Sunday 8:15 a.m. Holy Eucharist Rite I
nave & online: Zoom
Sunday 10:45 a.m. Holy Eucharist Rite II
nave & online: Facebook/website
Tuesday 8:00 p.m. Compline
Wednesday 12:00 p.m. Eucharist
The Grace Church nave is located at the corner of Washington Street and Boulevard in Gainesville, Georgia.
The parish office, open Monday through Thursday from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM, is located at 422 Brenau Avenue. Come to the red door that faces Brenau Avenue and ring the bell for access.
Mailing Address: 422 Brenau Avenue, Gainesville, GA 30501
The Annual Parish Meeting of Grace Episcopal Church in its 194th year was held on Sunday, February 6 in person and via Zoom. Following is a link to the annual report, a recording of the meeting, vestry election results, and a copy of the remarks made by the Rev. Dr. Stuart Higginbotham at the meeting.
Thank you to all 8 parishioners who agreed to stand for election to the vestry. We are always fortunate to have a great slate of candidates to choose from! Elected this year were: Nate Early, Julia Greene, Beth Neidenbach, and Sally Pittman. A special thanks to JoAnn Manring, Gail Sargent, Dan Scott, and Mike Whitmire who have completed their three-year terms.
If I were to say which Biblical story speaks most to what we have experienced these past two years, I might say the story of Jacob wrestling the angel at the River Jabbok. Jacob has an encounter with something beyond himself, and he is renamed through the process and walks away with a limp.
Or, I may say the story of the Transfiguration, which has become a very important image for me in my meditations. Jesus goes up on the mountain to pray, and Peter, James, and John have an encounter with something beyond themselves. Peter impulsively lays out a plan to grasp some semblance of control in the situation. They are overshadowed by a cloud which teaches them that such an encounter with God’s Presence is beyond our rational capacities to figure things out.
And that story may lead me back to Moses on Mt. Sinai when he encounters the Presence of God in the Burning Bush and is enveloped by a cloud. He removes his sandals because he recognizes that he is in a space of transformation when God doesn’t give him the name Moses wanted and then challenges him to have courage to face enormous struggles.
Or, if I’m really honest, given the waves of the pandemic, political turmoil, social unrest, lightning strikes, illnesses, and ice and snow, perhaps the story of the successive plagues of Egypt is the best way to describe it.
Whatever particular story or image resonates with you, suffice it to say, we can continue to find meaning in these days with our practice of faith. Indeed, that is what we are called to do–that is how this “works”, after all–that these stories of our ancestors’ experiences, the dreams and visions and poetry they recorded, then inspire us to become more aware of God’s Presence within our own lives. We are transformed, and we live with renewed hope and trust.
That is where I am now: I feel in my heart that I am stepping more fully into a space of hope and trust. I feel like we have all been through a crucible experience, where certain superficial or distracting things have been burned away from us. Purged. In our challenge, we can see deeper aspects of ourselves, deeper truths and wisdom has bloomed in our lives, through the midst of so much change. In and through our struggle, perhaps we have grown to trust God more–and that means, for me, trusting the presence of the Spirit within the community.
And how our lives have changed! Our personal lives, our family lives, our parish life, and all the widening circles of our common life are all full of change. Much of this has been uncomfortable, while some of it, if we’re honest, has been a relief. I have heard from so many of you that, as hard as these times have been, you have realized the extraordinary opportunity you have had to shift toward healthier patterns of living, to lay aside older routines and customs that have held you back and weighed you down. We might say that things have gotten real, and we are always given the chance to lean into that realness and be curious about how the Spirit is moving.
My reflection for this Annual Meeting, which, if I’m counting correctly, will be the 194th of this community, feels a bit different. There are countless stories I could tell you that would highlight where we are as a parish. You’ll hear more about the recent survey that was gathered that has given us a meaningful insight into our shared life.
I will tell you broadly that we are very much in a “both and” space as a community. We are nurturing the meaningful traditions and worship that nourish our souls and cultivating the pastoral life of this community. And we are also exploring new ways of practicing our faith with practices of prayer and formation that speak to the struggle, seeking, and searching of our particular age. We do not have to throw away the meaningful aspects of our practice, but we do have to look courageously at the challenging situation of the church today–and the challenging situation of the world in which we live. We cannot simply maintain; rather, we must always do a deep discernment and honor what feeds our souls while also opening and embracing new opportunities for spiritual growth and compassion in these complex times.
Looking at the broader picture, I want to take a risk and say that I am concerned that things will get more tense this year, politically and socially. I have enormous concerns that our society seems infected by a disregard for the well-being of others as well as an obsession for distraction. Our political leaders seem more concerned for prestige, power, and shallow sound-bites than they do for the risky, compassionate care for those who trusted them to make difficult decisions. While I am more disheartened by the state of our political discourse, I am also strengthened by your testimony, and that fuels my own resolve and belief that the church community–our parish, to put a fine point on it–can cultivate a life of faithful discipleship with the broad spectrum of souls who find hope and peace here.
A key piece of this next stage of our life is the continued development of our School for Christian Practice. This initiative hopes to nurture this deeper spiritual work, calling us all to reflect more intently on how our practice of faith shapes the way we live in the world. How can we move from just thinking about our faith to actually embodying our practice in every aspect of our lives? How can we develop a greater awareness of the faith stories of the Bible and the broader tradition while also paying attention to the circumstances of our lives and the way our practices of prayer nurture every aspect of a faithful life?
This morning, we will highlight two particular spaces where this community is embodying our practice of faith: outreach Compassion ministries and Christian formation. You will hear how we have grown during these past two years, how that growth is grounded in the 194 year-old life of this community, and how we see the Spirit leading us into a future of deep hope and trust.
Before we turn to these reports, let me take a moment to thank the team, this phenomenal group of souls who continue to open their hearts and turn their imaginations toward this core question of how we embody our faith in the world today. To Reba Page, Cynthia Park, Mary Demmler, Brenda Morgan, Cheryl Kelley, Jeremy Landers, Jennifer Williams, and Jess Voyles, and Mike Thibodeau, thank you for all you do for this parish. Your dedication has held the heart of this parish and helped it stay true to the call of Christ. To Lynn Swanson, thank you for your ability and willingness to come among us and share your gifts for music–and your heart. To Meg McPeek and Liz Katz, thank you for your willingness to steer our Children of Grace ministries in these difficult times, your grace and faithfulness are inspiring. I want to also thank Betsy and David Powell whose presence here has helped support the staff during both sabbatical breaks and illnesses. And, to the vestry: thank you to Dan Scott and Chaudron Gille, our wardens; Jason Voyles, our chancellor; Callie Flack our treasurer and Doug McDuff our assistant treasurer; and Susan Lahey, our clerk, thank you for your commitment and care for this community.
As we step into this year, I anticipate wonderful conversations, deep worship and prayer, and a faithful engagement of a strategic vision campaign that will truly nurture our hearts and orient us toward imagining where the Spirit is leading us in the third century of our common life.