On June 9, appropriately enough the Feast of Pentecost, Grace’s year-long 150th Anniversary Celebration is officially over. As a newcomer to Grace (I joined the staff as Assistant Priest on September 1, 2018), I’ve enjoyed hearing and reading stories of Grace’s past, and they’ve taught me a few commendable things about the parish. But now, we’re beginning a new chapter, and I think it’s safe to say that after completing our first sesquicentennial, Grace has launched its second. What follows will make it clear why I’m bold enough to make that prediction.
I arrived last summer not knowing much about Grace, apart from having a budding friendship with Jen Adams, who has just completed 25 years here! But very quickly, impressions about Grace, itself, began to form, and my initial impressions have only grown stronger. Unlike many churches where I’ve had connections, it’s easy to identify several very distinctive qualities of Grace.
Almost immediately, I discovered a culture of abundance. The funds necessary for replacing the roof were being raised when I arrived, and they materialized almost immediately. More impressive, this challenge came shortly after the completion of major capital improvements included numerous enhancements to the physical plant, including a new organ, new office space, and a greatly enlarged parking lot to accommodate a growing community. Not once did I hear anyone complain that it’s too soon to be asking us for money, again.
Soon after, I encountered another vital quality: a readiness to tackle tough challenges. When it appeared that by offering a Latino priest a position to head the renewed diocesan Latino ministry we wanted to create, we might have the opportunity to keep him from being deported, I expected the Vestry to worry that raising the necessary funds would be too daunting a challenge to even consider. Instead, I heard leaders say that protecting a vulnerable immigrant was so much in keeping with our values, we would find a way. This turned out not to be an option, but the willingness was there. And seeking justice for the vulnerable is yet another quality I’ve observed in numerous ways at Grace.
I want to mention yet another quality I’ve found here from the beginning. It’s so pervasive that one encounters it every day at Grace. Perhaps it should be at the top of this list. The study of leadership is one of my passions, and something present in every vital church is a culture of gratitude. This emanates from the head – I’m amazed at how often Jen Adams acknowledges people’s contributions and says, “Thank you” – and at Grace this way of being permeates the community.
I could say much more, but I especially want to mention how, now that the capital project is behind us, our leaders are already looking to the future. There is great excitement among us when we discuss what lies ahead: opportunities to expand Grace’s faithfulness by developing a strategy for growth, by strengthening our ministry to children, youth, and families, by evaluating our communications at every level, and by developing a robust Hispanic/Latino Ministry. This is all about openness to God’s Spirit, as it directs and empowers us to move into the future. And it is that quality, perhaps above all else, that makes me proud to be part of the community so aptly named Grace.
Submitted by: Jim Steen