We are the desire of God’s heart – Report from the Diocesan Convention

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Michael D. McManus

Mike McManus

Mike McManus

I attended the 140th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan on May 2 and 3. This was my first experience at this gathering and I had no idea what to expect; I wondered if there would be a lot of ‘rubber-stamping’ and was happy to see that this was not to be.

There was a good sense of friendship and spirituality; we had daily Morning and Noonday Prayer, together with Eucharist at Grace Friday afternoon.

The Rev. Martin Smith gave the Keynote Address Saturday morning and it was well received. His topic was Spirituality and Mission and the need for both. He emphasized the need for an Experiential Experience of God in each of us and the need to arouse such a spirituality in ourselves and others (Mission). We should welcome others into the experiences we have had.

Father Smith developed the theme of the three dimensions of God: Father, Son and Spirit. I will not try to develop this as Father Smith did but will merely state some of the notes that I made for myself (the italics are mine, as is the interpretation):

The Rev. Martin L. Smith

The Rev. Martin L. Smith

We have had an image of a vengeful Father who is concerned with ‘sin’, rather than a Father, who wants to be in out lives and to live within us. We are the desire of God’s heart.

Sin is the fear of intimacy with God. We need to be aroused by Christ, and acknowledge that we are part of Christ’s mission into the world. The Eucharist is Christ inside of us as we are within Christ—Christ’s embodiment in the world, in its joys and suffering.

The Spirit is God’s presence in our hearts—an inner presence, which asks: What shall we do together? We are co-creators with God!

 In summary: God desires me to be aroused by his desire for me.

When I offered to be a candidate to represent Grace at the Convention, I wanted to have the opportunity to get to know our new Bishop, Whayne. I was not disappointed!!

Bishop Whayne M. Hougland

Bishop Whayne M. Hougland

The Bishop is warm, direct and caring, with a good sense of humor. He addressed us at the beginning of the convention and spoke of the fears that he hears from the churches: decreasing numbers, decreasing contributions and the aging of the church—in essence this all leads to a fear of survival. Has the church failed? He felt that change is here but there are things that still need to be done:

Be a people of Prayer, a people of daily community prayer—listen to each other and the Spirit, stay in community and, as Henri Nouwen said: to pray is to live. Be intentional in our relationship to God and our community–be our Authentic Person.

The Bishop would like to see a revitalization of the Diaconate as a Ministry in itself, not just a ‘helpmate’ to the Priesthood. He calls us to raise up Deacons from our churches and to have this person(s) serve those in need in our communities—be the face of God and the church for them. Therefore, practice a Ministry of Outreach.

A second wish of the Bishop is to develop a strong Young Adult Ministry within our diocese and local churches—as noted above a whole generation has been lost to the church and we need to be available to them—they will not seek us out on their own.

Grace Youth Delegate, Abbie Crick spoke about the need for tolerance towards young people not like ourselves.

Grace Youth Delegate, Abbie Crick spoke about the need for tolerance towards young people not like ourselves.

It was very educational for me to hear about some of the activities in the Diocese, such as the Youth Group, the Mission in the Dominican Republic, local missions and reading camps and a new Elimination of Racism initiative (in partnership with the other two Episcopal Dioceses in the Lower Peninsula).

We were also educated/informed about various outreach grants that are available for Congregational Development and Mission and a new Congregation Development Initiative; there is also a taskforce, which is studying a possible restructuring of the National Church. There was good discussion on the issue of the need for attention to a Young Adult Ministry—since the Church is missing a whole generation of persons and there is a the need to go to them and not expect them to come to us.

Two recommendations for changes to our Canon were proposed; one was defeated (a new process for the Assessment Committee to use when churches have declining revenue—it was felt that this is already covered by our present Canons) and one was referred for further study (what part of each Church’s Principle in savings can be used each year). There were several other items that were passed by acclamation; one thing I noticed was that there were no choices for some of the offices/committees; this corresponds to my experience with Grace’s Nominating Committee—-sometimes there are few who wish to commit to a committee, vestry, etc.

In summary we have a warm, strong, Christian person as out Bishop; he reaches out to his parishes and has stated the desire to visit each parish at least once every 18 months—and he is well on his way to completing his first go-around. We have a leader in Whayne who listens and guides and we are fortunate to have such a person of God.

(PS. A strong vote of Thanks to Ann and Erica for the work they did. After the Eucharist there was Bar-B-Q in a large heated tent in the parking lot and this was followed by a dance in the Park Place Dome. Grace and the many volunteers involved were thanked profusely and Daniel said it was just an every-day type of party for Grace. We Rock!)

Outreach ministries feed hunger of the soul

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Jubilee Ministries.

By Glenda Andrews
Jubilee House Coordinator

JubileeHouse_GlendaAndrewsThere are many forms of hunger. The life sustaining hunger that food will ease. The hunger from loneliness that the compassion of man can fulfill. The hunger for knowledge that a teacher can bring and open the mind. And then there is the hunger from our souls as we search for that deeper meaning of our lives. It is the work of your Grace Church Outreach Ministries to feed the hungry.

Lent and Easter brought the opportunity to develop a service that would bring meaning and understanding of Christ’s love to the patrons of Jubilee House and feed the hunger of souls.

Deep discussions at Jubilee House about the Stations of the Cross started with many questions, including “How do I relate to Christ suffering and dying on the cross?” The theme “hang it on the cross” began. Patrons and volunteers developed prayers that related Christ’s suffering to the suffering of His children.

The morning of Good Friday started with 25 people waiting at the door for Jubilee House to open. The prayers for each station of the Cross were passed around, and we asked people, “Which prayer speaks to you?” And then, “Who will follow the cross of Jesus to the park for prayers?”

Behind the cross, 35 people then processed to the park in silence with Daniel meeting us. We formed a circle, and each person said their chosen prayer in front of the cross. In silence, led by the cross, all returned to Jubilee House. “POWERFUL” was the word that kept coming up when asked what this meant to them.

Prayer #13 Station – Jesus Dies on the Cross (Amanda Wolfe)

“Into your hands, I commend my spirit.”

As we recall Jesus dying on the cross, may we also put our burdens, sins and the weight of our suffering on the cross. May Jesus’ death transform our tragedies and weaknesses into new life. HANG IT ON THE CROSS

And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thanksgiving, Trust and Transformation: the three T’s of Stewardship

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Stewardship.

By Glenn Taibl

We were talking about Stewardship and Tom O’Brien suggested it was time to replace the classic three “T’s” of Time, Talent and Treasure with categories that would be more helpful in growing stewards. His suggestion was that we would be better served by three new “Stewardship T’s” of Thanksgiving, Trust and Transformation. I have revisited the conversation with Tom many times and I believe we are well served by interpreting Time, Talent and Treasure through the lens of Thanksgiving, Trust and Transformation.

give thanksThanksgiving for Time, Talent and Treasure begins with the acknowledgement that all three are God’s gift and are not ours to possess. Thanksgiving begins with the notion that God is the subject of the active verbs and we are not. Thanksgiving invites us to take a good look at the time that has been given to us as we search for ways to use time wisely because it is such a precious, God-given gift. Thanksgiving changes the way we do the offering on Sunday as we offer up the time we’ve spent with our children and grandchildren or the talents we have used in pursuing the gifts of vocation. Thanksgiving can’t wait to tell God what we’ve done with the treasure we have received and thanksgiving invites us to offer it all back to God as gift with a clear understanding of where it came from and what, in God’s name, it is intended to do.

TrustTrust is another rich faith-word that defines biblical stewardship. God has given time, talent and treasure as a Trust which we manage with Jesus Christ at the center. The Trust is something that God gives to us again and again and again. It involves all the material we will need to create community; to heal what is broken and to bring hope where there is despair. We affirm, in faith, that God’s promises are true and we can trust them. Trust may even change the way we receive the offering on Sunday. We can say, “Thank you for trusting us with these gifts of time, talent and treasure and we offer ourselves to you, O Lord, because your trust has given us eternal confidence to live in this world you so love.”

Transformation is something that doesn’t happen accidentally but because in Thanksgiving we have trusted God with our lives and it has changed everything. God has transformed the way we look at time, every precious day, and the way we look at the gifts we have received as talents with the affirmation that no one has been short-changed. Our relationship to our treasure is transformed because we now see it through God’s eyes. Transformation path toTransformation will change the way we do the offering on Sunday. We may honestly believe and trust as true the words of Paul in Romans 12: “Do not be conformed to the world but rather transformed by the renewing of your minds that you may know what it is good and acceptable and perfect.” Thanksgiving, Trust and Transformation are three good words for Stewardship.

Reprinted with permission of Glen Taibl, Luther Seminary:  http://www.luthersem.edu/stewardship/


An empty house is not a home – one woman’s story

Posted by & filed under Jubilee Ministries.

By Glenda Andrews
Jubilee House Coordinator

JubileeHousePortraitCurrently the waiting list in Traverse City for affordable housing with assisted financial help from the Department of Housing is two-and-a-half years or longer. This is a major concern for the social outreach programs within the city, and commissions have been formed to study the programs and see how they can be more effective.

When a person has lost their home for that long, they begin to lose all of their belongings as well, because it becomes impossible to store them or carry them around. Their household items gradually disappear until they are completely gone. When and if they finally get housing they must start all over again and try to make a home. This is just such a story.

A young woman had been on the housing list a long time when she was notified she finally had attained an apartment. While waiting for this housing she had become a friend of Jubilee House and volunteers so when she told everyone there she had gotten an apartment a shout of “HURRAH” went up, that is until everyone realized it would be just empty rooms.

A silent God-driven call went out and household items including furniture began pouring in. The volunteers picked up and delivered her donated furniture. All the items that are taken for granted to make a home started appearing until soon those empty rooms became a home and a life transformed. All of this happened when the Body of Christ worked with the love of Christ in their hearts to help one of Christ’s own. Thank you Grace’s Body of Christ.

Please support the Outreach Renovation Project so lives can be transformed.

Family reunited thanks to Jubilee House ministry

Posted by & filed under Jubilee Ministries.

By Glenda Andrews
Jubilee House Coordinator

Jubilee House in the throes of a cold, snowy winter.

Jubilee House in the throes of a cold, snowy winter.

During this harsh winter there have been many new faces that came to Jubilee House. I would like to tell you the story of Jim (not real name).

Jim came to Jubilee House alone, isolated from the community, and in need of help. Jim told the volunteer at Jubilee House that he was married with two small children, out of work, and out of a place to live where his family could all be together.

When a married couple is homeless and Goodwill Inn is not available, women and children can stay at Women’s Resource Center, but the man must stay at Safe Harbor thus splitting up the family unit. Jim knew his family was safe and warm, but they were not together.

Jim was welcomed into the family unit of Jubilee House and began using all the services that were available to him there. One of the services Jubilee House offers is working with the volunteers to learn what community resources are available and getting in touch with those resources. For Jim, this involved arranging counseling to help Jim and his family get housing and back living together as a family unit.

Last Friday Jim came to Jubilee House with news he was excited to share with his new friends at Jubilee House. Through his work with counseling he and his family are back together in their new apartment and a fresh start. Jim wanted everyone to know what Jubilee House had meant to him and his family in his most darkest hours.

Help your Jubilee Ministries to continue their work by providing additional space where this important counseling and transforming lives can take place in a private area of the house. Your contribution to our Outreach Renovation Project is so very important.

Jubilee House serves people in need

Posted by & filed under Jubilee Ministries.

By Glenda Andrews
Jubilee House Coordinator

jubileeHouse2014PatronBacksThe gap between those who are financially sound and those who are not is getting wider everyday. People who were on the edge of poverty are now falling into poverty at a faster rate than ever before. These people all have names and faces that your outreach ministries see everyday.

There is 63-year-old Grace that comes to Jubilee House who walks around in Meijers not shopping but just pushing around a cart so she could spend time in a building trying to stay warm. There is 70-year-old Ruth who walks with a walker that comes to the door of Jubilee House so she can do her weekly laundry for free. There is 60-year-old Charles who walks with a cane and drives a car, that is as old as he is, just to come and get a cup of free coffee and be with people.

And then there are the newly young poor who have lost their jobs, then their homes that come to the door in tears and ask if this is the place they heard about that will help them.

These are your Grace Church Outreach ministries Jubilee House, Food Pantry, and Hygiene Pantry that see the suffering that poverty brings to our brothers and sisters in Christ daily. These ministries offer a loving hand or a comforting hug to someone who is only holding on by a thread, and told YES we are the hands and feet of Christ and you are welcome here.

This is what the Outreach Renovation Project is about, the growth of poverty and suffering. Your donations are needed won’t you help??

Food Pantry + Jubilee House = Outreach Renovation

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Jubilee Ministries.

By Glenda Andrews
Jubilee House Coordinator

JubileeHouse_GlendaAndrewsGrace Church is a very giving, caring church. The love and warmth coming from the people of Grace can be felt not only emotionally but also physically. Our love shines through in the many ministries of Grace, and the ministries that serve God’s children in need, are in need.

There’s an old saying “If you build it they will come.” And come they have to these special giving ministries where food, hygiene products, and the love from Jubilee House are shared with our brothers and sisters in need.

All across the country for the past few years it has been reported the non-profits were being stretched to their limits in trying to serve those in need. The serving ministries of Grace are no different. Whereas in the past our serving ministries numbers were small and space was very adequate to fit our needs, that is no longer the case.

Jubilee House alone serves over 50 people each day and this winter at times there has only been standing room only. By moving the Food Pantry to the brown garage adjacent to the back of the church, we are opening up space that can be converted into active use:  1) a private area where counseling can be done, 2) a half bath added for additional showers, 3) shelving for emergency clothing and personal storage, and  4) a quiet area for additional seating.

In order to achieve our goal, we have launched an Outreach Renovation project to raise $30K before the end of summer. We have also applied for grants, planned community fundraisers, and tapped into funds from Jubilee House and the outreach ministries of Grace. As the campaign continues to move forward we will keep you updated and let you know how you can help.


Mentors shape our children’s faith

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

 By Catherine Turnbull

Catherine Turnbull_2014 “Faith, typically, first reaches us through the example and witness of others,” says L. William Countryman in Living on the Border of the Holy. “Through the tradition, we enjoy the company of a vast array of witnesses and fellow pilgrims, even as we discover GOD at work in new ways in our own lives.”

I don’t think I’ve seen a better definition of how to shape a youth formation program. Running right alongside my deep gratitude for the ways in which this faith community—my Grace Church—has molded, challenged, and bolstered me and my family for close to twenty years, is my gratitude for the ways I see my Grace Church stepping alongside its children and young people right now.

I’m grateful that you support the young people learning to pray for each other on the Healing Team, and that you let us pray with you. I’m grateful that you smile while we practice quietly entering the Sanctuary (always a process!). You support the acolytes by thanking them, you support Joyful Noise by responding to their songs, and you support new readers by complimenting their efforts. When Canstruction was underway at the Mall, some of you came by and said hello or cheered us on.

Every Sunday, I see relationships growing not only within age groups but also between youth and adult volunteers; and that’s exactly why I wanted to bring my children up in a church community. I know these volunteers will become mentors, and time with mentors nourishes faith and provides examples of the Love that is ours in GOD. It’s what we do for each other all of our lives, by the Grace of God.


To follow Christ, you have to choose, not once, but a million times…

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

By The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Life lessons usually come with sweat and blood and leave scars behind. Or
you can read a lot of books. I prefer the books, but I have to say that I
don’t actually get the lesson into my bones until I’ve lost a little skin.

Right now, it is the knowledge of just how much maintenance the good in life
requires. Our house is fairly new to us, but I have a list of to-do items
that is becoming scroll length, in addition to the normal four hundred
things to do daily, weekly, monthly, and annually. Today it is drywall and
door handles.

Let us not discuss the various things that are required by marriage, children, hobbies, job, vocation, church,  and friendships. Everything takes maintenance, at least everything good. I chose fountain pens over throw  aways twenty years ago, and my fingertips are colored with ink a couple of days a week. It is a choice that I made and that I keep making.

If you are going to follow Christ, you have to choose, not once, but a million times. You have to keep choosing. This is one of those theological paradoxes: through Christ you are saved once, but you work out your salvation over the days, weeks, months, and years.

Does that feel relaxing? Does that feel like Jesus’ light yoke or easy burden? Sometimes not. It is easier to go down the big road than to take the narrow path, but I have found that there is a kind of joy on the narrow way that the broad path just does not offer. It is the joy of living as a human being in the household of God.

We do not do the work because God will love us when our chores are done. We work because the Father’s Spirit is transforming us into sons and daughters, citizens of the Kingdom, and sons and daughters get chores because they belong to a household. Citizens work for love of the land. We are part of something beautiful and good, and we are becoming beautiful and good as we grow in virtue.

Virtue takes work. Vice and decay come with time. As a pastor and priest I am on the side of virtue, but it still doesn’t come easy.

I would rather not do the work today. The sun is calling and my running shoes are by the door, and I know I am a child of God. But, I want a home I can live in with my wife and children cared for and at peace, a church that is welcoming, faithful, and holy, and friendships that are joyful. So for today it is drywall patch and new door handles and fasting and prayer and Scripture. Today it is work.

It may be Friday, but Sunday’s coming.