Centering prayer moves us beyond conversation to communion with Christ

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Ministry of the week.

By Marilyn Dressel

Centering Prayer 2017 05 31 (5)Centering Prayer is a method of prayer in which we consent to rest in God’s presence.  It is a wordless prayer that moves us beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him.  The gospel story of Mary and Martha, (Luke 10:38-42) teaches us that silence and action, prayer and work are two chambers of one heart.  They need each other to realize the fullness of life.  Centering Prayer teaches us stillness, how to be centered and quiet.  From this time alone with God, we take the fruits of the spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness out into the world.  Following a time of silence, the community reads a passage of scripture (four times through) followed by a time of sharing how the Spirit spoke to us.

The Centering Prayer Community offers a Quiet Day in November inviting the parish family to join us atCentering Prayer 2017 05 31 (2) Waldheim Retreat House on Old Mission Peninsula.  This is a day of silence, praying the scriptures, Holy Eucharist, a guided meditation, and free time to walk in the beautiful Neahtawanta Woods.

The Centering Prayer Community held its twelfth annual Advent Quiet Morning on December 3, 2016, for the parish family and the community of Traverse City.  This is a time of stillness through silence, prayer, an Advent scripture, and meditation with Grace Harmony leading the community in Taize singing.

The prayer community also adopted a family during Advent through LOVE INC. to help brighten their Christmas.  We hold a space available to God as a free gift of our love.  We invite you to join us in our quiet journey “every” Wednesday at 11am in the prayer room.  Please feel free to pick up a Centering Prayer brochure on the table in the commons.  “For you alone, O God, my soul wait in silence, for my hope is in You.”  Psalm 62:5.  For more information, call Marilyn Dressel at 231-929-2575.

Engaging the Word: 6/18/17 (The Second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 6)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7; Palm 116:1, 10-17; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:23. Go to for the weekly lectionary text.

We are in the season after Pentecost, also known as Ordinary Time, in which we focus on the mission of the church and how to live as faithful disciples day by day, week by week. For the next couple of months, our Old Testament readings will be from the Book of Genesis and our New Testament readings will be from Paul’s Letter to the Romans; we’ll read from Matthew’s gospel until the end of the church year on the last Sunday of November.

In this week’s readings, God keeps his promise to Abraham and Sarah, Paul guides us through how we achieve peace and hope through faith in Christ, and Jesus commissions the twelve disciples to ministry.

Sarah laughing by G. B. Tiepolo, c. 1726. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Sarah laughing by G. B. Tiepolo, c. 1726. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7: The story of Abraham is centered on God’s promises of land and descendants, but so far Abraham’s only son is Ishmael, the child of the slave Hagar, who became a surrogate mother since Sarah was barren. Both Abraham and Sarah are well past childbearing age.

In this week’s reading the Lord appears to Abraham in the appearance of three strangers (angels? the Trinity?) who suddenly arrive near his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham ran from the tent to meet them and showed proper hospitality to the three guests with water to wash their feet and a good meal.

While the guests are eating, one of them announces, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” Sarah was in the tent listening and she laughed at the incredible idea. The guest heard Sarah laugh and he asks, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” He rebuked Sarah for laughing (though she denied it) and reiterated the promise.

The Lord kept his promise and Sarah bore a son. Abraham named the boy Isaac, which means he laughs in Hebrew, and, in keeping with the covenant made between God and Abraham, Abraham circumcised Isaac when he was eight days old. Isaac was the first infant circumcised on the eighth day. Now Sarah laughed with great joy and gratitude for her miracle baby.

Palm 116:1, 10-17: in our psalm this week, the psalmist expresses love, praise, and thanksgiving to the Lord “because he has heard the voice of my supplication.”  In the omitted verses we learn that the psalmist was near death, and God saved his life. To repay the Lord, he will make a drink-offering and “call upon the name of the Lord” in the presence of God’s people. Hallelujah!

St. Paul by José de Ribera, c. 1630. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. Paul by José de Ribera, c. 1630. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Romans 5:1-8: Paul had not yet been to Rome when he wrote this letter (c. AD 57), but he was well acquainted with the church. Romans is considered to be Paul’s most ambitious theological work and the Bible’s most systematic and comprehensive interpretation of the Christian message. Paul writes on the grand themes of sin, faith, God’s sovereignty, grace, freedom in Christ, the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and rules for living.

In this week’s reading Paul addresses the question of suffering endured by followers of Jesus. Because we are justified (in right relationship with God) through faith, we can live in God’s grace and peace. And we can even boast in our sufferings, because suffering strengthens us along a continuum—suffering produces endurance, character, and hope because of God’s love though the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Paul adds that it would be rare enough for anyone to die for a righteous person, but God’s boundless love is shown by the fact that Christ sacrificed his life for us while we were still sinners. This is very good news indeed.

Harvest in Provence by Vincent van Gogh, 1888. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Harvest in Provence by Vincent van Gogh, 1888. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Matthew 9:35-10:23: This week’s lectionary is the first of three parts to Matthew’s missionary discourse. In this week’s reading, we see Jesus’ compassion for the people “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  He said the people were like a harvest waiting to be reaped. He says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

He called his twelve disciples to be an extension of his ministry, naming them apostles (meaning sent out) with authority over unclean spirits and the power to cure diseases. So instead of just being followers, they became ambassadors.  They were to “go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and proclaim the good news of the kingdom without expecting any payment, or bring money, extra food or clothing. They were to rely upon the hospitality of those they visited. If the message of God’s peace was not well received, they were to “shake off the dust from your feet” and move on.

Jesus warned them that they will meet with resistance, division, and persecution, “See, I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” They needed to trust in the Spirit and “the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Fast once a month to show solidarity with families facing hunger

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

By The Rev. Carlton Kelley

Rev. Carlton in gardenThe Christian Church, most specifically the catholic and liturgical portions of the church, are churches that embrace discipline for the sake of building up Christ’s Body.  We are made disciples of Jesus Christ by the disciplines we keep.  These disciplines, most especially in the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist, keep us sound and whole, centered and focused on our head Jesus Christ.  Apart from these foundational disciplines there is very little that would make us distinctly Christ’s Body, the church.  There is little that would make us recognizable as a peculiar people who are the vanguard – the foretaste of the kingdom – of Jesus Christ to the world.

Out of these two foundational, disciplining sacraments grow the practices of prayer, study, reading Holy Scripture, good works, and, most neglected of all, fasting.  We recall that Jesus fasted from food from an extended period after his baptism to dwell more deeply in God’s will for his life.  By putting aside the legitimate needs of the body, we are given the ability to focus on what God might have us to do for our good and the good of the church and the world.  Fasting acts as an intensification of our desire.  We deny ourselves in order to give more to a particular concern to which we believe God is calling us.

On May 18, 2017 the Presiding Bishops of the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches issued a joint invitation to our members to pray and fast on the 21st of every month until the end of 2018, the end of the current Congressional session.  The purpose?  To raise our awareness and to cry out to God that hunger ceases and has no place in a land of such abundance.  We remember that everything we have is a gift to be distributed with equality and justice.  The 21st of each month was chosen because this is when many families run out of food.

“We fast to fortify our advocacy in solidarity with families who are struggling with hunger.  We fast to be in solidarity with neighbors who suffer famine, who have been displaced, and who are vulnerable to conflict and climate change.  We fast with immigrants who are trying to make a better future for their families and now face the risk of deportation.  We fast in solidarity with families on SNAP (food stamp program) who often run out of food by the last week of the month.”

This fast is a worthy discipline for the 150th anniversary year of Grace Church, a church that God has richly blessed!  We are blessed to live in an area of amazing beauty and abundance.  Would that more could share in this bounty!  This is a material and spiritual gift we are able to give to generations to come.

If you are unable to fast from food because of medical reasons, spend extra time in prayer and study or give up another activity that is meaningful to you.  Blessings to us all as we fast and pray on the 21st of each month.


Engaging the Word: 6/11/17 (The First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

Holy Trinity by Szymon Czechowicz, c. 1757. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Holy Trinity by Szymon Czechowicz, c. 1757. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

By Barbara Klugh

Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20. Go to for the weekly lectionary text. .Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20. Go to for the weekly lectionary text.

Trinity Sunday is always the First Sunday after Pentecost. It celebrates the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, one God in three Persons: Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. The best advice I’ve heard is to think of this central mystery of our faith as analogous to water—water may be liquid, or solid, as in ice, or gas, as in steam, but it’s all H220. We may experience God as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, but it’s all one and the same God. This week’s lectionary is especially unified around the concept of the Trinity.

God the Architect, Frontpiece of Bible Moralisee, mid-13the cent. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

God the Architect, Frontpiece of Bible Moralisee, mid-13the cent. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Genesis 1:1-2:4a: The Book of Genesis opens with beautiful poetry, the holy drama of God’s creative work. “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God (the Holy Spirit in my opinion) swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”

On Day 1 God made light and the separation of day and night.

On Day 2 God made the sky, and the separation of the waters.

On Day 3 God made dry land and vegetation.

On Day 4 God made celestial lights and separated day and night.

On Day 5 God made birds of the air and water creatures.

On Day 6 God made land animals and humankind, male and female.

On Day 7 God rested and blessed the day.

“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good…. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” God says the Word, and life begins. We remember from John’s Gospel that Jesus is the Word of God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…. And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” All three persons of the Trinity were present at creation. And each day, God made something new. Still does.

Psalm 8: This week’s psalm is a hymn of praise to God as Creator, and the psalmist is amazed and humbled at the duties and responsibilities God has given to human beings. “What is man that you should be mindful of him? The son of man that you should seek him out? You have made him but a little lower than the angels; you adorn him with glory and honor. You give him mastery over the works of your hands; you put all things under his feet.”

2 Corinthians 13:11-13: Our brief reading this week is the final greeting and benediction of Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. Paul urges the Corinthians to live in peace and unity “and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.” He concludes with a Trinitarian blessing, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”

St Ansanus Baptizing by Giovanni di Paolo, 1440s. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St Ansanus Baptizing by Giovanni di Paolo, 1440s. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Matthew 28:16-20: Earlier, on the day of his Resurrection, Christ appeared and told the two Marys to “tell my brothers to go to Galilee, there they will see me.”

In this week’s reading, the disciples are at the mountain in Galilee. When Jesus appears, some worship him and others doubt that it is really him. Jesus declares, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

And in his God-given, all-encompassing authority, Jesus delivers the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

One commentary noted we should recall the prophesy at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’”

And as we have read from Acts during the past few weeks, the disciples took Jesus’ words very seriously. By the end of the first century, Christian communities were found throughout the Roman Empire. Jesus kept and still keeps his promise.

Have you seen the Grace peace pole?

Posted by & filed under Ministry of the week.

Grace Church has a Peace Pole.  Have you ever noticed it or stopped to look at it?  Perhaps not, since there are a number of peace poles around Traverse City.  It’s located just left of the main front door.

2017 05 23 Peace Pole refurbished (2)The peace pole at Grace was a project begun by the EPF, specifically suggested by then members Ralph and Fern Orcutt, in 1984.  Our Peace Pole at  Grace was one of the earliest put up in the area.  The three languages on the pole are Native American, Odawa/Ojibway, to honor those who were here before us, and continue to live here with us;  Spanish, to honor the many migrant workers who make our agricultural bounty possible, and community members living here who are from a Spanish speaking county;  and Russian, to honor the Russian Orthodox community members who used to worship at Grace, and those members who still live and worship in our area.  The message on the pole is “May peace prevail on earth.”  That is a message that we need yet today more than ever.

Initially, when the Peace Pole was erected, members of the EPF brought stones from the Lake Superior area of Michigan. The stones collected held a special meaning for them. They were placed around the base of the pole.  Sadly, those stones were lost over time.

On the Grace Peace Pole there are names.  Currently, the names on the pole are of members who have chaired the EPF.  Also, this year we are adding the name of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship to acknowledge all the prior and current  members of the Grace EPF, and to honor the National EPF, established in 1939.

The EPF is also starting a new tradition.  We will take nominations annually for people to have their names added to our pole.  We have developed criteria to use.  We will ask for nominations for 2018 and include the criteria.

We invite you to take some time to have a close-up look at our Grace Peace Pole.  It was refurbished this past year and new name plates were ordered.  We have done our best to gather the correct historical remembrance.

We invite you to consider joining our group as we journey to promote peace and justice locally, nationally, and in the world.  Feel free to come to a meeting to observe or participate.  We meet on the second Tuesday of each month at 6 pm in Jubilee House.  Meeting times may be confirmed by contacting Betsy Davidson at or 231-313-6013. You can explore the National EPF organization at

Grace marks its 150th anniversary: Let the celebration begin!

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

By James Deaton
Junior Warden

“You have been trusted with a wonderful treasure. Guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit, who lives within you” (2 Timothy 1:14, CEV).

Grace 150 logoThis year marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of the founding of our parish. What a marvelous milestone! This sacred place means so much to so many people, and it has for 150 years.

Beginning our celebration on Pentecost is quite fitting. Both events honor a new start, and both come during a time of transition. Both praise God for the movement of the Holy Spirit, and both reveal how God’s redemptive story in Christ continues into uncharted territory.
This is a transitional year for us, so dedicating time and space for celebration is a good, healthy thing. It feels like a breath of fresh air. We have been through a lot and are continuing to heal as a family of faith, growing closer as we await the arrival of a new rector.

We rejoice with the cloud of witnesses that surrounds us—past and present. The heritage of Grace Episcopal Church has been entrusted to us by the grace of God, and we should guard it. But to guard is not to possess as something we’ve created on our own. God is the architect of our story. Let’s honor our history, but then open ourselves to the Holy Spirit doing something new.

On behalf of the anniversary committee, I am pleased to announce the schedule of anniversary “big events.” Beginning in July, there is one major event per month. To supplement, we are inviting individuals and ministry groups to dream up creative ways they may contribute to this ongoing celebration. All are invited to join the party!
Many more details are coming soon. For now, save these “big event” dates. Then prayerfully consider how you personally will celebrate this historic occasion in the life of our parish.

• July 4—Heritage Parade during the National Cherry Festival
Join us as we walk in celebration of our sesquicentennial anniversary.

• August 27—Great Grace Timeline
An interactive timeline will be installed in the Parish Hall. Trace the history of our parish. Where does your story fit?

• September 9—Church Picnic
Bring a favorite side dish to share. The church will provide meat entrées and dessert.

• October 14-15—Community Open House
We will invite our community to celebrate with us as we honor our outreach ministries.

• December 10—Sesquicentennial Worship Celebration
Bishop Whayne Hougland from the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan will join us for this special worship celebration.

There is one final thing. The beautiful logo you see here has been created especially for promoting our anniversary events. Keep an eye out for it in the coming days.

People of Grace, it’s time to celebrate! Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Vestry minutes – 5/16/2017

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Vestry minutes.

Vestry Members:  Clare Andreasson, Karl Bastian, James Deaton, Maria DiStefano-Post, Eddie Grim, Kathryn Holl, Sue Kelly, Michael Mittelstaedt, Bill Smith, Jeff Tibbits, Marian Vermeulen, Jeff Wescott (Absentees in Italics)
Guests Present: None
Staff Present:  Ann Hackett  
Clergy Present: The Rev. Carlton Kelley

Prayer and Check-in:
Carlton opened with prayer and we checked in with one another.

Scripture & Study:
Clare led a reflection on the importance and the blessings of faithfulness.   

Approve/Amend the Agenda:
The agenda for the 5/16/17 meeting was approved by adoption.
We forgot to approve the 4/18/17 minutes.  We will approve them at our next meeting.

Rector Report:  None

Treasurer’s Report:
Mark Stackable reviewed the April financial statements and suggested that a line should be added to the Cash Inflow/Outflow statement under “Contributions Unpledged/Giver of Record” to clarify increases in this designation.  Ann will add a footnote to the cash flow statement that reads “Donations to the deficit” to help identify atypical increases to the budget in “Contributions Unpledged/Giver of Record”.

Mark wondered why draws had not been taken out of the Hughes funds to reimburse 2016 expenses.  Ann reported that the vestry would take action on that at the present meeting.  She was not able to accomplish this before now.  Quarterly draws in the current year will occur going forward.

The Finance Committee had a discussion on payroll that Jeff Tibbits will bring to the vestry.

The Finance Committee appreciates the vestry’s approach to the forthcoming bequest from the estate of Julianne Christensen.  A principal payment on the mortgage should be considered.  Mark Stackable will find out whether or not a payment on the mortgage principal would reduce the monthly payment amount.  Some mortgages structures don’t allow for such a change.

Parish Administrator Report:
Ann reported that it is time to make a draw from the Hughes Maintenance Endowment to cover maintenance and upkeep expenses incurred in 2016.  Ann provided a list of the eligible expense categories for which money can be drawn.
Motion: by Bill Smith and seconded by Eddie Grim that the vestry draw $22,127 to reimburse 2016 eligible expenses for the maintenance and upkeep of the buildings.  Motion passed.

The Hughes Organ Endowment provides for maintenance of the organ and essential needs of the choir.  It is time to make a draw from this endowment as well.
Motion: by Maria DiStefano-Post and seconded by Marian Vermeulen that the vestry draw $5,944 to reimburse 2016 eligible expenses for the maintenance of the organ and essential needs of the choir.  Motion passed.

Gutters will be installed on the west-facing roof edge of the Pantry to prevent ice build-up in the winter from melting snow on the sidewalk.  At a cost of $200, they will be installed by Superior Seamless.

The vestry was presented with three bids for the installation of the Jubilee House emergency exit. A generous grant from Mary Hughes through the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation will cover $10,500 of the total cost and the balance will be paid by Jubilee House SwingShift funds.
Motion: by Eddie Grim and seconded by Marian Vermeulen that we accept the bid from Company C for $16,298 for the Jubilee House emergency exit installation.  Motion passed.

In fairness, the three bids were presented anonymously because two of the companies are owned by two different parishioners. The quote from Evergreen Construction was accepted.

Senior Warden Report:
There was some delay with the repair to the boiler in an attempt to make sure that the expenditure was appropriately cleared since the repair would cost over $1,000.  Discussion ensued.
Motion: by Eddie Grim and seconded by Bill Smith to change the language of an existing vestry directive so that the Rector should be able to authorize an expenditure of up to $1,500 or the amount remaining in that year’s specific budget line, whichever is less, after consultation with one of the wardens, until this policy shall be changed by the vestry.  Motion passed.

Bishop Whayne Hougland has approved the extension of the original Grace Church covenant with The Reverend Carlton Kelly on a month by month basis going forward.  A resolution of the vestry is required to ratify this agreement.
Motion: by Eddie Grim and seconded by Bill Smith: Resolved the vestry of Grace Church extends the terms of the Interim Rector Covenant with The Reverend Carlton Franklin Kelly, originally dated April 20, 2016, on a month to month basis until shortly before the arrival of the new Rector, unless dissolved earlier by mutual consent or upon sixty days’ notice of either party.  Motion passed.

Brittney Collins and Maggie Miron have been chosen to attend the Episcopal Youth Event in Oklahoma. The total cost for each student is $1,000 of which the diocese will cover $600 for each student.  Clare asked the vestry if they would consider helping the students make up the balance.  Ann suggested there is money in the Ministry Misc/Leadership Workshops line and the Spiritual Education line of the budget that might be used to cover the cost.
Motion: by Eddie Grim and seconded by James Deaton that the church donate $200 to each of the youth attending the Episcopal Youth Event from budget line 7345 Ministry Misc/Leadership Workshops.  Motion passed.

There is an issue of limited parking space which will become more acute when the overflow lot across the alley is no longer available.  Discussion ensued.
Motion: by Eddie Grim and seconded by Bill Smith that the parking lot be specially designated for those in greatest need of proximity to the church.  Motion passed. 

Jeff Tibbits presented suggestions from the Finance Committee regarding salaries and salary structures.  Discussion ensued.
Motion: by Jeff Tibbitts and seconded by Kathryn Holl that the vestry approve giving Parish Administrator, Ann Hackett, a $4,000 bonus in June 2017.  Motion passed.

Clare has received a letter from Bishop Clay Matthews in response to the letter the vestry sent to Bishop Michael Curry in February.  The vestry discussed the letter and possible next steps.  Clare will work on a response to Bishop Matthews’ letter to present to the vestry at our next vestry meeting.

Junior Warden Report: None

Old Business: None

New Business:
Kathryn Holl reported that the Grace Church Foundation has recommended that the vestry give 25% of the forthcoming bequest from the estate of Julie Christensen to the Foundation.  This would increase the Foundation principal, and therefore increase the yearly amount that the Foundation is able to disburse to Grace Church.  The vestry will consider this request and make a final decision when we have received the bequest.

Forum for Congregational Concerns: None

Core Ministry Reports:
Rector Search Committee:
As of the date of this vestry meeting, the Rector Search Committee is two-thirds of the way through initial interviews with candidates, with more interviews scheduled soon.

Follow-up & Follow-through:
Carlton will announce changes to parking at our worship services beginning this weekend.

Compline followed by dismissal at 8:45 pm.

Respectfully submitted,
Michael Mittelstaedt
Vestry Clerk

Engaging the Word: 6/4/17 (The Day of Pentecost: Whitsunday)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23. Go to for the weekly lectionary text. This Sunday we will celebrate Pentecost, commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. To symbolize the fire of the Holy Spirit, priests will wear red vestments, and at Grace, we are invited to wear red as well.

Pentecost by Juan Bautista Mayno, c. 1614. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Pentecost by Juan Bautista Mayno, c. 1614. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Acts 2:1-21: We read this passage from Acts every year at Pentecost. Pentecost, also known as the Feast of Weeks, was one of the three annual festivals celebrated at the temple in Jerusalem. Jews had come from Jewish communities all over the Roman Empire and the streets were full of voices speaking many languages.

Our reading tells the amazing story of the coming of the Holy Spirit. It’s a great reminder that Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension are not the end of the story. Before he ascended, Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem, and he promised that they would be baptized by the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is the day when the Spirit came upon every follower of Jesus as the permanent guiding authority in their (and our) lives. A rushing wind and tongues of fire filled the people with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in other languages. Moreover, the people heard in their own native language.

But some sneered at this wondrous happening, and Peter addressed the crowd to explain the meaning of what happened—that this event was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy—“Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Psalm 104:25-35, 37: We read this portion of this wonderful hymn of praise every year at Pentecost. It marvels at the vast universe and praises God for his creative work and steadfast provision for all that exists. “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”

I always smile at the phrase, “and there is that Leviathan, which you have made for the sport of it.” It brings out God’s playful aspect and God’s sheer delight in all of his creation.

Gifts of the Spirit, Church of the Divine Spirit, Porto Alegre, Brazil. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Gifts of the Spirit, Church of the Divine Spirit, Porto Alegre, Brazil. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 Corinthians 12:3b-31: Paul founded the church in Corinth, and stayed there for 18 months.

The ancient Greek city of Corinth was a thriving trade and commercial center. It sat on an isthmus of about four miles wide that joined the Peloponnesus with central Greece. The city was permeated with Roman cultural values relating to power and status, and was known for luxury, materialism, pleasure, and immorality.

While he was in Ephesus, Paul wrote this letter c. 57 AD because he heard from several sources of problems within the church—divisions in the church family, sex and marriage, morality, and women’s role in the church, to name a few.

In this week’s reading Paul discusses spiritual gifts. Paul says, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” What matters in our spirituality is not whether we have received this or that spiritual gift—or whether we’re physically attractive or have a high IQ, but whether we confess that Jesus is Lord. In this way we all are equal.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” The single source is our Trinitarian God.

Everyone receives a gift from the Holy Spirit to be used for the mutual help of the whole church family. And each gift has the same honor and value—there is no hierarchy of spiritual gifts.

Even though the members of the church are different, we function as members of one body. The Spirit dwells in each of us, but we are not sufficient unto ourselves we need the other members of the body to function as a living, dynamic whole Body of Christ.

Jesus appears to the disciples by William Hole, 1906. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Jesus appears to the disciples by William Hole, 1906. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

John 20:19-23: This week’s reading from John’s Gospel It tells us that three days after the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples are hiding out behind locked doors because they were afraid for their lives.

Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

I love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the last sentence in The Message: “If you forgive someone’s sins they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?” Food for thought.

In our love of animals we catch a glimpse of what God wishes for us

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

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” – Genesis 1:26

By Marian Vermeulen

I have a slight aversion to the description “horse crazy.” While in some senses accurate, the use of the word crazy implies that there is little reason behind an admiration for horses. In reality, I believe there is a very excellent and worthwhile reason, and have no qualms about my lifelong dedication to learning about horses and animals in general.

Marian & horse springtimeWhen God commanded mankind to rule over all of the animals of the world, I think He opened a pathway for us, one that we can follow to gain some slight understanding of His relationship to us, and in so doing, help us achieve a better relationship with him. Working with horses brings me closer to God than anything else I have experienced. As God is sovereign over me, so I must be sovereign over my horse. I must be calm, quiet, and confident. I must make decisions, choose our path, and set boundaries.

Yet the word sovereign has more to it than command, it is also care. I must enforce boundaries through correction rather than punishment, and build trust and love between myself and my horse. Love is an interesting description to use between a horse and a human. A horse can certainly hold affection and love of a sort for a human, yet the love the human has of the horse is deeper, stronger, and more powerful than the horse has the capacity to understand. Just as we will never truly be able to understand God’s wild, magnificent and never ending love for us. Yet when we form truly deep and holy bonds with our animals, I personally believe we can catch the tiniest hint, a reflection, of what it must be like for God as he rules over us, how deep his compassion and how great his leadership.

And in our animals perhaps we can also catch a glimpse of what he wishes from us: kindness, trust, innocence, devotion, and an obedience that is freely and lovingly given.

“After all, the qualities required to be good with horses are the same qualities required to be good at life in general… quiet confidence, dependability, consistency, and a willingness not to use force.”  – Mark Rashid, Horse Trainer

PoWeR Book Bags brings new reading ministry to Grace

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Ministry of the week.

Dear Grace Episcopal Church Members,

PoWeR book bags logoThank you very much for graciously allowing us to serve children and families with you at your food pantry. We are grateful that you’ve welcomed us into your world! While you are feeding the children’s bodies, our hope is to also feed their minds.

We are PoWeR! Book Bags, a non-profit, 100% volunteer organization whose goal is to bring literacy to children in need. P is for play, W is for write, and R is for Read. By encouraging children to play, write, and read, we assist children in reaching new heights. Our mission is two-fold: to increase the number of literacy experiences children have and to expand the quantity of books that they own. Both are based on research that shows a strong correlation between time spent talking, reading, and writing; the number of books a child owns and one’s overall life success.

PoWeR book bags pix of kid readingChildren with more do better. They perform better academically, have more friends and better social relationships, and are more likely to graduate from high school and contribute positively to society. Those with less literacy experiences and little to no books are most likely to have difficulty in school both academically and socially, drop out of school, and have a difficult time as adults. When children come to the pantry, they select a hand-crafted book bag containing writing supplies (and as a recent recipient added, LOVE!). The children then select a few books to go into their bag. Each time they return to the pantry, they select more books and writing supplies.

What can you do to help? First, pray for the people receiving the bags. Second, you could join us. We need people to sew bags. We also could use volunteers to help create our writing booklets, tie ownership tags to bags, fill crayon bags, and stuff bags. Finally, as we distribute new and very gently used books, we could use donations. Grace Church has kindly offered to host a donation bin in the Parish Hall where you can leave books for the program. We serve all children, birth through high school.

We are most excited to be adding Grace Episcopal Church as one of our local pantry sites. We began in March of 2016. Since then, we have distributed over 11,000 books and 3,000 book bags to children in northwestern Michigan. From the reactions of families and those that work in the pantries, we know we are making a difference. Visit us on Facebook (powerbookbags) or on the web at to learn more and explore the ways that you’d like to become involved!


Kara Gregory and The PoWeR! Book Bags Team

P.S. And did you hear? We were the happy recipients of a $250 grant from the Order of the Daughters of the King, Province V, for which we are quite grateful!