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.



School of Prayer – The Daily Office for Episcopalians

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

By The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Our children are off to school! Backpacks and lunches in hand, they piled back through doors of plate glass and steel. Excitement, joy, and trepidation all showed on those young faces at Eastern Elementary last week as we waited for the first day to begin.

So when we think of the School of Prayer, do you feel all those same things? It was years into ministry before I realized that not everyone was spending their nights reading Evelyn Underhill and trying out obscure Eastern Orthodox prayer forms. As I hung around ministry students, priests, pastors, and a few deacons and monks, it never occurred to me that most lay people would not be doing this kind of study.

Now that I have three kids and a career, it seems naïve that I did not realize that regular people leading busy lives would not be studying scripture. But, if we can have a school of prayer, is there a home-learning version?

The answer is “yes.” It is called the Daily Office, and like school, it does not cover everything. (You should hear clergy lament all the things they don’t tell you in seminary.) But it does teach you the basics and get you grounded.

The Daily Office is a condensed version of the daily hours of the monks and nuns set out in the Rule of Benedict. They gather still for seven set times of prayer throughout the Christian world. Monks, nuns, and priests in the Roman church are required to keep the monastic offices (office means requirement). When the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer and others put together the first Book of Common Prayer, they condensed the seven offices into two main hours of prayer, the Morning and Evening Offices that we continue. They also set aside a list of assigned readings, sequentially going through the Bible in a year and the Psalms in a month.

Today we still continue with the Daily Offices as one of the two pillars of our Common Prayer life. Morning and Evening Prayer are as essential to our life as Anglicans and Episcopalians as the set hours of prayer were in the deserts of fifteen hundred years ago. We have added back in a noontime prayer service and Compline, essentially the same as Noon and Compline in Benedict’s Rule. They are all in your Book of Common Prayer.

But we also have some new tools that can keep the parents of children, grandparents, busy singles, retired people and students on track with their Offices.

One is a Contemporary Office Book available from Church Publishing that runs $150 or so. There are several variations of Prayer Books from other Anglican churches and a particularly good Breviary (Office Book) from the Saint Helena Community (Episcopal).

Even more convenient are a couple of apps and websites that I want to share. First off, I have used all of these apps on my Iphone, and I refer to the websites on a regular basis. Second, these options do not exhaust all of what is available in print, on the web, or for your personal device.

cropped-breviarium41The website and app that I use daily (or very close) is from http://missionstclare.com. They have been around since I first came into the Episcopal church providing a simple, straight forward and very full version of the Daily Offices. The website is effortless to use with a button for the current day and dozens of options, including downloaded months for Kindle and Nook readers, which I use when I am traveling without internet access.

The app from Mission St. Clare is very good, just as intuitive. You push a button and then scroll down to read the Office. These options do not include Compline or Noonday, though the website has both in the various offerings, but they are just as easy to read in the Book of Common Prayer.

Forward Day by Day is a popular little devotional here at Grace and around the church, and it’s available in both an online version and an app for phones and tablets. I have used it occasionally, and it does offer some customization. You can pick Rite I or Rite II. You should try the website for a whole set of options. I like it, but I usually end up at Mission St. Clare for the simplicity. The biggest benefit is that it has the Forward Day by Day devotional built right in.

There are a couple of Book of Common Prayer apps and the new one from the Episcopal Church is pretty good, very complete, and deleted from my phone. I carry the BCP everywhere with me, so I tend not to need the online version.

The other two websites are primarily for the Sunday lectionary readings. The first one I use every week to link from the sermon blog to the readings referred to is simply www.lectionarypage.net, and it has the readings on a calendar with the Collect and options when there are options. We usually take the first option if you start following this tract. The second page is very complete and has tons of resources besides. It is located at www.satucket.com/lectionary. This site carries files of the various Book of Common Prayers and is a tremendous place to learn more about our faith. Along with anglicansonline.org you could cover miles of territory without leaving your desk.

There are other resources, and we are just scratching the surface of what is available. This is the age of information. But, if you are looking for a simple way to get grounded in the Offices of our church, I suggest Mission St. Clare and Forward Day by Day. If you search for these two websites or apps, you will find a online great school of prayer.

Every school has its complications. The Offices can be a bit wordy when holding them alone. Feel free to pare down as necessary. I often skip the Canticles when traveling, but not as much as I used too. I do not always do every Collect offered and usually spend a great deal of time in quiet thinking and praying about and with the Bible and silence. Make it your own. And if you need a tutor, call the church, and I will be happy to walk you through our school.

Let today be your first day of class.


Open invitation to Gift Planning session October 21

Posted by & filed under Events.

By Dave Eitland
Stewardship Committee

Have you ever thought of giving to the Parish beyond regular weekly offering? Have you ever thought of giving a bequest to the Church? Have you thought and prayed about how your legacy of giving might look? Will your legacy giving reflect your values as a Christian disciple?

The Grace Episcopal Church Foundation is sponsoring a gift planning session for Monday, October 21 between 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm in the Parish Hall. Foundation Board members Ward Kuhn and Dave Eitland will be leading this session to help church members think through their giving in extraordinary ways. The Very Rev. Daniel Richards will also be in attendance. The session will help people think about their giving through using the tools of planned giving and giving to the Church.

Besides serving on the Foundation ministry, Ward is an attorney at Kuhn, Darling, Boyd, and Quandt, PLC . He has helped people in estate planning as one of his legal specialties since 1976. Dave is currently the Development and Gift Planning Director for the Grand Traverse Pavilions and brings over 15 years in planned giving for individuals and charities.

Fall Giving Program – “Giving by Grace, Growing in Joy”

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

Stained glass windowBy Dave Eitland
GEC Stewardship Ministry Committee

The goal of the stewardship ministry is to help God’s people grow in their relationship with Jesus through the use of time, talents, and finances that God has entrusted to them.

The Fall Giving Program will give people of Grace a biblical overview of giving and specifically speak to the financial giving of people to the Church.

Our theme this year will be “Giving by Grace, Growing in Joy” based on 2 Corinthians 9:7:  “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. “

Beginning on October 19 & 20, we will begin a five-week program in prayer and education to give a broad perspective in giving to the Church. Our weekly themes will feature:

  • Week 1: Gratitude
  • Week 2: Prayer
  • Week 3: Faith
  • Week 4: God’s Dream for Grace
  • Week 5: Celebration & Commitment

You will hear inspirational messages from members. You will be provided a weekly guide featuring the theme, facts and information, and more importantly a devotion to help you reflect and pray.

You will hear about Grace’s ministry and our dreams for the future. There will be articles, blog posts, activities, and worship.

You will be asked to reflect on what kind of giver you currently are. You will be asked to consider pledging. You will be asked to consider tithing as a practice of discipleship.

You will have access and receive all the information in many a varied ways and formats you need to make a commitment .

May God move you during this time of reflection and action to fulfill God’s will for us.

Dreams bring messages from God – Dream Group ministry minute (9/28/13)

Posted by & filed under Ministry of the week.

The dream group is not widely publicized at Grace, so I am pleased to be reporting on its presence and purpose as the Ministry Minute September 27 and 28. I am Sue Brightheart and I have been facilitating that group since September of 2010. I started working with dreams years ago in an informal way so when our fellow parishioner, Glen Williams, gave a presentation about Carl Jung’s ideas, especially as they related to the unconscious and dreams, I was excited. The next step was to earn a dream leader certificate from the Haden Institute in North Carolina.

Since that time, working with dreams has become an important part of my spiritual life and sharing that knowledge with others has become a passion for me. I was greatly encouraged in this pursuit when I came upon this quote from the early Christian theologian Origen: “Dreams are the primary way God speaks to his people.” I have found working with dreams has been a significant step in deepening my spiritual development. That our primary written book of faith, The Bible, is full of God communicating by dreams tells me this is a trustworthy gift of the divine. So I am eager to bring others to a knowledge of this additional spiritual practice.

Each dream brings us “messages from God,” to quote Bob Haden. These “messages” are barely in our awareness, or sometimes completely unconscious and come as brand new information surfacing into our consciousness. Dreams can also bring us comfort during hard times. I have had beautifully luminous dreams that have brought me great comfort when I am going into a dark period. When our body, mind or soul becomes unbalanced, a dream can point the way to restoring balance. Dreams can be full of puns, confusion, terror, but always in service of our healing and health.

Our dream group meets during the school year every other week on Tuesdays from 4:30 to 6:00 PM. We take a break in December and in the summer. Once a year I present an introduction to dreams and working with them. That serves two purposes: First, to teach the basics of dream work, so all are able to work individually with their dreams at home. Secondly, to allow the attendees who wish to continue exploring dreams at greater depth to join the ongoing dream group. This introduction will give them enough information and techniques to be comfortable and able to jump right into the group.

The next introduction to dreams will be on two consecutive Monday nights (October 28 and Nov 4) at 6:30 to 8:30PM at Grace Church in LL5. If you have any questions or want more information, contact me at suebrightheart@gmail.com or call 231-271-3052.





Ministry Minute: GEC Website (9/8/13)

Posted by & filed under Ministry of the week.

Our website (http://www.gracetraversecity.org) is an online channel for information about Grace Episcopal Church. We promote discipleship by sharing stories by and about Grace members whose lives reflect their commitment to Jesus Christ. The website features regular updates from key ministries, including the rector, the vestry, the education director, and former Sr. Warden Barb Klugh, whose weekly Engaging the Word blog parses out the lectionary in terms we can all understand.

From August 1, 2013 to September 2, 2013, 496 people made 772 visits to the website. Anyone who has a faith story to share is invited to submit articles to webmaster Donna Olendorf at dolendor@gmail.com.



At Jubilee House, God’s love flows in all directions

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Bill Hankins

Bill Hankins, Jubilee House volunteer

Bill Hankins

Sure, I had noticed the modest Victorian style house west of the church, but knew nothing much about what went on there. It was just part of the neighborhood.

I hadn’t seen the line stretching out to the sidewalk on weekday mornings waiting for someone to open the door. I didn’t know that there were washers and dryers waiting in the cement floored basement to be used, that the coffee pots would soon be brewing and the sign-up board would be filled with names of guests needing showers. Like many things that go on at Grace Episcopal Church, it was beyond my radar.

It was a cold December night two-and-a half years ago that I signed up to help at Safe Harbor. I didn’t know much about Safe Harbor, either, except that homeless people could come for a dinner and somehow they would be allowed to spend the night out of the cold. I was a bit uneasy about getting into this, but Ken Andrews seemed to know the ropes and that made me less anxious. Things were well organized and the homeless arrived, knowing what to do and how to behave.

Then, two guys came in supporting a third, who was obviously in pretty bad shape. He slumped into a chair and passed out. Ken, without hesitation took care of this guest with such kindness and grace that I knew I needed to take some lessons. Jubilee House was my opportunity. I decided to help out each week on Monday.

Jubilee House

Jubilee House photo by Don Olendorf

Again, there were concerns about interacting with “street people” from 10 am until 2 pm, but Ken’s wife, Glenda, with her wise, easy manner showed me around and gave me a packet of information to read.   Again everything was so well organized and rules of behavior so clearly stated that it wasn’t much different from any new experience. Slowly, my opinion of the homeless changed and I came to really understand that we are all God’s children.  And that God loves them as much as he loves me.

Encountering the homeless has always presented a moral dilemma for me. What can I do for this person? What can I say that won’t make them embarrassed? If I get involved, how far do I want to go to help out? Volunteering at Jubilee House resolves problem for me.

Through the celebration of Eucharist we are reminded that we are the body of Christ and are sent out in peace as living members to do His work. I have heard this message thousands of times and have accepted it as my core Christian value without fully putting it into practice. My involvement with Jubilee House has given me the sense that I am making some progress in this direction.

If you want to see why I love Grace, just drop by Jubilee House. It is a shining example of what it means to be a Christian. The door is open, Maxie’s soup is in the kitchen, food in the refrigerator, and the house is full of God’s love flowing in all directions.