Transition time

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

Transition ministry is a time of opportunity, a sacred time set aside to discern who we are and who God is calling us to become. We will take the time to engage the questions, share our thoughts, search our hearts and finish this process well rather than hurry to get to the other side.

We have called an intentional interim to walk with us at Grace, because intentional interims understand the grief, anxiety, and hopes associated with this time. Kathryn+ will journey with us throughout the process; she will remain with us until shortly before our new rector arrives.

We are beginning to make plans for a series of Holy Conversations. A Holy Conversation is an opportunity for the whole church to gather to share thoughts and dreams and feedback and to listen to one another. Our first Holy Conversation will be Wednesday evening February 28. These conversations will be facilitated by the Rev. LaRae Rutenbar. After a series of Holy Conversations, the Vestry will gather in the context of a Eucharist to discern a Discernment Committee. This committee will be responsible for our rector search process. The Discernment Committee will work closely with LaRae+ to begin a process of listening to what was expressed during our Holy Conversations and using what they heard to build a new parish profile. This work is all nestled in prayer both from the committee and the congregation. Kathryn asks that we develop a prayer for each part of the journey to be prayed at all services and by members at home.

After the Parish Profile is developed, the Vestry will take the time to go over it and make sure they agree that it represents who Grace is and where we are going. In addition to the Parish Profile, the Discernment Committee and the Vestry create a Ministry Portfolio (a form from the National Church) which includes responses to eleven questions describing where Grace is now and how we are looking toward our future. The Profile and the Portfolio will be sent to the Diocesan Office. It is our hope to have this ready for Canon Spaid to take to the Fall Transition Meetings where he can present Grace to his counterparts from around the country.

That will also be the time we begin to put the opening for rector of Grace Church out into the Episcopal Church. We send it forth on the wings of the Holy Spirit. Both LaRae and Kathryn are committed to having quality candidates for Grace and they will get that word out. This is a wonderful Church and we expect high quality candidates.

Then begins the process of interviewing. At this time, all of that process is not defined. We are, however, committed to clear communication with all of you as each stage unfolds.

In the meantime, all of the interim work that we engage in, as an intentional interim rector, as a vestry, and as a parish, is an important part of our preparation to receive a new rector. This is not simply a time of waiting. It is an essential part of our growth into new life. We look forward to the ways the Spirit will lead us. We are grateful to be a part of this work with each one of you.

Vestry minutes – 12/19/2017

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, Marian Vermeulen, Jeff Wescott, Bob Foote (Absentees in Italics)

Guests Present: George Prewitt
Staff Present: None  
Clergy Present: Rev. Kathryn Costas

Prayer and Check-in:
Rev Costas opened with prayer.

Scripture & Study:
Rev. Costas read the Advent IV gospel text about the visitation of Mary by the angel, Gabriel,
and led the vestry in a reflection on this passage.

Approve/Amend the Agenda:
The agenda was amended by acclamation to allow George Prewitt to present lighting concerns at the beginning of our meeting.

The minutes from 11/14/17 were approved by acclamation.

Exterior Lighting:
George Prewitt asked to meet with the Vestry at its monthly meeting on 12/19/17. The purpose of his presence was to share his experience and concern with the street lighting (or lack thereof) around Grace Church and the potential safety issues this may cause.

George shared photos he had taken of the neighborhood at night, specifically on Washington, Boardman and Eighth Streets. All seemed to indicate a lack of appropriate lighting. He voiced his concern for the safety of Grace parishioners and visitors who may be visiting Grace after hours, due to the darkened conditions and the frequent need to walk a distance to municipal parking.

George has spoken to Russ Soyering, Planning Director for the City of Traverse City regarding the situation. No clear action was indicated. Apparently, the lighting is in the jurisdiction of Traverse City’s Downtown Development Association. George has emailed them with no response. He expressed that a letter from the Vestry to the City may get more meaningful action regarding the issue. He offered to help in this effort in any way that he could.

Reports:

Rector Report:
Kathryn provided an update on staffing.
Kathryn reported on the Vestry request for changing the locks as quickly as possible.

Treasurer’s Report:
Mark reviewed the 2017 financials and the 2018 budget with the vestry. He pointed out that at this point in the year, Grace has a positive bottom line of $141,000 for the year 2017. This is largely due to the Julie Christiansen bequest which is being held in savings and has not been allocated. Our 2018 Budget projection, however, shows a deficit of about $58,000. The vestry is discussing what changes may need to be made to lower this deficit.

Bill Pierce has volunteered to be the treasurer. He will transition to taking full responsibility for that position just after the 1/21/18 Annual Meeting. Mark will work alongside Bill for the first few months of transition.

Parish Administrator Report:
The large dishwasher in the kitchen has needed repairs more than once in the past few weeks, and at some point, it will need to be replaced. The vestry requested that Ann research replacement options and provide at least three quotes for the cost of a new dishwasher. Replacing the dishwasher will involve work on the plumbing. The vestry discussed coordinating replacement of the dishwasher with the other work on the pipes which is needed for the Parish Hall.

The Vestry discussed next steps with regard to the plumbing in the Parish Hall. We are still waiting for information on building code requirements in order to determine whether PVC or galvanized pipes must be used to replace existing plumbing. The vestry requested that Ann contact Precision Plumbing and Heating to see if they could suggest someone who can help us determine what the building codes require.

Ann requested that a Vestry member write a thank you note to architect John Walter who drew up and donated the plans for the emergency exit for Jubilee House. Maria DiStefano-Post volunteered to do so.

Cleaning companies are being researched for potential contracts for cleaning the church property. Quotes from two cleaning companies were reviewed, to handle immediate needs during Christmas.

The Vestry discussed water from the Brown House being used regularly by the contractor of the condominiums being built north of the Grace parking lot. There is also a concern for the integrity of the parking lot with large construction trucks using it to turn around. Bob Foote will work with Clare to follow up on these concerns and address them appropriately.

Senior Warden Report:
Clare pointed out and discussed changes in the proposed budget that are happening week to week.

Clare asked whether we are appropriately assessing cleaning fees for groups who use space at Grace Church. Discussion ensued.

At the Annual Meeting last year, parishioners requested the opportunity to view the budget prior to the meeting itself. In light of this request, Clare suggested that we move our January vestry meeting to Tuesday, January 9, 2018. This would give the Vestry time to discuss and approve a budget for 2018, which could then be made available to parishioners one week prior to the annual meeting.

Motion by Marian Vermeulen and seconded by Karl Bastian – to move the vestry meeting to January 9, 2018. Motion approved.

Junior Warden Report:
Nothing new to report.

Old Business:

New Business:
Rev. Costas presented the housing allowance resolution for vestry approval. This is primarily for Rev. Costas’ tax returns. The IRS requires that we do this each year in December for the following calendar year.

Motion Bill Smith and seconded by Bob Foote – to approve the housing allowance for Kathryn Costas as presented:

Whereas, the Reverend J. Kathryn Costas is compensated by Grace Episcopal Church exclusively for services as a minister of the gospel; and

Whereas, Grace Episcopal Church provides Rev. Costas with rent- free use of a church-owned rectory as compensation for services that she renders to the church in the exercise of her ministry; and

Whereas, Rev. Costas incurs expenses for living in church- provided housing; therefore, it is hereby
Resolved, that the annual compensation paid to Rev. Costas for calendar year 2018 shall be $80,000 of which, $5,000 is hereby designated to be a housing allowance pursuant to Section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code; and it is further

Resolved, that the designation of $5,000 as a housing allowance shall apply to calendar year 2018 and all future years unless otherwise provided by the vestry; and it is further

Resolved, that as additional compensation to Rev. Costas for calendar year 2018 and for all future years, unless otherwise provided for by this vestry, Rev. Costas shall be permitted to live in the church-owned rectory located at 222 Boardman Avenue in Traverse City, MI and that no rent or other fee shall be payable by Rev. Costas for such occupancy and use.

Motion approved.

Forum for Congregational Concerns:

Core Ministry Reports:

Rector Search Committee:

Personnel Committee:
The committee has started work and is now evaluating current job descriptions of Grace Church employees.

Follow-up & Follow-through:

  • Thank you note to John Walter, Architect – Maria DiStefano Post

Rev Kathryn Costas closed with prayer at 8:30 pm.

Respectfully submitted,
Michael Mittelstaedt
Vestry Clerk

 

Small hands and strong arms

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

By Linda Schubert

Wordlessly, with grinning face and shuffling feet, the small hands of Elliot Mittelstaedt, presented me with $900.00.  That generous gift was the offering collected over three years by the church school children, who Elliot represented that July Sunday.  The children had chosen to designate their collection to the Jubilee Ministries Pantry Garden at our small farm, tended by Sue Lovell and myself, assisted by my husband Art and a few others as they are able.

A month later many small church school hands came with their families to learn firsthand where the money would be used.  They got hands-on experience working a garden by sifting and spreading compost, picking cucumbers, pulling carrots, and re-building the first new raised bed box now named the Ladybug Bed. This you have seen on the youth bulletin board in the Parish Hall.

Raised beds provide advantages such as warming the soil sooner in spring.  Also, separating walkways from planting plots keeps the garden soil from becoming compacted by feet or heavy equipment.  And these beds can be converted with hoops and two coverings to extend the growing season.

Sue and I envisioned managing a ‘three season garden’ rather than just the typical summer one.  What does this mean for our pantry patrons?  Much longer access to fresh, nutritious, even organic produce.  Though so important to good health, these foods are costly and therefore often overlooked by those in challenging circumstances.

So now we stood in a good place with money in hand and the prototype built.  Yet seven more raised beds remained in disrepair.  I remember praying, “But now, what, Lord?”   Where are the workers going to come from – the strong arms to do the work? 

We didn’t know.

So, in faith we began our research.  Who carries boards made with food grade preservatives?  Do we use EMT or PVC hoops?  Which plastic sheeting lets in enough sunlight but is strong enough to support snow load?  The answers to these questions and more resulted in budget sheets and building plans.

The answer to our ‘strong arms question’ actually came through Sue Lovell. This fall, Sue was completing courses at Northwestern Michigan College, specifically Project Management.  The curriculum included small groups within the class developing a real project, putting into practice the theory they were learning.  Sue advocated for the Jubilee Ministries Pantry Garden, convincing her group that ours was a worthy cause.

By the time demolition and re-building started the weather had soured.  But these ‘strong arms’ – four young men and Sue aided by Art and me – were determined to complete the work begun by the small and faithful hands of the children.

And those two double covered low tunnels named Monarch and Mantis?  When outside temperatures register 4 degrees, onions and lettuces are hibernating at 30 degrees.  Sunny days will raise temperatures even higher.

It’s working!

Rejoice with me that the strong arm of the Lord prevailed on behalf of the needy.

January reflection: What is God seeking from us?

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

By Bill Smith
Voice of the Vestry

Bill Smith

January is a difficult time for many of us. The bright lights, family time, and festivities of Christmas are replaced by the long, cold, and, at times, dark winter days. As a youngster growing up in Traverse City, I actually loved the snow and cold – playing outside on snow piles that seemed like mountains. It was a quiet and simple time.

Until recently, as an adult, January became a time when I became very disciplined and trained for cross country ski races later in the month and for the remainder of the winter. Comparing the current training times with previous years’ times became the norm. I resolved every January to work a little harder, ski a little farther, a little faster. Those days are over now, replaced by gratitude to be in the woods with friends and my family, rather than racing to the finish line!

Perhaps now is an appropriate time to re-evaluate our spiritual “training” and discipline. A new year naturally brings with it a time of introspection for many aspects in our lives – diet, exercise, finances, to name a few. However, do we take the same time and energy to evaluate our relationship with God? I believe that this time of the year provides a perfect opportunity for self-reflection and introspection for all of us at Grace. I also believe that this is a private conversation to have with oneself and perhaps then shared with a spouse, significant other, or family member. Will 2018 become the year we dedicate time daily or weekly for spiritual thought and reading? Perhaps this becomes the year we become involved with one of the outreach programs at Grace – Jubilee House, the Food Pantry, or Friday Lunch. Alternatively, perhaps this is the time to use our talents in the myriad of church committees, which can always benefit from new ideas and energy. As we all re-evaluate our personal finances, perhaps we are in a position to make or increase a pledge to Grace for 2018.

As I was reflecting myself, I came across an article in the New York Times on Christmas Day, entitled, “How Can I Possibly Believe that Faith is Better than Doubt?” by Peter Wehner. Although the article contained many insightful elements, I was most touched by a question posed by Wehner, “What is it about our faith that makes it precious in the eyes of God?” As he stated, “What God is seeking is not our intellectual assent so much as a relationship with us.” There is much in this response for me to ponder for the next twelve months and beyond!

We are blessed to live in a special part of the world and to be members of a special congregation at Grace Episcopal Church. May we recognize and continue to remember this in 2018 and the ensuing years.

Vestry minutes – 11/14/2017

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, Marian Vermeulen, Jeff Wescott, Bob Foote (Absentees in Italics)
Guests Present: None
Staff Present:  None  
Clergy Present: Rev. Kathryn Costas

Prayer and Check-in:
The vestry checked in with one another and shared prayer requests.

Scripture & Study:
Rev. Costas read from the Book of Awakening

New Member of Vestry:
Motion by Eddie Grim and seconded by Jeff Wescott to appoint Bob Foote as a member for the remainder of the vestry position vacated by Jeff Tibbitts.  Motion approved.

Approve/Amend the Agenda:
The agenda for the 11/14/17 meeting was amended by acclamation.

The minutes from the regular vestry meeting of 10/17/17 were approved by acclamation.

Reports:

Rector Report:
Rev. Costas reviewed the meetings she has had in the past month with individuals and groups at Grace.

The RSVP plan is a retirement savings plan in place that is being amended to include every employee of Grace.

A newcomer breakfast will be held in January 2018.

Ellen Schrader asked that she be able to purchase medical insurance through the Medical Trust.

Treasurer’s Report:  Mark Stackable present
Finance committee went over the budget and made the following suggestions: a general information session for the parish about the 2018 budget; personal phone calls to undecided and non-committed parishioners; a possible 2% increase in payroll; information made available to the parish on the “tax-free” distribution from IRAs to non-profits.

The Finance Committee discussed segregating “PrePaid” pledges into a separate bank account.  The committee does not see the need for this.

Parish Administrator Report:
Discussion of personnel questions concerning employees who currently work under an “independent contractor” status.

There is a new director of the nursery needed.  Vestry discussed search for the new director of the nursery and the job description of that position and starting a search outside the parish.

Vestry discussed clarifying the authorities for preparing checks on the computer but not signers.

Vestry would like to ask Ann to get multiple quotes for snow removal.

Senior Warden Report:
Motion by Bill Smith and seconded by Jeff Wescott that we uphold the policy that requires two signatures on checks.  Motion approved.

Clare suggested setting a date for a longer Saturday morning planning meeting to discuss the budget, employment structures, and vestry liaisons to essential ministries.

Plumbing in the Parish Hall and the roof in the Sanctuary still need to be addressed.

The vestry discussed how we might communicate with parishioners regarding our need for pledges, including the possibility of making phone calls and sending a mailing to remind parishioners of Bishop’s visit and the Parish Meeting on Dec 17, 2017.

Vestry members will serve dinner at Safe Harbor on December 4 at 5:30 pm.

Clare will host a dinner for the Vestry with the Bishop on December 9 at 6:00 pm.

Junior Warden Report:
A parishioner suggested that the Vestry might split up the list of parishioners and call to check-in quarterly.

The Vestry reviewed the draft of the social media policy written by the Communications Committee.

Motion by Eddie Grim and seconded by Jeff Wescott to approve the Social Media Policy and Guidelines for Grace Episcopal Church.  Motion approved.

Old Business:
Jubilee House Subcommittee Recommendations were edited by Eddie Grim to include rationales; the recommendations stay the same.

New Business:
Reviewed bids for repairing the roof leak on the porch at Jubilee House.

Motion by Jeff Wescott and seconded by Bob Foote to hire Ryan Conklin builders to repair Jubilee House Roof as written in the bid which he submitted.

Forum for Congregational Concerns:

Core Ministry Reports:

Rector Search Committee:

Follow-up & Follow-through:
Rev. Costas will write thank you notes to Delegates and Alternates who attended Convention

Rev Kathryn Costas closed with prayer.

Meeting concluded at 9 pm.

Respectfully submitted,
Michael Mittelstaedt
Vestry Clerk

Voice of the vestry: “What do I do with the quiet?”

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

By Michael Mittelstaedt

Alt. Clerk Mike Mittelstaedt

Clerk Mike Mittelstaedt

The planets aligned for a brief moment this Saturday afternoon, shifting the usual overlap of events into a sweet coincidence, where by God’s grace – BOTH. THE. BOYS. ARE. NAPPING!

What do I do with the quiet? The time? I start with panic, the collision of the things I could do with my uninterrupted time, all coming to mind at once; it’s paralyzing.

The day began with our weekend traditions: breakfast, coffee (brewed with the help of little hands), pick up toys, run the vacuum, feed the dog. Then the boys and I stuff ourselves between the arms of the “big chair,” under a layer thick blankets to watch Sarah & Duck, an animation about a little girl and her duck friend… Duck.  In each episode, the pair find their day interrupted by a variety of life’s complications, scaled down sweet dramas, experienced from the point of view of a kindergarten girl: a favorite park bench isn’t available, their friend the tortoise sleeps past hibernation season, their elder friend Scarf Lady is out of wool for her knitting, or Donkey looks sad, needs cheering up.  Things that could easily go unnoticed with the momentum maintained as adults.  The beauty is that the solutions they find are typically discovered with library books, a game with good friends, lending a hand to others, or a “sit and think” in a favorite chair.  After two cozy seasons, it’s easy to see that the themes are purposeful, kind, and joyful.   I want to watch.  They want to watch.

Faced, now, with the dilemma of uninterrupted time, the tragedy of endless choices, my aspirations of getting it all done…I go for a “sit and think” in the same big chair that started the day, sifting to the surface the gifts of family and fatherhood, a celebration of a good life that takes place amidst the bumps of the week, that I then share with you in the pews and the parish hall each Sunday, my family at Grace.

150 years of contemplating the common and the divine

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Ellen Schrader

One of the intriguing elements of Episcopal worship is that the common can be divine, and the divine can be common.  How can that be?  Perhaps it is the everyday aspect of some of the symbols we use each week to commemorate the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  We become habituated to the routine use of those items that represent some of the divine aspects of Christ.  Our fundamental knowledge of the historical Jesus is that he was crucified, died, was buried, and rose from the dead.  This divine phenomenon (resurrection) is represented by the processional cross that leads the clergy and altar party into worship each week.  It is lifted high above the people, a symbol of the triumph of divine love over death.  We experience it every week, yet who among us ever thinks about the actual cross that passes us on its way to the front of our worship space?  Grace Church has been using that cross since 1901.  It is both common (we see it every week), and divine (it represents the ultimate act of love).  The engraving on the back of the cross reads ‘in loving remembrance of Margaret S. Lay, Sept. 20, 1901’.  You may remember that Albert Tracy Lay was one of the earliest parishioners at Grace (see our website for the article on him). It is not clear whether Albert was Margaret’s husband, father, or another relative.

During the service last Sunday, as I took the chalice into my hands to receive the consecrated wine, the blood of Jesus that was shed for me, I wondered how many of us were aware that the chalice had been given ‘in memory of Renel Williams Bridge, 1841-1903’.  My lips were touching a chalice that also touched the lips of one of our earliest members.  We share the cup whose contents have provided comfort, succor, courage and strength to generations at Grace.  How cool is that?  The common cup, used weekly, contains the divine element of salvation.  God is with us always, in the common and in the divine.

The next time you have the chance, take a closer look at the common things we use during worship, and contemplate the divine.

 

 

Advent invites us to be present to God

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

By J. Kathryn Costas
Interim Rector

Advent is the beginning of a new church year.  You will see the green color disappear and be replaced with “advent blue”, we will be lighting a new candle each week on the advent wreath, the beginning sentences of our worship change, and we will begin our readings from year B of the Revised Common Lectionary.

I always look forward to this season of Advent.   I ponder how I can make this “season of waiting and preparation” a holy time for myself.  I plan on adding into my day way too many advent readings, I would like many hours of silent meditation and prayer, and also a couple of retreat days each week.  I want to really prepare in order to fully focus on the joy that Christmas brings.  Then reality sets in and I remind myself, I am not living in a monastery but in the world and I reconsider my Advent practices.

What are your advent practices?  Do you strive to do way more than time permits?  Some people choose an advent devotional to read daily, others light an advent candle, some fast a day a week, others open an advent calendar, and some choose to do things for others.  Perhaps the best use of our time is to be.  Be present to God and listen as God makes Godself known to us.

Joan Chittister reminds us that this is a season of waiting, where we learn “the joy of anticipation, the joy of delighting in the sense of the presence of God all around us, and the joy of looking for the second coming of Christ, the joy of living in the surety of even more life in the future.” (The Liturgical Year, 2009)  She calls us to develop an “Advent Heart” as we enter into the days of this season of waiting and watching.  Advent is about remembering the birth of Jesus, it is about seeing God among us in our daily lives, in what we read, in the Eucharist, in our work, our families and our community, and it is about the final coming as the full reign of God.

Transition is another season of waiting. It is a time of measuring ourselves as a church, a time to see who we are and if we measure up to who we say we are.  Others gift us with questions that we need to ponder…..Is Jesus evident in who we are?  Can we feel the presence of the Holy Spirit among us?  Do we treat one another as Christ?  Are we willing to let the Spirit come among us and stir up its power within Grace Church?

This Advent Journey is not only about waiting in hope and anticipating, it is about engaging with the God that is present in our midst and moving toward the future.  May we be alert and present to the places where opportunity for mission and ministry present themselves.  May God’s abundant grace fill us with all we need during this Advent time.