Youth Group closes busy year

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

by Elizabeth Wolterink, Youth Group Leader


Thank you all for voting in the Youth Group’s icon project!  We had lots of votes for our “most saintly saint,” with all of the saints receiving some votes.  The winner was St. Michael the Archangel, written by Travis Holl.  Travis’ icon pictured St. Michael slaying a dragon, representing the triumph of the hosts of God over the forces of evil.  All of the students were so pleased to be able to share their finished works with you and we hope you enjoyed seeing and reading about them!



It’s been a busy quarter for the High School Youth Group.  We began the early part of 2018 with an exploration of faith and science by using a frugal science tool called the foldscope.  This fully functional miniature paper microscope was developed by Stanford scientists to test for malaria in remote areas without access to labs or electricity.  We were able to acquire foldscopes for all the students and did some cool observations with them.



As Lent was starting, Grace hosted a diocesan youth retreat on Celtic Christianity organized by Donna Olendorf.  Kids from three other churches joined our group at Grace for two days of workshops, fun, and worship.  From the retreat and Lent Madness we moved into our icon project.  In the midst of this, the students also participated in the Letter Carriers’ Food Drive, marking, sorting, and shelving the donations to Grace’s Food Pantry.


We welcomed a new leader to the group in late Spring.  Mike Okma stepped in to help out for the end of the year.  Mike works for the Land Conservancy and he, his wife Daniele, and their three children are faithful members of the 10:00 service.  We were blessed to have him on board!  Mike joined us just in time for the students to dive from icons into another artistic project: designing the image for their t-shirt and hoodie sale.  They combined Grace’s fleur cross with a part of the 150th anniversary logo and chose the fonts, wording, and placement for the image.  The sale was a great success with almost 90 shirts sold!  The proceeds will go toward the group’s pilgrimage fund.  Thank you to everyone who bought a shirt to support us!

Youth Group will go on its normal summer hiatus and reconvene again in the fall.  Sadly, both Mike and Elizabeth will probably be unable to continue as leaders next year.  If you feel called to work with a great group of young people in this wonderful ministry, please prayerfully consider becoming a leader and speak to Rev. Kathryn.  Thanks for all your support of our group this year!

Vacation Bible School at Grace July 17-18-19: Searching for treasures on God’s good earth

Posted by & filed under Events, Grace Notes.

by Sue Kelly, Children & Youth Education Council

Where can you find God this summer?  Our children and youth will be asked this question on our last day of church school, June 10.  Look for their responses in the centerpieces on the tables in the parish hall during our ice cream social coffee hour.

One place they will be able to find God this summer will be at Vacation Bible School, July 17-19.  This year it will take place at the beautiful Schubert Farm on Fouch Rd.  The Schuberts have graciously invited our Grace kids grades K-5 to find God as we Search for Treasures on God’s Good Earth.

A creative team is putting together a three day experience from 9am to 12 noon to explore the goodness of God’s creation outside in fun, active ways that will get your hands dirty.  We will be using the Creation Story from our Godly Play curriculum to guide our explorations and ground our VBS kids in scripture from Genesis.

“What was the biggest present you ever got?”  The storyteller suggests there are some gifts that are so huge they can be hard to see and the only way to see them is to go back to the beginning.  “In the beginning…well in the beginning there wasn’t very much.  In the beginning there was… nothing.”  (Godly Play Curriculum by Jerome Berryman)

God gave us the gift of light, the gift of water, the gift of dry land with green and growing things, the gift of day/night and a way to count our days, the gift of creatures that fly and swim, the gift of creatures that walk on the earth, and the gift of a day of rest to remember the great gifts of all the other days.  And God said, “It is good.”

“Why is this story important?  The story of creation reminds us with whom and through whom we begin.  A measure of the joy that creation inspires in us comes from knowing that its beauty has a source far beyond us.  Its size, its complexities, and its interconnections leave us awestruck.  The power of God’s creating word challenges both our hearts and minds to recognize the wonder of human beings as well.  At their best these final creations show signs of the love and strength that God wills for all of life.  Can we rise to the challenge of living in accordance with God’s will? ”

(Witness Sunday School Curriculum)

Each day we will begin by meeting on blankets on the lawn where we will joyfully sing songs lead by Connie Meyers.  We will pray and then each day hear a portion of the creation story.  Kids will then be divided into three groups for rotating stations.

The Garden/Service/Snack station will be run by Linda Schubert.  Kids will plant and harvest for the Pantry Garden which feeds our hungry.  They will also prepare their snack from the nutritious vegetables right from the earth.  The Exploring God’s Creation Hike will be led by Elizabeth Blondia.  Kids will find and identify birds, wildflowers, trees, rocks, and creatures in the earth and pond.  The Nature Inspired Arts/Crafts will be created with the help of Sue Kelly.  While kids are working on crafts, they will have the opportunity to ride on a horse led by Art Schubert.

At the end of our time, we will meet back on our blankets to end in prayer and say goodbye:

Dear God, thank you for bringing us together.

Thank your for creating the world and everything in it.

Help us learn to be good caretakers of your creation. Amen.

k for more information on the bulletin board in the parish hall, sign-up poster in the Commons, and postcards sent to your house.  You may also call the office to sign up.  Let’s explore God’s Good Earth together at Vacation Bible School!

The VBS Committee

Elizabeth Blondia. Sue Kelly, Connie Meyers, Linda Schubert

Notes from the Rector in the Interim

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Interim Rector, Voice of the Clergy.

by The Rev. Kathryn Costas

The Rev. Kathryn Costas, Rector in the Interim

Thank you to everyone who participated in the gatherings, Going Forward: the Next Steps.  We had about 60 folks participate.  In July we will put together what came out of those meetings and focus on our next steps.  There is still time to participate in one final gathering if you have not done so. Please let me ( or the office know if you want to be included in the final gathering. It is a 3 1/2 – 4 hour commitment.

Conversations with the Rector

Following the services on June 9 and 10 and again on June 16 and 17 I will meet with folks in the Sanctuary to have conversations about what it means to be a welcoming church (June 9 & 10) and “people first, labels second: what LGBTQ+ really means”(June 16 & 17).  Please join me as we begin conversation together.

Interim Ministry Network’s 38th annual conference is the third week of June and I will be attending.  The theme is: Discovering a New Song.  It has been said, “songs and hymns of our faith traditions convey deeper truths and words of comfort and inspiration that connect us to history and shape a vision of hope. How does our work of transitional ministry assist congregations to discover a new song that is grounded in experience and heritage, as they prepare for the future they will create in the singing?”  I look forward to this annual conference because I learn so much and it is an opportunity to share with my interim colleagues.  Following the conference I will take my second week of vacation. Did you know that it is standard for full time ministers in the Episcopal Church to have four weeks of vacation and two weeks of continuing education time each year?

Following Trinity Sunday, the Liturgical Year moves into The Season after Pentecost, or what is also known as Ordinary Time.  This is the longest season of the church year and ends with the beginning of Advent.  For the summer months, our liturgy will see some changes.  We will be using responses, confession, Eucharistic Prayers, and post communion prayer from Enriching Our Worship (EOW).  During this season, we are offered two tracks for the Old Testament reading and psalm. We will be using Track Two of the Revised Common Lectionary.  Track two thematically pairs the Old Testament reading with the Gospel reading. For this first Sunday (June 3) the Song of Praise is Canticle N from EOW, we will say it together.  I invite you to do something different during this season.  Instead of following along in your service leaflet for the Eucharistic Prayer, look at the altar and at the bread and wine.  Experience the sacraments with your senses. Be open to hearing, seeing, and feeling the Holy in new ways.

May this summer be a time of re-creation and new beginnings.



Mac and cheese and lemonade – you just made my day!

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Jubilee Ministries.

by Glenda Andrews, Jubilee House Coordinator

These are the words the Jubilee House volunteers recently heard while at your Grace Episcopal Jubilee House.

There has been news lately about Safe Harbor and the Safe Harbor volunteers staying open for extended hours during our cold spring.  This permanent facility has been a blessing for our city and the vulnerable community it serves by providing a shelter at night, which protects people from the harsh cold Northern Michigan winter.  With our usual Grace, the people of Grace Church have given of themselves to this community outreach by volunteering many hours with their hearts and arms wide open to those in need.  I would expect no less from Grace Episcopal!!!  It is what we do.

With that said, Safe Harbor has come and gone for the year but the ministry of Jubilee House continues on 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year.  Jubilee House volunteers give of their time, hearts, and talents each and every one of those days, serving a community that still has many daily needs even when it is warm.  I have been asked many times “how does this new Safe Harbor shelter affect the operation of Jubilee House?”  My reply is “Jubilee House continues to do what it has always done for twelve years, serving and loving God’s people”.  This ministry is providing the daily needs for those who are in need through showers, laundry, clothing, food, but most of all Christian love and prayer.   The Gospel tells us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love one another; this is what Jubilee House does year around.  Jubilee House is a Grace Church ministry.  Our clergy volunteers and people at Jubilee House can and do have daily prayers together on the deck of Jubilee House.  A prayer pole has been set with prayer ribbons tied on by people who have asked a volunteer to pray with them.  There is a Jubilee House Cross with 46 names on it of God’s people who have died and memorials given for them.  At Jubilee House there have been marriage celebrations, death memorials, birthdays, or just a warm hug and smile to those who come through our door.  This is God’s ministry that not only serves the physical needs but also the spiritual needs as well.

Today across the nation, the established churches must and are changing.  The church is going out to the people not waiting for the people to come to the church. God’s love is so needed “out there”.  This is what Christ did, He went to the people. This is God’s command to us.

Your Grace Jubilee Ministries, that you support, need your physical help.  Jubilee House has 50 to 65 people A DAY come to Jubilee House, that is over 300 visits a week 15,600 visits a year.   Your Grace Jubilee Food Pantry has much the same twice a week, and the Grace Jubilee Community Meal has those numbers each Friday.  The volunteers for these ministries come from the community at large as well as our Grace family.   All of these ministries need more helping hands.  The numbers of people using the Jubilee ministries have increased by over 20% over this last year but the number of volunteers have not. It is by the devotion of the current volunteers that keep these ministries strong.   Your Grace Jubilee Ministries are asking for your help.  Let us go to the people through these ministries to love and serve the Lord.  Let us go and do God’s work.  Won’t you please consider volunteering your time?

Grace Jubilee Ministries Statement of Purpose

The Grace Episcopal Jubilee Ministry’s purpose is to serve as an outreach ministry to the marginalized, poor, hungry, unemployed, or oppressed people of our community.  It is the ministries intent to promote dignity, respect, and support to those who are served by providing the essential daily living needs for health and faith.  The Jubilee Ministries are rooted in the reality of God’s presence in each and every human being and that each person has value.  These ministries are a direct and dynamic link between our theology and ethics that we proclaim as Christians, being the talk of our faith is the walk of our faith.

Voice of the Vestry: CHANGE

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Voice of the Vestry.

by Eddie Grim

We humans have a complex and varied relationship with change. It is a profound love and hate relationship. We celebrate the coming of spring while we grumble and complain about the accompanying rain. We smile in pride as our children grow to adulthood, but at the same time fear each new step of independence. Some changes we like and some we fear. Some changes we want and some changes we resist at all cost. Change can comfort us but too much change can bring fear and anger like a sudden storm.

Change in the church can be the most threatening change of all. In a world of extreme change we often hold to the church as an anchor that doesn’t change. The problem is that everything that lives is subject to change and growth. The absence of change in the natural world is an indication of death. Growth and change in the church can be scary or exciting, welcomed or resisted. The church is a living growing body. If a church is to live it must change. It must mature and adapt to new situations and the myriad changes in the world around it.

The important question is in a sea of constant change is there a true anchor, a constant to guide our course. In the book of James we find the one anchor, the true North Star of the church. That which we can depend on in both our individual lives and our lives together. James says, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

The character and nature of God is the one constant that does not change. Our God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. As the well loved hymn says “Time is filled with swift transition, Naught of earth unmoved can stand, Build your hopes on things eternal, Hold to God’s unchanging hand.” (by Jennie Wilson)

We are living through a time of transition and change at Grace. Some changes are easy while some changes are difficult. We as leaders in the church struggle with change as much as anyone else. We spend hours in reflection and prayer seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit at every step. Our only goal is to foster the growth and health of this congregation which we love. We hold to God’s unchanging love, and trust His guidance. Many things change, but our unchanging God is our anchor in the midst of change! Both in our lives together, and in our individual lives, let us hold to the unchanging hand of our God who “does not change like shifting shadows.”

Faith in action: 2018 Eye Brigade mission to La Esperanza, Honduras

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by Bob Foote, O.D.

This mission was one of our best. A big thank you to the members of Grace Church that helped and prayed for us.  I want to especially thank Bill Pierce, Connie Riopelle, Penny Campo-Pierce and Sandy Foote.

Trip planning for this trip began at the end of the 2017 trip. Tentative dates are set and plans begin.  I was hoping to turn the trip leadership role over to another person in 2018 however this was not possible.  Summer passed and I attended the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity-Michigan (VOSH-MI) in September. This is a planning meeting for the various mission trips for 2018 that the third year optometry students would be able to participate in. Until this meeting I was not sure there would be a trip to La Esperanza for 2018.  For the past twelve years there had been missions to Coya Peru, San Carlos Mexico, Dominica and Honduras.  For a variety of reasons Honduras was going to be the only mission in 2018.  I was told that there were ten optometry students counting on going to Honduras.  They work for three years to earn an opportunity to participate on one of the mission trips.  I put my trip leader hat back on and began making travel arrangements for a team of 20.  Plans began to fall into place until the presidential election in Honduras.  There was apparent voter fraud resulting in many demonstrations in the larger Honduran cities.  I was being told that everything was fine in La Esperanza but I knew we had to travel through San Pedro Sula where some of the demonstrations had been violent. January 5, 2018 I put the trip on hold cancelling our flight reservations.  Through January I enlisted the help of Bill Pierce, Penny Campo-Pierce, Sandy Foote, Kevin VanRiper and Dick Gross to process our used glasses inventory with the hope the mission would be back on if the conditions improved in Honduras.  As Lent began Rev. Kathryn had a sermon about Grace Parishioners doing something scary or at least out of our comfort zone as a Lenten activity or commitment. This was about the time that I asked my trusted friend Mario del Cid about the conditions in San Pedro Sula. He was always prompt to reply but I did not hear from him for a couple of days.  He had traveled the roads we would be taking for our three hour bus ride to La Esperanza from the airport in San Pedro Sula to determine if it would be safe for us to make this trip.  He said it would be safe for the Group. So with the help of people here, in Honduras and the Holy Spirit I was able to get our travel plans back in place. The mission was back on track and we had our Lenten assignment.

April 5th eighteen of our group and thirty six suitcases met in Grand Rapids for an early morning departure to Honduras. We had an optometrist from Virginia meet us in Houston and all nineteen arrived in San Pedro Sula on time with all our suitcases of glasses, medications and equipment. The bus ride to La Esperanza was easy and we arrived before dark.  The following morning the clinic set up was ahead of schedule, with us beginning to see patients about 9:30 AM, a new record for the first day.  The clinic ran very well although we missed having Sandy and Penny on this trip. We were able to care for 920 people, dispensing approximately 1,700 pair of glasses.  Part of the glasses dispensed were 152 of custom made pairs by Dick and his team. 89 people had medical conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, pterygiums and crossed eye that will receive care at the Lions Fraternidad Clinic in San Pedro Sula. The La Esperanza Lions transport about 10 people each month to the San Pedro Sula clinic so that over the next year they will all have the surgical or medical care they need.

We saw two brothers, Jose and Broyan, that were albino. They had never had any eye care and were not attending school. Albinism is a genetically inherited condition that results in the lack of pigment in the skin, hair, iris and retina. They are very light sensitive and usually have glasses prescriptions with high amounts of astigmatism.  The two boys received glasses made on site as well as a pair of Transition Extra-Active made here in Traverse City by Dick Gross at Twin City Optical. The Transition lenses will provide protection from the sun making it possible for them to function normally under bright sunny conditions and hopefully begin to go to school.

Thank you to all the members from Grace Church that were praying for our group. You and the Holy Spirit helped make our Mission a huge success.

Reshaping our Diocese to Increase Connections

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by Rosemary Hagan, D. Min., North Region Chair

If you are new to being an Episcopalian it might come as a surprise that our parish, Grace Church, does not “stand alone”. We are a member parish in a larger geographical region called a Diocese. We are also part of the greater Episcopal Church in this country, and beyond that we are members of the world-wide Anglican Communion. But let’s move back closer to home to our own Diocese, the Diocese of Western Michigan. The Cathedral for our Diocese, or in a different parlance, the corporate office, is seated in Kalamazoo. This is where our Bishop and the diocesan staff have their offices. Having an organization’s corporate office located far from a satellite office can lead to a sense of isolation or disconnect, at both ends of the geographical stretch. Being a church in the north or any church miles away from where the Bishop and diocesan staff is located can lead to much of the same feelings of isolation and disconnect, even if the Bishop regularly visits each area.

For the last few years the diocese has undertaken deep listening sessions with each region as a means of looking at this sense of disconnect and to understand gaps in needed support to parishes. After extensive discussion and much planning and fiscal decision making at the diocesan level, our Diocese brought a resolution to its annual convention last fall to reconfigure the diocese from five deaneries into three regions, the North, Central, and South. Along with this decision, we committed to hire and place a Canon Missioner in each region. The Canon Missioner will act as advocate, consultant, and support to each parish, as well as providing localized deployment officer skills to parishes in their region that are seeking a new rector.

We are now a part of the North Region, and we recently learned that our newly hired Canon Missioner for the North is The Reverend C. Anne Hallmark. Anne and her husband Steve will be moving to Michigan from Virginia and will reside in Traverse City. They were recently in the area to plan for their move, and after the visit Anne commented, “how kind and supportive everyone has been, and I have fallen in love with the geography of the region”.

Reverend Hallmark will begin her new position June 1. Her work will take her all over the north in support of our region’s parishes and chapels, from as remote as Beaver Island and as far south as Ludington. If you are curious about the Canon Missioner job description:

If you would like to receive diocesan email updates visit the diocesan website and click on the tab for e-updates found on the home page.

Parish delegates to the annual convention and clergy from the region gather a few times a year to worship together and share information. All parishioners are invited to attend any regional meeting. Our next meeting will be held June 9th, at Grace Church from 10:00 am until noon.  Reverend Hallmark will be in attendance and you can join us as we wish her a warm welcome.

Grace’s young iconographers

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Youth group.

youth group members writing their icons

by Elizabeth Wolterink, Youth Group Leader

How many of you played Lent Madness?  While we were all playing and learning about our spiritual forbearers, the High School Youth Group has been taking their saintly studies a step further.  During Lent, each student chose a saint and has been learning about them while creating an icon of that individual.  Icon writing (icons are always “written,” not “painted”) and veneration has been a traditional prayer practice in Eastern Christianity for millennia.  An icon differs from an idol in that it is a prayer and worship tool, not an object of worship itself.  Saints are the heroes of our tradition and icons of them inspire contemplation and emulation of their faith in action.  The act of writing an icon can also be a contemplative prayer.  Brush-strokes and breath become united as something honoring God is created.

The breadth and variety of saints that the youth have chosen is fascinating.  I don’t want to tell you who they are or what their stories are because the students are writing descriptions and will be displaying their work in the next few weeks.  I can tell you that the icons being written are of canonized and folk saints, ancient and modern, contemplative and activist, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant, male and female, human and non-human.  Part of the lesson in these choices is that we all have it in us to be saints.  The expressions of our relationships with God might be quiet or dynamic.  They might be seen in our intellects or our service or our sacrifices.  Somewhere among the enormous corpus of saints is someone like you – someone who might inspire you because something in their life or experience speaks to you.  This is one of the mystical meanings of the ancient Greek word mimesis – the deep stirring of the soul when it recognizes itself in another.  This is also part of the power of icons: to trigger that deep soul-stirring which is not just a recognition of similarity with another, but a spiritual remembrance of our true nature as children of God.  But the mimetic power of saints does not only work by looking back.  Part of its beauty is that just as you might recognize and be inspired by one of the hundreds of saints, somewhere among the family of Christ someone might recognize and be inspired by you.

When they are complete, the youth icons will be blessed by a special prayer during the 10:00 service and displayed in the hallway between the Commons and the Parish Hall.  The group is excited to share them with you and we hope that you will participate in our own little contest by reading the signs about each icon and choosing the one you think is the most “saintly” individual.  Ballots and a voting jar will be available on a small table under the tract rack.  If anyone is interested in learning more about icon making or writing their own icons, I highly recommend the book we used, A Brush with God: An Icon Workbook by Peter Pearson.

Support our food pantry at local food drives

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Jubilee Ministries.

Bounty received from last year’s Spartan Food Drive

Did you know that our Grace Food Pantry benefits from local food drives? The more we volunteer the more food we receive, including fresh produce and bottled juice, both favorites with pantry clients.  Free food for the food pantry means giving out more and buying less, freeing up money for items like meat.  We have the opportunity to participate in two food drives this spring, which will help us fill the pantry shelves.  We need volunteers to help us with both food drives.  Even if you are not a regular pantry volunteer, perhaps you could consider helping out in this way.  Contact Nancy Johnson for more information: or 231-668-9633, or use the sign-up sheets in The Commons.



Please consider giving the food drive a try.  We will be at the Olesons Long Lake on Cedar Run Road, which is the store where we purchase our monthly items for the food pantry.  They like us there, which is half the battle according to people working at a few of the other stores.  Olesons will provide chairs unlike some of the stores. Children are welcome and can participate.   This is a great way to increase volunteer requirements for school.  Don’t forget the proximity of That’s A Pizza, a great family place!  We really need you especially now that the number of our volunteers has decreased.  Give it a try!

The shifts are two hours long and your job will be to hand out flyers about the food drive and encourage people to spend $10 at the cash register (which Olesons translates into food for the pantry).  The amount of food that we receive will be dependent on the amount of time we put into this food drive.  We received several hundred dollars worth of food last year, including lots of fresh onions, potatoes and apples, among other items that are shelf-stable. We will also need volunteers with vans and/or station wagons to bring the food back to the pantry and unload it.

A few weeks after this food drive, the rest of the donated food will arrive at the Goodwill Warehouse on Aero Park Drive from the Spartan warehouse in Grand Rapids.  Del Johnson has already volunteered to help at the warehouse to operate the pallet lifter fork lift.  He gets all the fun!  We will again need volunteers with vans and/or station wagons to help transport the food to our pantry and unload it.  Last year, when we arrived at the warehouse to pick up our share of the bounty, we also received enough squeeze apple sauce for the kid bags to last a year (if you don’t know what a kid bag is, ASK!).  This is BIG and the more we give of our time, the more food we receive.



This is a national food drive with local participation and benefit, held traditionally the day before Mother’s Day. We will need at least 12 volunteers at the warehouse (probably the warehouse at the corner of Barlow and Airport Road).  There will be two shifts, 1 PM until 3:30 PM and 3:30 PM until closing.  Feel free to work both shifts!

We are also looking for a volunteer to drive a truck to the post offices to pick up incoming food as the postal trucks return to their home bases.  If you can drive a truck and are willing to do so, please let Nancy Johnson know (contact info above).

We will need a few volunteers to be at our pantry around 6 PM to accept the food and store it or mark it and shelve it.

Grace will be providing food at the warehouse for the volunteers.  Nancy Johnson has volunteered to make a huge batch of her Hi Pro Chili, already taste-tested and approved by pantry people at a coalition meeting.  If anyone has any bottled water, paper plates, etc. that you can donate, that too will be appreciated, but the chili should cover our food donation.  We expect about 100 volunteers in total, from a variety of local food pantries.  By the way, Nan Strickler is providing 25 bags of cookies for postal drivers along with other coalition members.  Thank you Nan and Nancy!

This is a great opportunity to help our pantry for people who cannot volunteer on a regular basis.  If you can help with this food drive, contact Nancy Johnson (contact info above).  Sign up sheets will be available in The Commons as of May 1.


Jesus Was A Freak-Loving Freak

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Voice of the Vestry.

This may not surprise some of you.

I had an experience in my family some years ago that led me to this story.  You know how people can go quiet and either quit or slow communications? Often times, those on the other end start making up explanations for why the communication has changed pace? These explanations usually involve fear and judgement. You know the ones. Similarly, you know how people can see the way others live their lives and make up explanations for behavior they may not understand? These explanations also usually involve fear and judgement. Yes, you know the ones. All of this guesswork leads to a tangle of emotions and a lot of division. The division starts the minute we stop inquiring, and start with the “them over there” guesswork. Think about how often this happens in our families, our work relationships, and well … just look at politics today. We retreat to our corners, point in a direction, parlay some guesswork, launch a strategy based in self-preservation, and come out prepared to fight at the slightest perceived provocation. Once this dynamic is set in motion, it can be hard for either party to pull out. Fear and pride play central roles.

I’m a fan of unflinching honesty. Not everyone is, or needs to be. What we do need to be is curious. We need to be curious about those with whom we interact. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it brings “brothers and sisters” in Christ closer. I’m not suggesting the nosy brand of curiosity. I’m suggesting the empathic brand. I’m suggesting granting benefit of doubt in situations that too often are subject to jumping to conclusions. Here’s the deal. The explanations, the judgements you’ve made up may actually be true. Some might not be. It’s worth finding out. Either way, once we get curious and inquire, we can very often understand a reflection of ourselves in those we’re in relationship with.

Why was Jesus a freak? In addition to shining too brightly, he transcended even the need for giving benefit of the doubt. He granted Grace.

We’re all freaks, each of us. We all have “our ways”, we are flawed, we screw up, we fall down, we lash out, we might not look right, our feet stink, we make others uncomfortable with our shine, we are too loud, too quiet, too Catholic, too liberal, too evangelistic, etc. I saw a post on Facebook recently where you could “check out” a human from a certain public library. The idea being that you take the time to sit and learn the other person’s story. Our differences are our gifts to one another. How rich would we all be?! Let’s be a freaky family!

For by the grace of God given to me I say to everyone of you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgement, as God has apportioned to each a degree of faith and a purpose designed for service. For just as in one physical body we have many parts, and these parts do not all have the same function or special use, so we, who are many are one body in Christ, and individuals we are parts of one another.        -Romans 12:3-5

The Church is intended to be a freaky family. As a body of believers, it’s both a whole thing, and an ecosystem that makes up a whole. It requires diversity. This diversity, these differences, and our ability to form a something whole out of them … it’s the glue that truly strengthens us. Grace is a glue.