Finding hope at the holidays

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Kathryn Holl

It is okay to be sad when someone you love dies. This is especially true during the holidays when fresh memories arise, when tradition, fellowship, and love–all once delightful expectations of the season, now bring sadness to the surface.

If you feel overwhelmed, remember to be gentle with yourself and with others. Take time to reflect, to write, to walk, to heal, to pray. Share with those who understand, be it friends who have also had a loved one die or with a professional who is trained in grief counseling. Rituals are supportive to the healing process. They can be a simple and created in the home or at a meaningful location. Or it can be a community ritual where services of remembrance and honoring are offered.

Recently I met with Daniel on the subject of grief during the holidays and whether Grace would be holding a “Blue Christmas” service. He reminded me of the All Saints tea, a ritual to remember those who have died. I appreciated his thoughtfulness on the subject. Daniel acknowledged the compassion needed for those who are grieving a loss. Church, where so many sacred memories are created, can be a trigger for tears.  “We put our lives in the context of worship and that includes our joys and our griefs,” he said, wisely. Together we live with all the fabric of our lives, tough stuff and the good stuff.

A dear friend of mine died one week ago after a short battle with cancer. Though we do not live in the same city we did keep in touch and have many mutual friends. I still find myself wrestling with the fact that he is no longer physically here. I can relate to the need to take time alone, to reflect, to write him a letter about how he imprinted on my life and to pray. I know the helpfulness of seeking out those who understand as I humbly accompany many who grieve on the daily journey of just getting by.

At Grace, the 6 pm Christmas service and the later services are more reflective. After the services, there is the offering of food and fellowship in the parish hall; no need to rush home alone. It is okay to be sad when someone you loves dies–bring tissues and join the community who holds together through “our joys and griefs.”



A time for faith-filled commitment

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

By The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Advent is coming! Time to get out the candles and recommit ourselves.

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Ignazio Stern (1679 - 1748). Public domain from Wikimedia Commons.

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Ignazio Stern (1679 – 1748). Public domain from Wikimedia Commons.

The darkness is growing, and there are days when that is not just a tilt-of-the-earth reality; our world seems to pass under shadow. It is precisely now that we are reminded by the church year that we have a vocation in dark times, a vocation of waiting and bearing the Light of Christ.

In our Gospel today, Jesus is talking about the collapse of what his hearers knew as their world, politically and religiously, and their persecution. In the middle of it, he says, “Don’t get defensive, I will give you the words to say. Don’t worry, be faithful.”

We form who we will be in times of crisis by how we train ourselves in times of peace. We practice the life we are called to when we hold out peace with each other, when we work out the small frustrations and changes of community life. If we lose our ethics when people talk about us, what will we do when they actually persecute us? If we are thrown off when the room we are assigned to meet in changes, what will we do when there is no institution?

This Sunday is about commitment. We pledge ourselves to this community financially in prosperous times of peace. We tithe. It is a primary way of marking our lives as people of God. It is not easy; commitments never are. But it, along with prayer and gratitude and faith, marks us and shapes us as disciples of Jesus.

Commit and be shaped for the days ahead.

Give thanks: it changes everything

Posted by & filed under Voice of the Clergy.

By The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

The Very Rev. Daniel P. RichardsGiving thanks is primary, a first act. It is so basic that it determines everything else in our lives, our personalities, our relationships to God, others, even ourselves.

When someone is shaped by a primary gratitude, that is they are given to realizing that whatever comes their way is a gift a nd deserving of thanks, their relationship to God is easier and more open, more likely to include repentance and also generosity because there is recognition of God’s grace and their own need and therefore others’ needs.

Dry, huh? Look, when you make a practice of giving thanks for everything, you begin to see how you relate to God and others more honestly. There are things you should not give thanks for, granted, but a basic gratitude makes it more likely that you will experience you life more positively.

But it is a discipline. It takes practice.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15 – 17

Learning not just to give thanks when the thought strikes, but to make thanksgiving primary has been a long practice for me. It is not the giving thanks, but rather the realizing that I should be thankful in the first place that has been hard. I just accept things coming the way they come and move on. But when I stop and realize (count my many blessings, count them one by one) I am profoundly changed.

I am put in right relationship with God. I am deeply grateful to others, and I find myself much more likely to offer gifts to others in simple gratitude. It takes that first work of paying attention. It is a discipline of grace.

Give thanks. It changes everything.

daniel +

Faith is the space between belief and hope

Posted by & filed under Voice of the Clergy.

By The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Faith is one of those words that we know, and yet we don’t. Faith is something we have and that is given by God. It is belief and trust. It is an act. Pisteo is a tricky little word. We have access to God through it. We seek healing through it. We abide in it.

In the Bible faith is used in all the ways listed above. When you look at the word’s usage, it can be confusing, but also we start to see a shape to this thing that is so central to our understanding of who we are in relationship to God.

Strong’s Concordance and Dictionary of Biblical Greek uses the word conviction three times in its definitions of pisteo. I have often argued for the word trust because it is a more relational word. We trust in God. We also believe in God. But when the word is used in the New Testament, it says often that Jesus sees “their faith.” He “saw their faith” in bringing the sick to him. It is observable.

Faith is seen in what we do when we come to God, to pray, to give thanks, to seek healing or to heal. Our faith is what we have received, what we have, and what we do as we welcome, worship, study, and serve. It is why we live the way we live. It is a tricky little word that we know and we don’t. It calls us deeper into our life of Grace.



Consecration of Bishop Whayne Hougland

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Photo Gallery.

Whayne Miller Hougland, Jr. was consecrated as Ninth Bishop of the Diocese of Western Michigan on September 28, 2013.

We are planting acorns…

Posted by & filed under Voice of the Clergy.

By The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

We are planting acorns. This work that we are involved in now is really a fifty or hundred year work. It is the work of planting forests of faith that will shelter, protect, ad provide for our parish for lifetimes.

This may be an age and a culture of quick returns and instant gratifications, but we have the luxury in God’s providence to be a people who can take their time and set roots in deep for the future.

Look around at the saplings and young oaks of faith sprouting around us. We walk in an old growth forest (planted in 1867), but we have to continue to cultivate for tomorrow. We can be proud of what we have accomplished together. Look at the signs of new faith and deeper, more committed roots.

The Stewardship team really has focused on discipleship and joy, celebrating what God is doing in our midst. They asked me in a meeting two months ago to state the vision that I have for what we are doing at Grace, and my reply was that we are laying foundations and setting pillars for a church that will last.

We build on a deep and rich past. The workers, lay and ordained, who came before set us in very good stead. I feel blessed daily to carry so rich a heritage here, not to mention our tradition, or the mighty lives of the saints and faith of the apostles.

Grace Church is a place with a rich past but we have an even greater future as we build on that past. Many of the pillars of our community were formed twenty or thirty years ago. It is our time to lead, our time to plant, to form disciples that will lead the next three or four generations.

When we look at what we do every week for our community, it is amazing. When we look at our history in the Grad Traverse Region we should be overwhelmed with awe.

But I celebrate the fresh, green growth we see around us–new leaves, sprouts and buds of faith pushing forth into new life in Christ.

The Holy Spirit is doing something right now at Grace that is remarkable. We are at the forefront of a reform of life that is sweeping the church, living our faith as the Children of God called to live as disciples, bringing new life and good news to our world right here in Traverse City and beyond.

As we look at our financial discipleship and faithful stewardship, I am excited to see where God calls us and how we will support God’s work here at Grace.





Voice of the vestry: How will you give back to your community?

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

By Barb Johnson

Vestry member Barb JohnsonNow that I am finishing my term, I was asked to write about why I joined vestry. I had volunteered as a Sunday school teacher when the boys were little and then as a youth group leader after the boys had been through the J2A youth program. I felt this was the “next step” in my journey in faith.

I remember praying about it. I came up with several excuses why not to run for vestry, but, in the end, felt it was where God wanted me. Part of my argument with Him was I felt inadequate to serve. I had no business, or finance background whatsoever. I didn’t have an extensive knowledge of the church which I thought I needed. However, when it came to sharing my time, talent, or treasure, the one thing I thought I had to share was my time. I knew a couple of people on the existing vestry, respected them, and thought I could learn from and about them. They were very spiritual, and I hoped that by being around them, I could expand on my spiritual growth. I believe I have grown. Serving on the vestry has allowed me to not only grow in my faith, but to grow as a member of my parish – giving back to my community of Grace, as best I could.

The one thing I thought I had to share was my time

We all benefit from this community in our own unique way. Lots of us refer to this community as our “church family” As a family, we all contribute. This was just another way for me to contribute to my family. There were times when I received so much more than I contributed. Were there times when I wanted to be somewhere else? You bet! But afterwards, I was glad I went! For when I was present, I was allowed the space to ask questions of others and myself and to provide input at my own pace!

I cherish many of those I served with on vestry and will always feel a connection. We bonded through our opening check-in process, learning little snippets of each other’s lives. We’d follow with a reading from scripture, discuss, offer our perspectives, and then get down to the business of the church. God was always present.

We all have the capacity to give something back to our church family. Being on vestry is about sharing your ideas and your strengths, whatever they might be! How will you give back to our community? Consider joining vestry!






Walk in solidarity to feed the hungry: CROP Walk ministry (10/13/13)

Posted by & filed under Ministry of the week.

Help stop hunger by participating in CROP walk.

Help stop hunger by participating in CROP walk.

What: Traverse City CROP Walk

When: Sunday, October 13 2 pm; 1:45 pm registration at GT County Civic Center

Where: The walk begins at the GT County Civic Center and winds its way down Washington Street, to Union Street and back to the Civic Center along State Street. The walk is scheduled rain or shine.

Who: Participants from several area churches and organizations secure pledges for the relief of world and local hunger. The Traverse City CROP Walk in existence since 1981 has raised more than $650,000, a portion of which is returned to local pantries, ours included.

Why: People all over the world walk for basic necessities like food, water and medicine. We walk in solidarity because they walk.

To do: Make a pledge to any walker: The Rev. Ed Emenheiser, Lynn Feeter, Ann Hackett, Bill & Helen Hankins, Maxcie Latimer, John Lewis, Pete & Sharon Moller, or Brad Will.



Grace Upstairs: Spiritual development is a spiral

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Catherine Turnbull
Director of Christian Education

Turnbull_CatherineThe biggest change we’ve made upstairs this fall is a shift away from a curriculum that offers children an interpretation of each week’s Bible story, to an open curriculum that encourages children to try interpreting the stories individually, just for themselves. Dispensing with interpretation is the most difficult discipline for us volunteer adults (and parents, too). While it’s one thing to learn to speak positively to a child, or to get used to kneeling or sitting so we’re at a child’s eye level–it’s another thing entirely to forego our natural inclination to give children information. As difficult as it is, however, it’s very important that we encourage our children to respond to scriptural stories on their own. Here’s why:

  •  Spiritual development is a spiral, rather than a staircase. We hear a Bible story many times in our faith journey—not just once—and its meaning isn’t a flat place we can stand on forever. Just as we adults hear the Lectionary differently as we age, children’s understanding must also change. If we tell them what the story “means” when they’re in first or second grade, we set that story (or biblical character) “in stone,” stunt the growth of their understanding, and rob them of self-discovery. We also rob the children of the delight (or perhaps frustration!) of these stories’ mysteries.
  • Telling children what a story means is a manner of hurry. It’s a little like thinking we can put the story in their heads and then, by interpreting it for them, put a cork on top of the story to keep it from leaking out after they leave church. But the truth is, we can afford to be patient. We have faith that God is at work in our children through the stories we tell. There’s no need to hurry—God works in us our whole lives.
  • The only honest question is one to which we don’t already have the answer. Every time we ask a child a question that feels like a fishing expedition (because they know we have a reply in our head we’re hoping they’ll “get,”) we invite children to disconnect. It’s boring, because we’re always just holding the fish behind our backs. These closed-ended questions teach children to go for the reward of the “right answer” instead of genuinely pondering what they think and believe. As Christian storytellers, we are bound to ask questions the way Jesus did. It’s not always easy, but we begin by focusing on questions that begin with the words, “I wonder…”

So in a few weeks, once we’ve gotten our new routine comfortably fleshed out, if you come to visit us upstairs, you’ll see a group of children from preschool to 4th grade wondering: Which part of the day’s story is the best part; which part is the most important; which part is about them; and is there any part of the story we could leave out and still have all the story we need?

Hey—maybe we could start a discussion group during coffee hour where we ask these same questions about the sermon!



Stewardship means sharing God’s love

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Ken Andrews

Ken AndrewStewardship. What is the first thought that comes to mind when someone mentions stewardship? I used to think that stewardship was the campaign each year to pledge financial support for the Church, but I have come to realize that it is so much more than that. Stewardship should happen 365 days a year, not just a few weeks a year and should be more than the giving of financial support to the church. Stewardship is also the giving of time and talents, in other words the giving of ourselves, in spreading the love of God and Christ’s teachings.

The definition given in the dictionary for stewardship is, “the conducting, supervising of, managing of something, especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”  Are we not entrusted with the care and management of God’s creation?

What has changed my thinking about stewardship has been seeing how the people of Grace respond to God’s love. Since coming to Grace I have been amazed at how many ways the people of Grace show their love of God and His creations. This list of the ministries of Grace and the number of people involved goes on and on. There are ministries that care for the environment, for the church building and services held there. There are ministries that feed the hungry, cloth the naked, and heal the sick. One of the ministries I have been personally involved with was the building of a home for a friend. Several churches collaborated to build this house, Grace being one of them. When it came time for Grace’s part of the construction so many people came to help that the fellowship of working together made the work enjoyable and all of the trim work was done in one day.

The children of Grace are involved with stewardship as well. The sixth grade Sunday school developed and implemented a bicycle-lending program for the patrons of Jubilee House. These are only a few examples that I have personally been involved with but I am sure if all the ministries were compiled into a book it would be the size of a James Mitchner novel.

The stewardship of Grace is very infectious. It draws people into Grace because Grace walks the talk. I have heard people comment throughout the community that the people of Grace are “the hands and feet of Christ”. This commitment of stewardship has inspired ministries from other churches to become involved with Grace ministries. Donations of food and hygiene products for the food and hygiene pantries; Friday and Sunday community meals served at Grace; volunteering at Jubilee House. There is even a ministry at the United Methodist Church in Empire called “Socks for Jubilee” where they collect donated socks and bring to Jubilee House. The Presbyterian Church donates money each quarter for help with operating funds of Jubilee House and Traverse Pie Company and Bob’s Heating donate and bring pot pies to Jubilee House each week so the patrons can have hot food before going out in the cold. Habitat for Humanity and Mark Roi of Inter-Lakes Insulation donated their time and talents on construction projects for Jubilee House. All in the name of stewardship for the love of God.

There is a poem that hangs on the wall of Jubilee House that expresses perfectly the stewardship of Grace Church.


 Every time a hand reaches out to help another

That is Grace

Every time someone puts anger aside,

That is Grace

Every time people forget their differences

And realize their love for each other

That is Grace

May we have Grace everyday by giving from the heart,

Caring for others,

And living in peace.

 When people have talked to me about my involvement in the things that I do and ask why do I do them, I tell them it is my stewardship to God and the people of Grace have shown me the way.

Thank you people of Grace for teaching me the ways of stewardship.