts lots.  But just before, a young pastor name Matthieu Genneston stepped forward and took up where Blanchet left off.  Genneston too would die of the plague. 

Eventually, a rotation system was developed and the ministry continued until, in God’s mercy, the people of Geneva were spared this awful pestilence.

Like Calvin and de Bèze so long ago, our charge is the same. Ministry at the Advent and to the Advent will not stop, but it will look different over the next few weeks. And, if need be, (speaking only for myself), suffer the consequences of seeing the gospel ministered. Now is not the time to close it all down, now is the time to preach the message of hope in Jesus Christ in a world that find itself mired in anxiety and confusion. 

And now, may the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you, and remain with you always.  Amen.

In Him,



Worship: Week of March 15

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Psalm 95
Exodus 17:1-7
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42


Due to COVID-19, we will not gather in person to worship on March 15, 22, or 29. We will gather via livestream for worship at 9:00 a.m. and for the Dean’s Class immediately following. All other Sunday school classes have also been canceled. Livestream details are included below and this video explains how the livestream worship process will work on the following Sundays. 

9:00 a.m.  Morning Prayer
Preaching: Dean Pearson

Click here to listen live (streaming begins at 8:55 a.m. on Sunday morning) >>>

Missed the livestream? Here’s a link to the recording

And while we’re at it, here’s a link to the recording of the Dean’s Class

Click here to access the Family Sunday School lesson for March 15 >>>

Download the 9:00 a.m. worship bulletin >>>

Click here to listen to previously recorded sermons and classes >>>

Subscribe to receive the above information through the Adventurer newsletter by email >>>

Click here to listen to previously recorded classes and sermons >>>

Dean’s Bulletin Board 03.11.2020

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Continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who suffer because of their faith.  This brother, Ismaeil Maghrebinejad, is an Anglican doing the work of evangelist.  Anglicanism where Christianity is under attack is no staid group of the ‘frozen chosen’, but believer who know what they have been saved from and what they are saved to.