The Annual Report of the Rector 2014
The Rev. Jennifer Adams
During the kids’ sermon at the early service on Christmas Eve and then in a slightly adapted manner at the later service, I preached about God’s gift to us in Christ. Not a surprise, really, given the occasion. I talked about how following a period of divine discernment, the Almighty in an effort to offer a salvation defined by love, gave us Jesus. And so I asked the kids and everyone in the pews what they would do for the world if they could do anything: “If you could give the world anything this night, what would it be?” I asked them. And the responses were beautiful.
Peace. Love. Water. Friends. Homes. Food. God. Medicine. Grace. Chocolate-chip cookies. Forgiveness. Fun. Laughter. Music. Tranquility. Church. Shelter. Rest. Puppies. Hockey friends. Soccer balls. Equality. Safety. Hope. . . .and so much more.
The children of Grace have a wonderful sense of God’s grace. They also have a profound awareness of the needs of this world and like us, they can identify the resources required to address them.
This intersection of resources and need is filled with sacred potential and we are called to be present to that place where they meet. We here at Grace have been given much. And we here as Grace have much to give. It’s from this sacred intersection that in the Spring of 2015 we will prayerfully, thankfully discern and talk together about our vision and goals for the future.
Financial Giving: Through the past two years’ pledge drives we have challenged Grace to “Rise Up!” and to continue living into this phase of “Grace on the Rise!” We have set high goals in terms of financial giving in an effort to better support the ongoing and future ministries of this parish. The Stewardship Report in this Annual collection gives the detail; the bottom line is that Grace is an intergenerationally generous parish and we are very much alive and well. Financial gifts have come from many diverse members of this congregation through pledging and other gifts too. This breadth of involvement and financial commitment is a sign that this congregation is in good health and we need to continue to expand this pool of giving as we move forward.
Thanks to a surprise matching gift of $100,000 received this summer, and the parish’s incredibly quick match of that gift, we paid off the Parish House mortgage, are establishing a small fund for its upkeep, and we are able to enter 2015 free of all external debt. Thanks to this year’s pledges and some non-pledge giving too, we are
able to continue to build a more accurate operating budget, better reflecting the actual costs of our ministries and properties. We have a few budget areas which will require further increases next year, but we are more than well on our way. The financial foundation of this parish is strong and sustained by many. It can support us well now while also challenging us to faithfully vision and plan forward.
The Curates of Grace: Last summer we took the big step as a parish of adding a second full-time clergy position to the staff. Jodi and Christian Baron moved into the Parish House in July and joined us as Curates, each with particular focus areas of ministry. We were able to host the Diocese and participate in their wonderful ordinations to the priesthood in December. Grants from the Whittemore Foundation of the Diocese and the Episcopal Church’s Young Adult and Campus Ministries Fund have helped us take these steps.
Through the ministries of the Curates, we are exploring how to better support our children, youth and young families in the work of faith formation. We have launched a campus ministry at Hope College and are re-expanding clergy visits to the homebound. We have new voices in the pulpit and have expanded our social media presence. We are planning for Youth Pilgrimage 2016 and have just begun to gather around the question of what Hispanic ministry might look like at Grace and with the larger community too.
Organ Project: Late in 2013 a Grace member who received an unexpected inheritance offered to pay for the design, purchase, and installation of a new organ for our sanctuary. The donor of this gift is clear in their encouragement of current ministries, their appreciation of the Episcopal tradition of fine music, and their desire that Grace not have to re-direct funds toward an organ in the future. (The current organ is phase one of what was intended to be a three-phase instrument begun in the 1950’s and never completed.) This donor has offered to cover the entire cost of this project.
In 2014 the Vestry appointed Organ Committee (Steve Jenkins, Brian Coyle, Kim Shea, Laurie Van Ark, Bill Rocker, Barb Anderson, Joy Huttar and I) studied the construction of organs, worked with a professional consultant to discern the type of instrument that would best fit Grace, visited organs in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, contracted with an acoustician, and researched some of the top studios and organ builders in the country.
This Fall, the Committee made the recommendation that Grace sign with builder, Martin Pasi of Roy, Washington and the Vestry approved this recommendation.
Mr. Pasi intends for the organ’s construction to begin in late Fall of 2015 with installation projected for late in 2016. Between now and the installation of the instrument, some of the recommendations of the acoustician will be implemented and necessary changes to the choir area in the sanctuary will be designed and carried out. Visuals will be available and more communication will be coming from the committee soon as we receive the final design and obtain drawings of the organ and the surrounding area. The committee is working collaboratively with outside professionals and representatives from the Buildings and Grounds Commission as we give thanks for and help shape this wonderful gift.
Congregational Care: The final quarter of 2014 was a difficult time for various caregivers and members of Grace as we experienced the deaths of nine parishioners. As a parish we average about seven funerals a year, so this experience was significant in its intensity but also in its impact and meaning for the congregation. As Grace we grieved the deaths and celebrated the new lives of many “elder saints” of Grace who served among us as treasurer, painter, Sunday School teacher, St Mary’s members, pastoral visitors, altar guild member, social justice advocates, choir members, prison minister, vestry members and just plain beloveds, most of whom had been in these pews for decades. These saints are our foundation too, having opened doors, painted them red, and prayed inside of them, having cared for us long before they needed and received the care of us all. They too remind us that we have been given much, and we as Grace, have much to give.
My Ministry Beyond Grace: In November of 2014 I completed my two-year appointment as a member of the church’s Task Force on Reimagining the Church (a.k.a. TREC). The work was intense, filled with learnings and opportunities as we engaged the larger church and created a final report and several specific proposals regarding the governance, structure and administration of the church. These have now been submitted for General Convention’s consideration in 2015.
We explored everything from shifting cultural realities and trends, to the structure of the Executive Council, the authority and responsibilities of the Presiding Bishop, the incentives within the Church Pension Fund, the formation of clergy, the design of General Convention, and the polity and decision-making processes of the larger Body gathered. We talked about technical and adaptive change. We interviewed leaders in organizational development, leaders throughout the Church and hosted an evening of dialogue live from the National Cathedral. The work was demanding and humbling, but also incredibly rich. I met some amazing people along the way and am grateful. Our hope is that the proposals (available on the TREC and General Convention websites) spark the kinds of conversations and church wide discernment that collectively create the kind of church for which the world hungers. As Episcopal Church we have been given much, and as Episcopal Church, we have much to give this world.
Summary and Next Steps: There is more I could say. . . In 2014 Grace distributed over one thousand bottles of laundry detergent, lots of toilet paper, and almost one hundred thousand pounds of food through our Feeding America ministry. Stephen ministers gently companioned their people. Altar Guild members set the altar table over one hundred sixty times. Folders prepared thousands of bulletins. In the midst of all of it you worked in a surprise and truly lovely, meaningful recognition of my twentieth anniversary as priest! Grace staff supported and led. Lay Eucharistic Visitors fed the homebound. Choir members led us in song. Commission members met, teachers taught, Coffee Hour hosts hosted and acolyltes acolyted. A Creation Care group was created and a Property Task Force helped ask what should be done with our ‘Grace Lands,’ the buildings and properties that belong to Grace Church. (Yes, parking was the number one response, but where should the parking lot go if we also consider future building possibilities? What should we do long-term with the Community Housing Partnership Houses? How about that side yard on the other side of the Parish House? And what is an environmentally and neighborhood friendly way to do anything significant with these properties?)
Which leads us to our next steps. Our story thus far is something worthy of tremendous thanks to this congregation and to God, and our day-to-day life at Grace is filled with grace. We’ve recently met goals that are signs of our rising, and creative ideas are floating through nearly every conversation. And so now, as good stewards and God’s hopeful people, we will enter into an intentional process of visioning and planning forward. Parking will come. An organ is on its way. People are being fed. It’s time for the kids, the elders and all the ages of Grace to sit together and listen to what the Spirit of God is asking of us.
If we could give anything to this world what would it be?
Faithfully and gratefully,
The word cloud of responses from the early service on Christmas Eve.