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

Vestry Minutes January 9, 2018

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Vestry minutes.

Grace Episcopal Church Vestry Minutes

January 9, 2018

6:00 pm

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 meeting was opened with prayer and personal reflections.

Scripture & Study:

Rev. Costas led us in a time of group reflection on various scriptures.  

 Approve/Amend the Agenda:

Motion by Bob Foote and seconded by Bill Smith: to approve the Agenda as amended.

Motion by Jeff Wescott and seconded by Sue Kelly: to approve the minutes of the regular vestry meeting of 12/19/17 as presented.

Reports:

Rector Report:

An insurance claim was filed for  an employee who fell at Grace. The Vestry discussed the draft of  the incident report.

The Annual Meeting is scheduled for January 21 following the 10 am service in the Parish Hall.  The vestry discussed ways to begin the meeting most efficiently, including the possibility of providing boxed coffee.

The locksmith has provided a quote for changing the locks at the Brown House to a digital deadbolt; the cost would be $220 for each digital deadbolt.  For the church building,  installation of digital deadbolts  would require installing wiring inside the doors.  No estimate was provided for the cost of this work. The locks on the Brown House and the church building have already been changed and new keys have been issued..

There is a burn mark, most likely from a curling iron, on the carpet of the upstairs apartment in the Brown House.  This apartment is currently vacant.  Discussion ensued as to an appropriate assessment for these damages.

Kathryn discussed the upcoming retreat (February 2-3, 2018) with the Vestry, including the possibility of inviting the Rev Mark Rutenbar to participate in leading the retreat.  Discussion ensued as to whether the time allotted for the retreat (Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon) would be adequate for the tasks that need to be accomplished.  It was suggested that the retreat could possibly be extended to two nights or could begin on Saturday morning and end on Sunday afternoon.  Clare will reach out to new vestry members to see if changing the time of the retreat would be an option for them.

Kathryn  would like the Vestry to sign up for an online subscription to Vestry Papers.

Kathryn informed the Vestry that a diocesan high school Lenten retreat will take place at Grace during the weekend of February 17-18.  The retreat will only need to use the facilities at Grace Church and will not need the support of the rector or the staff.

Treasurer’s Report:

The Finance Committee discussed the 2018 Budget which is currently showing a deficit of  approximately -$46,000.

The Vestry  would like to thank Mark Stackable for his generous years of service to Grace Church; the Vestry greatly appreciates his dedication.

Motion by Jeff Wescott and seconded by Eddie Grim to appoint Bill Pierce as treasurer for Grace Church.  Motion approved.

 

Parish Administrator Report:

None

 Senior Warden Report:

A vestry personnel committee was formed in December and charged with re-evaluating employment structures and job descriptions.  The members of this committee were the Rev. Kathryn Costas, Eddie Grim, Karl Bastian, Bob Foote, and Clare Andreasson.  The committee met three times to work on these tasks.  Their recommendations with regard to job descriptions and staffing changes were presented to the vestry.  Discussion ensued.

Motion by Bob Foote and seconded by Jeff Wescott to change the current position of Music/Worship Coordinator to that of Organist/Choirmaster as proposed in the attached job description, reducing the position from 32 hours/week to 22 hours/week, effective March 1, 2018.  Motion approved.

Motion by Jeff Wescott and seconded by Eddie Grim to dissolve the Youth Coordinator position effective February 28, 2018.  Motion approved.

Motion by Eddie Grim and seconded by Marian Vermeulen to reinstate a Youth Formation Committee.  Motion approved.

By acclamation, the vestry affirmed that we may begin exploring the possibility of calling  a part-time associate clergy in conjunction with another local church.

Motion by Jeff Wescott and seconded by Bob Foote  to accept the recommendations of the Personnel Committee and to redefine the job description of Parish Administrator to Buildings and Grounds Coordinator according to the job description attached.  Motion approved.

Motion by Maria DiStefano-Post and seconded by Jeff Wescott to change the hours for the position of Building and Grounds Coordinator to 25 hours/week @ $20/hour, effective May 1, 2018.  Motion approved.

Motion by Marian Vermeulen and seconded by Bill Smith to accept the change of title  for the Administrative Assistant; going forward this position will be Office Coordinator as outlined in the job description  attached.  Motion approved.

Motion by Maria DiStefano-Post and seconded by Bill Smith  to increase the hours of the Office Coordinator position to 25 hours/week @ $15/hour, effective February 1, 2018.  Motion approved.

Motion by Sue Kelly and seconded by Bob Foote –  to change the nursery coordinator position from a paid position to one fully staffed by volunteers.  Motion approved.

Motion by Jeff Wescott and seconded by Marian Vermeulen – to accept the 2018 Budget from the Finance Committee as presented with the exception of the personnel changes as  outlined in the motions above.  Motion approved.

 

Junior Warden Report:

None

 

Old Business:

Motion by Bob Foote and seconded by Eddie Grim to ask George Prewitt to draft a letter to the city about the lack of adequate lighting in front of Grace Church.  Motion approved.

Motion by Sue Kelly and seconded by Jeff Wescott to ask George Prewitt to contact the city to discuss the possibility of removing the Loading Zone sign on Boardman Avenue in front of Grace Church which is no longer needed.   Motion approved.

Rev Kathryn Costas closed the meeting with prayer.

The meeting was dismissed at 9 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Michael Mittelstaedt

Vestry Clerk

 

 

Who am I now? What is God calling me to be?

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Donna Olendorf

 Lent begins for me with the imposition of ashes at a quiet Wednesday service that leaves me feeling humbled and blessed. “Remember, Donna, that thou art dust and into dust thou shalt return,” says the priest as she dips her fingers in ashes to make the sign of the cross on my forehead—the same sign the priest made many years ago to seal me as Christ’s own forever at my Baptism.

This year especially I feel the tension between those two concepts:  the impermanence of our physical bodies compared to the eternal life of our souls.  Last Sunday, I read the list of the sick and shut-in’s in our weekly bulletin and recognized names of people who only a few years ago were still attending mass, still vibrant with life.  How long, I wonder, until I join this list, fading from flesh into memory, from existence into dust?

Foolish questions like this commonly plague me on Ash Wednesday, but this year they have brought me to the edge of an existential funk. My job as Youth Director is ending on February 28, and this is my last Sunday as a member of the Grace staff.  For the past two years, I have defined myself professionally through my job as a youth minister, and for the three years before that through my work as the Grace clerk and senior warden, so I am feeling cut off from duty, unmoored from my niche in the world.

I recall the Parish Profile we prepared in 2016 shortly after Daniel left. “Charting our Course,” it was called and featured the mast of a ship on the water, the focus aiming up to a blue sky with a compass pointing north for guidance.  That image is already two years old, but it is remarkably similar to the painting created at this month’s vestry retreat – a ship rocking in the waves upon the open sea.

Like Grace Church, I am headed out into open water, forging ahead, but uncertain of my destination.  Who am I, now that I am not the clerk, not the senior warden, not the Godly Play teacher or Youth Group leader, arriving early on Sundays to make sure everything is ready?  Who are we, the members of Grace Church? What will the future hold? What is God calling us to be?

As I step away, it is a new beginning for us both.  This is a new chapter for me—will I travel, become a yoga teacher, start a blog? And this is a new chapter for Grace—transition under the guidance of an intentional interim rector with a vision and tools to facilitate meaningful change. I remember that I am dust and into dust I shall return.  But I am also a beloved child of God, an Episcopalian, and part of a 150-year-old legacy that is beginning anew.

Thank you for letting me serve and may God Bless each of you.

Vestry retreat: We journey ahead in hope

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Clare Andreasson and James Deaton

The vestry retreat this year was a time of reflection and visioning.  We valued the opportunity to get to know one another better, and we worked very hard.

On Saturday, The Rev Mark Rutenbar and The Rev Kathryn Costas led us through a series of activities where we reflected on who we are as individuals and as a working group, what we need in order to work well together, what we perceive to be effective leadership, how we handle conflict, how our faith influences our decision-making, and what our vision is for a healthy parish.   We confirmed that we are a diverse group who seeks to value our differences and the unique gifts that each one of us brings to this work.  It is very important to us that we take the time we need for prayerful discernment in decision-making.  At the same time, we have some clear goals and we want to work towards them diligently and intentionally.

On Sunday we spent time pondering the needs of our parish, and our hopes and dreams for 2018.  Clear themes emerged, including the importance of strengthening communication and connections, the importance of creativity in our visioning and the ways we meet our needs, journeying together in hope, making good strategic decisions, honoring those who have served faithfully, finding ways to simply have fun together, and setting in place a strong foundation for renewing our rector search.  We identified the areas of our life as a parish that are important and need our attention.  These include: worship, children and youth formation, adult formation, pastoral care, fellowship, outreach, marketing, finance, and stewardship.  We wondered how to build stronger ties between the vestry and these ministry groups, so that we can be more deeply aware and more mutually supportive of one another.  One or two vestry members will be appointed to serve as liaisons to each of these areas of our parish life.  We also dreamed about ways to encourage new initiatives.  We talked about creating short-term “task forces” in some cases, rather than committees, to allow for greater flexibility for those participating as volunteers, as well as greater fluidity in responding to needs.  We identified the importance of finding a balance between creativity and structure, and reaffirmed the importance of both, especially during this interim season.

With all this reflection as a framework, we saw the need to clarify the roles of Junior Warden and Clerk.  Going forward, the Junior Warden will serve as the “liaison to the liaisons,” working creatively to structure and strengthen communication and connections between the vestry and all ministry groups tending to the life of the parish.  The Clerk, in addition to taking minutes at the meetings, will begin to develop a role as “administrator” for the vestry, working to innovate and improve the administrative processes within the vestry itself.   Elizabeth Black will serve as Junior Warden, and James Deaton will serve as Clerk.

The role of Senior Warden continues to carry leadership responsibilities which include prayer, discernment, communication, negotiation, a strong sense of fiduciary responsibility, and serving as a sounding board for both the rector and the parish.  The Keep continues to be the shepherd of the vestry, listening to the group and to the movement of the Holy Spirit among us, maintaining objectivity, helping us to remain on task, and bringing us back to center when needed.   Clare Andreasson will continue to serve as Senior Warden, and Eddie Grim will continue to serve as Keep.

Throughout the weekend we also took time to ponder three different passages of Scripture.  All of our work on Sunday was set in the context of the liturgy.  In the morning, our framework was the liturgy of the word; in the afternoon, it was the liturgy of the table.  We concluded our time together with a celebration of the Eucharist.

We return from our retreat and begin this year of service in joyful anticipation.  We affirm that God is indeed with us and at work among us.  We journey ahead in hope.

Discernment begins with Holy Conversations

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

February 14 is Valentine’s Day, it is also the first day of Lent. In the early church, the first Christians used this season as a time of penitence and fasting.  Today we too can set this as a time set aside to examine our own faith journeys and live into them in new ways.  We begin the season on Tuesday, February 13 with our traditional Stove Tuesday meal of pancakes and jambalaya.  Everyone is invited to this meal.  Please ask how the menu became pancakes and jambalaya. On Ash Wednesday we will be offering three service of imposition of ashes and Holy Eucharist at 7 a.m., 12:15, and 7 p.m.  Please join us at one of these services as a way to begin this season of Lent.

As we examine our faith journeys, we may discern that we need to fast from certain foods or practices and use that time for further reflection and study.  Some folks instead feel led to take on a new practice, perhaps reading devotionals, bible study, or some form of physical activity or some form of outreach.  After a time of prayer and discernment, you will know what God is calling you to.  I encourage you to reach out to one another and share your Lenten journey or speak to me if you have any questions.

At Grace, we will be offering Lent Madness, a time to learn about the Saints of the Church, some well known, others less so.  And by learning about the saints, you will determine your favorites and see how they fare as they come up against one another.  Who will win the Golden Halo?

We are offering the Ridiculous Journey, a short video presentation with discussion following on Saturday evenings following the service and on Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m.  Then on Wednesday evenings, we will begin with a soup supper followed by table discussions and concluding with Compline, beginning on February 21.

February 28 will be set aside for our first Holy Conversation.  This is the beginning of our discernment process for our new rector.  All are encouraged to be present.  We will arrange rides for folks who need them. There is wisdom in the community gathered as we begin this process, and the discernment gained from the gathered community is valuable as we begin to move forward. Please join us for this Holy Conversation.

The following Wednesdays will again be about gathering for a soup meal and table conversation.

“I invite you, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”  Please join with me and others here at Grace as we embark on our Lenten journeys.

Blessings,

Kathryn+

Faith formation during Lent

Posted by & filed under Events, Grace Notes.

By James Deaton

Lent is early this year, beginning February 14. This season in the life of the church is purposefully introspective, a time to turn inward. How can we use these forty days to draw us deeper into relationship with God, and also grow closer to our sisters and brothers here at Grace?

To prepare our hearts and minds, we will be offering several opportunities for faith formation. Some will be self-directed, others will involve group discussion. We encourage you to consider one of these for your own Lenten practice, or find your own.

Daily Devotionals

 On the small table on the ramp from the Commons to the Parish Hall, you’ll find booklets created for personal use during prayer time at home. There are a variety to choose from, each providing a reading from Scripture, a brief meditation, and a prayer for the day. Your donation to help us with the cost of materials is appreciated.  Envelopes are provided for your convenience.

The Ridiculous Journey: Following a Nobody from Nowhere

This mini-film series starts next weekend, February 10-11. Created by an ecumenical online platform called The Work of the People, this seven-part mini-film series is centered around Jesus’ invitation, “Come, follow me,” and our search for purpose and meaning in the events and choices of our lives. Together we’ll watch clips from noted authors and theologians such as Brené Brown, Richard Rohr, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Rowan Williams, and others, discuss a variety of topics, and then provide some ways to think faithfully and prayerfully about them.

There will be two viewing times. Pastor Kathryn will facilitate discussion on Saturday evenings following worship, and then I’ll facilitate on Sunday mornings at 9 am, between services. This series will continue through Palm Sunday, March 25. We will meet in the parish hall.

Lent Madness

Lent Madness is an engaging, zany way for people to learn about the saints of the church. It was created in 2010 by The Rev. Tim Schenck, an Episcopal priest in Massachusetts, and then adapted for the masses by Forward Movement, publisher of Forward Day by Day. It claims to be “the world’s most popular online Lenten devotion.”

Lent Madness is modeled after March Madness, the NCAA college basketball tournament, and has been customized for our use here at Grace. Anyone can play, and we’ve set it up so that you can be as active or passive as you’d like.

If you’re curious, first read the gold instruction sheet included in copies of the Saintly Scorecard, the definitive guide to this year’s competition. It explains how to play. If you’re game, start studying the lives of the saints by reading their biographies found in the Saintly Scorecard. Then be ready to turn in your completed purple bracket by Ash Wednesday, February 14.

Once Lent begins, we’ll keep track of the global match-up winners as well as our individual scoring on the bulletin board in the parish hall. After Easter, on Saturday, April 21, the Lent Madness champion will be crowned during our Lent Madness Championship Party. There will be fun for all ages, and surprises are in store! Learn more at www.lentmadness.org

 

My journey on the vestry

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

By Sue Kelly

The mother was putting her young son to bed for the evening.  As they were going through their usual bedtime routine, the boy suddenly took his two teddy bears, one in one hand, one in the other, and began to make them fight.  “Mommy, there is a war going on in my head.  One side of my brain is telling me to do the right thing and the other side of my brain is telling me to do the wrong thing.”  The mother was taken aback that even five year olds have a deep sense of the eternal conflict.  Not quite sure how to respond to such a complex thought in a way a five year old might understand, the mother said “Well, adults have that same war going on in their heads.  We have a choice between the good and the evil.  We have to work at the good winning over the evil.  It is not always easy but we have to try.”  As my son grew, I watched that good verses evil play out over and over again with his super hero figures, the video games, and the sticks he would turn into guns.  The good guys always won.

My time on the vestry has sometimes felt like the two bears with the good trying to win out over the evil.  The tricky part is that evil can sometimes be disguised as good or what seems to be good can turn out to be evil.  We were given situations in which we had to really work to discern God’s goodness.  It was not always easy, nor was it always clear right away.  We had to keep trying with perseverance.  We would take time to acknowledge God among us as we worked to find the right path and allowed the Holy Spirit to pick us up when we fell leading us in its direction.  These last three years have been quite a journey; a journey of hard work, a journey of loving support, a journey of faith.  The vestry has been a place where we have come to respect and appreciate each other for our gifts and, maybe even more importantly, for our differences.  We have laughed, we have been angry, and at times felt such sadness flowing in our tears.  Through the twists and turns of the battling teddies, we have been able to work together on a higher ground supported and led by God’s Holy Spirit.

One of the books we read that sustained me on this vestry journey was Grounded in God by Farnham, Hull, and McLean.  In particular were the Discernment Listening Guidelines, which in my mind helped us to receive God’s guidance.  I always had a copy of them in front of me for every meeting.

Discernment Listening Guidelines

  • Take time to become settled in God’s presence.
  • Listen to others with your entire self (senses, feelings, intuition, imagination, and rational faculties).
  • Do not interrupt.
  • Pause between speakers to absorb what has been said.
  • Do not formulate what you want to say while someone else is speaking.
  • Speak for yourself only, expressing your own thoughts and feelings, referring to your own experiences. Avoid being hypothetical.  Steer away from broad generalizations.
  • Do not challenge what others say.
  • Listen to the group as a whole-to those who have not spoken aloud as well as to those who have.
  • Generally, leave space for anyone who may want to speak a first time before speaking a second time yourself.
  • Hold your desires and opinions-even your convictions-lightly.

These guidelines spoke to me and helped me to become a better, nonjudgmental listener yearning to hear the goodness of God.

I am truly grateful for my time on the vestry.  I give thanks for those who have stepped forward to be new vestry members.  Your lives will be enriched.  For the good will triumph over the evil.  It is not always easy, but with God’s help, we must continue to try.

 

Election results from 2018 Annual Meeting

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

Barb Dancer, Glen MacPherson, and Kelly Ignace (L to R) were elected to the vestry on January 21, 2018. Not pictured is Elizabeth Black.

Barb Dancer, Glen MacPherson, and Kelly Ignace (L to R) were elected to the vestry on January 21, 2018. Also elected, but not pictured is Elizabeth Black.

 

Elected to the vestry – three year term

  1. Elizabeth Black
  2. Barb Dancer
  3. Kelly Ignace
  4. Glen MacPherson

Diocesan Convention

  1.  Elizabeth Blondia – delegate
  2. Greg Hagan- delegate
  3. George Prewitt- delegate
  4. Mike Hanson – alternate
  5. Tony Nelson – alternate

Nominating committee

  1. Jill Polmateer
  2. Kate Wood

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.