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 195th year was held on Wednesday, February 1 in person and streamed via Zoom. Following are links to the annual report, the bicentennial campaign presentation, and an audio recording of the meeting. A vestry update and a copy of Fr. Stuart’s reflection for the report are also included below.
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: Jim Brim, Stuart Deaderick, Helen Scovill, and Anita Smith. A special thanks to Chaudron Gille, Christy Wagner, Newsom Cummings, and Tom Rossi who have completed their three-year terms on the vestry and to Callie Flack who is stepping down as treasurer. Our new treasurer is Amy Munn. Sonja McLendon remains the Senior Warden and Julia Greene will be the new Junior Warden in 2023.
I recently remembered a powerful quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the French poet and writer:
If you want to build a boat, do not instruct the people to saw wood, stitch the sails, prepare the tools and organize the work, but make them long for setting sail and travel to distant lands.
This quote connects powerfully to my experience of our community, now looking at my tenth year with you all. We have learned–and will continue to learn–that it is our longing for the Spirit–in our personal lives and in our shared life–that fuels any plans we make or steps we take to lay out particular ideas or plans. We continue to learn that it is this deep yearning that enables us to be nimble and respond to where the Spirit is blowing at any given time, so that we can not only face the challenges that come our way but also see how our lives are all connected within the circumstances of any given moment. It is our connection and awareness of God’s presence in our lives that is the beating heart of this community. We long to live into this presence more fully, and that longing shapes what we do together.
Covid taught me this all over again, and it wasn’t always an easy lesson to learn. Like you, I was forced to face many of my own growing edges as I found myself unable to fix so many things–or in my case unable to alleviate anyone’s anxiety or stress, a blessing and a curse that my family system bequeathed to me.
I now have regular conversations with both my mother-complex and father-complex, and let’s just say that our conversations are interesting. These days are calling us all to look at how we make meaning.
We came out of those two particular years of Covid pressures wondering how the parish would continue to live, what effect this would have on us all, and how we would step forward. Many of the things that worked very well no longer made sense, while new and imaginative ways of being a Christian community presented themselves with grace. I will always laugh when I think of how I “put my foot down” on not allowing wireless in the nave since that was a “spiritual place.” It seemed like a good idea at the time, and look at us now and how we rely on a hybrid platform with worship and prayer. Now, look at how our hybrid platform has become our way of life going forward, offering a space for so many to share in the community. Covid laid bare many blind spots for me, and I am continually challenged to pay attention to areas where we can imagine and take risks to faithfully respond to the Spirit’s invitations.
Looking for a moment at our hybrid worship life, some have commented that attendance on Sunday worship seems lower. Again, awareness of the changing dynamic and bigger picture is key. On any given Sunday, you can add 20 to 25 to who you see in person at the early service, and you can add 50 to 60 to who you see at the later service. This is our average for those who worship from home. And all of this–all of us– “counts” for worship attendance, so our total worship attendance is very good.
Add to this that weekly and monthly routines have changed and folks who normally come three times a month may now come twice. All this to say, the community is strong and we are going to be continually challenged to increase our awareness of how “church” on the whole has changed going forward.
Another area where we see needed awareness and development is with children, youth, and family ministries. A couple years ago, Chaudron Gille, Cheryl Kelley, Sonja McLendon, Dave Westfall, and others from the parish and staff, worked to do a large-scale parish survey. It highlighted many anxieties and tensions (again, some of which we could not “fix”) as well as areas that we saw as Spirit-led invitations for growth and development. One key area of focus is the deep spiritual work around children, youth, and families. We took this insight from the survey and continued to develop it, with dinner conversations, lunches, meetings, and further conversations.
Out of that has come a clear sense of how we can shape a key staff position that will not only help coordinate opportunities and classes but also recognize the particular stress points with younger adults and families in our community. Our plan is now to invite a new Associate Rector for Children, Youth, and Families to join the staff this summer so that we can continue this rich and vital work around supporting the spiritual growth of children, families, and all the parish’s life.
I want to also take a moment and thank the Buildings & Grounds Committee for their hard work these past years in shaping the details of a revised Bicentennial Campaign. You’ll remember that we launched the campaign itself in January of 2020. Our timing was impeccable. We paused the work in March when the bottom fell out of the world, although many who had pledged to the campaign continued to send in funds–again, the faithfulness of this community! The Buildings & Grounds Committee has worked to refocus our attention on key areas of functional development, including space for Children and Youth Ministries, bathrooms, needed structural repairs with the Grace Center office building, and signage. Signage! I am deeply, deeply grateful for their dedication. You will hear much more about the campaign, and I’m excited to share this conversation.
I also want to highlight our community ministry partners with our parish Outreach ministries. In this report, you will see a full list of all those in the community who the parish supports–not only with funds but also with presence. Each and every one of these ministries is supported–and sometimes staffed–by parishioners of Grace. Each one of these ministries represents a passion of someone in the parish, and I am so very thankful that so many give of their time and energy. And, in the past decade alone, I am thrilled to say that this community has given over $1 million in community ministry outreach funds. That is an extraordinary testimony to sustained and prayerful faithfulness.
Let me close by sharing a few more thoughts. We find ourselves five years out from our true Bicentennial Celebration in 2028. I look back to 2014 when my family moved here. We were young and spry; those were the days. I am very aware that five year windows lend themselves to incredible opportunities for development and growth, and I wonder how we can take advantage of this opportunity? I want to invite us into an intentional season where we can explore the full spectrum of the parish’s life with Administration, Formation, Compassion, Participation, and Liturgy & Creative Expression. What are further areas where we hear the Spirit inviting us to grow? What are certain things that we feel we can bless and release? I am particularly interested in seeing how the continued work with The Center for Prayer and Spiritual Practice can hold a space for deeper and more prayerful reflection and growth within the community. As the great Bible school song says, “Deep and wide.” These are strengths we can definitely build on at Grace.
This is a season of Grace’s life that future generations will look back on and note. I have no doubt about that, and I want to do all I can to further empower the entire community to “own” our common life and share gifts and strengths with one another. The way we understand “church” has changed, but underneath any shifts in social norms or cultural dynamics, God’s presence continues to ground our life. We are called to continue in our call to share in Christ’s own life.
So I want to recommit myself to you in this season, naming aloud that my intention is to be present with you at least until we can share in an incredible Bicentennial Celebration. The Spirit blows where She will, but this is my intention. I am so very grateful for this community, and I am thankful for how you have shown me what is possible within a Christian community.
Thank you for not only what you do, but for who you are as an unbelievably gracious, imaginative, faithful, creative, loving, and light-hearted Christian community. Thank you for being there for each other and for the wider community. Thank you for your joy and for your willingness to share your gifts. Thank you. Deeply.
With much love,