The Grace Fellowship Commission organizes social events that give parishioners opportunities to connect and to celebrate our life together as a Christian community.
I became involved with the Fellowship Commission when I was first elected to the Vestry in 1998. Soon after, I attended the annual Vestry retreat, during which the Vestry members are assigned to each of the various church commissions. I remember looking over the list of church commissions before the retreat and thinking that any of them would be fine except the Fellowship Commission. I definitely did not want to coordinate Fellowship. At that point, I had only been peripherally involved at the church and didn’t know many people. Also, the engineer in me just didn’t seem compatible with organizing and promoting parties and social events.
Well, I was assigned Fellowship, and I guess it all turned out okay as I’ve been involved with Fellowship ever since (for over 20 years!). Over the years, Fellowship has organized the Greeters Guild, Coffee Hour, the annual church picnic, Easter Brunch, Lenten suppers, West Michigan Whitecaps baseball games, Grand Rapids Griffins hockey games, the Hope College Madrigal Feaste, the Teusink’s Farm hayride, Hope College Summer Repertory Theater productions, newcomer receptions, Mother’s Day sherry and cake, Easter Vigil refreshments, and more.
Undoubtedly, Coffee Hour is the Fellowship activity in which the most parishioners participate, and for at least the past decade has been so adeptly managed by Laurie Van Ark.
The Greeters Guild got its start during my first year with Fellowship in 1998 when Rev. Tom Toeller-Novak, the parish priest at that time, asked Fellowship to provide greeters for the Sunday services. The guild got off to an inauspicious start, as only one parishioner showed up for the first organizational meeting! However, the guild grew quickly and since then, guild members have welcomed parishioners at over 1000 Grace worship services.
The newly created Host program was started in the fall of 2018 to enhance how Grace welcomes visitors and follows up with them afterward.
Thanks to the help provided by fellow parishioners, events by-and-large have gone smoothly over the years. However, there have been some mishaps. A memorable one occurred while preparing the Easter Brunch, which was served immediately after the Easter sunrise service. As the sunrise service was ending and a full church was headed down to the Undercroft for the brunch, a refrigerator shelf containing 15 pitchers of orange juice suddenly collapsed, pouring all of the orange juice onto the kitchen floor. What a mess!
In the end, Fellowship is all about creating opportunities for building the community of Grace, and the Fellowship Commission has been fortunate over the years to have had so many dedicated parishioners help and participate in the events.
Submitted by Jeff Erickson