In celebration of 150 years of Grace, I wanted to write a little about all the joys being involved at Grace, for even a sliver of that time, has brought me. I was born and raised here in Holland and started attending Grace Church when I was ten years old. Grace provides many great ways for a ten year old to get involved in the community. I was an acolyte for several years, helping the service run smoothly. I sang in the youth choir directed by the ever-wonderful Jen Wolfe. I went to Sunday school, eventually joined youth group, and volunteered with Feeding America. Grace gave me simple things, like friends outside of school, but also fostered my curiosity about the bigger questions in life.
One of the highlights of my time at Grace was going on the youth pilgrimage in the summer of 2012. Pilgrimage allows high school students to travel to England, backpack a portion of the Canterbury Trail for a week, and end up at the Canterbury Cathedral. The trip provides an avenue for spiritual growth through historical education and self-reflection. There were days when we all felt deeply connected to each other and days when we would have given anything to be alone, as happens when you spend a lot of time in close quarters. There were days when travel went smoothly, and there were days when we got horribly lost. Many of the trails were unmarked or had us cutting through sheep fields while hoping not to anger any sheep or shepherds.
I particularly remember one day when we got lost in a town and had to cut through a shopping center to find the trail again. It was the first time we had seen a densely populated area in a while. The experience of lugging our packs through a large hallway under the harsh fluorescent lights while people around us went about their shopping was so strange that we later decided we must have collectively dreamt that it happened.
Throughout the trip we spent time with many other congregations, visited sites important to the history of our church, and learned as much about our faith and ourselves as we could. Most nights we were hosted by another church for Eucharist, but some nights we held a service by the campfire. The communion bread was the same white bread we’d used to make sandwiches for lunch, but the adults somehow made sure there was always real wine…
Four years ago I moved to the East Coast for college. There I joined my campus’ Episcopal chaplaincy where I met so many lovely people who shared my beliefs and values. Grace is an incredible representation of the Episcopal Church, and because of this I have been able to connect with people no matter where I’m living. However, I am always excited to come back to Grace when I’m in Holland. It is a place where I have always felt welcomed, wanted, and loved. I will be forever grateful that I found a home at Grace.
Submitted by Katie Polik