Yesterday, January 21, 2023, The Rev. Carrie Hirdes was ordained a priest at St. Luke the Evangelist Episcopal Church in Houston’s Third Ward. I begin with that news, because Grace played a big part in Carrie’s formation when she was an Iona School for Formation intern with us in 2021. The Rector of St. Luke the Evangelist is The Rev. Marcia Sadberry, who herself was an Iona School intern at Grace in 2019. Last week, Jonathan Maresca was with us in worship as our preacher. Jonathan is currently Grace’s sponsored seminarian studying at Yale Divinity School for formation to the Priesthood. God willing, Jonathan’s ordination will take place in 2024. In November, Liam Barr was with us in worship as our preacher. In the summer of 2019, Liam was preparing for his final year of undergraduate studies at Davidson College in North Carolina. Thanks to a connection made by Bishop Monterroso, Liam accepted my invitation to serve as a summer intern at Grace, to be immersed in the life of this renewing parish as Liam engaged discernment for his future call. Now studying at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, God willing Liam will be ordained in the Diocese of North Carolina in 2024. Fabian Berrios, our former Children’s Ministry intern (2018-2019), is married to Maria Bautista, who is currently studying for the priesthood at Virginia Theological Seminary. God willing, Maria will be ordained in 2024.
I haven’t even mentioned Grace’s honor and privilege to have welcomed The Rev. Leah Wise as our Curate in July of 2022. Rev. Leah is with us for a two-year assignment to take first steps into ordained life as a new member of the clergy. She is here to learn and grow in her ministry, while simultaneously sharing her gifts with us so that we might continue to learn and grow as God’s people served by a second full time priest. (I should also mention the fact of Grace calling me in 2018. I was a new , very green priest who had never led a congregation before. You called me as your vicar, you have loved and supported me, and you have given me the grace to continue growing in my own ministry as we all grow together.)
Nor until now have I mentioned the growing “chaplain corps” at Grace. While The Rev. Dawn gives generously of her time and talents to serve the Grace community, Dawn’s full time job is to work as a chaplain at the Harris County Psychiatric Center. Brian Rockhold and Thomas Borowski have recently completed full years, respectively, of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in preparation to enter fully into the vocation of chaplain. Both Thomas and Brian are working currently as chaplains in the Texas Medical Center. Sara Bushell recently completed a first unit of CPE and is now engaged in her second of four units, also having now begun studies at Fuller Theological Seminary for a Master in Divinity degree.
I hope all will recognize how absolutely remarkable it is for this not-as-little-as-we-used-to-be church to have such a significant role in raising up a new generation of leaders for the Church.
Grace has continued to grow in health, strength and vitality. Fruit happens when the tree is healthy.
Every single member of this congregation is an essential part of what God is doing in and through Grace. We enjoy the company of elder leaders and clergy, who minister and share their own hard-earned wisdom and insight with all of us.
God is using Grace to bless the whole church and the world, and this is a part of our identity that we must all continue to embrace and cultivate as we move into God’s future for us.
In 2022, we began to step into the new reality of being a full parish. Our first Vestry built community together, explored how leaders share responsibilities of care for the congregation, and started the work of visioning for the next season in Grace’s life. This year, we will continue that work and strategize for continued growth.
Our Strategic Mission Grant for Music Outreach allowed us to bless dozens of local musicians throughout the year, facilitating performances, community concerts, and networking events according to the grant’s parameters. Our Hope for Mass, produced and directed by Paul English, drew over two hundred people for worship over two days in October. The music was inspiring, and the witness to hope made a lasting impact on all involved. The funding and programming made possible by the SGM grant will continue through the middle of 2024, with a possibility for renewal.
In 2022, we made significant improvements to our worship space. The improvements enhance the beauty and the functional use of the space. I pray that in the year ahead, we will find new ways to faithfully steward the resource of our spaces for community building, worship, and outreach.
We have said goodbye to so many loved ones in 2022. We miss our friends and family, with gratitude for all the love, laughter and care we shared with them in this world. There is a legacy of faithfulness and a heritage of ministry left by those who have gone on. All that Grace is today is built on the gifts of those who came before us. We must always remember this.
I pray that we will continue to bless one another as we are blessed, and celebrate the gifts that each brings into our community. I pray that we will continue the holy work of breaking down every barrier that can keep us from God and from one another, reaching and embracing across diversity of race, culture, gender, generation, sexual orientation, ability, politics, and interests.
Thanks be to God for the wonderful gifts of this community!
The Rev. Scott Painter, Rector