by The Rev. Kathryn Costas, Rector in the Interim
Over three different days, folks from Grace met in small groups to discover and identify themes that capture the positive core of Grace, those elements that give life to Grace, parts of our past that we might desire to carry into our future. The time began by meeting in dyads with someone not well known to you. For about forty minutes folks were invited to discover more about the person through stories.
Stories help us share who we are and learn about one another. The first question was about God’s presence. ‘Tell me a story about a time when you had a sense of God’s abiding presence at Grace’. Then folks shared a time when they felt most alive, most involved, or most excited about being a parishioner at Grace. We shared what we valued about ourselves and what we valued about our role at Grace. And then we shared what we thought were the core values of Grace, what gives life to this congregation.
After gathering back into table groups, folks shared with the group the highlights of what they had heard during their interviews Then the groups reflected on what they had heard and from that they identified themes that capture the positive core of Grace.
Each table shared these positive elements, things they wanted to carry with them into the future with the larger gathering. After all groups shared their themes, the papers were put up so all could gather and review them. Each person attending was given three green dots and asked to identify the three themes they believed most identified who Grace is, those themes that are most important.
These top themes from the various gatherings comprise what the people at Grace value most:
- Welcome: every voice matters, respecting the dignity of all; offering diverse worship
- Intellectual Welcome / Openness: open altar, open for kids, open for all; talk to folks who think differently
- Trailblazer: move ahead and try/innovate; rabble rousing
- Valuing Everyone: kids, older, homeless, sick, and everything in between
- Community Needs: aware that we reside in and need to serve those around us
- Liturgy/Worship: we are fed, nourished in worship; communion; traditional, shared experiences
- Ministry: we need each other, we learn from each other, reciprocity, presence of God experienced through other.
- Safe Place: to find out who you are and who you are to God and who God is. It is about belonging not conformity.
- Values: volunteering, committees, Jubilee House, Safe Harbor, people who invest of themselves, opportunities for involvement
- Outreach/Compassion: service
- Relationships: one on one, love, pastoral care, ministering to one another
- God’s abiding presence in difficult times
Going forward we will use these themes to imagine what Grace Church would be like if the theme was fully alive and realized.
Following lunch, people gathered in groups to discover the neighborhood surrounding Grace. Next week the focus of this article will be on what people learned as they walked the blocks surrounding Grace.