Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Grace Church as Leaven

Sometimes we think we are too small to do much. But it's surprising how one thing leads to another and the impact is multiplied beyond our wildest dreams. Such a story is Grace Church's involvement with the homeless shelter, Interfaith Hospitality Network (soon to be called Family Promise, as it is now called nationally).
Grace began hosting homeless families back in the 90's. We hosted the program for about 15 years with Christ Church Glendale helping out with dinner and overnight hosts. But their participation eventually shrank to only one person. Then in 2005, events led to our having to give up the hosting because of lack of enough volunteers in our own congregation. At this time, The Rev. Deacon Laura Chace, who had been a coordinator for the program, convinced Christ Church Glendale to take on the hosting. We, along with several of our former support congregations, agreed to continue overnight volunteering.
It might have been easier and financially possible to have catered dinners, but IHN is about hands on, face to face, service and interaction with guests who have suffered the loss of their home. Hosts are reminded to treat every guest as they would a guest in their own home with comfort food, first names, encouraging words, and a safe environment.
CCG's program, over time, evolved into one of the best hosting congregations in the city. They have made many innovations that have been copied by others and have always been rated highly by departing guests.
Most importantly, however, through sitting down and talking with their guests, they began to realize the many needs that people face that had not been apparent to them in their own everyday lives. With this realization and their extraordinary skills, Christ Church Glendale members began volunteering elsewhere, with agencies that build and repair homes, with food pantries, and very recently with other churches in helping Hispanic immigrants learn English so that they can interact with co-workers, improve their school work and function more efficiently and productively in an English speaking society.
So what Grace Church may have at first perceived as a failure on its part to continue to host has actually turned into many multiples of blessings to those we serve and to those who volunteer.
A final chapter (to date) to this story is that the Grace Church volunteers are now returning to College Hill to participate in a start-up network of six College Hill churches who will host IHN four times a year in our own neighborhood. They will start in January at First United Church of Christ on Belmont, just up the street.

Let's see how the blessings can multiply in College Hill! Contact Mary McLain, Grace Staples or the church office (513-541-2415, office@gracecollegehill.org) for details.

Thanks to Grace Staples for this great perspective!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Celebration of Wholeness and Healing

Grace Church conducts a monthly service that brings together traditional and non-traditional healing methods: healing prayer and laying on of hands for healing, together with  African Drumming and Reiki.  Drumming begins at 6:30 pm, the service begins at 7 pm on the second Wednesday of most months. Check the Grace Calendar.

The service is based on the concept of release of tension through African drumming, restoration of peace through quietness and solitude, and prayer for continued health through the laying on of hands.

In this service, we make space and time to allow God to move in our midst as we celebrate God's overwhelming love for each one of us. The service includes a liturgy of healing prayers and African drumming and culminates with opportunities for Reike and the traditional laying-on-of-hands and anointing with holy oil.

All are invited to worship and enter God's presence as moved by the Holy Spirit.

For background on the role of healing ministry in the life of the church, read About Grace Church's Healing Ministry

What People are Saying About this Service.

David MukasaGrace Church Senior Warden David Mukasa (left) says, "I attended the healing/Reike/drumming service for the first time last week and I was swept off my feet! The involvement and passion of the participants is contagiously good, I even got to play the drum!"

"For those who have not attended the service I recommend that you do. It will be an experience." 

Liturgist Hawley Todd said of the October, 2009, service,  "The healing service last evening was truly blessed by the Lord.  … At the beginning of my homily, I did an invocation of the Holy Spirit.  I am not sure how good the homily was but the seekers and drummers liked it.  What I do know is that the Holy Spirit did come in an extremely powerful way.  It was amazing. Ray Betts, J White, and I prayed with many. It was wonderful to spend more time in prayer with each person than we are able to do on Sunday mornings.  It is a humbling experience to be with others as the Lord ministers to them!"

About the November, 2009, service, Reike Master Kevin Driggers said, "This was an AWESOME night the creator has given us. I can't believe the turnout that we had. It would seem there is a shift in going to church. "This ain't your Parent's" spirituality." Bob Laake and I feel very blessed to have been placed in the right place at the right time. It seems to be a  revival of old time religion. I thank all who attended for allowing us to be part of their blessings as we receive much more than we all give!"

About the Leaders.

This service is led by Hawley Todd, TSSF. Healing drumming is led by Bob Laake. Rieke is coordinated by Kevin Driggers.

hawley todd Hawley Todd, TSSF, (right) is currently the full time Formation Director of Episcopal Healing Ministries. He has worked for 26 years in various healing ministries and was mentored by EHM founder the Rev. Emily Gardiner Neal from 1982 until her death in 1989.  He was trained in the Anglican tradition at Bexley Hall Episcopal Seminary, has taught World Religions at McMaster University and has been an Education for Ministry mentor with the University of the South since 1996.  He has been an Assistant Formation Director for the Third Order of the Society of St. Francis and was the Director of Christian Formation at St. Thomas Episcopal Church from 1990 to  2006.  He is a trained spiritual director and has led retreats and missions in the United States and Canada. He is a licensed Worship Leader in the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio.

Bob Laake DrummingBob Laake (left) has loved drumming since early childhood when he would drum on anything that would make a sound. He's played with many local bands in practically every style of music. However, it wasn't until he was diagnosed with stomach cancer that he discovered the power of the drum as a healing tool. He is now in total remission and is spreading the word of healing drumming everywhere he can. Learn more about  the power of healing drumming on Bob Laake's Drum for Healing page.

Kevin Driggers Kevin Driggers (right) is a Reiki Master/Teacher. He also works with crystals and other minerals as a form of alternative healing. He has been working with alternative healing since 1984.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bishop’s Invitation to Grace to Develop Common Ministry 10/29/2009

Diocese of Southern Ohio
412 Sycamore Street, Cincinnati, OH

October 29, 2009

David Mukasa
6872 Springdale Road
Cincinnati, OH 45247

Dear David:

I would like to invite you and the people of Grace Church, Cincinnati to participate in a program to develop common ministry in your congregation and our diocese.

We are inviting several congregations from different geographic locations and of varying sizes to participate in a two year pilot program to explore and deepen common ministry. We have chosen your congregation because we believe that you share a commitment to common ministry and are willing to go deeper to develop new practices to support the shared ministry of all. We believe that your congregation has particular gifts that you can share with others and also a desire to develop stronger ministries. We would like you to help us establish some best practices and procedures to strengthen and foster common ministry in our diocese.

The goals of the program are to work with the clergy and congregational leaders of participating congregations to:

1) Develop a vision and mission strategy for your congregation

2) Identify a Mission and Formation team within the congregation to work with the clergy to implement this strategy

3) Create a vision and understanding of common ministry as it can be implemented in your congregation

4) Identify gifts within the congregation for various ministries and develop ministry teams

5) Provide training to develop strong leadership of the Mission and Formation Team, and

6) Offer training to members of the congregation to support their ministries.

We believe that implementing these goals requires ongoing prayer and discernment. A significant part of our program will be to develop this prayerful discernment.

It is our hope that those participating in this program will have widespread support and involvement from the congregation. To that end, we ask that you discuss this invitation with your vestry or mission council in the next month and let us know of your willingness to go the next step. If you and the congregational leadership want to continue to explore this program with us, we would ask that you let us know before Thanksgiving and attend a workshop on December 12 to discuss this program and how we can get started. We will talk about your needs and how this program can be adapted for your congregation. We would like the clergy, wardens and as many vestry as possible to attend. The meeting will be at Procter from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

After that meeting, you will begin discernment with your congregation to explore if you can commit to this program. In December and January you will discuss this with your congregation. This exploration will include discussions of common ministry and reporting what will be involved in participating in this program. The congregation will report back by February 1 its intention about further participation.

If the congregation discerns that it is called to go forward, you will be asked to develop a mission strategy between February and April. Each participating congregation will be assigned a consultant to help facilitate this process. The process will look at resources and challenges of the congregation as well as the needs and opportunities of the church in its local context. Bible study and prayer will be a part of this discernment.

In May and June, a gifts workshop will be offered so members can discern their particular calling to ministry. The congregation will also identify a leadership team (Mission and Formation Team).

Beginning in late August of 2010, the Mission and Formation Teams of all participating congregations will begin meeting quarterly for the next year. These meetings will be overnight meetings and offer support and training in leadership and various ministries. After each meeting, the leadership will be asked to take various projects and formation activities back to the congregation.

In the summer of 2011 we will assess the process and evaluate what additional steps are necessary to further strengthen common ministry'

Shortly after you receive this letter, we invite you to have a conversation with either Canon Johanssen or Canon Ruttan to discuss this process. One of the canons will be in touch with you soon.

Thanks for your consideration of the process and please pray for the formation of this process and for your congregation's participation.


(The Rt. Rev.) Thomas E. Breidenthal, D. Phil.
Bishop of Southern Ohio

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Development Program to Support Common Ministry in the Diocese of Southern Ohio

The purpose of this document is to outline a two year discernment and formation process for common ministry in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Several congregations in various setting and of sizes around the Diocese will be invited to join in this program to develop a strategy and practice for common ministry. It is hoped that this process will provide a model which can be adapted in future years for additional congregations within the Diocese.

Background and Presuppositions:

The Diocese has been involved in a conversation about Common Ministry among congregations, clergy, bishops, and diocesan leaders. Several key understandings have emerged.

Common ministry is collaborative ministry, shared equally by all in the faith community. it holds the vision that all are united in the body of Christ, each with special gifts and unique ministries and all share in the Church's work of reconciling the world to God. This vision of ministry was established by Jesus in the calling of disciples and modeled by the early church as believers worked to realize God's dream of the reign of God. When Christianity became the predominant religion in many countries, the practice of ministry was altered from the ministry of all the baptized to a greater emphasis and authority on the ordained. Often the active ministry of the baptized was thwarted. in our time the Church is no longer predominant in our culture and is in danger of losing its effectiveness. it is the conviction of many in the Episcopal Church and in our diocese that common ministry, the ministry of all the baptized, must be restored if the Church is to be effective as agents of God's reconciliation and justice in our time. The 1979 book of Common Prayer re-claimed Common Ministry in the baptismal covenant and he Catechism calls all the baptized to minister in the name of Jesus, to work for God's reconciliation, to build up the body of Christ and to work to establish God's kingdom of justice.

Common ministry emerges in Southern Ohio as central to the call of this diocese to "proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, as Messiah and Lord. We fulfill that mission chiefly by being ministers of the reconciliation between us and God, and between us and one another, won by Christ on the cross" (from Bishop Breidenthal's paper on Common Ministry). Common ministry reflects our diocese's commitment to transparency, leadership, and connectivity:

1. Transparency, because it recognizes that all effective ministry is open and collaborative, shared by open exchange and the common listening to God's call on all of us individually and corporately;

2. Leadership, because common ministry requires mutual accountability and reflects the servant ministry that Jesus taught us to carry one another's burdens, each having his or her unique gifts for ministry, to build up the body of Christ; and

3. Connectivity, because all are connected together in a common call as one body and share in discerning the call of God on the people.

"Together, these spiritual practices form one practice, one name for which is common ministry: a ministry that is open, egalitarian, and collaborative. This name invokes the idea of the common, with all the resonance it retains when we speak of The Book of Common Prayer. 'Common' means everything owned by everyone, and so no secrets (transparency). 'Common' also means shared responsibility, and so shared leadership and mutual accountability, Finally ,'common' means shared identity, and therefore connection with the common purpose of ministry in the name of Jesus." Common ministry invites connections to one another, other congregations, other institutions in the community, other faith communities and the Diocese.

Discernment and formation are key components of this model. Common Ministry affirms that all congregations and people have ministries which they are continually discerning and striving to fulfill. Congregations discern God's call on them as a people of God in a given time and place. "What is God calling our congregation to be and do at this time in our life together?" Individuals discern God's call as they ask "What is God calling me to be and do at this time as a member of the body of Christ?"

Ongoing formation is critical to common ministry. Praying, studying scripture, learning about our faith, reflecting theologically on ministry and issues, and developing skills for ministry are vital to Christian leadership.

Much of common ministry utilizes the best practices of healthy ministries and congregations that lead to strong and vibrant witnesses to Christ. Common ministry is not new; it is practiced in abundance throughout our diocese and in many congregations. What this approach seeks to do is to broaden and strengthen the commitment of all the people to a shared, collaborative ministry in the name of Jesus. This proposal is a template for action, but it is based in the strong conviction that it will be adapted and adjusted as circumstances and needs vary in different congregations.

Step One: invitation (late October 2009)

The Bishop and the Executive staff will issue invitations to 6- 9 congregations to help develop a model for common ministry. These congregations will be chosen to reflect various membership sizes and various locales in the diocese (urban, rural, suburban, east, west). The Bishop will issue a letter to the Rector, vicar, priest-in-charge or Senior Warden, inviting the congregation to discern if they might benefit from participation in this program. Goals and a schedule of the program will be included. The Canons will follow up with the clergy or senior wardens to discuss the program and answer any questions. The clergy or senior warden will discuss the possible participation with the congregation.

Those congregations interested in continuing to discern if they will participate in the program will attend an orientation day on December 11 at Procter. Clergy and lay leadership teams including all parish clergy, both wardens, and as many vestry members as possible will be asked to attend, This day will explore common ministry through Bible study, discussion, and presentations. it will present an outline of the discernment and training process. Assignments will be given for further explorations. Consultants will be assigned to each congregation to support the discernment and formation process.

Step Two: Response (December, 2009- January 2010)

The clergy and lay leadership teams will share information about the process with their Vestry or Mission Council. The Vestry or Council will be asked to prayerfully consider if they choose to participate. Congregations will reply by the end of January 2010. Those congregations which wish to continue will begin a process of discernment and reflection on God's call on the congregation. The congregation will begin a corporate study of Luke-Acts to listen to God and reflect on God's call on the congregation at this time in their congregation's life.

Step Three: Discerning the congregation's Call to Ministry (February- April 2010)

A congregational planning process will be held at the local church to pray and consider God's call on the congregation. This process will be facilitated by the appointed consultant.

A community assessment will explore the resource of the congregation's community. What are the challenges and opportunities presented by the specific location of the church? What institutions or community groups can serve as partners? What faith groups? What are the unique and special challenges and opportunities are present. What are the needs for ministry and for evangelism? This assessment helps inform the discernment of God's unique call on the congregation in its place and time.

The leadership team will take the material from this discernment and develop a mission and vision strategy for the congregation. Various groups or the congregation at large will brainstorm ministries to fulfill God's call. These responses will be collated into a mission strategy for the congregation.

Step Four: Discerning Gifts and Developing a Mission and Formation Team (May- June 2010)

A gifts workshop will be offered at Procter to help individuals discern their call. Persons will be asked to identify what gifts they have and how they feel called to utilize them. They will discuss ways they can use them in the service of God's call upon the congregation.

The congregation will identify the various ministries needed to be faithful to God’s calling. Members will share their experiences of call and their gifts as developed in the gifts workshop. Ministry Teams will be created in the congregation (such as Pastoral Care, Hospitality, Worship leadership and preaching, Christian formation, Evangelism, Service and Justice, etc.). Persons will be identified to lead various ministries or teams of ministers. Leader of the ministry teams will be chosen. In small congregations these ministries may be assigned to just one person or one person may take on more than one ministry. The leaders of ministry teams will constitute a Mission and Formation Team for the congregation.

Step Four: Building a team (August 2010 - June 2011)

The congregational Mission and Formation Teams will meet together in three overnight workshops at Procter from August 2010 to June 2011. This will involve team building and training in congregational dynamics. These meetings will include leadership training and offer specific workshops in Pastoral care, liturgy, outreach, evangelism, etc.

Step Six: Assessment

Each congregation will evaluate how common ministry is being implemented in its community. A new group of congregations will begin this process in the fall of 2011.

October 16, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bishop’s Draft Proposal for Common Ministry

The Common Ministry Conference

September 19, 2009

Some Background

Conversation about common ministry has been in the Christian community for a very long time. It arises from the church’s growing conviction that all authority in the church is grounded in our baptism, and that all baptized persons share in this authority.

In some dioceses, what we are calling common ministry is referred to as “total ministry” or the “ministry of the baptized,” and is viewed primarily as an approach to ministry that provides for pastoral care and worship leadership in small and/or remote congregations that cannot afford a full-time, seminary-trained priest. Certainly one of the most frequent models of Common Ministry is the raising up of a ministry team that provides congregational leadership in areas often assumed by a seminary-trained priest. However, this reflects far too restrictive an understanding of the underlying truth of shared authority for ministry. Shared authority for ministry is applicable to any and every congregation, from the smallest to the largest. In Southern Ohio, common ministry means shared ministry as a model for ministry that is broad and flexible enough to be adapted to different contexts.

The Diocese of Southern Ohio has been engaged in consideration of common ministry models for many years. One example is the participation in Living Stones Ministry. This is a gathering of bishops, clergy and laity for the purpose of providing resources and counsel to congregations seeking to explore and implement the principles of common ministry as adapted to their individual locations. This organization is just one of a number of wonderful resources for developing strategies for common ministry in our diocese, and we will remain active in our participation with this group.

We also are blessed with clergy and lay leaders in our diocese who have firsthand experience in implementing such strategies. Some have served as lay members of ministry teams, and some have been raised up locally to serve as priests on a ministry team. We have many resources to call upon as we consider common ministry as one of several ways in which we organize our ministries.

At the center of our conviction of the common ministry model is that one size does not fit all. This means there will be many permutations to this model as we work with individual congregations who wish to explore it. This also means that the principles of shared authority are just as applicable to a large church rich in assets as to a small church with declining assets.

This realization has led the diocese to begin a focused set of conversations about Common Ministry as it applies to Southern Ohio. To assist in focusing this conversation, the diocese is a recipient of a grant from the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund. With the help of this grant, we are exploring the implications of common ministry in three specific areas: congregational ministry, Procter Camp & Conference Center and college/young adult ministry.

A design team has been working on ways to facilitate these conversations, and many in our diocese are already participating. More than 75 clergy and laity participated in a previous meeting at Procter led by Bishop Todd Ousley of Eastern Michigan. Some of our congregations are working with consultants to explore ways in which they can incorporate common ministry in their congregations.

The design team believes that the diocese is now ready to take the conversation about common ministry a step further by calling a meeting of all the commissions and ministries that have a stake in how broadly we implement this model of ministry. The diocese has been called to participate in this next step on Saturday, September 19, 2009, at Procter. This meeting will continue our theological reflection on common ministry by considering its implications for all our local congregations.

Specific models of ministry will be presented for consideration, with ample opportunity for small-group discussion around specific needs and situations.

It is hoped that this meeting will yield important information for the bishop and the design team regarding the diocese’s readiness for common ministry and how the principles of common ministry can best bear fruit in Southern Ohio.

Draft Proposal on Common Ministry in the Diocese of Southern Ohio

This document is my attempt to organize my own reflections on common ministry and how it might look in Southern Ohio. It is meant to be a basis for conversation (I have numbered each paragraph to make it easier to refer to particular parts of it). I hope that you will read it, take issue with it, expand on it, run with it, or leave it to one side. If it can help “prime the pump” for discussion at the Common Ministry Conference on September 19, its purpose will have largely been achieved.

+Tom Breidenthal

1. The church’s mission is to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, as Messiah and lord.

2. We fulfill that mission chiefly by being ministers of the reconciliation between us and God, and between us and one another, won by Christ on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:18: “All this has come from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”)

3. How do we become such ministers? This has emerged as the central question for the Diocese of Southern Ohio at this time. We seek to be formed, or further formed, for ministry.

4. This yearning for formation goes hand in hand with a general desire for transparency, broad leadership development, and more connection across congregational and regional lines.

5. These goals imply spiritual and moral disciplines or practices.

6. Transparency implies not only clarity about financial matters, but easy access to information and open decision-making. Transparency is about access to information and therefore access to power and, ultimately, about the diffusion of power, so all are empowered to minister in creative and untrammeled ways. Mutual support around formation for mission is impossible without transparency in this broader sense. We cannot help each other to be formed in Christ if we do not share our trials and blessings with one another openly. As a body we cannot discern what God is calling us to do in mission if we are not all engaged in making decisions about how our resources should be deployed. Transparency is the spiritual practice whereby we witness to God’s action in our lives and hold one another accountable for the decisions that we make.

7. By broad leadership development we mean the authorization and empowerment of all baptized persons to be ministers of Jesus Christ. Leadership is grounded in the embrace of our baptism and our empowerment, not only by one another but by the Holy Spirit, through study, a discipline of prayer and regular attendance at Sunday worship. Here we come to the heart of Christian formation. Each of us is called in Christ to make Christ known. Our lives may well be spent living into the particular gifts and opportunities God gives us to carry out this call. But we cannot freely exercise our call – and, indeed, we often cannot clearly discern it – without the support of a community that welcomes initiative and spreads leadership widely. By the same token, the community cannot fully embrace the ministry of all the baptized without developing structures and processes that make that embrace real and ongoing. Leadership development is the spiritual practice whereby the whole body acknowledges wisdom and vision wherever they surface.

8. By connection we mean our intention and desire not only to be transparent to one another, but bound to one another in fellowship and common action. To do this is to live out Paul’s injunction in Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” As an institution, the diocese exists primarily to ensure that individuals and congregations are challenged to recognize their connection to fellow travelers who are arrestingly different from themselves. We cannot be formed together for mission, nor can we begin to be transparent to one another, if we do not work to forge the friendships and working relations that create a larger community in the first place. Connection is the spiritual practice whereby we open ourselves to new relationships, and recognize that we all have a claim on one another for attention and respect.

9. Each of these practices is grounded in scripture. Transparency is ultimately about the breaking down of false barriers (Ephesians 2:14). Broad-based and mutually accountable leadership is really a function of servant leadership, as Jesus modeled it (Mark 10:45). Such leadership is always engaged in sharing power rather than amassing it (Ephesians 4:11-13). Connection is grounded in Paul’s teaching that we are one body in Christ (Ephesians 4: 4-6).

10. Although transparency, leadership development, and connection are distinct principles, each implies and engenders the other two. There can be no true sharing of joys and burdens without open communication; there can be no open communication without broad access to decision-making. These three practices constitute a single, dynamic strategy for achieving our purpose as a diocese: formation for ministry. As we engage in these practices, we are formed as ministers of Christ’s reconciling work, and as we are thus formed, we do that ministry.

11. Each of these practices implies something positive about the ministry we are being formed for even as we engage in it: (1) Since the Good News of Jesus Christ is open to all, we all have an equal right and obligation to make the Gospel known by word and deed; (2) since anyone may lead, and all who lead are accountable to everyone, leadership is servanthood, and, by the same token, servanthood is itself authoritative: (3) all ministry is collaborative.

12. Together, these spiritual practices form one practice, one name for which is common ministry: a ministry that is open, egalitarian, and collaborative. This name invokes the idea of the common, with all the resonance it retains when we speak of The Book of Common Prayer.” Common” means everything owned by everyone, and so no secrets (transparency). “Common” also means shared responsibility, and so shared leadership and mutual accountability. Finally, “common” means shared identity, and therefore connection.

13. At our best, we are a community of believers who have truly thrown our lot in with one another, acknowledging the obligation each of us has to witness and, if necessary, to lead, and, accepting the call of Jesus, to be one with our brothers and sisters in Christ: “If one member suffers, all suffer together…; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Transparency, leadership development and connection all meet here, in the recognition that we are required in Christ to acknowledge that we are connected to one another and responsible for one another.

14. To summarize: Common ministry names this diocese’s commitment to formation for ministry through the spiritual disciplines of transparency, leadership development, and connection.

15. Common ministry applies to all congregations: rich, poor, urban, suburban and rural.

16. Pursuing common ministry will entail differing strategies in differing local situations.

17. Congregations capable of compensating several full-time priests might function both as gathering places for the larger Episcopal community and as resources for theological study, preaching, teaching and missional collaboration. This might be called the resource model. Such congregations would be expected to model common ministry, by providing resources to smaller congregations in their area, but also by raising up lay people within their own congregation to work closely with the clergy staff as preachers, teachers, pastoral associates, house church leaders, and so on.

18. Many of the congregations that might be called on to be resource centers already act on some version of that model. One of the great strengths of this diocese is that most congregations, whatever their size, assume their connection to and responsibility for other congregations in the diocese.

19. Deacons would play a crucial connective role here. According to ancient practice, deacons work closely with the Bishop to keep congregations facing outwards, to promote the Church’s mission to the larger world, and to help diverse communities work together for the common good. In most cases, deacons should be assigned to a local network of congregations, or to a ministry center for work among the other congregations connected to it by geography or through some more formal structure. Deacons associated primarily with a single congregation should be expected to be pursuing a ministry that engages that congregation ever more fully in diocesan, ecumenical and interfaith collaboration for the common good.

20. What about congregations that can easily sustain one full-time priest? Let us call this the full-time priest model. It is all too easy to revert to an old model here: priest as chaplain to an essentially passive and disempowered laity. But the paradigm of common ministry yields a different outcome. If a priest truly presides over the congregation as an assembly of people being formed by the Holy Spirit for ministry in the larger community, then several things can happen: (a) the congregation can experience itself as something more than a private fellowship; (b) individuals can explore and claim their own gifts and call as sharers in the work of ministry and administration; (c) the congregation can, through its priest, begin to present itself to the surrounding community as a public partner, and (d) it can develop a lay-led leadership role in the community. (Needless to say, congregations with a full-time priest should share their priest with congregations who have no priest, as much as they are able.) In the coming decades, one-priest congregations will play a crucial role in reclaiming the public witness of the church. There are many congregations in Southern Ohio in which this is already happening. In many ways, these congregations are the backbone of the diocese, and will continue to be so, as they are the engine of growth and innovation.

21. The key to this approach is clergy who are skilled as teachers and preachers, have a keen eye for institutional development, and are passionate about identifying and deploying the gifts of others for transformative change. In other words, we seek priests who are theologians, entrepreneurs and community organizers, and we therefore require them to have a seminary education or its equivalent, with adequate supervision in the two years immediately following ordination.

22. This immediately raises the question of congregations that are clearly not capable of compensating one priest full-time, but who are committed to formation for ministry. Such congregations should have the option of identifying and raising up a lay ministry development team, comprising three to five confirmed communicants in good standing, including a Pastoral Leader, a Worship Leader, and Preacher, whose role would be to gather the community in worship and formation, and to support and facilitate the ministry of all members of the body. No member of the lay ministry development team would be compensated. The discernment process for raising up this team would be under the supervision of the Bishop and the Commission on Ministry, and all appointments arising from this process would be subject to the approval of the Bishop. All members of the ministry development team would be offered adequate training under the auspices of the diocese. We might call this the local team model.

23. Such a team would work closely with a priest and deacon, both of whom would be working out of a resource congregation or be assigned to a local network of congregations. (Such an arrangement would acknowledge the expectation that every priest be professionally trained and skilled as a theologian, entrepreneur and community organizer, and that every deacon be grounded in more than a single congregation.)

24. Depending on local circumstances, it might be necessary for lay-led Morning Prayer to be the main Sunday service from time to time. So-called “deacon’s masses” would be discouraged as communicating a confused understanding both of the Eucharist and the diaconate.

25. Congregations with lay ministry development teams would be encouraged to participate in a cluster, or to be yoked with another congregation (perhaps with one of the resource centers).

26. It would be all too easy to default to old models at this point. It is sometimes assumed that congregations that go the local-team route are settling for “second best,” and that they are incapable of effective mission, growth, and impact on the larger community. On the contrary, identifying and raising up a local lay ministry development team is a courageous and bold move that indicates a congregation’s vigorous commitment to formation for ministry. It might well be that a local-team congregation that achieved the capacity to go to the full-time priest model would choose to continue to develop on the local-team model. Either approach is equally applicable to any growing and vigorous congregation – it all depends on local circumstance and the leading of the Holy Spirit. In no case would it be expected that a congregation that had thrived with a local team should abandon this in favor of the full-time priest model.

27. Ideally, each model should support and strengthen the other. Congregations with more than one priest should be a resource for congregations with no full-time priest; congregations with one full-time priest should aid the resource congregations in this work; and the congregations with locally raised-up lay ministry development teams should expect that their experience and leadership will help larger congregations become more and more collaborative in their approach to ministry. Here again, deacons would play a major role in ensuring that institutional development at congregational and regional levels be coupled with real engagement with other faith communities, all people of good will, and the poor.

28. The result? Greater stewardship of human and financial resources as we attend to economies of scale, the development of much more robust regional ministries, and lower boundaries separating congregation from congregation, presenting a more supple and fluid medium for the Holy Spirit.

29. Common ministry has obvious –and perhaps not so obvious – implications for deployment and training – including whom we recruit for leadership (ordained and lay); what constitutes appropriate formation; who goes where, and who makes that decision. The ordination process recently developed by the Commission on Ministry is well-suited to the identification and training of persons who have gifts as theologians, entrepreneurs and community organizers (all expected of priests in common ministry), and gifts as advocates, explorers and ministers of inclusion (all expected of deacons in common ministry). The Commission on Ministry would need to mobilize existing structures and resources (e.g., local vestries and mission councils, SOLLI, School for Diaconal Training) to create a discernment process for local congregations seeking to identify a pastoral team, and to develop a training program for such teams, once they have been identified.

30. In conclusion, common ministry is a spiritual practice in which transparency, leadership development and connection work together to further formation for ministry.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What's Right About Grace Church


These are urgent times at Grace Church. As we focus on meeting the challenges of the present and immediate future, we can get overly concerned about the things that we're not doing. At a recent Growth Committee meeting, we discussed the tremendous number of things that we have accomplished in the past three years and we talked about how good it would be to point this out to people so they could talk about it with their friends.
Let's change the discussion from what we are not doing to the many good things that we are doing. We have a lot to crow about. Spread the word. Then we will begin to see even more things happen.
                                                                                                Jim Edgy, September 2009

Our List of Successes at Grace Church


  • We instituted Coffee Hours following Sunday Worship at least two times per month and often more.
  • We held several Blessed Grills following Sunday Worship.
  • Choir has grown to the largest number of people since we quit having a paid choir, singing a wide range of music from the Anglican tradition from the 15th - 21st Centuries.
  • We have more Sunday volunteers than ever, serving on the Altar and Flower Guilds, and as ushers, lay readers, chalice bearers, and other functions to make our services more meaningful.
  • We began the monthly African Drumming, Reiki, and traditional Healing service.
  • We continued the Sunday healing service during the Eucharist.
  • We began the monthly Hip Hop Service.


  • We sponsored several Rainbow Band concerts
  • We began holding a parish Christmas Dinner.
  • We held a Spring Luncheon in honor of Mothers.
  • Healing
    • We visited the sick and the shut-in and took them Communion.
    • We served those who grieved from loss of a close one or for other reasons.
  • We hosted special receptions for several events.


  • Sunday School has grown from 3 children to 17 children.
  • We held 10 "Stir the Pot" sessions of stimulating discussions about controversial issues.
  • We held several "Ask Questions" sessions where people could discuss troublesome topics about their faith.
  • We continued our two Education for Ministry classes for 20 people from all over Greater Cincinnati, graduating four students last year.
  • We trained 7 Lay Eucharistic Ministers to distribute elements during Worship Services.
  • We trained 4 Lay Eucharistic Visitors to take Communion to shut-ins following Worship Services.
  • Five people receiving training as Worship Leaders.
  • We enrolled one person in the Diocese's Lay Preacher training program.
  • 12 members took Safe Church training.


  • We donated regularly and generously to the Christ's Community in College Hill food bank
  • We participate in Interfaith Hospitality Network with Christ Church, Glendale and are working with 5 local churches to begin one in College Hill.
  • We provide mentors for several school children to assist with their studies.
  • We participated in the College Hill Block Parties for the past two years.
  • We participated in the College Hill Pumpkin Patch festival for the past 3 years.
  • We have been active in the College Hill Ministerium and the College Hill Summit
  • We continued the Christmas Giving Tree, providing 20 young people with clothing gifts last year.
  • We continued the parolee project where they assist us and we support them on a personal, spiritual, and personal basis.
  • We provide space for another church's services and activities.       
  • We provide meeting space for several community groups on a regular basis, including
    • Narcotics Anonymous,
    • The Rainbow Band,
    • The Flag Drill team,
    • Three theatre groups,
    • A Bible study group,
    • The Uganda School, and
    • Several other groups that do one time events, including weddings and funerals for non-members.

Building and Grounds

  • We repaired the plumbing in the rest rooms
  • We repaired the plaster and repainted the Sanctuary
  • We repaired the plaster and repainted the hallways
  • We increased the lighting level in the Sanctuary
  • We totally improved the heating in the 1957 wing
  • We installed better furniture in the parlor
  • We created and furnished a seating area in the Great Hall.
  • We continued to improve the appearance of the grounds around the church
  • We began the Red Door project
  • We improved day to day maintenance of our building and grounds
  • We replaced portions of the roof
  • We installed flags over front door which has brought us several new members.
  • We began renovation of the meeting room under the choir room.
  • We redid the lower Belmont entrance to make it more inviting for the many groups that use our facilities


  • We have baptized, confirmed and accepted new members through transfer.
  • We created and distributed Grace Post Cards and a Grace Slide Show on CD and DVD.
  • We maintained our attractive web site, which attracts over 100 visitors per week, and continued to publish eGraceNotes to over 100 subscribers


  • We have enjoyed a generous level of support from both our parishioners and from the Diocese. Although it is still a struggle, we have finished the past 3 years with a small excess of income over expenses.     

While doing all of the above:

  • We have built a committed congregation of actively involved people of all ages, colors, orientations and national origins.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Questions about Common Ministry

The following questions were asked at Grace Church’s Common Ministry Forum on August 2, 2009:

  • What is the definition of Common Ministry?
  • What are some of the existing models of Common Ministry churches?
  • How do we create the correct list of functions needed to keep the congregation together?
  • How is the Common Ministry team formed?
  • Who’s in charge and how are they elected?
  • How does the discernment process work?
  • How are priests raised from the congregation?
  • Can a congregation raise more than one priest?
  • Are there any age qualifications for priests?
  • Can the Bishop ordain a deacon to become a priest in a Common Ministry church?
  • What are the track records of other churches that have used Common Ministry?
  • Is Common Ministry just for poor churches?
  • What Diocesan support is available if we want to explore Common Ministry?
  • If we become a Common Ministry church, will we ever hire professional clergy again?
  • Can the church grow in a Common Ministry model?
  • Will we be able to have Eucharist every Sunday?
  • During the interim period, how can we do weddings and funerals?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

You might be an Episcopalian if ...

... when a Star Wars character says, "May the force be with you",
you automatically reply, "And also with you".

... the only good reason to raise your hand during a hymn
is to question the organist's re-harmonization.

... you recognize your neighbor or priest in the local liquor store
you go over to greet him or her.

... hearing people pray in the language of "jesuswejus" ("Jesus, we just ...")
makes you want to scream.

... words like: "vouchsafe," "oblation," "supplications," "succor," "bewail," "wherefore," and "dost"
are familiar to you even if you don't have a clue that they mean.

... the sight of a woman in a clerical collar
doesn't make you cringe.

... you think that the Bible is a holy book
because it quotes the Book of Common Prayer so well.

... your choir director suggests discussing something
over a beer after choir rehearsal.

... you catch yourself genuflecting or bowing
as you enter a row of seats in a theater.

... you visit a Protestant church, and you wonder
"where are the kneelers?" or
"where is the altar?"

... you know the best way to quiet a room full of people
is to say, "The Lord be with you!"

... when you visit a Roman Catholic Church,
you are the only Ah-men amongst a sea of A-mens .

... your covered dish for the potluck dinner is
escargot in puff shells.

... your preferred term for a potluck dinner is
covered dish dinner.

... you know Agnus Dei
isn't a woman.

... your picnic basket
has sterling knives and forks (entree, fish, salad and cake).

... you know that the nave
is not a playing card.

... on hearing the story of Martha and Mary, you’re convinced that
Mary would have been in EfM and Martha would have made a great head of the Altar Guild.

... you search your parish kitchen for a can opener
and you find four corkscrews.

... your friend says "I'm truly sorry"
and you reply, "and you humbly repent?"

... you consider a sticker on your car
to be an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.

... you know that Senior Warden and Junior Warden
are not positions in the local prison.

,,, churches without gay clergy just seem like
they’re trying just a little too hard to be “butch.”

... you think the most serious breach of propriety one can commit
is failure to chill the salad forks.

... you not only talk about God,
but God is placed in the palm of your hand.

And finally,

... you reach a point when you're not sure about anything theologically
but you still feel at home at the altar rail, knowing that somehow you're meeting God.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Living the Mind of Christ

Sermon by the Reverend Ernestein Flemister
Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, April 5, 2009

From the Epistle for the day (Philippians 2:5-11):

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death--
even death on a cross.

In today’s reading from the Liturgy of the Palms, Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph with the crowds cheering him and saying,

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Soon thereafter, the situation changes dramatically. Jesus is betrayed by Judas, arrested and interrogated by the chief priests, elders and scribes. Mark 14.55-64 describes his time with them and points out their intent and purpose for him.

Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But he was silent and did not answer.

After the witnesses bungled the job, the high priest has to jump in. He asks Jesus, “Are you the Messiah, the son of the blessed one?”

Jesus finally gives him what he wants, saying, “I am; You will see the son of man seated at the right hand of the power,” and “Coming with the clouds of heaven.”

The high priest is delighted; he tears his clothes and says, “Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?”

All of them condemn him as deserving death.

Now comes more drama and intrigue. They have the evidence they want from Jesus, but they cannot accomplish their nefarious desires on their own. They want Jesus crucified, but they don’t want to get their hands dirty. So they turn to the governor for help. They send Jesus to Pilate to do the dirty work for them.

Today’s Gospel reading (Mark 15:1-15:47) begins at the point when Jesus is brought to Pilate for questioning and condemnation.

The passion narrative indicates to us that Pilate is aware of the games that the chief priest, elders and scribes are playing. He knows that he is being manipulated. He, however, thinks to outsmart them by playing their game; he goes back and forth with the crowd and finally allows the crowd to determine Jesus’ fate. They make the choice for him or at least that is what he wants us to believe.

But what is striking about this narrative is Jesus’ role. In this passage, Jesus says twelve words. At the beginning of his time with Pilate when he is asked if he is king of the Jews, he says, “You say so.” and towards the end when he is on the cross, he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” His silence, however, speaks volumes.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death--
even death on a cross.

Jesus willingly submits himself to God’s purpose.

Paul tells us that though he was in the form of God, he did not use his position as something to be exploited. Paul uses the word morphe to make clear to us the mindset of Jesus. Jesus was not playing at being God; he was equal to God. So the transition from God to human slave becomes more powerful and meaningful for us; he goes from the highest position of power--a God--to the lowest--a slave.

He did not use it to get out of God’s purpose for him. Instead, he emptied himself--he got rid of his own desires and ambitions--and allowed the will and purpose of God to fill and rule his life. He exchanged his Godly form and took on human form--a slave. He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death. Not just any death; but the shameful, ignominious death on the cross.

This blows me away. It amazes me, and it humbles me.

God’s love for us is revealed through Jesus’ act of surrender, obedience and self-emptying. What is--what should be--our response to God’s love?

Paul in his letter to the Philippians exhorts them to let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. Paul exhortation and challenge is also for us. Our response to God’s amazing love and Jesus’ obedience is to live with the mind of Christ.

In order to do that we have to know and understand the mind of Christ. To do that we need to move from the realm of intellectual knowledge to an intimacy that only comes from being in relationship with Christ Jesus. We have to know Christ not only on an intellectual level but at the gut level. We have to get down in the dirt and mess of life with Christ. We have to go through the storm, anger, hurt, despair and death with the certainty that Christ is always present with us. We have to be real and practice our faith. To know Christ is to follow his example.

What does that look like? How do we live with the mind of Christ? At the Hip Hop Service yesterday, we had a conversation about what it means to live with the mind of Christ. Some felt that responding in love to those who were unfriendly or unkind to us exhibited the mind of Christ. One young man said praying daily for wisdom helps us to have the mind of Christ. Another said living in God’s word by reading the Bible and attending church helped us to live with the mind of Christ. All good responses.

What is our response at Grace? How do we exhibit the mind of Christ? How do we live and support relationships that encourage the community to live with the mind of Christ at Grace?

Here are some of my suggestions; this is not an exhaustive list, more can be added.

  • We can pray for each other.
  • We can honor, respect and affirm each other and our differences.
  • We can speak truthfully and honestly with each other.
  • We can listen with an open mind to ideas that may be different than our own to problem solve.
  • We can avoid hidden agendas.
  • We can seek the good of the community.

Christ disregarded his status as God. He emptied himself. He willingly allowed himself to become human and a slave and he was obedient to God’s plan for his life.

Can we join together to live cruciform lives in the manner of Christ--vulnerable, exposed and open to the will and desires of God? Can we accept Paul’s challenge and live with the mind of Christ here at Grace?

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death--
even death on a cross.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Grace Church’s “Hour”

Sermon preached at Grace Church March 29, 2009 by Ken Lyon

The Gospel according to John 12:20-33

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

"Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say-- `Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

The Sermon

John has a point of view and a vocabulary that is different from the other New Testament writers.

John views the moment of Jesus’ crucifixion as the moment of God’s glorification. It’s not something that happens on the way to something; it is the thing itself. It’s not a defeat, it’s a victory.

John often has Jesus refer to his crucifixion as his being “lifted up.” He means us to understand that this “lifting up” is the moment of God’s glorification—the moment that Jesus saves the world.

In last week’s reading from John you might remember hearing Jesus say:

Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Jesus is referring to that time when the Hebrew people were wandering in the wilderness and got attacked by poisonous snakes. His listeners would remember these words from Numbers:

And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live." So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

John is comparing Jesus being “lifted up” on the cross to that serpent being lifted on the pole. Jesus on the cross is the victory. And John, ever a lover of paradox, is saying that the very act that Jesus enemies intend to be a humiliating tragedy becomes the very act that saves the world.

Today’s selection from John’s gospel describes that point in Jesus life where he realizes that he has reached a point of no return. Today is the moment when Jesus understands that his “hour” has com. He can keep going in the direction that his life has prepared him to go, or he could veer off and choose another path.

You may remember John’s description of Jesus’ first miracle at Cana--where he turns the water into wine--that he does it secretly, saying that “My hour has not come.” Well, today marks the instant that Jesus realizes that his “hour” has indeed come.

Some Greeks (that is, Gentiles, that is those not included in Jewish life) come, saying they want to meet Jesus. Jesus’ answer seems to have little to do with the visitors, for he answers, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” He goes on to say, “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say--`Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” And then, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

According to John, the reason why Jesus’ words are an answer to the Gentile’s request to see him is this: The very fact that non-Jews—people considered to be outsiders--have sought Jesus out is the sign that it’s time to take the next step. It’s his time to be lifted up in sight of all, Jews, Greeks and Romans alike; for God to be glorified; for his saving grace to be offered to all people.

So, Jesus, seeing that his “hour” has come, decides to continue the trajectory of his life; to realize his calling.

Similarly, I think, Grace Church’s “hour” has come.

Will we say, “Father, save me from this hour?” Of course not, because, like Jesus, we understand that it is for a reason that we have come to this hour.

Like Jesus, our actions over the next few months will decide: Do we hang back or do we embrace our future?

Jesus decision was to be the person that God had made him to be; his life to that moment had led him here; now it was time to go forward. So it is for Grace.

Like Jesus, we are not called to be something we aren’t; we are called to become more fully who we are.

And who are we? How do we figure that out?

In a recent cartoon, parents, as they often do, tell their young son that he can be anything he wants to be. His immediate reply was that he wants to be some kind of killer reptile. He parents had to sadly inform him that there were limits to what he could be.

So it is for all individuals and groups: We are born with certain God-given aptitudes—gifts—into certain circumstances over which we had no control (families, cultures, times in history). We live our life, with God’s help, learning and changing and growing as best we can, and all of that contributes to who we are and who God calls us to be at a moment in time. When our “hour” comes, and it may come to us more than once, individuals and organizations can take stock of who they are and can decide to embrace who they are or to retreat. This often involves deciding what of its heritage needs to be set aside and what needs to be embraced enthusiastically in order to take the next step authentically.

So it is with Grace. Grace’s “hour” has come. Our life together so far—our heritage and history--has made us who we are and can help us who we are called to be.

Here are some factors to consider as we discern who we are called to be at this, our “hour.”

We’ve been on this corner for over 140 years.

We’ve been doing an inspiring liturgy that dates back to the earliest days of Christianity in the most beautiful, the most uplifting, worship space for miles around.

We have the prime location—smack dab in the middle of the entrance to our community.

And we have a wonderful facility—that’s our gift and that’s our burden.

For over 140 years, Grace, as an Episcopal church, has been a “via media,” a place where people of many Christian backgrounds can meet and worship together, without too many questions asked.

For the last 30 years, we have been celebrating the Eucharist every Sunday. Over time, we have come to a richer understanding of our weekly common meal as a foretaste of that time when all those created in the image of God will be gathered at one table in a heavenly banquet. We are learning to live out the promise of the Baptismal Covenant introduced in 1978, “to respect the dignity of every human person.”

At the national level, signs of this understanding include election of an acknowledged gay man as a bishop of our church and the election of a woman as our Presiding Bishop

Here at Grace, perhaps through God’s urging, we haves made some choices over the past 20 years that have led us to where we are today—our “hour.”

About 20 years ago, while we were still a mostly white parish, we decided to call a black priest. We had expected Fr. Melton to be charismatic, activist and rather, uh, edgy; we later discovered that he was gay. What a learning experience—a changing experience—a growing experience--for Grace!

During one of the interim periods between priests, we decided to live without the services of a full-time priest. For over a year, we hired a priest to do services and some home visitations, and we divided up the remaining responsibilities of being a parish among the members of the congregation. It worked, and Grace has never been the same. What a learning experience—a changing experience—a growing experience for Grace.

About ten years ago, Grace decided to call an acknowledged gay priest with partner. Grace rallied to support and defend Fr. Farrell and Dale, when the bishop abruptly changed his mind about wanting him here and ultimately forced him out. Another learning, changing, growing experience.

Two years ago, Vicar Ernestein came to us: a woman, an African-American, an immigrant. Now we’re doing Hip-Hop services and Healing services with drumming. Her presence among us has enlarged our sense of Grace.

All of this is not to say that the white male priests whom we have also called over the past 20 years haven’t contributed to who Grace is; I mention these experiences because I think they have helped us push our boundaries the most.

So, now is our “hour.” Time for answering the question: What has our life together prepared us to be next? It’s a time for sifting our heritage, choosing those elements that will best enable us to be the people God is calling us to be.

Now is our time for Grace to be “lifted up” for the entire world to see that Grace for what it is; a place for all sorts and conditions of people to come to experience God’s saving power.

We, as a community, are called to be both the lifters and the lifted up. We, as Jesus, are called to stop turning water into wine in secret, and to be more public about who we are and what we stand for.

People have told me that they’re uncomfortable with anything that feels like self-promotion. We need to get over it. We are not promoting self; we are promoting God and God’s work at Grace. It may be appropriate to be modest about ourselves, but there’s no need to be modest about God and God’s work among us.

This is Grace’s “hour.” We, like Jesus, have seen those who were formerly excluded coming to us. For us, as for Jesus, that’s our sign that our time has come to be lifted up so that God may be glorified. And we say, with Jesus, “Now our soul is troubled.” And rightly so. But do we say, “Father, save us from this hour?” No, it is for this reason that we have come to this hour. “Father, we glorify your name” And, as we are lifted up, we draw all people to the saving place that is Grace.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sermon on the Future of Grace Church

Sermon on the Future of Grace Church

This is the outline of a sermon given by the Reverend Ernestein Flemister on March 22, 2009.

Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.

This morning, I have been given the task of updating you and the friends of Grace on our current condition. As was mentioned at the annual meeting, we did not pass a budget because of a deficit of close to $57,000.00. We have been able to overcome our deficit over the last two years through your generous support and the support of the diocese in providing grants to support our work and mission. We are all aware of the economic downturn; this has affected us all, the diocese included.

Since the annual meeting, Mission Council has been hard at work looking at options and alternatives. We met with members of the diocese including the bishop to discuss the situation at Grace. In our discussion with Bishop Breidenthal, he suggested that we explore and investigate a concept called “common or total ministry.” In fact, bishop Breidenthal wrote an article on it in this month’s issue of the Interchange. At the end of our meeting with the bishop, four committees were set up to look at:

  1. Common ministry,
  2. Building rental and utilization,
  3. Possible merger with another church, and
  4. Fundraising.

At the Mission Council meeting last week, we received initial committee reports.

Common ministry:

Common Ministry is living out our baptismal vows by using the gifts of every member of the congregation. It is a belief that the Spirit equips every congregation to meet our basic ministry needs from among our own members. Through a process of continued discernment, we would determine who would be engaged in the ministry and work of Grace.

The Mission Council is investigating this idea and voted to send a letter to the Bishop asking him to help us further explore the concept of Common Ministry with the Diocese and the Congregation. The Bishop conveyed to us that the final decision will be ours. We will bring the information to you and together a decision will be made on Common Ministry. If you have any questions, please ask a member of your Mission Council and we will try to provide as much information as we have available to you.

Building rental and utilization.

Collaborating with Six acres bed and breakfast

Exploring the possibility of a Montessori pre-school.

Developing a community training program

Exploring opportunities for grants to assist in projects

Merger with another church:

We have looked into merging with several other churches. At this time, it seems to be an unlikely prospect however we will continue to investigate all possibilities.


“Taste of Grace” Dinner– international food festival; exploring the food and culture of different parts of the world.

Rummage sale in the fall

Booths at Gay Pride Parade, 4th of July Parade, and Community Fairs

Joint Fundraisers with other organizations, i.e. CAIN.

Music Series with guest musicians, Rainbow Band and Muse.

Silent Auction/Community Charity Ball

After a careful review of the proposed budget, Mission Council believes that the only area that can be realistically reduced is salaries. There are hard choices to be made. Mission Council feels that the budget needs to be cut and presents these figures to you for your consideration:

With a full-time priest the deficit will be: $56,800.60

With a supply priest and a deacon; the deficit will be: $18, 800.60

After much prayer and discussion, the Mission Council now asks for your help, input and suggestions on what needs to be done going forward.

(Much discussion ensued.)

After listening to your comments and suggestions, I want to say that I appreciate your love and support but I also need to say that this is not about me. Grace was here doing ministry before I came and it will be here after I am gone. You need to understand that you are able and capable of doing God’s work in this place and you don’t need me to do that.

You need to make choices that will make Grace a viable and growing church. When we spoke with bishop Breidenthal and he talked about Common Mission, I told him that I thought we were already doing it here at Grace. So please know that Grace will continue to be a growing and vibrant place with your support.

Let us pray,

O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen