St. John's - Grace Episcopal Church
An inclusive community walking a journey in faith.

A Message from The Leadership of SJG

SJG Calls a New Rector - The Reverend Jon Frederick Lavelle 

Fr Jon is a native of Buffalo, New York and studied at Canisius College and the University at Buffalo.  He worked at the Anastasia's Family Restaurant in Amherst New York while in high school and college and he thinks he's a fine cook!  Jon served the Western New York community by working as a teacher's aide at the Lynde School at Gateway Youth and Family Services, Williamsville, NY, teaching ESL in Buffalo at the Adult Learning Center, ECC Downtown Campus, and the Educational Opportunity Center in the early 1990's.  His hobbies include jazz & classical music, cooking, canoe camping, and motorcycling.  He still has his 1974 BMW motorcycle which he bought in 1989.

Fr Jon's wife, Karen Caldwell, is a native of Brockville, Ontario in the 1000 Islands.  They decided to return to the area to spend time with their ageing parents.  Karen recently completed her Doctorate at the John's Hopkins University in mind, brain and teaching.  An education developer and instructional designer for over two decades, Karen is interested in research  employment training, online teaching and learning, and working with the ageing population. Some new projects are in the use of virtual reality to help job seekers find the right career. 

Fr Jon first felt the call to the priesthood at age 19 and entered the Society of Jesus, or “Jesuits” in 1986.  He completed a 30-day silent retreat and has always been drawn to contemplative meditation and sharing this spiritual discipline with others.  Jon also volunteered in the Sanctuary Movement in Buffalo in the 1980's for El Vive at La Casa (then located in Lackawanna), helping political refugees from around the world to seek political asylum in Canada.  He worked as an orderly in hospice care at Calvary Hospital, Bronx, NY, taught 7th grade in the missions in Micronesia, and assisted “Brother” Bill Tomes in street gang ministry at the Cabrini-Greene housing projects in Chicago from 1988-1989.  Reflecting on these experiences, Jon says, “You don't just go out and do these difficult things for any good reason – you do it in response to the love and forgiveness you receive from our Lord.  Feeling the love, forgiveness, and presence of God forms and changes us in ways we cannot change ourselves.”   

Jon left the Jesuits in 1989 because he also felt called to the vocation of husband and father.  He married, had two children, John now age 25 and Carol, 23, and began teaching English as a Second Language from 1993 to 2012 at colleges and universities in Saudi Arabia and then the United Arab Emirates.  He explains, “I went to teach in the Middle East for adventure, and mostly the money to support my family.  But I always shared my Christian faith with my Muslim students and friends and they loved and respected me for that.  I thought of myself as an 'Ambassador for Peace' between the American people and the Muslims during times of conflict – especially after the Iraq war began in 2003.  Living in the Middle East gives you a special perspective on immigration, social justice, and the conflict between Israel and Palestine.  I have no doubt that the Episcopal Church, Bishop Michael Curry, and the Reclaiming Jesus movement are on a Godly and righteous path.  I can't tell you how proud and blessed I am to be an Episcopalian.”

Jon felt the call to ministry again in 2008 while a member of St Andrew's Anglican Church in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  The Right Revd Michael Augustine Lewis, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf in the Province of Jerusalem, acknowledged that call and sponsored  Jon for training for the priesthood.  He studied at St Michael and All Angels College and Cardiff University, Wales from 2013-2015.  The topic of his Master of Theology dissertation is Interfaith Dialog between Christians and Muslims.  Jon also trained in cathedral worship and prison ministry while in the Church in Wales.  

Jon was ordained Deacon in 2014 and Priest in 2015 by Bishop Michael Lewis and served as Curate of St Christopher's Cathedral, Bahrain from 2014 to 2016.  In 2016, Jon took his own parish as Rector/Chaplain of St Nicholas', Fujairah, and St Luke's, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE where he built a large, international congregation of all ages.  Fr Jon focused on home-groups, Bible study, fund-raising, ecumenical services, interfaith dialog, and charitable outreach while serving as a priest in the Arabian Gulf.

Moving forward, Fr Jon reflects on his time spent with the vestry, and search committee of St John's Grace, and comments, “I am so blessed and filled with joy to be called to an urban parish which values the beautiful, liturgical worship of God, and service to EVERYONE in the community in the name of Jesus.  This parish truly lives out Jesus' command to love God and love neighbor.  I am eager to join you in this mission of sharing the love of God.”





A message from the Bishop of WNY

Children separated from their parents, tagged with numbers, herded onto vans and buses, transported to "detention centers."

Consider that scene. Taken from the only parent they have ever known. Branded with a number. Transported to large facilities where they are herded like cattle.


In America.

My friends, this is not a political issue, this is a moral issue.

As Episcopalians, as Christians, as people of faith we must stand up and speak out when we witness immoral, abhorrent, and ruthless behavior. These children are being taken from their parents in our name, the United States of America.

It is time we say "enough."

It is time I, as your Bishop, say "enough."

It is common for us, in the shadow of dreadful events in our world, to say that Jesus weeps.

But I don't think Jesus is weeping.

I think Jesus is shouting, "No!"

I think Jesus is furious, heart-sick and disgusted.

Furious that children are treated as pawns in a political fight.

Heart-sick at the terror these children are experiencing.

Disgust at us for allowing this to happen to children. Precious, innocent children.

What can we do? What must we do?

Obviously, we must pray. But we also must speak up.

Call your representatives. Call every single day. Demand that the children be returned to their parents immediately. Demand that our elected officials make this their first priority.

This "zero-tolerance" policy is wrong. It is immoral, unethical, cruel and it is not who we are as citizens of the USA.

This may be a political issue for the politicians, but for me, and I hope for you, it is much, much more.

It is a human issue. It is a dignity issue. It is a love issue. It is a Jesus issue.

Call your elected leaders. Pray for them, pray for us but above all else, pray and ACT for these precious children.

Remember that when the disciples wanted to remove the children Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs." (Luke 18:16)

As we look forward to Independence Day weekend in two weeks, I offer you this Prayer for the Nation, which holds profound significance for me in light of this crisis:

Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

May we all stir up our zeal for justice and use our liberty to rescue these children now.

In Christ,

Bishop Bill

Bishop Franklin is traveling to Capitol Hill Wednesday and Thursday of this week. He will preach on Thursday June 21 at an 8 am Morning Prayer service for Congress. He will then offer prayers at a Vigil on Capitol Hill scheduled for Thursday at 9 am. The Bishop will spend the rest of his time in Washington D.C. lobbying as many Members of Congress as possible. He is praying AND acting.


A message from the presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church.

Presiding Bishop Curry’s sermon at the Royal Wedding

Video available here

May 19, 2018

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry preached at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Worldwide headlines heralded the May 19 wedding of the Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales - member of the English royal family and sixth in line for the throne - and Rachel Meghan Markle, an American actress.

The video is available here

The following is the text of the Presiding Bishop’s sermon.

“The Power of Love”—A Sermon 
by the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry

The Marriage of
HRH Prince Henry of Wales & Ms. Meghan Markle
Saturday, May 19, 2018

And now in the name of our loving, liberating, and life-giving God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

From the Song of Solomon, in the Bible: 

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it (out).

Song of Songs 8:6-7


The late Dr. Martin Luther King once said, and I quote:

    “We must discover the power of love, 
    the redemptive power of love. 
    And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world 
    a new world.  Love is the only way.”

There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it. There’s power, power in love.  If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love.  The whole world seemed to center around you, and your beloved.  Oh there’s power, power in love.  Not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape, of love.  There’s a certain sense, in which when you are loved, and you know it, when someone cares for you and you know it, when you love and you show it, it actually feels right.  There’s something right about it.  And there’s a reason for it.  

The reason has to do with the source.  We were made by a power of love.  And our lives were meant, and are meant to be lived in that love.  That’s why we are here.  Ultimately the source of love is God himself.  The source of all of our lives.  

As an old medieval poem puts it: 
      “Where true love is found, God himself is there.”
1st John in the New Testament says it this way. 

    “Beloved, let us love one another, 
     because love is from God;
     Everyone who loves is born of God
     Whoever does not love does not know God
     For God is love.” (1John 4:4-8)

There’s power in love.  
There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can.  
There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will.  
There’s power in love to show us the way to live

“Set me as a seal on your heart
A seal on your arm”

For love, it’s as strong as death.

But love is not only about a young couple.  
Now the power of love is demonstrated by the fact that we’re all here.  
Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up!  
But it’s not just for and about a young couple who we rejoice with.  
It’s more than that.

Jesus of Nazareth on one occasion was asked by a lawyer to sum up the essence of the teachings of Moses.  And he read back, and reached back into the Hebrew scriptures to Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and Jesus said:

     You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.
     This is the first, and great commandment.
     And the second is like it.
     Love your neighbor as yourself.

And then in Matthew’s version, he added, he said:

    On these two, love of God and love of neighbor, hang all the law, all the prophets

Everything that Moses wrote, everything in the holy prophets, everything in the Scriptures, everything that God has been trying to tell the world!

Love God!
Love your neighbors.
And while you’re at it, love yourself.

Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in all of human history.  A movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world.  And a movement mandating people to live that love.  And in so doing, to change not only their lives, but the very life of the world itself.  

I’m talking about some power.
Real power.
Power to change the world.  

And if you don’t believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America’s Antebellum South, who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform.  They explained it this way - they sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity.  It’s one that says:

    “There is a balm in Gilead”

A healing balm, something that can make things right – 

    “There is a balm in Gilead
     To make the wounded whole
     There is a balm in Gilead
     To heal the sin-sick soul.”

And one of the stanzas actually explains why – they said:

    “If you cannot preach like Peter,
     And you cannot pray like Paul,
     You  tell the love of Jesus,
     How he died to save us all.”

Oh, that’s the balm in Gilead!

This way of love, it is the way of life!  They got it!  

He died to save us all!  He didn’t die for anything he could get out of it!  
Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying!  
He wasn’t getting anything out of it!  
He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the well-being of the world, for us!

That’s what love is.  
Love is not selfish and self-centered.  
Love can be sacrificial.  
And in so doing, becomes redemptive.  

And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love, changes lives.  
And it can change this world.  

If you don’t believe me, just stop and think, or imagine.  
Think, and imagine.  
Well, think and imagine a world where love is the way.

Imagine our homes and families when love is the way.
Imagine neighborhoods and communities when love is the way.
Imagine our governments and nations when love is the way.
Imagine business and commerce when love is the way. 
Imagine this tired old world when love is the way.

When love is the way, unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive.
When love is the way, then no child would go to bed hungry in this world ever again.
When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.
When love is the way, poverty would become history.
When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.
When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields down by the riverside 
to study war no more.
When love is the way, there’s plenty good room.  Plenty good room.  For all of God’s children.
And when love is the way, we actually treat each other – well, like we’re actually family.
When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters.  Children of God.

My brothers and sisters, that’s a new heaven, a new earth, a new world.
A new human family.

And let me tell you something, old Solomon was right in the Old Testament, that’s fire.

Teilhard de Chardin – and with this, I will sit down, we gotta get you all married.

French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin was arguably one of the great minds, great spirits of the 20th century.  A Jesuit, Roman Catholic priest, a scientist, a scholar, a mystic.  In some of his writings he said, from his scientific background, as well as his theological one.  Some of his writings he said, as others have, that the discovery, or invention, or harnessing of fire was one of the great scientific and technological discoveries in all of human history. 

Fire to a great extent made human civilization possible.
Fire made it possible to cook food, and to provide sanitary ways of eating, which reduced the spread of disease in its time. 
Fire made it possible to heat and warm environments and thereby made human migration around the world a possibility, even into colder climates.
Fire made it possible – there was no Bronze Age without fire.  No Iron Age without fire.  No Industrial Revolution without fire.

The advances of science and technology are greatly dependent on the human ability and capacity to take fire and use it for human good.

Anybody get here in a car today?  An automobile?  
Nod your heads if you did, I’m guessing, I know there were some carriages.
For those of us who came in cars, fire, and the controlled, harnessed fire made that possible.

I know that the Bible says, and I believe it, that Jesus walked on the water, but I have to tell you, I didn’t walk across the Atlantic Ocean to get here!
Controlled fire in that plane got me here!

Fire makes it possible for us to text and Tweet and email and Instagram and Facebook and socially be dysfunctional with each other!

Fire makes all of that possible!
And de Chardin said fire was one of the greatest discoveries in all of human history.
And he then went on to say that if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captures the energy of love, it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.

Dr. King was right.  
We must discover love.
The redemptive power of love.
And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world.

My brother, my sister,
God love you, God bless you.
And may God hold us all,
in those Almighty hands of love.