Last month I was blessed to have participated in Cursillo with many of our brothers and sisters in the diocese including the love of my life, Andrea. I won’t try to convey the experience in this report but will at least say that a holy presence was evident throughout the weekend. The downside of attending though was that it fell on the same weekend that the Commission on Congregational Vitality (CCV) was here. I look forward to reviewing their report of the event and speaking with each of you about your experience. One of many takeaways from Cursillo, which applies to our vital faith as a community, is our willingness to fully rely on God (or F.R.O.G. for short).
As we enter this season of Eastertide we continue the celebration that started on Easter Sunday until Pentecost Sunday. In Lent, we start with examining the heap of ashes that is our lives and end with the revealing fullness of life and joy from our Lord’s resurrection. In Eastertide, I see another examination of how that revelation will bear fruit in our reaction to the saving grace of God. This month there are many opportunities for you to shine light on that reaction.
How we focus and where we focus has been a theme in my life this last month. In my own discernment it’s been particularly central to how I look for definition in what God is calling me to be. Part of that search recently has been looking at the roles of priests and deacons in the church. What I have found is that there are certain characteristics that can be beneficial in each role and the design of these roles allows for great opportunity for a priest or deacon to be successful in ministry. What was confusing was that these characteristics and opportunities were often all over the place with priests and deacons. Which makes sense since each of them are individuals with specific gifts from God. But the variance is confusing for someone who is in discernment for a specific calling. The realization that unified the variance I found was that having Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior should always be the tip of any focus one should have as an ordained person. Archdeacon Michele has put it in terms of a “pointed ministry”. Which may seem obvious but it took some time for me to circle back to that concept every time I felt like my journey was taking me off the rails into something else. And this pointed focus is something that applies not only to discernment but in all interactions within the church.
In the next few months there will be many opportunities for each of us to celebrate the community we are blessed to have at Grace. The annual Brat Fry will be held at Miesfeld’s Meat Market which should bring in a larger crowd than our location last year. More customers will require more volunteers to work the grill, take money, distribute food, etc. September brings our Mass in the Grass event where we have the opportunity to be our bell-ringin’-smoke-spinnin’-corporate-praisin’-selves at Deland Park with Lake Michigan a stone’s throw away. To transport ourselves there includes setting up an altar, seating, food, etc. And probably the most important activity is being present in public as we worship our Lord. Your attendance here is crucial so that we can be witnesses to the world and show how we are called to break bread together each Sunday. In October, we will hold our annual Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham. This two day event will require greeters both days, help in the kitchen and hall on Saturday, and other areas. Pilgrims from all over the country will travel to Grace to share in our community. Please don’t miss out on another chance to show those outside our walls the joy we are blessed with. And looking into November, I am currently putting together the logistics of Grace co-hosting an Ecumenical Thanksgiving Dinner open to the public. Various companies like Culvers, Lakeland College, Nourish, and others are committing materials for the event. A place to hold it and helping hands are what we have been called to offer in the name of the Lord. I can’t think of a better way to show thanks on this national holiday than serving others and again being a witness to the loving grace of living in Christ. And throughout all these months our Stewardship campaign will launch. What that launching looks like is still to be determined so if you feel called to aid in this effort please let me know.
In recent years, I have been striving to maintain an awareness to who God is calling me to be and what he has in store for me. On a larger scale that has been laid out in my involvement in the Vestry and now my search down the rabbit hole of possible ordination. But there’s been another aspect of that focus which happens day in and day out and has been the core of any drive that I have for living in Christ. It’s the calling that God has for me today that keeps me on my toes. When I mean today I mean “right now”. Like in the next hour or tonight or this weekend. When I concentrate on that focus the calling is usually small in nature but I feel that over time it has a huge impact.
In March, your Vestry had their annual retreat where there was a two-fold focus in our discussion: “What is the Vestry called to be as a group of leaders?” and “What is Grace Church called to in mission?” Both have been themes in the past and in reality are ongoing discussions that the Vestry should always have. When we met with Fr. Karl during our session he posed to us one more question: “What is the gap between where we are now and where those callings exist?” That’s not an easy question to answer.
Last month, your Vestry focused on finding parishioners that might be interested in specific ministries that are part of this year’s mission. There was a lot of response throughout the church and part of that response involved some hesitation. There was a sense of: “I’m not sure what I’m signing up for”, “That sounds like a lot of work and I don’t know if I have time for that”, “I’m not an expert, how can I contribute”. All of these feelings of overwhelm, uncomfortablility, and uneasiness about our mission this year is exactly what you should be feeling. That means the Holy Spirit is working and is challenging all of us. These are spiritual growing pains.
This month, I can’t help as I write this to recall our beautiful day at the lakefront for Mass in the Grass. I’d like to thank the clergy, stewardship committee, and a host of volunteers from the parish for doing their parts to make it such a fabulous time of worship together for our parish and visitors. The day has resulted in a number of positive reactions. It also helped feed the idea that we are “all in” as Grace. There is already talk of doing it again and talk to seek ways to do other similar events that will al- low us to go forth as Grace into the world.
Over the past month there has been a LOT of activity regarding stewardship, youth & family ministry, vestry retreat, and planning efforts for programming that will take place between September and December. In addition, we have had some gains and losses regarding the budget that have us holding our own while facing a deficit. Meanwhile, the life of Grace doesn't stop in order for these additional activities to take place. SO much is going on and there is always more to be taken care of! In the midst of it all, it’s easy to find oneself frustrated or in need of relief; and at moments it can sound like we’re complaining.
Here I am. Over and over again, we find those words in the Bible. My recollection is that every time they are found in scriptures, they’re stated by some- one who is either about to say or is saying “yes” to God’s call. I’d share a few examples with you but, as I write this, “here I am” is at camp and there’s little to no Internet signal that would enable me to access the data I want.
“We do ministry together.” You have surely heard that said more than once or twice around here. These words bear repeating…regularly. Like scripture, words that we hear or read more than a few times can take on new meaning without changing one syllable. That’s what has been happening lately for me when I consider the phrase “we do ministry together”. At first, these words told me that we are all involved in “ministry” as we come together as a community. Next, these words gave me comfort in the knowledge that we do not go it alone; we are in this thing together. Lately, these words have challenged me to consider how to include others…to become “part of”.
In the April 6th edition of The Living Church, there was a “highlight bullet” for an article that caught my eye. It said, “The true work of the priest is to build and sustain community.” That is what I see happening and growing here at Grace. We have been blessed with a priest who views his work here as equipping the saints. Because of that, I see our duty in leadership to encourage, assist, and foster that work all while also being beneficiary to becoming equipped as well. Last month’s meeting was a good example of what can happen when we are engaged in mutual ministry. Our time spent together revolved around the spiritual life & growth at Grace. There was a joyfulness and openness in our discussions that was refreshing and invigorating for all present. I, for one, look forward to this being an ongoing occurrence.