In the pulpit this fall…

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

The Rev. LaRae J. Rutenbar has been ordained for thirty-seven years and has been canonically resident in the Diocese of Western Michigan since 1994.  She officially began her career in Intentional Interim Ministry in 1994 under the supervision and encouragement of Bishop Edward Lee.  Before this time, Mother LaRae worked as a hospital chaplain, long-term supply, and assistant to the rector.  She has served in over fifteen congregations and seven different dioceses, assisting parishes in transition and trauma.

Mother LaRae was raised in Montana where she received a B.S. in Psychology from Rocky Mountain College.  Her Masters in Divinity is from Virginia Theological Seminary, and she has completed numerous studies in conflict resolution, Interim Ministry, individual and parish communications, and stewardship.  She is currently semi-retired, although continues to serve in parishes as they need help in transitions, conflict management, and clergy supply.

Mark, her husband, is also a retired Episcopal Priest having served as rector of St. Paul’s (Macon, GA), St. Luke’s (Kalamazoo, MI) and Church of the Holy Communion (Memphis, TN).  Together they have two adult children.  Michael was recently married in May to a wonderful young woman, Katie. They live in East Troy, WI, where Michael is an Environmental Education Specialist working with the YMCA Camp Edwards.  Katie works for the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater as a student advisor to the School of Business.  Their daughter, Libby, works for a large CPA firm in Denver, CO, and is finishing her advanced degree in Graphic Design. She also works part time for a veterinary office and enjoys hiking and climbing. She has recently completed her ascent to the 14,000 mark.  The other member of the family is Abbey, a Bassett hound- Rottweiler mix of a dog. She often travels with Mother LaRae and believes the car is her home away from home!

Now that Mark and LaRae are serving less time in the church, they have time for some favorite pastimes: golf, bowling, hiking, fishing and traveling.  Mark enjoys cooking and puttering around the house, and LaRae enjoys reading mysteries, creative projects and gardening.  She is a collector and teller of stories.

Mother LaRae will be here for several Saturdays and Sundays in the month of September and is assisting the vestry as our parish continues to discern a call for the next rector of Grace.


Fear Not!

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

By the Rev. Carlton Kelley

I am posting something that I think bears repeating particularly at this time of some uncertainty.  Remember:  Fear Not!  May your life be full of the blessings of God as you seek to live into the fullness of Christ’s redeeming love.

These are the “Seven Questions every church should ask” which formed the basis for my sermon on Sunday, June 26, 2016. These questions were taken from the January 8, 2012 Anglican Journal and written by the Canadian priest, the Rev Dr. Gary Nicolosi.

Please bear in mind, as Fr. Nicolosi says, that some questions are “so full of complexity that no adequate answer is possible, but that does not prevent us from considering multiple perspectives…”

  1. “What would be lost, and how would the world be worse off, if our church ceased to exist?”

Fr. Nicolosi reminds us that many of the services the church alone provided in the past are now being offered by secular organizations.  What then is our irreplaceably unique purpose? Are we merely a social service provider with an overlay of the divine?  Is our outreach given in the name of Jesus?  Or, Is our outreach given to Jesus?

  1. “How does the church add value to people’s lives that they cannot live without – whether they know it or not?”

Nicolosi recalls many people standing in line to eat at the Cheesecake Factory in Buffalo. He then asks, “Would people wait that long to attend church?”  However, we are not a brand to be sold, but a life to be lived with a Savior to be proclaimed.

  1. “What challenges in the fulfillment of mission does our church face and what can we do to bring about that new thing God wants our church to be?”

Not every new thing is of God nor does new mean better. But, the church frequently resorts to the answer that “We’ve never done it that way.”  What hinders us from following “that still more excellent way’’ of which St. Paul speaks.

  1. “What are the barriers to seeing reality that our church needs to move beyond?”

This is a very difficult question because it is sometimes nearly impossible to see reality as it is when we are in the middle of it!  Our reality is like the air we breathe – it is taken for granted that it cannot be different than it is. However, those sensitive to language understand that words create reality. So, what words do we need to change when we speak of Grace Church?  Does our desire to be “inclusive” mean what we think it means?  Does our desire for more and more inclusivity really mean that we have abandoned “the narrow way” of which the Gospels speak?

  1. “What issues does our church need to face within the next year so that five years from now, we won’t have to say, ‘We wish we had…’ “

There is almost always something in the life of a complex institution that requires change.  What is that ‘something’ for Grace Church?

  1. “If money were not an issue, where would you like your church to be five years from now?”

As responsible stewards of our God given resources, we will need to make decisions about the direction we wish to take.  There may be many possibilities, but fewer probabilities. What future direction is sustainable given our location and the foundation of the irreplaceable Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ?

  1. “In what ways can we affirm “Jesus is Lord” without appearing to be bigots?”

This may be the central question for the church of our time.  In an age of increasing pluralism, how is the Gospel mandate to “preach the Gospel to all people” best done?  Recalling that St. Francis is reported to have said that we are always to preach the Gospel, but to use words if we must, does that mean that the essential message of the Gospel – “Jesus is Lord” – should be ignored or abandoned?  What does it mean that Jesus and none other is Lord?  We claim that the life, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord were unique and pivotal events for the entire cosmos. How are we to claim our uniquely God given vocation, in the power of the Holy Spirit, “to complete his work in the world and to bring to fulfillment the sanctification of all” without diminishing others? (Book of Common Prayer, page 374)  Again, What does it mean that Jesus and none other is Lord?  Our lives as Christians truly depend upon our answer both individually and corporately.  We are called to live into the real and weighty sacramental disciplines of our faith, not the market ploys of our consumer culture.

The times they are a-changing

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

By Jeff Wescott

Jeff WescottAs a “change-averse,” person, I am unnerved to think about the changes of the past few years.  Catherine recently had a mercifully brief encounter with cancer, which taught me what fear really meant.  Our youngest daughter has emerged from a cocoon of fear and self-loathing to educate others about the dangers of anorexia.  Our eldest daughter identifies as queer, has graduated from college, and eagerly embraces changes that will soon take her to live and work in France. I thank God, the example of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit that none of these changes has weakened us or diminished our love.  In fact, just the opposite is true: each has led us to new understandings about ourselves, individually and as a family, and we are stronger for the experience.

Of course, none of these changes was easy and all demanded of us more patience and faith than we knew we had: there is nothing you can do to save a daughter who chooses to starve herself; lab results don’t come any faster for your worry; and no shield exists to protect your child from the homophobia that seeks to deny her being.  The temptation to keep my problems to myself did not help me be patient with others, even when I needed that patience more than ever.  I know I ain’t no bargain at the best of times, so this presented a real problem for the people who knew me best. I pondered the nature of patience and forgiveness, the strange paradox that made me crave the very thing I couldn’t recognize in myself.  Is patience but the antidote to anxiety?  Is the pool of forgiveness so shallow that it dries up like desert rain?  Of what do we need to remind ourselves when we find fear, anxiety, and blame more readily than faith, patience, and forgiveness?

I think that Bob Dylan had it only half right: changing times don’t make us victims of time, anymore than we are victims of death.  Answers aren’t blowing in the wind but emerging in ourselves as Christ’s love guides and holds us. Grace Church needs to remember these facts as we discern our path. I believe that Grace is on the cusp of such a discovery, and it will take patience to realize it.

Earlier this summer, Sue Kelly and I were working together on a Grace 150th Work Bee when she discovered a fact that surprised us both: it took Grace Church two-and-a-half years of searching before we were able to call Rev. Ed Emenheiser to be our new rector.  What faith and love was made manifest in us at that time!  How wondrous the future will be as we act out that faith! Sisters and brothers, do not be afraid. We’ve got this!

Looking ahead

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

By Clare Andreasson
Senior Warden

As we prepare to say good-bye to Carlton, with gratitude for his faithful service to our parish, we are also looking ahead.   Apart from a few weekends this fall, we have supply clergy for all of our services through Christmas, and we are working on filling those gaps as well.

The Rev. LaRae Rutenbar will come to us for the first three weekends in September, throughout the fall as she is able, and she will take all of our Advent and Christmas services if we do not yet have a new rector.  Mother LaRae is a recently retired Episcopal priest with extensive experience working with parishes in transition.  She currently works as a consultant with parishes and the vestry has also asked her to work with us in a consulting capacity as we enter this next season of transition.

In addition, Rev. David Lillvis and Rev. Canon Meredith Hunt will come to us in September and October.  We always look forward with joy to their presiding at our services and we are deeply grateful for their ongoing ministry to our parish.  We anticipate goodness and we ask for your prayers as we continue to work to fully cover our worship needs over the next few months.

Vestry minutes – 7/18/2017

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Vestry minutes.

Vestry Members:  Clare Andreasson, Karl Bastian, James Deaton, Maria DiStefano-Post, Eddie Grim, Kathryn Holl, Sue Kelly, Michael Mittelstaedt, Bill Smith, Jeff Tibbits, Marian Vermeulen, Jeff Wescott (Absentees in Italics)

Guests Present: None
Staff Present:  Ann Hackett, Parish Administrator
Clergy Present: The Rev. Carlton Kelley is out of town.

Prayer and Check-in:
Clare opened with prayer and we checked in with one another.

Scripture & Study:
Reading from Choose Life by Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury.

Approve/Amend the Agenda:
The minutes from 6/20/17 were approved by acclamation.
The agenda for 7/18/17 by was approved by acclamation.
The minutes from the special vestry meeting on 7/5/17 were approved by acclamation.

Rector Report:  None

Treasurer’s Report:  Mark Stackable
The finance committee reported that the pledge income is sloping down roughly 11%.  He pointed out, however, that Grace has capital.
The redo of the bathroom in the Brown House is a good idea, allowing us to potentially increase the rent or make the house more appealing to renters.
The finance committee also supports replacing the plumbing in the parish hall.

Parish Administrator Report:
Grace Foundation approved the tax return which had a deadline of submission.  The foundation also voted to distribute $5729.85 per its bylaws to the vestry for its use.  This is the first of two draws for 2017.
Motion by Eddie Grim and seconded by Bill Smith that the vestry accept the distribution of $5729.85 from the Board of the Foundation.  Motion approved.
Motion by Jeff Wescott and seconded by Karl Bastian that the vestry deposit the distribution of $5729.85 into the Rector Search fund.  Motion approved.

The finance committee has encouraged us to take quarterly draws from the Hughes Music Endowment fund instead of a yearly draw.  The deadline has passed for a quarterly draw and it is now time for us to make a midyear draw.
Motion by Eddie Grim and seconded by Jeff Wescott that the vestry withdraw $3045 from the Hughes Music Endowment fund for the expenses incurred in the first 6 months of 2017 for the maintenance and upkeep of the organ and essential needs of the choir.  Motion approved.

The Hughes Maintenance Endowment Fund withdrawal was discussed.  Ann provided a list of maintenance expenses for the first six months of 2017.
Motion by Eddie Grim and seconded by Sue Kelly that the vestry withdraw $9404 from the Hughes Maintenance Endowment fund for expenses incurred in the first 6 months of 2017 for the maintenance and upkeep of the Grace Church buildings.  Motion approved.

Updates were provided concerning the parish hall sewage repair plans.  Bids are being reviewed. No motion can be made until we have received further information from the Construction Codes Office as to whether or not we are required by code to have cast iron pipes in the boiler room.

Repairs and improvements are needed in the lower apartment of the Brown House.  The apartment is now vacant.  The vestry in person observed the condition of one of the bathrooms and the carpet.  Discussion ensued.  Two bids were presented for repairs to the bathroom.  Discussion continued.
Motion by Bill Smith and seconded by Jeff Wescott that we accept Evergreen Construction bid for Brown House repairs of Option #1: New Tub and Faucets @ $5170.  Motion approved.
Motion by Eddie Grim and seconded by Karl Bastian that we also proceed with other repairs and improvements that may be needed (add toilet, vent, flooring) up to 20% of accepted bid, beyond that we would require an online vestry vote.  Motion approved.

Senior Warden Report:
Clare shared ongoing concerns related to the leak in the sanctuary roof and suggested the idea of forming a subcommittee of 3 vestry members to invite 3 highly reputable roofers to investigate and draft bids to repair the roof.  The members will be Clare Andreasson, Maria DiStefano-Post, and Jeff Wescott,

Clare provided an update on the rector search process. The Rector Search Committee and the vestry agree that the salary package offered to a new rector needs to be reviewed and potentially revised before the Ministry Portfolio is posted again.  Clare suggested the formation of a subcommittee of vestry members to review the financial package of the Ministry Portfolio for potential revision.  The subcommittee members will be Karl Bastian, Clare Andreasson, and Eddie Grim.

Junior Warden Report:
150th Anniversary plans are progressing.  The next big event is the installation of a timeline of Grace Church.
Parish Picnic is Sept 9, 2017 at 5:30 pm in the Grace Church parking lot in a tent.

Old Business:

New Business:

Forum for Congregational Concerns:

Core Ministry Reports:

Rector Search Committee:
Update provided in the Senior Warden report.

Follow-up & Follow-through:
The two newly formed subcommittees will find a time to meet as soon as possible.

Eddie closed the meeting with prayer.
This was followed by dismissal at 9:15 pm.

Respectfully submitted,
Michael Mittelstaedt
Vestry Clerk

What is the Grace Church Foundation?

Posted by & filed under Grace Foundation, Grace Notes, Stewardship.

By the Grace Church Foundation Board

Perhaps you’ve heard our Foundation mentioned from time to time, but you aren’t aware of its purpose or what role it plays in our life at Grace.

In 1995, parishioner Bluma Magher made a financial provision for Grace in her will with the stipulation that it be seed money to begin an endowment fund. In its early years the Board allowed the fund to grow its principal and promoted its existence. From the generosity of Bluma’s gift of $30,250 and the gifts of many others, our Foundation was born and has grown to a total of $239,592 to date.  The Foundation monies are invested and managed by Financial & Investment Management Group in Traverse City.  Twice each year, the Foundation notifies the Vestry of the earnings available for use, and the Vestry discerns whether and where to utilize the proceeds, which are unrestricted.  The Foundation is overseen by an independent board of directors, made up of parishioners who are appointed by the Vestry; they meet four times a year, serving a term of three years.

Little did Bluma know how beneficial her initial contribution would be to the life of Grace Church! Over the last two decades earnings from the Foundation’s principal have supported debt reduction (paying principal on our mortgage), youth formation, rector searches and sabbaticals, roof repairs and our electronic surveillance system.

How can you contribute? By naming the Grace Foundation as a beneficiary in your will or trust document; by naming the Foundation as a recipient of funeral memorial donations; by making a direct donation or pledge to the Foundation; or by donating securities, retirement accounts, real property or a variety of other financial instruments.   Your gift will ensure that the Gospel will continue to be spread, and ministries enabled, long into the future at Grace Church.

Voice of the vestry: Be joyful and let your light shine

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

By Jeff Tibbits

Every day is the day to portray a message of hope, love, and joy at Grace. HOPE –it’s a powerful word. Some of you may know this word as an acronym: Hold On; Pray Expectantly.  So what does the Bible tell us about hope?

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12: 12)

JOY. JOYFUL. REJOICE! These are words that describe one’s state of being in gladness of heart or one expressing being in such a state of exuberant bliss granted to one by the grace and power of our Holy Spirit.  What does the Bible tell us about joy, being joyful, and rejoicing? In a word: lots. Here’s a sampling:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy.  Psalm 34:5a

My wife Christine’s term of endearment for me is “Sunshine,” which I pray that I am able, with God’s help, to portray to her and the world even on a cloudy day. I believe that by portraying the abundant light and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and our Holy Spirit who joyfully dwell within each and every one of us, we can share and spread God’s message of love with others throughout our communities through acts as simple as smiling, saying hello, and reaching out to lend a helping hand.

For those who attended Grace’s second quarterly meeting of 2017 this past Sunday, we pray that we portrayed a message of hope, love, and joy to you. Our church finances are in fine shape, thanks to the generosity of several members and members’ families. And we have our 150th anniversary to celebrate—let’s party, be joyful! Sure, Grace faces challenges: our plumbing is a mess, our roof leaks, the search for our new rector will take a while longer, but as James writes in his epistle:

Brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1: 2-4

 As for this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine big time with the help of the Holy Spirit and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Please join me today and every day in shining forth in hope, love, and joy and in this prayer for our new rector:

Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on Grace Episcopal Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a rector for this parish, that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Episcopal Youth Event draws Grace teens to Oklahoma City

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Youth group.

Michigan youth at EYE17

Michigan youth at EYE17

By Brittney Collins

Stepping off the plane into Oklahoma City, I wasn’t quite sure how a week of Episcopal Youth Even (EYE17)t would affect me. I definitely expected to have some fun, though I never imagined that there would be times where I couldn’t breathe because I was laughing so hard. I expected to feel a few strong emotions, yet I did not know that I would have to comfort friends with tears in their eyes, and that they might have to comfort me as well. I expected to feel touched, but I did not know that I would be so moved at times that my heart would actually feel full.

Maggie Miron, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Brittney Collins (L. to R.)

Maggie Miron, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Brittney Collins (L. to R.) at EYE17

One of my favorite memories from EYE was after three amazing speeches from young adults involved in an organization called Kids4Peace. These teenagers–one an Israeli Jew, another a Palestinian Christian, and the last an Iraqi refugee–each told their own amazing story about settling conflicts and overcoming stereotypes. After a roaring standing ovation, over one thousand youth and adults held hands and passionately, yet tranquilly, sang “Peace, Salaam, Shalom,” a calling for peace that incorporates three different languages. In this moment that song reassured me that we, as Episcopalians, wish unity and love on every person no matter what faith or race. It was an instant where my heart truly felt at peace, and all the conflict and differences in the world seemed to melt away.

Coming back to the “real world” (as we call it at camp), my heart does not always feel like this; in fact, it can be a little bit of a shock to leave a safe space such as EYE. However, God calls for his people to go into the world to spread his faith and love. And while it may be difficult at times, it is our job as loyal followers of the Lord to take what we learned from the Episcopal Youth Event and present it to the world.

By Maggie Miron

At Episcopal Youth Event 2017, it was easy to be overwhelmed – by the heat, the number of people, the sound of 1,200 teenagers all in one room. But the most overwhelming thing for me was the faith that filled the room, for God, for each other, and for ourselves.

In Presiding Bishop Curry’s opening sermon, he reminded us of what Jesus said were the most important things in faith: “Love your Lord our God, and love your neighbor as yourself.” He repeatedly told us “Love God, love your neighbor, and love yourself.” I had heard this before, many a time, but it took this past week for me to truly understand what it meant.

I have seen faith in God. I have been surrounded by it my entire life, having been raised in the Church. I know how it looks, and what it can do, and how vast and powerful it is. This past week I was (there is no other word for it) overwhelmed to realize that faith in God is not just faith in God. It is faith in the God in each and every person you see, including the one in the mirror. As deep as your faith in the Almighty runs, it must also include your neighbor, your enemy, and yourself. This is no easy thing to do, but watching my Presiding Bishop practically shout it to me, and hearing well over a thousand people shout and clap and dance their agreement, it seemed the most natural thing in the world. God is in everything, and our faith must extend over every part of Him.


Engaging the Word: 7/23/17 (The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 11)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Genesis 28:10-19a; Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. Go to for the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, we have the story of Jacob’s dream, Paul continues to contrast living according to the flesh or in the Spirit, and Jesus teaches the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds.

Genesis 28:10-19a: Last week, we read about the birth of Esau and Jacob and then later that Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of stew or, depending on your point of view, that Jacob took advantage of his hungry brother by demanding it. The lectionary passed over the story of how Jacob, with the help of Rebekah, deceived his old, blind father into giving him the special paternal blessing that was supposed to be Esau’s.

Not surprisingly, Esau is furious: “He took away my birthright; and look, now he has taken away my blessing.” Esau plans on killing Jacob after their father dies. Rebekah learns of this and tells Jacob to flee to her brother Laban in Haran. Then Rebekah gets Isaac to send Jacob off to find a wife from among Laban’s daughters.

Jacob’s vision of a ladder to heaven, Morgan Bible, c. 1250. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jacob’s vision of a ladder to heaven, Morgan Bible, c. 1250. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

In this week’s reading, Jacob is on his way to Haran to find a wife. He came to “a certain place” and stops for the night to sleep, using a stone for a pillow. “And he dreamed that there was a ladder ([or a stairway] set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” And Jacob sees the Lord standing beside him. The Lord confirms the original promise he made to Abraham. Jacob is promised both land and offspring, though it is not just for Jacob’s benefit. The Lord said, “All the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.” In addition, the Lord promises to be with Jacob wherever he is and will bring him back to his homeland.

When Jacob woke up from his dream, he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” Jacob realizes that this a sacred place, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” When he got up in the morning, Jacob set up his pillow stone as a pillar and anointed it with oil. He called the place Bethel, which means “house of God.” From now on, Jacob will live with an awareness of God and his part in fulfilling God’s purposes.

Psalm 139:1-11, 22-23: Attributed to David, our psalm this week praises God for his complete knowledge of the psalmist and for being omnipresent in a direct and personal way. Because God’s spirit is everywhere, even if we attempt to flee from God’s presence, there is no place to hide. In the psalm’s conclusion, the psalmist prays for God’s guidance that he may live a righteous life. “Search me out, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my restless thoughts. Look well whether there be any wickedness in me and lead me in the way that is everlasting.”

St. Paul writing by candlelight by Nicolaas Verkolje (1673-1746). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

St. Paul writing by candlelight by Nicolaas Verkolje (1673-1746). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Romans 8:12-25: Paul continues to talk about what it means to live in the Spirit rather than by the desires of the flesh—in other words, living as children of God instead of living self-centered lives. We have been set free from our old way of life, but old habits die hard and we still have work to do. Our salvation is a gift from God and we need to live into this reality. As I read somewhere, salvation is not so much about getting into heaven, but more about getting heaven into us. When we were baptized, we were adopted into the family of God.

In a Kindle book, Barclay on the Lectionary, William Barclay, a Scottish minister and author, says we need to understand how serious Roman adoption was in order to understand the meaning of this passage. In Paul’s eyes, once we have been adopted into the family of God, our old life no longer has any rights over us. The past is cancelled and all debts are wiped out when we begin a new life with God, and we are joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Whatever Christ inherits, we also inherit. If Christ had to suffer, we also inherit that suffering; but, if Christ was raised to life and glory, we also inherit that life and glory. So we have hope for the full and final redemption of all things in creation. We wait with patience.

The Enemy by Heinrich Fullmaurer, c. 1540. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Enemy by Heinrich Fullmaurer, c. 1540. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43: In this week’s reading, Jesus tells the crowd the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds. Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to someone who sowed their field with good seed, but comes to find out that an enemy sowed the field with weeds while everybody was asleep. Commentators say that the weed in question is darnel, a weed that looks like wheat. The farmer knows that if he tries to gather the weeds, he will uproot the wheat, so he decides to wait until the harvest, when the wheat and weeds can be sorted, and the weeds collected and burned.

Jesus told the parable to the crowd, but he goes on to explain the meaning to his disciples. “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.” The granary is heaven, and the furnace is hell.

The story is concerned with the mixture of good and evil in the world, which will be sorted out on judgment day. As Christians, we need to beware of trying to judge who is good and who is not. We need to leave that up to God.

Vestry minutes – 6/20/2017

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Vestry minutes.

Vestry Members:  Clare Andreasson, Karl Bastian, James Deaton, Maria DiStefano-Post, Eddie Grim, Kathryn Holl, Sue Kelly, Michael Mittelstaedt, Bill Smith, Jeff Tibbits, Marian Vermeulen, Jeff Wescott(Absentees in Italics)

Guests Present: None
Staff Present:  None  
Clergy Present: The Rev. Carlton Kelley

Prayer and Check-in:
Carlton opened with prayer and we checked in with one another.

Scripture & Study:
Carlton led us in a reflection.

Approve/Amend the Agenda:
The agenda was approved by acclamation.
Minutes from April 18, 2017 were approved by acclamation.
Minutes from May 16, 2017 were approved as amended; the spelling of Carlton Kelley’s last name on page 3 was corrected.


Rector Report:  None

Treasurer’s Report:
Mark Stackable reported that we continue to have a positive budget.  There is a trend, however, in contributions from pledges going down over the last few years, which is why he advocates paying down the mortgage.

Parish Administrator Report:
Ann Hackett is away on vacation, but submitted a written report.

It is time to pay the diocesan pledge/apportionment – our share is $65,622.  Discussion ensued about what it means to pay an apportionment to the Diocese.
Motion by Eddie Grim and seconded by Maria DiStefano Post that the vestry accept and include the Diocesan Apportionment of $65,622 for Grace Church for the budget of 2018.  Motion passed.

During the budget process for 2017, some expenses related to the 150th celebration were anticipated, but not all.  Now that the committee is hard at work, other expenses are emerging.
James Deaton reported on the plans for the 150th celebration.  There will be a special activity every month, beginning with participation in the Heritage Parade on July 4th.  In October, the focus will be on community outreach.  An open house is planned to which the Traverse City community will be invited.
Motion by Sue Kelly and seconded by Eddie Grim that the vestry endorse a limit of $5,000 to be spent in addition to the money already budgeted ($5,000) in celebration of our 150th Anniversary events.  Motion passed.

Since the opening of the new sanctuary in 2005 the Altar Guild operates with little to no hot water in the sacristy.  This is due to a very small hot water heater with a capacity of only four gallons.  Discussion ensued related to a quote of $889 for a 19-gallon hot water heater installed.  The vestry asked for more information related to the cost and size of the new hot water heater.

Ellen Schrader is now trained in the computer program used to produce the weekly worship bulletin, the bulletin insert, and the online Gracevine.  She is ready to fully assume these responsibilities which had been taken by Kathy Will and Donna Olendorf when Charissa left Grace.  This means that Ellen has an increase of 5 hours to her weekly rate.
Motion by Jeff Tibbits and seconded by James Deaton that the vestry accept the change to the salary and benefits of the Administrative Assistant effective May 22, 2017.  Motion passed.

TC State Bank offered to switch our status from a business account to a non-profit, which means that we will not have bank fees since we are a non-profit.

Senior Warden Report:
The Rector Search Committee is currently interviewing selected candidates face to face.

The vestry received a letter from Bishop Matthews dated April 18, 2017.  A draft letter of response was presented to the vestry.  Discussion ensued.
Motion by Eddie Grim and seconded by Karl Bastian that we send the letter of response as presented to Bishop Matthews, Bishop Curry, Bishop Hougland, Mary Kostel, and Bishop Ousley.  Motion passed.

Our next quarterly meeting will be held on Sunday, July 23rd after the 10 am service.  A report about current plans to change the deanery structure in the Diocese of Western Michigan will be one of the items presented to the congregation at this time.

We have not received the Julie Christensen bequest, but we can make a decision with regard to the tithe prior to receiving the gift.  There is support for giving a tithe of 10% to the new Safe Harbor building project.  Any gift would be tripled by a generous matching donor.
Motion by Jeff Tibbits and seconded by Eddie Grim that we commit a tithe of 10% of the Julie Christensen bequest to the New Safe Harbor building project.  Motion passed.

Discussion ensued with regard to the timing of the receipt of the bequest and a possible time-limit on the matching funds campaign.
Motion by Jeff Tibbits and seconded by Eddie Grim that, if there is a time limitation to the matching funds, we give $10,000 from the Leap of Faith account to be reimbursed upon receiving the bequest.  Motion passed.

Jeff Tibbits presented the problem of snow and ice on the sidewalk and the suggestion of using the bequest money to install a heated sidewalk.

Junior Warden Report:
We’re going to do our best to keep people informed for the 150th Events.

After a period of heavy rain there was some water leakage observed in the sanctuary near the choir area.  A possible next course of action will need to be considered.

Old Business:  None
New Business:
Jeff Tibbits, vestry representative to the Finance Committee, reported that there was a long discussion at the Finance Committee meeting about what recommendation the Finance Committee could make concerning the Julie Christensen gift.  They had a strong consensus that $50,000 be used for an elevator fund.  The Finance Committee advocated for a capital campaign to raise the remaining necessary funds.

Carlton Kelley suggested that Grace consider contacting a foundation that could help with a long-range plan of updates to the Parish Hall and further a whole site renovation.

Forum for Congregational Concerns: None

Core Ministry Reports:

Jubilee Ministries
Eddie Grim reported that the Jubilee Ministries subcommittee continues to meet and is currently developing a general mission statement and specific policy recommendations to be presented to the vestry and rector. All aspects of the history and current operations of the Jubilee Ministries of Grace are being considered and evaluated. The members of the Jubilee Ministries subcommittee are: the current Rector, Eddie Grim (vestry liaison), Bill Smith (vestry liaison), Kate Wood (Jubilee House volunteer), Ed Emenheiser (Jubilee House volunteer), Nancy Johnson (Jubilee Ministries Food Pantry), Glenda Andrews (Director, Jubilee House), and James Deaton (Jr Warden).

Follow-up & Follow-through:
Sue Kelly needs addresses for thank you notes to the family of Julie Christensen

Compline followed by dismissal at 8:45 pm.

Respectfully submitted,
Michael Mittelstaedt
Vestry Clerk