Reshaping our Diocese to Increase Connections

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

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:  http://www.edwm.org/canon_missioner_job_description.pdf

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. http://www.edwm.org

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:  johns526@msu.edu or 231-668-9633, or use the sign-up sheets in The Commons.

SPARTAN NASH EARTH DAY FOOD DRIVE APRIL 27 & 28

TWO HOUR SHIFTS AVAILABLE:  FRI., APRIL 27, 3P TO 7P; SAT., APRIL 28, 12N TO 7P

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.

LETTER CARRIERS FOOD DRIVE MAY 12

VARYING SHIFTS AVAILABLE FROM 1P TO 7P

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.

 

Mad about the saints!

Posted by & filed under Events, Grace Notes.

by James Deaton

As Holy Week approached, many Michiganders were concerned how a certain team from Ann Arbor would fare in a certain college basketball tournament. Here at Grace, our minds were set on higher things, heavenly realms, as we waited on pins and needles to see who would win Lent Madness.

This online discipline—er, competition—started on February 15 with thirty-two saints of the church, in the style of March Madness, and now we’re down to one. The winner of this year’s worldwide competition, the recipient of the coveted Golden Halo, is Anna Alexander.

Deaconess Anna Alexander

According to the Lent Madness website, 7,579 people from all over the world voted in the final round. Anna beat Maria Skobtsova, 62 to 38 percent. Her path to winning the Golden Halo was paved by earlier victories against Peter Claver, Edith Cavell, Eglantyne Jebb, and Richard Hooker.

Anna Alexander was the first African American deaconess of the Episcopal Church. She was a teacher and minister in southern Georgia in the decades following the Civil War. She founded Good Shepherd Church in rural Glynn County’s Pennick community, where she taught children to read from the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. Her persistent faith and commitment to the Christian formation of black communities ensured that voices from marginalized parishes were heard through the Diocese of Georgia. You can watch a documentary about her life’s story at deaconessalexander.georgiaepiscopal.org.

Anna joins the celestial ranks of previous Golden Halo winners: C. S. Lewis (2011), Mary Magdalene (2012), Francis of Assisi (2015), Dietrich Bonhoeffer (2016), and last year’s winner, Florence Nightingale (2017).

Here at Grace, several of us tried to see if we could guess the winner of each round of saintly competition.

As commissioner of Grace’s Lent Madness competition, I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Ellen Schrader, who came from the middle of the pack to pull ahead for the win in the final round. Ellen was one of two individuals here at Grace who picked Anna Alexander to win. Our dear friend Sue Bennett, who ended up in third place, was the other person. Elizabeth Black, who was near the top for the duration of the tournament, was the runner-up. Check out the whiteboard next to the Lent Madness bracket in the parish hall to see the full list of participants.

Elizabeth Black

Ellen Schrader

To honor our winners and as an opportunity to gather for food and fun, the entire parish is invited to the Lent Madness Championship Party on Saturday, April 21, at 6 pm following worship. Even if you didn’t participate in Lent Madness, you are welcome to join us. Please bring a favorite party snack (salty or sweet), and we’ll provide pizza and drinks. There will be games for all ages, as we learn a bit about the saints of the church, including the saints of Grace!

To ensure we have enough pizza, RSVP on the easel in the commons. I hope you’ll come for this fun time together as a parish family.

I’d like to end with a prayer from A Great Cloud of Witnesses, an Episcopal liturgical resource published in 2016. This hefty book provides an additional calendar of optional commemorations of saints, broadening the “official” list to include a variety of women and men who have inspired others.

This prayer is for the commemoration of Anna Alexander:

O God, you called Anna Alexander as a deaconess in your Church and sent her as teacher and evangelist to the people of Georgia: Grant us the humility to go wherever you send and the wisdom to teach the word of Christ to whomever we meet, that all may come to the enlightenment which you intend for your people; through Jesus Christ, our Teacher and Savior. Amen.

Love your neighbor

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Jubilee Ministries, Ministry of the week.

Bounty received from last year’s Spartan Food Drive

I was pondering the commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself” while it was being read in church recently.  I have known this my entire life, but what does it mean to me?  Love is a feeling, but feeling lovingly towards someone is not enough.  It doesn’t mean anything without some action involved in loving someone.  Hugging is an action as is feeding, clothing, guiding, teaching, listening, etc.  As you probably know, I am an action person for, hopefully, the good of others, especially involving food.  Actually all of our Jubilee Ministries are action ministries, as we do not spend much time sitting around talking about things, we do them at the Food Pantry, at Jubilee House and at Friday Community Lunch.

All three ministries are asking for our church family and neighbors to join us in showing our love through action.  The Food Pantry, my forte, is staffed 100% by volunteers who come once a month to guide our neighbors in need in choosing food to last a minimum of 3 days.  We talk with our customers, listen to them and sometimes pray or hug or laugh or joke or cry with them.  We also stock our shelves, bag up Kid Bags, sort through and display all the food items from Food Rescue which arrives on Fridays, procure more food, and take part in food drives and incentives through the Northwest Food Coalition.  This year the food drives are starting Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28 with the Spartan-Food Coalition Food Drive.  Every Spartan Store needs to be staffed by volunteers giving out flyers and encouraging people to donate to Food Drive at the cash registers.  Grace church will be working at Olesons Long Lake.  It is a little difficult sometimes to go up to a shopper and ask for money ($10 which Spartan Warehouse turns into $20 worth of food) for a good cause, but forgetting about personal shyness and wearing a big smile helps to reap great results!  Last year one of our food pantry regulars came to Olesons and after chatting with us, she bought some food to give to the food drive without any prompting from us. We were touched by her actions.

We need you to help with this as the amount of food we receive is dependent on how many hours we volunteer at Olesons.  The more hours, the more food.  Our neighbors really do appreciate the apples, potatoes and onions along with nonperishable foods.  A bag of onions to our guests is a bag of gold.  Please contact Nancy Johnson (johns526@msu.edu) or the church office if you can possibly help us out with the upcoming food drives, especially the Spartan Food Drive.

Voice of the Vestry

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

Glen MacPherson

by Glen MacPherson

“It’s the Homeless Newspaper!  Only one dollar suggested donation, otherwise free.  Get your Homeless News, right here!” It’s a baritone incantation, more melody than carnival bark, beautiful in a way, a non-threatening siren.  George was peddling his publication as we stood in line for the State Theater.  Tracie procured us a copy then proceeded inside while I chatted with George.  Having read a previous issue where he eulogized Bill Montgomery, I asked if he was looking for other sources of The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Foreign Affairs, or, The Economist.  He told me, “No, maybe eventually, but Ann hasn’t cancelled the subscriptions and still brings them.  But, you know, I’m not the only one who appreciates reading those fine publications.  What you should do with your copies is bring them to Jubilee House.  Do you know where that is?  It’s near Grace Church.”   I told him I did indeed know Grace and we’d had Ann over to dinner just a couple of nights ago.  I could see in his eyes how my street cred swelled as I told him this:  “My name is George!” he exclaimed, thrusting out his hand.  We shook like friends with good things in common.

At a school district outside Houston, the principal announced any student taking part in 17 minutes of civil disobedience on 14 March to commemorate the 17 lives lost in Parklawn, Florida, would be suspended for three days.  “Please be advised that the Needville ISD will not allow a student demonstration during school hours for any type of protest or awareness!!  Should students choose to do so, they will be suspended from school for 3 days and face all the consequences that come along with an out of school suspension. Life is all about choices and every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative. We will discipline no matter if it is one, fifty, or five hundred students involved.”  Tracie and I contrasted this with the e-mail we received from our kids’ schools.  “In order to provide a safe location for students to assemble, GTA Leadership will be directing students to the courtyard, and providing supervision and security in that area. The drive around school will be blocked off during this time period. Students will be asked to return to class when they are finished exercising their right at 10:17 am.”

Superheroes in capes vs. Scholars in mortarboards.  Tracie was the coach of “Wonderful Readers” the 5 member 4th grade team that included our triplets in the Battle of the Books.  Twenty-eight teams read 10 books over the course of 4 months and competed 10 March at NMC to demonstrate their mastery of plots and details.  The books were donated by the National Writers Series and the level of organization demonstrated was astounding.   One of our judges was a New York Times best-selling author.  Our superheroes placed 27th of 28 teams but they had fun!  Reading!  And I was so proud of them, their coach, and this community.

One of David Brooks’ themes is the importance of institutions and local community in serving as a foundation of individual purpose and happiness, and our strength as a nation.  “Some organizations are thick, and some are thin,” Brooks explains. “Some leave a mark on you, and some you pass through with scarcely a memory. … A thick institution becomes part of a person’s identity and engages the whole person—head, hands, heart and soul.”  In a city rife with institutions, one that reminds us daily of how lucky we are to live here, we are part of a thick church that’s become part of our identity.   Thank you, Grace.

 

Children and Youth Council established and working on behalf of our young people

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Youth group.

by Sue Kelly and Catherine Turnbull

Grace has established a new Children and Youth Education Council as recommended by the vestry and rector to oversee the educational programs for children and youth at Grace. The council met for the first time on February 22 and established its simple yet profound mission:

Serve God, love kids

Serve kids, love God

Church School kids and parents work in the Jubilee Ministries Pantry Garden at Schubert’s farm

The council members would like to introduce themselves to you.

Elizabeth Blondia: 

Elizabeth has attended Grace with her family since 2005. Almost since then, she has served the youth of Grace in some capacity, either volunteering in the nursery when her two kids were young, or teaching Sunday School to various ages. She loves the Episcopal Church and wants Grace Church’s young people to learn about and experience the beauty of our unique history, traditions, and liturgy.

Christy and Brian Joynt:

We are Brian and Christy Joynt. We moved back to Traverse City (our childhood home) in 2012. We immediately determined that Grace was our church home (quirky, open, serving, loving, and full of grace). We have two teenagers (Veda and Nolan). Our attendance becomes spotty during hockey & ski season. I love the mission of the council and hope we can create a space/community where children find comfort, safety, love and later remember fondly.

Sue Kelly: 

Sue is a retired teacher with 31+ years of teaching elementary and special education. She has an MA in Reading and Literacy. Her three children grew up at Grace Church and were part of the first J2A program. She was involved in setting up the first pilgrimage to Glendalough, Ireland. Sue strongly believes children have a natural spirituality and that church should be a place of safety where kids want to come to figure out who they are and explore their relationship with God.

 Connie Meyers:                                              

I find myself on yet another Education committee! Not because I have been forced in any way but I just so enjoy working with kids of all ages. I was an educator in Traverse City for almost 31 years, retired a few years ago and currently find myself volunteering in several classrooms during the week. I have worked with our kids at Grace in our church school program for about six years and have enjoyed watching them grow not only spiritually but, also as friends. I want to continue to be part of the growth in our program here at Grace and serve the children and youth in ways that will help them build a foundation for their spiritual lives.

 Abbey Nielsen:
My name is Abbey Nielsen and I am happy to be a part of this council. Being a part of a church family has always been important to me. I attended Episcopal Youth Camp for many years, both as a camper and as a staff member. I am looking forward to working with this team and watching the children of Grace grow in their relationships with others.

 Chris Post:

My name is Chris Post. I am a certified high school math, physics, and economics teacher. I moved to Traverse City in 1996 to start Woodland school. I have been teaching sixth through eighth grade students since then, amongst other responsibilities associated with a small nonprofit public charter school.

 Catherine Turnbull:

My family–Jeff, Hannah, and Clare Wescott–and I have been part of the Grace Community for 20 years. I’ve been a Lector and occasional Lay Preacher, and was Grace Church’s Director of Children and Youth Formation from 2011-2016. I’ve done some job-hopping around Traverse City, with stints at The Children’s House, a parent education program called Way to Grow!, a short summer at Chateau Grand Traverse, and even a disastrous two-week tenure as the ship’s cook on the Inland Seas. I am an occasionally published poet whose license plate spells Meta4. I believe that language and children and youth are miracles.

Youth Group teens begin their Urban Adventure with a train ride from Kalamazoo to Chicago

 The council members have decided to take on the following roles:

Curriculum Development-Sue Kelly and Catherine Turnbull

Diocesan Activities-Elizabeth Blondia and Abbey Nielsen

Recruitment of Leaders/Teachers-Chris Post

Communication with Families-Connie Meyers

Representatives for the Needs of Busy/Working Families-Christy and Brian Joynt

Vestry Liaison-Jeff Wescott

Sue Kelly and Catherine Turnbull will be the co-chairs for the council with Sue Kelly as the contact person. We welcome and encourage you to reach out to us or any member of the council with your questions, concerns, and ideas.

All children and youth educational programming will remain in effect until June 10, the last day of Church School. The council is currently looking for a co-leader for the J2A group to work with Elizabeth Wolterink until June 10. Catherine Turnbull joins the group of Godly Play storytellers for the K-2 group. We welcome her expertise in understanding the spirituality of children and youth.

 

God our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world:  Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals.  Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance for a new start.  Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  (Book of Common Prayer, page 829)

Faith without works is dead

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Jubilee Ministries.

Friday Meal volunteers serve with joy

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”    

 James 2:14-26

 

 

This is one of my favorite passages from the bible about our call to serve as transformed people of faith.  It takes into account that we are saved by grace, but in receiving and living into that grace, our actions should naturally demonstrate the call to love and serve all people regardless of circumstance or station.  Grace Church has given me an opportunity to serve as a transformed person of faith in ways that I could not necessarily do in my work life or other areas of community service.

Denny Meyers, Kay Rickard, Dan Bruining, Christine Tibbits and I lead a group of over 30 volunteers that cook, prepare and serve a nutritious lunch every Friday.  A number of volunteers come from the Traverse community at large, and “guest teams” have cooked meals, allowing Grace to share the opportunity to serve and share the joy of hospitality. All the Friday Community Meal volunteers see this ministry as a concrete way to practice the gospel message of serving our neighbors in need.

For most of us, coming together to share a meal is part of family life.  Preparing and serving this community meal extends the care of our Christian family to those in our community hoping to find a brief respite from the trials of the day. The support of the larger “Grace Family” allows those of us in this feeding and hospitality ministry to serve those in need and has done so for 27 years!  Quite a witness of our commitment to Christian service!

Mary Clark has been a faithful Friday Lunch volunteer for “years and years.”  She was oriented to the ministry by Chris Black and remembers the emphasis that it was to be a welcoming hospitality to those served. The use of the church’s dinnerware and setting the tables in the parish hall, just as if we were having guests, reinforced the idea that we were serving a neighbor rather than performing a “charitable duty”, and sold Mary on this ministry.

Mary and I are only two of the many, many volunteers over the years that have served our neighbors in need through the Friday Community Meal.  The homeless, an older neighbor on a fixed income, a lonely person looking to share time with others, or a struggling family are some of our neighbors served in this ministry.  With the rare exception we serve a meal 52 weeks a year! On average we serve 50 people a week with numbers sometimes ballooning to 70 in the winter months. That is easily 2500 meals served in the past year.

This ministry is supported solely by directed donations from the congregation, meal volunteers, Food Rescue, the Grace Food Pantry and the occasional community donation. The Grace congregation, through the support of the Friday Community Meal, serves faithfully as the hands of Christ in our community.

Lenten seasons over the years

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

Barb Dancer

by Barb Dancer

According to Wikipedia:  “In Lent, many Christians commit to fasting, as well as giving up certain luxuries in order to replicate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s journey into the desert for 40 days.”  Growing up Roman Catholic, in my house it was simpler: we gave up chocolate, or maybe all sweets, or when we were older and body-conscious, we gave up those pesky 5 pounds…  I’m not sure any of those really replicated the sacrifice of Jesus’ journey into the desert.  And worse yet, we rarely really stuck to it for the 40 days.  They fell by the wayside like New Year’s Resolutions.  Looking back, it makes me sad.

When our kids were small, we tried to make a conscious effort to come up with creative things to do as a family (or creative things not to do) for Lent.  Our objective was to implement some small, conscious change to make the world a better place.  One year we gave up eating fast food in the car.  I know it may sound lame, with a lot of caveats – but it was progress for our busy family.  We could still have Burger King, but we had to go in, sit down together and eat dinner as a family.  We were working long hours and the kids had all sorts of evening activities.  This Lenten practice gave us more focused family time together, more dinners at home around the table – and taught us that any table that we were around together as a family, was indeed home.

Another year we gave up plastic bags and bottles – no small feat for young athletes needing water and Gatorade.  I’m happy to say that refillable water bottles became a way of life after that Lenten season.

Another year was a weekly grandparent “touch”.  Every week they would reach out (with our help) to at least one grandparent living far away.  They made cards, pictures, called them on the phone.  Every week we discussed our plans and made sure to make time to follow through.  While the grandparents didn’t know about our Lenten commitment, they sure loved the results.

Not profound or monumental, but these were small changes that we all remember fondly to this day.  Small changes, small impacts, but moving us in the right direction – toward Christ.

This year as I reflect, it is another busy, crazy time.  Different than when the boys were small, yet equally frantic.  Now it’s my global job that seems to have no time boundaries, combined with my Stephen Ministry work, combined with my first experience serving on the vestry.  Adding in a new Lenten sacrifice seems overwhelming, until I come back to what I learned long ago.  Small changes, small impacts, moving in the right direction.  Lord be my guide.

“As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst…He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.”

– Blessed Teresa of Calcutta