Summer has always been a fallow time for parishes, which is not a time for doing nothing, but rather a time for taking stock of priorities, making plans, reorganizing and preparing for the next “program year”. It has been sometime since I wrote a message on this page so I thought I would take time now just to update you on how we have been using “fallow” time.
Most importantly these days we are trying to live into our incarnational theology, rooted in the humanity and divinity of the Word made flesh, and treat matters of the body with utmost importance. Following the excellent leadership of our Bishop, Mark Bourlakas, we are prioritizing health and well-being during this pandemic while at the same time trying to be as present and supportive as possible.
We began regathering for worship some weeks ago under careful restrictions following the CDC and VDH guidelines. Grace is actually one of the few parishes in the Diocese that has been consistently celebrating and offering communion. Even when many of us cannot consistently receive or distribute communion, it is important that we celebrate communion - Christ dwelling in us and we in him. We don’t need to continuously receive the bread and wine. But we do need to continuously celebrate and proclaim Eucharist, thanksgiving, for this Holy communion. Until he comes again, we will do this at all times and all places in remembrance, in proclamation, in faith with thanksgiving.
As we look to the Scriptures and our tradition and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit for spiritual guidance, it is so important that we all refer to reputable sources, especially the CDC and VDH, for our basic information about and response to the pandemic. Please refrain from passing on unreliable information or from undermining these critically important scientific and medical counselors.
Near the beginning of the shutdown Grace stood up a Safety and Security team co-chaired by Donnie McBrayer and Liz Moss. This team includes Dr. Anne Hansen who has been providing advice and counsel about our regathering guidelines and keeping watch over local trends. Currently the length of time is shortening for the number of local cases to double. When that doubling time reaches a few days we will probably curtail our regathering and return to the shut down policy of 10 people or less and communion for the priest only. (By the way, the Safety and Security Committee has also been working to develop Emergency Response and Continuity of Ministry plans, and the installation of a proper fire alarm and suppression system.)
Connie, Lisa, Martha, and Sharon continue to do outstanding work for Grace, and we have full confidence they stay calm and carry on for the foreseeable future. We know that, for most of you, your primary interface with the parish these days is through external communications – streaming services, emails, phone calls, zoom meetings. Every week we strategize as a team about how to improve. This week we hard wired the video production in hopes that it will improve the quality of your Sunday and weekday worship experience. We are grateful for the feedback we get. We want to get better. Let us know what you want or need. And thank you for stepping up to volunteer in various ways when one or more of us takes vacation!
James Keane has served as college chaplain at Grace for over a decade. At the end of June James retired from that position but not from his love and dedication to college ministry. James will continue to serve as a liaison to the colleges and in many other ways continue to serve the parish, including through the Front Porch pastoral care ministry and EFM. This fall we want to properly celebrate James’ ministry. In the meantime, please reach out to him with thanks.
In July Angie Fafatas resigned as our Bookkeeper in order to spend more of her valuable time and energy caring for her family. Fortunately we have secured the services of Wendy Moses Bearden. Before leaving, Angie helped us secure a PPP loan and set up direct payroll deposit and online pledging and bill payment. We are grateful to Angie for her years of professional service. Wendy is transitioning into the job with the excellent help of Lisa McGuire, Margaret Haberman and Buster Lewis. Please welcome Wendy.
We were fortunate for a brief while to have the Reverend Donna Steckline serving at the altar. Bishop Mark has asked Donna to stop serving at Grace while she discerns a call to a full time ministry in the Diocese. We look forward to the ways God calls us to walk together with Donna and Kevin in future ministry. Please stay in touch with Donna and Kevin.
Grace is changing lives through teaching, praying, making music, and helping others help themselves. How can we help you discern your part of this work? How can you help us discern the next steps in this work?
Our Vestry members have been reaching out to leaders of other churches and non-profits to discover ways Grace can help others help themselves and fulfill their promise as children of God.
Our new Communications Team has selected a theme for the year – to be revealed soon. We will be working with every ministry team and committee to find ways of bringing the theme to life. Listen for our name on WMRA between August 30 and September 13!
Martha and Sharon continue a wonderful array of ministries with an amazing range of people. Join them! Ask them what you can do to help.
This past week we held a Virtual Vacation Bible School. What a blast!
In the fall we are offering a new set of “Family” services. Stay Tuned.
Monday morning prayer discipline and Thursday morning Bible study continue unabated on ZOOM. Join us.
David Gates has taken the lead for Outreach to support citizens reentering from the Virginia Prisons system. Starting in 2021 this work will need a lot of help. More to come, soon.
Grace is partnering with other churches in the area to build houses through Habitat, provide reusable masks for returning school children, feed and house people in crisis. Support these efforts through your gits of time, talent, and treasure.
We are working to dismantle racism. We are strategizing with other local leaders about ways we can support the realization of more equitable opportunity for our African American and Latin X neighbors, including ways to attract and support African American Teachers and Business owners into Lexington.
Grace is organizing
dialogue groups. Join us for a taste of
with the showing of the PBS documentary
at 7pm Wednesday July 22.
Grace has provided copies of
Conversations in Black
to the Rockbridge Library for July’s meeting of Rockbridge Reads about Race. Get a copy and join the conversation.
Under MJ Mayerchak’s leadership, despite the absence of a yard sale this summer, Grace is committed to raising the funds to Grace continues to support school children in Sudan. Please offer to help.
Building and finance updates
Grace is stewarding the resources entrusted to us by God through God’s people. Our Vestry is working not only hard, but smartly and diligently under the leadership of Gail Dickerson and Liz Moss. Liturgical Architecture planning continues under the leadership of Buster Lewis and his committee. A structural engineer has evaluated the nave. Grigg Mullen has accepted appointment as Manager of the Works. Can you see the dumbwaiter rising? Hark! The pipes of September 2021 are calling! Martha is coordinating the redeployment of the current organ. If you want an organ, call her! We plan to celebrate the decommissioning of present organ in February, 2020. Get ready. Please note all payments have been made on schedule and we hear of no delays from Casavant Freres.
You all have continued your generous pledging! With the support of a PPP loan (probably forgiven) we have been able to fulfill all our payroll and other obligations. To more responsibly fulfill the trust you place in us we have organized new offering collection and counting practices which are working smoothly thanks to the attentiveness of Margaret Haberman. Don Ellis and members of the Property Committee have beautified our grounds in many ways. They have been diligently overseeing the maintenance and marketing of the former rectory at 4 Grey Dove Road. The Finance committee and Strategic Finance team have been carefully overseeing investments and budget. We hired an inspector to thoroughly review our buildings and mechanical systems so they we can conscientiously use our endowments to maintain and improve our facilities.
Discerning God’s call
But what we should improve our facilities for is an outstanding question. Too much space in the parish house was idle BCE (before Covid era). The CE (Covid Era) has not only exposed weaknesses in our social fabric and our health care system, it has revealed how little space Grace needs to do our ministry. So to what purpose, in God’s name, shall we use all this space? What should our unrestricted endowments be put to work for beyond some modest budget support? The Vestry is actively discerning God’s call and the needs of others in our community to decide how to deploy these wonderful gifts. What do you think? Let us know.
Our historic mission
Grace Church has an historic mission to support the spiritual life and growth of faculty and families and students of the local schools. How can we help others fulfill their promise as beloved children of God? How can we support the spiritual growth and development of LGBTQ+ faculty and students? African American faculty and students? Latin X faculty and students? Native American faculty and students? Muslim and Jewish faculty and students? Faculty and students of other or no faith? How shall we enact our incarnational theology in this pluralistic community of learning and promise? How shall we deploy our resources for that work? How shall we prioritize spiritual growth and development of others over making new members? What part of that work belongs to you? What part of it belongs to us?
Fallow time. Time for not only taking stock of priorities but reorganizing and sharpening our focus and preparing to recommit. In the name of the one to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given, who humbly places himself into our hands, bidding us to love one another in his name and according to his Grace and power.
Rector, Grace Lexington