We rely on each other…

Posted by & filed under Voice of the Clergy.

By  The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards
Rector

Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Rev. Daniel P. Richards

When I was about eight years old, my family moved to a new school, and I remember being both nervous and excited. I had not liked our previous move and had decided that this one would be better. Now, I stood in front a new brick elementary school with hundreds of kids I didn’t know as my brother rode off on another bus.

Just then a little boy came up to me and asked my name and told me his. Then he began to tell me about what the expectations were at this school. He had always gone there and somehow knew I needed to know the rules. I do not remember everything he said that day, but I remember distinctly him describing that while we fought by throwing holly berries at each other, you could not hit anyone in the face or head or with a holly branch because they hurt. You could threaten, chase, and even throw, but not hurt. He said, “New boys make that mistake a lot.”

Knowing what is expected can make all the difference in a new place. As a pastor I have often fussed and worried over what people think is expected of them. I want to lay out a vision in outline of what is expected from members of Grace. If you are still the new kid, this is for you.

Our mission is to be disciples and make disciples of Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus’ picture of who God is, Abba – Daddy, is true. We believe that God loves all his children and wants them to return to relationship with him. We believe that our work is to continue to heal the gap (sin) between God and people and people with each other. We call that work forgiveness and justice. It is intense but doable in small doses.

We break down that work here in a simple “methodology statement:” As Episcopal Christians we Worship at home daily and together weekly; Study the scriptures, our tradition, and what it means to be a disciple today; Serve our families, our parish, and our world in the name of Christ. Everything we do is done with an ethic of Welcome because we are only here by Grace.

We expect that every member of Grace will be doing these things. We know that we all fail to do them all perfectly or always. This is not about perfection; it is about relationship. We begin where we are and add on.

Perhaps you worship at church on a regular basis, as you promised at your baptism or your child’s, but you would like to build a home practice of prayer. We can help you do that. Maybe you sense a desire to serve but do not know where to begin. We can help you do that. The staff is here to help equip you for the work of Christ.

Members should be moving forward in each of these four areas: welcome, worship, study, and service. We know that some days we don’t get to the Daily Office, but we keep moving. These areas are general and the specifics may need to be worked out for your situation, but we should all be Worshipping, Welcoming, Studying and Serving weekly.

There is a deeper picture of discipleship that we are starting to sketch out in our common life, and it has been taking shape in two fundamental questions:

What do you Witness to with your life?

What do you Steward for God and the next generation?

These two questions make some assumptions. The first question assumes that your life is bearing witness to something. Every statement makes some propositions. Your life proposes some statements to the people who observe it. What do you bear witness to? That U of M is a great school? That State has a great team? That your political party is right?

As disciples our lives make clear statements about the value and meaning of Christ and what we believe about God, the world, and other people. We say that we believe that God loves everyone, but do we treat other people as if we love them? We say that we are Christians, but do we love and care for other Christians?

The second question too proposes something. We support things with our lives, our money, our time, our talents. We support colleges and sports, shopping malls and political parties. What will you leave behind you when you die?

Our church is stewarded by us. We are expected to give ten percent of our income to the church, to put our time into serving the community, especially those who are suffering and lost. We give our talents to God in our worship and study and fellowship.

Disciples make a difference in the world. We expect members of Grace to be disciples of Jesus. We worship God in him, we study his teachings and what they mean in our lives, we serve others and welcome them in his Name. This is what we do here.

We do these things because we know that we want this place to continue to represent God’s Grace for generations to come, and we know that what we do tells the world what we believe and what we have done with our lives.

We are fortunate that we don’t have to do all of this on our own. The Holy Spirit works in us, but the Spirit moves best when we are moving, and we move in a community. You cannot do everything, and neither can I. We rely on each other.

I needed that little boy on the playground all those years ago. I learned how to play the game from him. Here at Grace we are disciples of Jesus, and we need each other to be in the game together.

 

Can we develop a Mary heart in a Martha world? Amy Richards’ story…

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Amy Richards

Jesus visits Mary and Martha

Mary listens, while Martha works.

As many of you know, our family had quite a hiccup in the middle of our move. After a few months of living out of suitcases, we finally have a place to call “home.” There is much work to be done and little time for much else. So when I was approached at church to write something for the web, I was hesitant. “I am so busy,” I thought. “I can’t even think straight. What would I say at a time like this that would benefit anyone?”

But, in the middle of all our busyness, Daniel and I received word that a dear member of the small church in Arizona where we served was being moved into hospice. I cried.  She and her sister-in-law would sit with me in prayer and worship in a small chapel off the cement path leading to the church.

The reality that our family was thinking about getting back to life while my dear sister in Christ was facing death brought perspective. I know our friend is strong in faith and had a dedicated prayer life. I know she is going to be with the God she knows, loves, and proclaims. I know this because of her joy, dedication, and simple faith. Her daughter writes that her mom is ready to go to “The Party.”

Our Arizona friend has no doubt. She knows the Shepherd’s voice and hears Him beckoning her to a new life. This assurance has brought her joy and her daughter peace during this time.

I want to be that sure. I want the voice of the Savior to be so distinct and familiar that there would be no question that the end of this life would be just a door to a reunion – a family party.

Earlier this year I was thinking about my relationship with Christ, and I started to ask myself, “Do I really know His voice? Do I trust Him as God’s only Son? Do I sincerely know Him? Can I testify to others about Him because of a relationship we have?” And the honest answer to those questions was “I don’t know.”

A Mary’s Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver is the book I picked up when I began to ask myself those questions. Honestly, I am challenged to get the reading in because of other life’s demands, but I am plugging away.

Reading the book reminds me that a lot of my relationship with Christ is faith. Faith is the belief in things hoped for, things unseen. Unlike Martha and Mary I didn’t get to be there when Christ physically walked the earth; but Christ says in John 20:29, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.”

Yes, it is true that I have not physically seen Him, but I have experienced Christ in real, undeniable ways in my life and have been truly blessed. I remember these times in periods of doubt.

Luke7What I need is time at the Savior’s feet. Often these experiences bring me there. In His presence, love, and teaching, Jesus brings me through difficult times, but do I really need the difficult times to bring me to His feet?

I am often reminded that this life we know is short. So, so many come and go, generations continue, and we are not different. I want to be sure that the busyness that takes over at times does not overshadow the very reason I am busy.

And when the day comes that His voice beckons me to the eternal, and I am going to “The Party,” I will find joy and those I love will have peace.

I hope you find this summer read A Mary’s Heart in a Martha World is as helpful in your faith journey as it has been for me.


 

Serving those in need – Hygiene Pantry ministry (7/21/13)

Posted by & filed under Ministry of the week.

Located in the basement of Jubilee House, the Hygiene Pantry serves the homeless community and the under employed. We offer personal hygiene items such as shampoo, bath soap, shave creme, tooth brushes and toothpaste, deodorant, cleaning supplies and other necessary items that can not be purchased using bridge cards. Without the help of everyone at Grace, Love, Inc and a few other churches, we wouldn’t be able to offer this crucial ministry. The Hygiene Pantry is stocked solely by the use of donations.

Glorious weddings with God’s blessing – Wedding Guild ministry minute (714/13)

Posted by & filed under Ministry of the week.

The Wedding Guild’s purpose is to help engaged couples arrange the church and work with members of the wedding party to ensure a perfect wedding.

The couple first meets with Daniel and they know that while the wedding will be glorious, it must be with God’s blessings.

When the wedding becomes official and the dates for the rehearsal and wedding are set, the Wedding Guild meets with the bride or the couple to discuss all the necessities of organizing a perfect wedding.

Give a gift that keeps on giving – GEC Foundation

Posted by & filed under Ministry of the week.

Ministry of the Week – 25 September 2015
By Ward Kuhn – President, GEC Foundation

The ministry of the Grace Episcopal Church Foundation is to receive gifts that will perpetuate the ministry at Grace forever and to educate the congregation about different giving tools. Here’s an article from our brothers and sisters of the Christian Church on the need for church people to have wills. Seven out of 10 of us DO NOT have a will!! What are we thinking? No will? Do we not care what happens to those assets or people we will leave behind? Do you want the government to determine your estate or do you want to do it?

Eight Important Reasons to Have a Will

Did you know:

1. Without a will, your state’s laws-not you- determine how, when and to whom your property is distributed?

2. You can reduce (or perhaps even eliminate) estate taxes and save taxes in a survivor’s estate?

3. You can name your executor to manage and settle your estate?

4. You can designate beneficiaries for items such as heirlooms, art objects, jewelry or real estate?

5. You may create trusts to provide for your spouse, children and others?

6. Through a pour-over will, you can transfer leftover assets to your living trust, bypassing probate?

7. With a will, you can designate the guardian you wish for those under your care?

8. You can be a blessing to Grace Episcopal Church Foundation through a bequest, which is simple, flexible and tax-deductible? You can designate other charities to receive gifts.

By including the church in your estate plan, the Gospel will be proclaimed. If you would like to contribute to the current ministry of Grace, then make your estate gift to Grace Episcopal Church of Traverse City, Michigan, EIN #38-1854119, or its successor, which shall be used for the advancement of the Gospel. If you would like to contribute to the endowment that makes ministries happen forever, then make your estate gift to Grace Episcopal Church Foundation of Traverse City, Michigan, EIN #38-3275843 which shall be held in an endowment for the ministries of Grace Episcopal Church, Traverse City, Michigan or its successor. If you have any questions contact a member of the Foundation Board or Ann Hackett at the parish office.

 

Sign up now for Play and Pray in August

Posted by & filed under Events.

By Catherine Turnbull

Play and Pray is returning to Grace Church this summer!

Happy, smiling faces of the Grace children participating in Play and Pray.

Happy, smiling faces of the Grace children participating in Play and Pray.

This week-long program will be run by Grace staff and volunteers from 9am to noon, August 5-9. Children entering Kindergarten up to those entering grade 6 are eligible; younger siblings who are too young to enroll can be signed up for childcare during Play and Pray hours. We’ll tell Bible stories, participate in accompanying activities (art and action!); we’ll worship and sing and be led in prayer by Rev. Katheryn King.

Registration forms are on the Table in the Commons and available for download here: 

We hope your children will join us!

Pilgrim’s Progress – Students board plane for Camino de Santiago

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Linda Schubert

The 11 members of Grace Episcopal Church's pilgrimage to Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Grace Church’s pilgrims Art Schubert, Linda Schubert, Graham Kelly, Zak Collins, Ella
Bruining, Peter Andreasson, Hannah Wescott, Abigail Crick, Clare Westcott, Kathy &
Brad Will (left to right) are ready to board their flight to Spain.

From the time of the very early Church until today, Christians have made pilgrimage to holy places as a part of their discipline and life of faith. Long before the notion of vacations, holidays, and mission trips, individuals within the Christian tradition set out to see the places where our Lord and his saints walked, slept, prayed and preached the Good News. By mindfully walking in their footsteps, we put ourselves in touch with our tradition, our roots, our God. The Grace pilgrims set off on their two week journey last Sunday, June 9,  after receiving a traveler’s blessing at the 10 o’clock service.

Pilgrimage is a time for seeking and finding God in new ways. Individuals confront the struggles of travel in unknown territory, as well as all the demands of living as a pilgrim community for the time of the journey. In the midst of all that these tasks entail, there is the possibility of tremendous joy and laughter and growth. Once normal activities, relationships, and obligations which sustain our day-to-day lives are removed, individuals are free to look again at their understanding of God and their need for God’s grace and presence in their lives.

It is important to note here that not every moment of pilgrimage has to be ‘meaningful’, nor should it be. There must be time for play, laughter, quiet, and rest. But somehow, even in the lighthearted activities which enhance our relationships, there is something afoot. God is moving in the hearts of these pilgrims in ways which are undeniable, deeply personal and sometimes surprising.

The blessings of pilgrimage can take time. Certainly the very fact that we are away for nearly two weeks helps. This is long enough for even a free spirit to begin to long for familiar food and the comfort of their own bed. But what happens on pilgrimage has to be processed in the life to which we all must return. Some pilgrims may say very little while traveling and even in the weeks and months that follow, but time will show that the long-term effects are profound. It is not only a trip that will never be forgotten: it is a journey which changes lives.

 

 

 

 

An open letter to parents who bring children to church…

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

Jamie Blondia

Dear Parents with Young Children in Church,

You are doing something really, really important. I know it’s not easy. I see you with your arms overflowing, and I know you came to church already tired. Parenting is tiring. Really tiring.

I watch you bounce and sway trying to keep the baby quiet, juggling the infant car seat and the diaper bag as you find a seat. I see you wince as your child cries. I see you anxiously pull things out of your bag of tricks to try to quiet them.

And I see you with your toddler and your preschooler. I watch you cringe when your little girl asks an innocent question in a voice that might not be an inside voice let alone a church whisper. I hear the exasperation in your voice as you beg your child to just sit, to be quiet as you feel everyone’s eyes on you. Not everyone is looking, but I know it feels that way.

I know you’re wondering, is this worth it? Why do I bother? I know you often leave church more exhausted than fulfilled. But what you are doing is so important.

When you are here, the church is filled with a joyful noise. When you are here, the Body of Christ is more fully present. When you are here, we are reminded that this worship thing we do isn’t about Bible Study or personal, quiet contemplation but coming together to worship as a community where all are welcome, where we share in the Word and Sacrament together. When you are here, I have hope that these pews won’t be empty in ten years when your kids are old enough to sit quietly and behave in worship. I know that they are learning how and why we worship now, before it’s too late. They are learning that worship is important.

I see them learning. In the midst of the cries, whines, and giggles, in the midst of the crinkling of pretzel bags and the growing pile of crumbs I see a little girl who insists on going two pews up to share peace with someone she’s never met. I hear a little boy slurping (quite loudly) every last drop of his communion wine out of the cup determined not to miss a drop of Jesus. I watch a child excitedly color a cross and point to the one in the front of the sanctuary. I hear the echos of Amens just a few seconds after the rest of the community says it together. I watch a boy just learning to read try to sound out the words in the worship book or count his way to Hymn 672. Even on weeks when I can’t see my own children learning because, well, it’s one of those mornings, I can see your children learning.

I know how hard it is to do what you’re doing, but I want you to know, it matters. It matters to me. It matters to my children to not be alone in the pew. It matters to the congregation to know that families care about faith, to see young people… and even on those weeks when you can’t see the little moments, it matters to your children.

It matters that they learn that worship is what we do as a community of faith, that everyone is welcome, that their worship matters. When we teach children that their worship matters, we teach them that they are enough right here and right now as members of the church community. They don’t need to wait until they can believe, pray or worship a certain way to be welcome here, and I know adults who are still looking to be shown that. It matters that children learn that they are an integral part of this church, that their prayers, their songs, and even their badly (or perfectly timed depending on who you ask) cries and whines are a joyful noise because it means they are present.

I know it’s hard, but thank you for what you do when you bring your children to church. Please know that your family – with all of its noise, struggle, commotion, and joy – are not simply tolerated, you are a vital part of the community gathered in worship.”

Peace,

Jamie Bruesehoff

Reprinted with permission of Jamie Bruesehoff,  a stay at home mother to two little boys and a pastor’s wife, who posted this letter on her “that Mom” blog: http://iamtotallythatmom.blogspot.ca/2013/05/dear-parents-with-young-children-in.html?m=1