I have a bit of exciting news that I want to share with you. As you may know, Grace Church will soon turn 200 years old. Phenomenal. For me, I think of the 26 priests-in-charge who have come before me: 11 missionaries from 1828 to 1913, 8 vicars from 1913 to 1944, and 7 rectors 1944 to now. I am the 27th in a line of folks all entrusted to help lead this incredible community of faith. Each of these priests had hopes, dreams, and ideas. Each of them faced struggles that arose during their cures. I think of the parishioners during that time, what they experienced and shared with each other. I think of all our parish has accomplished in sharing the Good News of Christ with this city, county, state—and world. We stand on the shoulders of incredible individuals who listened to the call of the Spirit and responded out of generosity and grace. We have a lot to celebrate with our upcoming Bicentennial!
For the past few months, I have been reflecting with the wardens, staff, and vestry on how we might prepare for this celebration. There are many ways to approach a Bicentennial Celebration, and it is not too early to start imagining! By starting our conversations now, we will give ourselves ample time to listen, dream, plan, and develop. I have asked my team, “When you imagine Grace Church in our third century of shared ministry, what do you see?” This is a question for the entire parish to ponder. Personally, I am dedicating myself to this space of planning and development as your rector.
The leadership team is working to launch this campaign with full force and energy, finding ways to engage in deep listening as well as intentional strategic planning. It is clear to us that we have an opportunity to experience a truly historic time of vision and development. It is also clear that we should be mindful and do this carefully. Rather than beginning with a list of tasks or ideas of “things to do,” we feel it best to begin with a space of listening and imagining, building on the work of the Listening Circles that we shared as a parish when I first began my cure as your rector. What is the Spirit up to in our community? What are we being invited to explore and participate? How would these ideas and hopes and dreams inform any future development we might undertake as a parish? This is our hope and intent as we root our discernment in our stated mission statement:
The mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
Grace Church pursues this mission by accepting and welcoming all people as the children of God as we pray and worship, provide education, formation and care for our Parish family, and reach out into the community in which we live. As a community of faith we remain open to the ongoing revelation of God in our time.
I am so grateful that Kathy Gosselin has agreed to chair this first phase in our vision campaign. She will bring a wealth of parish experience to bear as we enter into these intentional conversations. Along with Kathy, the Bicentennial Vision Committee consists of Chaudron Gille, Scarlet Pendarvis, Hannah Wagner, Fran Hazel, Brantley Burns, Timm Scott, Jay Gaspar, Tate O’Rouke, Martha Nesbitt, Julia Padgham, and Meghan Cook. This group’s work will focus on this mission statement, working with an over-arching question of “What do we see when we imagine Grace Church fulfilling this mission as we step into our third century of shared ministry?” What a remarkable opportunity!
In the next eighteen months or so, look for these committee members as they spread out through the entire parish. And, know that your voice is heard through your participation in the many ministries of the parish. The committee members will be attending meetings and conversations as we step into a space of deep listening and community development.
These will be incredible years for us as a community, and I am incredibly grateful to be here with you at this deeply meaningful time.