Vestry minutes 1/10/2017

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Vestry minutes.

Vestry Members:  Clare Andreasson, Maria DiStefano-Post, Nancy Flowers, Eddie Grim, Helen Hankins, Sue Kelly, Michael Mittelstaedt, Anne Montgomery, Jeff Tibbits, Marian Vermeulen, Chuck Wolterink (Absentees in Italics)

Guests Present:
Staff Present:  Ann Hackett   
Clergy Present:

Prayer:  Helen opened with prayer.

Approve/Amend the Agenda:
The December 20, 2017 agenda was approved by acclamation with the following amendments.  Remove check-in and scripture & study.

The minutes from the December 20, 2016 meeting were approved by acclamation.

Reports:

Rector Report: 
No report

Treasurer’s Report:
In the absence of Mark Stackable, Clare gave a financial update.  She and Ann spent time going over the budget line by line to see where cuts could be made to balance the 2017 budget.  After line item cuts, and without tapping into our unspent income from 2016, our total budget deficit as of January 10, 2017 is $57,916.67.  The amount of $57,916.67 is the gap between income and expense if all salaries remain at their current levels.  An added expense of up to $40,000 for potential unknown issues with the roof would also need to be raised.

The vestry discussed how to balance the budget using the current financial information as well as Finance Committee recommendations.

Motion by Jeff, seconded by Eddie, to make salary cuts for both the Youth Ministry Coordinator and the Music & Worship Coordinator in six months to balance the budget unless more money comes into the budget to meet their salary/benefit packages. Discussion ensued.  Motion passed.

Motion by Clare, seconded by Jeff, that given our present budget situation, the Music & Worship Coordinator and the Youth Ministry Coordinator hours will be cut in half effective July 1, 2017 and their compensation packages adjusted accordingly. Motion passed.

Parish Administrator Report: Ann reports that Traverse City State Bank is offering lower fees to manage our general fund checking account than what we pay at Huntington Bank.  She suggests moving that account along with the Discretionary Fund and the savings account to Traverse City State Bank to keep banking in one location.

Motion by Helen, seconded by Anne, that Huntington accounts (checking, savings, and discretionary) be moved to TC State Bank.  Motion passed.

Moving those accounts necessitates updating account signers.

Motion by Anne, seconded by Helen, to approve the account signers as listed. Motion passed.

Peggy Byland has been hired by the Jubilee House Board to be the JH House Manager.  She began working on Monday, January 2, 2017.  She will work Monday-Friday, four hours per day at $17/hr.

Motion by Clare, seconded by Chuck, to ratify the hiring of Peggy Byland for three months whose salary will be paid out of Jubilee House restricted funds.  Motion passed.

Carlton has suggested a two night vestry retreat instead of one.  After discussion, the vestry has decided to keep the vestry retreat to one night.  The retreat will be February 3 and 4 at St. Augustine in Conway just north of Petoskey.

Co-Senior Warden Report:
There was discussion about the best way to proceed with voting for five vestry candidates at the Annual Meeting.  There are five vacancies on the vestry one of which is a 1-year term.  The 1-year term, according to bylaws, must be appointed by the vestry.  It was suggested that we appoint one of the five prior to the Annual Meeting and the four remaining candidates could be voted in by acclamation.  Ballots have already been printed to choose among five and have been distributed to absentee voters.  It was decided to keep the ballots as is and the congregation will vote for four 3-term vestry members and then the vestry will appoint the one 1-year term.

Previous to the meeting, Clare asked us to consider some questions with regard to engaging the National Episcopal Church with our concerns related to the past sexual misconduct issue at Grace.  After discussing, we conferred by telephone with Lee Taft, Episcopalian, lawyer, and graduate of Harvard Divinity School who on occasion when in town attends Grace Church.  Lee’s business, Taft Solutions, works in designing, developing, and implementing conflict resolution processes.  He has been advising us on how to proceed.

Motion by Anne, seconded by Eddie, to have Lee Taft call Mary (legal counsel to the Presiding Bishop) at the National Episcopal Church to clarify what the word “investigation” means.  Motion passed.

Motion by Eddie, seconded by Chuck, to send a letter to the National Episcopal Church to ask for their involvement in a meeting between Bishop Gibbs, Bishop Hougland, Father Kelley, Clare, and Helen to discuss unresolved issues in the past sexual misconduct at Grace.  Motion passed.

Junior Warden Report:
Jeff is organizing the vestry potluck to welcome the new vestry members and to say good-by to retiring members Nancy Flowers, Helen Hankins, Anne Montgomery, Donna Olendorf, and Chuck Wolterink.  It will be held January 24 in the parish hall.  Invitations will go out.

Old Business: 
None

New Business:
None

Forum for Congregational Concerns:
Some parishioners have suggested quarterly meetings with the congregation to keep them apprised especially in the area of GEC finances.

Core Ministry Reports:

Rector Search Committee:
None

Follow-up & Follow-through:

  • Helen will write a thank you to Jack Singer as he retires from co-directing the Jubilee House.
  • Michael will write a thank you to Kathy Will for managing a thousand details for all the Christmas services.
  • Clare, Helen, and Eddie will talk with Donna Olendorf and Kathy Will about cuts in their positions due to budget deficits.
  • Carlton, Lee, Clare, and Helen will draft a letter to the National Episcopal Church to involve them in a meeting with Bishop Gibbs, Bishop Hougland, Father Kelley, Clare, and Helen.
  • Clare and Helen will draft a letter to the congregation to update them before the Annual Meeting on the current financial situation.
  • Jeff and the office will send out invitations for the Vestry Potluck, January 24.

Dismissal at 9:15.

Respectfully submitted,
Sue Kelly
Vestry Clerk

Engaging the Word: 02/12/17 (The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. This week we have guidelines on how we can live well in relationship to God and to one another.

Moses Seeing the Promised Land by Christian Rohifs, 1912. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Moses Seeing the Promised Land by Christian Rohifs, 1912. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20: The book of Deuteronomy is set up as a series of three speeches delivered by Moses when the Israelites are preparing to enter the Promised Land. The action takes place c. 1400 BC, but various authors and editors composed the text from the 8th to 6th centuries (pre-exile to post-exile). Using the name of a prestigious figure from the past—Moses in this case—was a common practice in the Ancient Near East. It gave authority to the text and a link to the past.

I love our reading this week, from the third speech. Moses tells the people to choose how they will live. If they love God, and devote themselves to obeying the commandments, then they will prosper. “But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish.” Then Moses, still speaking for God, says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. CHOOSE LIFE so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him (emphasis added).”

The phrase “Choose Life,” is a touchstone for me whenever I’m unsure of what to do. The words “Choose Life!” often spring to mind, and I try (often failing, but sometimes successful) to hold fast to God and choose the action that will grow God’s Kingdom. Really, what else are we here for?

 Psalm 119:1-8: This week we have the first of 22 stanzas of Psalm 119, the longest psalm in the Psalter. Next week we’ll have another. We read other stanzas in October and November last year. This psalm reminds us that we can live in a close and trusting relationship with God by following the path he has set out for us.

St. Paul by Holbein, c.1510s. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. Paul by Holbein, c.1510s. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 Corinthians: We continue with the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. Paul is concerned about the divisions, discord, and factions within the Corinthian church. This week Paul addresses the roles that have been assigned to himself and Apollos.

Paul begins by telling the Corinthians that they are spiritual infants.The Corinthians thought of themselves as the spiritually elite, but Paul knew better. They are jealous and quarreling among themselves about whether they “belong to Paul” or “belong to Apollos.” They are behaving as if they hadn’t received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Paul points out that he and Apollos are just doing the work as the Lord assigned. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.” The Corinthian people belong to God, not to Paul or to Apollos.

This reminds me of when people say, “I was baptized as a Methodist,” or “I was baptized as an Episcopalian, “ and so on, as if the Christian denomination were more important than the fact that all of us are baptized “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Hands across the Divide by Maurice Harron, 1991. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Hands across the Divide by Maurice Harron, 1991. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Matthew 5:21-37: The Gospel According to Matthew has an interesting structure, with five sets of text alternating between narrative and discourse. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 are devoted to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which is the first and best known of Jesus’ discourses. We continue with Jesus’ sermon this week.

Jesus raises the bar of behavior to a higher standard than that of obeying the letter of the law. He wants his disciples to be transformed by the deeper meaning behind the law. In our reading, Jesus talks about anger, adultery, divorce, and making vows. Jesus introduces the contrasts between the law, “You have heard that it was said….” and his expansion and explanation, “But I say…”

Several scholars, including John Hiigel in Partnering with the King   show the three-part pattern Jesus uses with each subject. From John Hiigel:

(1) Your have heard the Law’s commandment;

(2) But by God’s authority, I so say to you that God intends for you to keep the commandment more thoroughly and from a changed heart; and

(3) Here are some creative “transforming initiatives*” you could do as disciples to live out this greater righteousness in practical ways.

Here’s an example from this week’s reading:

(1)   “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, `You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ (The Law)

(2)   But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. (Change of heart)

(3)   Let your word be `Yes, Yes’ or `No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one. (Transforming initiative—let all your speech be simple and honest.)

This idea gave me a deeper understanding for Jesus’ teaching. He’s not only giving us a diagnosis of what’s wrong, but wants us to change our hearts and demonstrate that change of heart though our behavior.

* Hiigel credits Glen H. Stassen and David P. Gusher for the phrase, “transforming initiatives.”

Lenten series begins with screening of Spotlight

Posted by & filed under Events, Grace Notes.

Ending the Silence – Responding in LoveLentenSeriesClipArt
Special Movie Screening Wednesday, Feb. 15, 6 pm

Father Carlton is pleased to announce our Lenten Study Series this year, Ending the Silence – Responding in Love, dealing with the issues surrounding sexual abuse in the church and the events that have occurred in our own parish.  A team of church members representing vestry, pastoral care, and special expertise in treating victims of sexual abuse and their families, has been working with Father Carlton to design a structure for the series that is specific to the needs of Grace.  We will examine sexual abuse from a spiritual point of view and its effects on our church, both as individuals and a community, and look forward to ways to prevent it in the future.  The series will kick off with a special pre-Lent screening of the movie Spotlight on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 6 pm in the parish hall.  There will be an opportunity for discussion following this very powerful film.  Watch the trailer here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56jw6tasomc

Brown bag your own snack or dinner; coffee, tea and water provided.  Child care will be available (please notify the office).  We are restricting attendance to those who are 18 years of age and older.  We hope you will join us for conversation and engagement in this difficult, but liberating work.

 

Schrader steps into official office role

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Ellen Schrader
Administrative Assistant and Outreach Coordinator

2017 Ellen Schrader admin assist (1)When Carlton asked me to ‘stop by’ his office last week after I finished my work with the Monday Morning Group (the folks who process the offerings from the weekend), my first thought was…rats!  I’m in trouble again!  Imagine my surprise when he invited me to consider following in Erika’s and Charissa’s fine footsteps to become the administrative assistant and outreach coordinator for the parish – starting the following Monday.  To be honest, it was a little overwhelming and I needed time to process and pray. As a result I’m very honored and grateful to  serve the parish in this way.

Many of you know me, but for those who don’t, my professional background is in nursing and health care administration.  My experience at Grace over the last twenty years includes serving in a variety of ministries (not all at once), including choir, Daughters of the King , altar guild, cookie sale committee, vestry (junior warden), diocesan convention delegate, finance committee (10 years), stewardship, rector search committee,  office volunteer, worship planning, Grace Harmony, youth group leader, Friday lunch (yes!  I know how to run the big dishwasher!), pantry, hospital visitor, Lay Eucharistic Minister, Lay Eucharistic Visitor,  prayers of the people composer, and two stints filling in for Erika in the office (a maternity leave and an extended vacation).  I’m also a spiritual director.  By serving in these ministries, I’ve received a very good education in what it takes to operate a worshipping community of our size and scope, as well as growing and deepening my relationship with God.  I’m so grateful for all of it!

Today (the day I’m writing this article) is my second day on the job, and I have spoken with lots of people on the phone, answered tons of emails, received the Staples office supplies I ordered yesterday (including an in-box for my desk), greeted several parishioners who stopped by for various help and appointments, helped three people who walked into the office seeking help with (1) a gas card (no, and it was hard to say it), (2) durable medical equipment (referred to LOVE, INC) and (3) finding missing boots (stolen and we have the video as proof!), and worked on updating our vestry roster for their retreat this weekend.

Whew!

Then it was lunchtime.  In the afternoon, Donna Olendorf and I attended a webinar on our email blast software, I signed out keys to altar guild members, started researching a request on burial details from 1988, and on it went.  You get the picture – it is a busy office with lots of interruptions, but the overarching atmosphere is one of love.  God’s love permeates this place and those who walk through the door are greeted, listened to and, for the most part I hope, helped in some way.  I have the good fortune of becoming part of a stellar team that includes Carlton, Ann Hackett, Kathy Will and Donna Olendorf on a daily basis.  It’s heaven to me – a chance to work for the place I love and to help others.  What could be better? !  Thank you for this incredible opportunity!

Engaging the Word: 02/05/17 (The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Isaiah 58: 1-12; Psalm 112; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16; Matthew 5:13-20. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, Isaiah teaches that God’s favor is earned not by ritual fasting, but by compassionate social action, Paul tells us that God’s wisdom is available to those who possess the Spirit, and Jesus that we are the salt and light of the world.

The Prophet Isaiah by Jacob Cobaert, late 16th century. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Prophet Isaiah by Jacob Cobaert, late 16th century. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Isaiah 58:1-12: Our reading this week takes place when the Israelites were waiting to return home from exile. The people are discouraged, but more than that, they were in a spiritual crisis. God wants them to wake up! They were going through the ritual motions of fasting and worshiping, and complained that God was not responding to their prayers: “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Isaiah points out that their attitude and behavior is not acceptable to God. They fast, but it’s meaningless because they oppress their workers; they quarrel and fight. God demands more than words and rituals. “Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.”

Even in exile, the people have not repented of their sins. God wants the Israelites to “loose the bonds of injustice,” free the oppressed, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and clothe the naked. When they take care of the everyday needs of the poor, “Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.” God will bless them and their homeland will be rebuilt and restored.

Psalm 112: Our psalm is a wisdom psalm. It seems like a response to our reading from Isaiah, a guide to living as godly people—to hold God in awe, care for others, and live according to Mosaic Law. It begins “Hallelujah! Happy are they who fear the Lord and have great delight in his commandments!”

Apostle Paul by Andrei Rublev, c.1410. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Apostle Paul by Andrei Rublev, c.1410. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 Corinthians 2:1-6: In last week’s reading, reading, Paul described the crucified Christ as the wisdom and power of God. He called on the Corinthians to set aside their understanding of worldly wisdom (which the Corinthians valued above all else) in exchange for God’s spiritual wisdom, for “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”

In this week’s reading, Paul reminds the Corinthians that he did not come to proclaim the gospel with “lofty words or wisdom,” but in weakness, fear, and trembling. For Paul, the message of the gospel is not about fancy rhetoric, but about the power of God.

However, Paul makes the case that he does speak words of wisdom “among the mature.” He’s making a distinction between the human wisdom and divine wisdom. The “mature” respond to the gospel “through the Spirit,” the mind of Christ. Those who just have human wisdom have not (yet) received this gift, so the gospel makes no sense. Basically, all the wisdom of the world is inadequate; true wisdom is expressed by Jesus’ death on the cross.

Sermon on the Mount by Makarov, 1889. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Sermon on the Mount by Makarov, 1889. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Matthew 5:13-20: This week’s reading continues the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus calls on his disciples to be salt and light, and talks about his vocation to fulfill the law and the prophets. In some ways, the Sermon on the Mount is a rulebook for how we, the people of God, are to bring salt and light to the tasteless and dark world.

When we talk about someone being “the salt of the earth,” we mean that he or she is honest, reliable, decent, and good.  Jesus said “You are the salt of the earth.” We might think, Who, me? And Jesus says, Yes, you!

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world….let your light shine before others” so your good deeds will draw others to the glory of God. As you may recall in John’s gospel, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”  Jesus is the source. Since we don’t create our own light, I think Jesus means that are to reflect his light by what we say and what we do.

I recently purchased my first smart phone, and one of the instructions was to recharge the phone every day. So it is with Christ. I need to stay connected with Christ, the source of light, through daily worship, prayer, study, and action. If I don’t, I’ll be out of juice in no time.

Then Jesus said, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”  The fulfillment of the law is not about piling on more petty rules and regulations, but about internalizing the guiding principle of loving God with all our hearts and minds and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Charissa’s farewell: I needed love and you healed me

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Charissa Kaschel

Charissa KaschelIt’s a bittersweet symphony this life.

It is with a heavy heart that I write to you all.  The time here at Grace has brought a host of melodies and harmonies that I never would have put together into a beautiful aria that will be forever etched in my memory.

When I came to Grace in December 2015 I was in a mess both physically and emotionally.  I had suffered the devastating end of my marriage and the turmoil involved with that and I was recovering from a significant car accident that left me jobless and physically in pain.  To say that I needed the love and healing warmth of you all is putting it lightly.

In the several months following my beginning here, I missed a lot of time due to illness, recovery, doctor appointments, sick kids, and just about any other thing you can think of that might plague a single mom.  Every time I needed to call, leave early, or step out to take a phone call much grace and understanding were extended to me.  On days that I needed to bring a child with me to work, whether for a full day or a few moments, they were always greeted with big smiles and love not only from the staff but you as parishioners.

I have continued to learn great things both in the professional realm as well as the personal.  It has been an honor to spend time getting to know each of you, your families, and– most of all– your stories. Thank you for honoring me with pieces of your lives, your joys, your heartaches, and investing in us and who we are as a family.

Though we are moving into a new direction as a family, Grace will forever be in our hearts and minds.  My boys look forward to continuing to volunteer in the food pantry, helping with community meals and maybe even singing in the choir.  While I say goodbye as a staff member, I do not say goodbye to you, but instead… I’ll see you soon.

Election results – 150th Annual Meeting

Posted by & filed under Annual meeting, Grace Notes.

Jeff Wescott, James Deaton, Kathryn Holl, Bill Smith, Karl Bastian (L to R).

Newly elected 2017 vestry members: Jeff Wescott, James Deaton, Kathryn Holl, Bill Smith, Karl Bastian (L to R).

Elections

The 150th Annual Meeting was held on Sunday, January 22, 2017, and included several important elections.

James Deaton, Kathryn Holl, Bill Smith, and Jeff Wescott were elected to fill three year terms on the vestry, while Karl Bastian was appointed to replace Nancy Flowers for a one-year-term.

Elizabeth Blondia, Greg Hagan, and Donna Olendorf were elected as diocesan delegates to the annual convention. Rosemary Hagan, Elizabeth Black, and George Prewitt are alternates.

Mary Pierce and Kate Wood were elected to the 2017 nominating commitee, which is charged with identifying candidates for next year’s elections.

Congratulations to the new members of the Grace leadership team.

Recognition and thank you were given to outgoing Vestry members: Nancy Flowers, Helen Hankins, Anne Montgomery, Donna Olendorf and Chuck Wolterink. Their commitment, especially during the difficult last two years, is most appreciated.

Deep gratitude was extended to those who supported Jubilee House in special ways: Jack Singer as a faithful volunteer and co-director for the ministry for the last three years; Connie Riopelle, devoted director of the facility for several years; Rick Taylor for outstanding fundraising through Swingshift and the Stars, a local dance competition for charities, and Abby Byar, our talented dancer for that competition. The Jubilee House ministry thrived with their enthusiasm and hours of work.

Engaging the Word: 1/29/17 (The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Micah 6:1-8 Psalm 15; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, Micah tells us to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God,” Paul speaks of the paradoxical power of the cross, and Jesus gives us a series of blessings, known as the Beatitudes.

Prophet Micah by Hubert van Eyck (c.1366-1426). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Prophet Micah by Hubert van Eyck (c.1366-1426). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Micah 6:1-8: Micah was one of the 8th century prophets and declared God’s judgment on Samaria and Jerusalem for social injustice, exploitation of the helpless, and fraudulent religion.  Micah said that Zion would be destroyed, “plowed like a field” which happened 586 BC.

This week’s reading is set in a cosmic law court. God has brought a lawsuit against the people of Israel for their infidelity and ingratitude; the witnesses are the hills, mountains, and the “enduring foundations of the earth.” God recalls his saving acts on behalf of Israel. He delivered them from slavery, gave them great leaders, and thwarted evildoers.

Next, Israel pleads before God, asking what they can do to atone for their transgressions. What offerings can they bring—burnt offerings, calves, rams,, “rivers of oil,” a firstborn child?  No. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” This is a wonderful reminder that what God desires of us is to do his will and walk in his ways.

Psalm 15: This week’s psalm, which may have been used used by pilgrims when they came to worship at the Temple, echoes the message of Micah. Who is acceptable to God? Verse 2 says, “Whoever leads a blameless life and dies what is right, who speaks the truth from his heart.”

Apostle Paul Icon, early 19th century. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Apostle Paul Icon, early 19th century. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 Corinthians 1:18-31: In last week’s reading, Paul was concerned about the various factions within the Corinthian church that were causing divisions and discord. In this week’s reading, Paul urges the church to turn their attention to “The ‘message’ of Christ crucified, risen and alive.”

The passage is a little tricky, as Paul is communicating with two groups. The Jewish Christians whose history has many stories of God’s deeds of power, such as parting the Red Sea; they expected God to continue to operate with signs and wonders. So the crucifixion of Christ is a stumbling block to Jews because it seemed a sign of weakness. The Greek Gentiles had a tradition of philosophy and logic, and valued wisdom as the highest good. So the crucifixion seemed illogical and foolish to them. Paul understood, but he continued to preach that Christ is the power and wisdom of God. Paul continued, “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”

Neither the Corinthians nor we modern Christians should not be guided by human judgments and wisdom. Paul asked the Corinthians to consider their own call. He reminded them that according to the worlds standards, few of them wise or powerful. So they have no reason to boast. Jesus is the one who revealed God’s wisdom and provided the way to “righteousness and sanctification and redemption” so “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Sermon on the Mount altarpiece, St. Matthew’s Church, Denmark. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Sermon on the Mount altarpiece, St. Matthew’s Church, Denmark. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Matthew 5:1-12: This week’s reading consists of the Beatitudes, the opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:1—7:27) It is the first and longest and best known of five discourses  in Matthew’s gospel and the gospel readings for the next six weeks will be taken from the Sermon on the Mount.

Here is how Eugene Peterson paraphrased the Beatitudes in The Message.

When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘carefull,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

“Not only that – count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens – give a cheer, even! – for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”

Youth group commits to pilgrimage – one step at a time

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Youth group.

By Donna Olendorf
Director of Children & Youth Formation

I remember the day that Daniel told me he had cancelled the youth group pilgrimage. It cost too much money, he said, and required so much fundraising that the spiritual focus of the group was lost. Furthermore, pilgrimage hadn’t deepened the faith of the participants, but had served as an expensive “vacation.”  There would be no more pilgrimage trips.

Since a final pilgrimage had been the climax of the Grace youth program for over 20 years, the pronouncement caused quite a stir. Parents of the affected teenagers were stunned and the teens themselves were perplexed and deeply disappointed. They had waited patiently—and expectantly– for their turn to make a pilgrimage and they keenly felt the loss.

Parliament of World Religions Pilgrims presentation to cong (12)

Returned pilgrims presented their Parliament of World Religions papers to the congregation.

And then a small miracle occurred.  The same overindulged kids who walked the Camino de Santiago on an all-expenses-paid “vacation” came back and formed a cohort that met online under the leadership of Elizabeth Wolterink.

Two years after the pilgrimage, the blessings of their journey began to manifest. They decided to write about their experiences and submit their papers as an entry to the Parliament of World Religions, the largest interfaith gathering in the world.  Their proposal was accepted. Their presentations were profound. The pilgrimage had sown seeds that blossomed into good fruit.

Those returned pilgrims felt strongly that their efforts were possible only as a result of the years of love and support they experienced at Grace. “I may not always go to church,” said one student, “but Grace is my home base.”

youth jubilee garden groupshot 2016

A new youth group has formed and is seeking spiritual growth.

Fast forward to 2017 and another group of students. Our current youth group is comprised of young teens that have been together since grade school and have grown up at Grace. As I met with their parents at a Planning Session last Sunday, one sentiment was loud and clear:  They want their children to experience a pilgrimage and the chance to undergo that spiritual growth.

But, in addition to the internal focus that accompanies walking a pilgrim’s path, an external focus on service is also important for these teenagers, their parents said.  So, we put our heads together and crafted a plan that supports both.

This spring, the students will be taking a short Urban Adventure, mostly likely to Chicago. This three day trip will build external confidence as they navigate trains, busses, subways, and cars to reach their destination. It will also include a service activity that involves helping a community. We’ll save money by staying at a church.

Two and a half years from now, our group will make a pilgrimage. We don’t yet know where we are going or how we will get there, but we will seek out a destination that gives the young pilgrims the chance to journey in the footsteps of faithful Christians who have gone before them.  By mindfully walking in their footsteps, we will be prepared to meet our Lord in new and deeply personal ways.

We can’t do it without you. Will you support us on our journey? Not just by purchasing pies and wreaths and other fundraising, but by praying for our youth and embracing them fully as members who will always have a home at Grace.

Jubilee Success

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Jubilee Ministries.

By Connie Riopelle
Jubilee House Director

Jubilee House-SwingshiftLast year we realized that if the Church was having financial difficulty, we would need to do some fundraising to insure the continued operation of Jubilee House.  We did not think we should continue to expect funding from the parish while our members worked to support the Church.  A fundraising committee was formed and at the urging of Rick Taylor we applied to be one of six Charities participating in Swingshift and the Stars.  In May to our great joy we were selected and the process began to create strategies to advertise and SELL Tickets!  Little did we know what a journey we were beginning.

This entire experience has been a gift from the Holy Spirit and the community.

Abby Byar, a friend of Rick’s, agreed to be the dancer for our Charity and began working out in preparation for the dance competitions.   Mel Kiogima, dance instructor, was assigned to our charity.  Mel and his wife, Nancy, choreographed the dances and Mel was Abby’s wonderful dance partner.  Abby and Mel won the most popular dancers the first two months, earning an extra $500 each month and finished third overall in the four month competition.  They danced a waltz, samba, two-step, and a “Dirty Dancing” number during the four monthly events.

The Holy Spirit was at work through the entire process.  People came forward with donations, bought tickets for VIP seating, entire tables of ten seats, and general admission.  The result of the sales, community, and parish participation was a net of $55,000.   Rick Taylor is a superb salesman and leader as he chaired the endeavor and convinced many people to join in the fun and help Jubilee House reach our goal.

These funds will guarantee Jubilee operations for at least two years plus allow us to enhance services to the homeless and underemployed populations that we serve on a daily basis.  During 2016 we served an average of 40 guests per day for a total of more than 10,000 house guests.  Imagine, 10,000 guests in your house next year.  There is continuous maintenance and upkeep.  One big project we will begin in the spring is a remodel of the basement emergency exit.  We have completed the handicap access project and we are now fully accessible on the first floor of the house.

Jubilee will continue to have fundraisers to ensure that we are fully funded without asking Vestry for operational funds beyond the utilities and basic support services they have provided over the years.  By having a two-year cushion of funds, we have time to raise the funds we will need in two years and to also take care of the unknown issues of our old house.

The 30 volunteers we have work diligently to take care of our guests and the house.  At the end of every day the volunteer staff cleans the house for the next day.   There are usually four volunteers per day but we do need more help as people go south and take other exotic vacations.   Please contact the church office or call Jubilee 231-947-3305 during operating hours (10 am  – 2 pm)  if you are interested in becoming a volunteer.  There is also work to be done at the house beyond hours of operations; if you don’t have time during the day or would like to help, but not directly with our guests, please contact Connie Riopelle, 231-620-2270.

Our successful journey could not have happened without prayer, the Holy Spirit, your donations, participation, and love.   Thank you Grace Church, thank you Abby, thank you Rick and Eunice Taylor, and thank you everyone else who helped along the journey.