“Diversity is inviting someone to the party. Inclusion is asking them to dance.” – Unknown
Dear Friends in Grace,
I am so proud of you. So proud of us.
As I reflect back on the last 20 months, especially back to the beginning of my tenure as your Vicar, I am in awe at the distance we have already traveled together. With God’s inspiration and wisdom and help, we are growing and thriving -- in hope, in vision, in worship, and in numbers.
I am amazed by the grace with which you have embraced all kinds of changes to expand the breadth of our love and welcome. We continue to update our campus for efficiency, attractiveness, and accessibility. We are trying out new prayers in liturgy (approved by General Convention last year). We are learning new music for worship, experimenting with new ministry ideas to foster connection and outreach, and working to reorganize our staff and lay leaders to involve more and more people in the leadership and life of Grace.
We are Growing in Grace!
As we continue to move forward, this truth is becoming clear: our identity as a multicultural congregation is central to who we are and how we are growing. In our Church & School community—including church staff, teachers, parishioners, and students—people originally from more than 25 states and 25 countries (on 5 continents!) call Grace home. As individuals and families from new places make their way into our community, we lovingly embrace them and expand our tent to include who they are and what they bring. Grace is a lot like Houston – the most diverse city in the United States!
One way in which we continue to lean into our multicultural identity is in the area of language. It has been a practice over the years for us to sing music that comes from different parts of the world, written in languages from those places – Zulu, Mandarin Chinese, Latin, French, Indigenous languages, Spanish, and others.
Lately, we have been experimenting with incorporating more Spanish language in our worship from time to time, even printing a couple of worship bulletins in both English and Spanish and alternating between the two in what is spoken aloud during the liturgy. This is not an easy or comfortable experience for everybody. But to try it, and then to adjust based on our reflections together, is very consistent with who we are and what we have done in the past – seeking to break down barriers that divide us from one another, even when that barrier is represented by language differences. The barrier between Spanish and English is particularly poignant, because so much of the Spanish-speaking world is Texas’s next-door neighbor and so many Spanish-speaking people live in this city as their first destination in the United States.
I want to ask you to engage this work with hearts of love and faithfulness. Trust the process of trying different things. Trust that we will watch and listen to the results from our experiments and we will adapt. The one and only goal is this: not just welcome but full inclusion of anybody and everybody--from anywhere and everywhere--God leads into this community.
Growing in Grace.
I am excited to announce that The Rev. Alejandro Montes will be joining Grace as an Assisting Priest, along with The Rev. John Graham, The Rev. Deacon Dawn Shepler, and myself. Alejandro’s introduction is included in this edition of The Gracevine. He brings broad ministry experience, including decades of ministry as a priest, and the kind and generous heart of a pastor. We are so blessed at Grace to have a growing clergy team to help us follow the Spirit into God’s future.
With you all the way,
“Grace Upon Grace: God’s Increase and Our Response”
There is a particularly beautiful sentence, situated in the midst of the gorgeously poetic first chapter of the Gospel of John. These words always overwhelm me when I hear them; they inspire me by revealing the infinitely limitless generosity and benevolence of our Creator; they stir up within me deep gratitude, wonder, and even my own desire to grow as a gracious and generous person made in God’s image.
“From God’s fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1.16
As our 2020 Stewardship Pledge Campaign gets ready to kick off on October 20, we are embracing this truth of God’s lavish and limitless GRACE as our campaign theme. During the Campaign, we will hear stories from members of our community who have experienced one surprise of God’s faithfulness after another, living out the truth that there is no end to the goodness God has for us.
We will also tell the stories of grace upon grace experienced in our Church & School community during the past year. Truly, we have experienced a banner year in the renewal and rebuilding of Grace Episcopal Church & School as a sustainable outpost of God’s grace in Southwest Houston…
The 2020 Pledge Campaign will run from October 20 through November 10. We’ll celebrate the in-gathering of pledges together in a special Thanksgiving Eucharist on Sunday, November 17.
Stewardship is our community’s season of acknowledging God’s grace in our lives – in our private and family lives, and in our life together as a congregation. It is a season of prayerfulness, as we ask what dreams God has for us in the coming year and how we can be a part by sharing our gifts of money, of time, of leadership, of wellbeing, of truth, and of relationship.
In the coming weeks, you’ll receive a mail packet from our Stewardship Chairperson and Bishop’s Warden. Special thanks to Bob Duran for chairing the Pledge Campaign again for 2020. Please begin now to pray and consider how you can and will contribute the community life and ministry of Grace in the coming year.
My prayer is that we will find ourselves “all in” at Grace in 2020 – that we will burst with gratitude for God’s presence and work among us, and that we will be generous with our treasure, our time, and our other resources to share with God in growing this community.
I know that in making pledges and serving with others we will open ourselves to experiencing more and more of God’s grace upon grace.
With you on the way,
What are you for?
I remember many years ago, in the aftermath of a personally devastating experience, I came to a poignant realization about myself. The epiphany didn’t come easily; in fact, I had to wallow in a great deal of anger, regret, and resentment first. Someone had inflicted great pain on me; I had chosen to operate in the wrong system; I had been wronged. And my focus was on that wrong.
At a pivotal time in that process, I became aware of something very problematic in my life up to that point: the awareness that for many years I had been charting my life’s course according to what I was against, what I was not, what I didn’t want. The problem: I didn’t know what I was actually FOR.
This revelation allowed me, over time, to rebuild a huge part of my life on very different terms. I began articulating what was most important to me, what brought the most joy, what kind of work was truly fulfilling.
The fact that I was able to make this profound shift in my life – from “against” to “for” – is in large part the reason that I found my way into the vocation of a priest and, eventually, into the call to be Vicar of Grace.
During the past several months, the Bishop’s Committee and I have been discerning what we are “FOR” at Grace. We have reviewed and considered the results from the Holy Cow! Survey; we have reflected on worship, outreach and fellowship programs at Grace; and we have engaged many thoughtful conversations with lots of folks in the congregation. Out of this work, we have drafted a list of “Core Values” for Grace that we believe reflects the reality of who we are and who we are becoming as a community.
Core Values are the things we value most of all – the convictions, commitments, and investments we are FOR. Knowing and talking about our Core Values will help us make decisions that are based on shared priorities and commitments. It helps to put the factors of individual personalities and personal passions at the service of the whole congregation.
You’ll notice this month that we are announcing a significant renovation to the chancel in the church nave, to be completed during the second half of August. The decision to do this work was based on our values – the redesign brings a simple Altar Table closer to the center of the worshiping congregation to remind us that the Communion is at the heart of who we are; it is a compassionate project, making the chancel and altar rail accessible to everybody regardless of physical ability; it makes space for creativity, allowing a large area for musical performance and community programs to take place.
Much more will be said about the chancel project in the days to come, but for now, it stands as a wonderful example of how our “Core Values” can help us to decide what investments and projects should be priorities for our community.*
I encourage you to review the list and descriptions of our 5 Core Values included with this article. Pray about them. Ask questions about them. Talk to your Bishop’s Committee members about them. We will continue, over the course of our life together as Grace, to refine, reinterpret, and even, from time to time, re-state them in new and inspired ways.
What a joy to be moving forward, with shared values, in common life and mission together.
*Thanks to the generous and anonymous donation of parishioners, the construction of the new chancel has been paid for outside of the annual budget. An invitation will soon be extended for others to give toward the purchase of new simple altar furnishings.
As Christians, we are always challenged to be on the move. The stories of our tradition testify to a life of faith spurred to action, called out of comfort, inspired to cross borders, and compelled to press forward.
We recall the voice of God to Abraham, inviting him to move faithfully to a strange land; or to Sarah, promising that she would bear a child in old age. We think of the prophet Isaiah, who challenged Israel to “enlarge the place of your tent” to facilitate the enormity of God’s blessing that was promised to come; and Jonah, commanded to travel to the land of his enemies and call for repentance (with the terrifying prospect that they might be saved!). And, of course, we always lift up the witness of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, who “did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited but emptied himself...being born in human likeness...and became obedient to the point of death,” as St. Paul proclaims to the Philippians.
To walk this life of faith, and especially to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is to walk a path fraught with change and transition and difference, through a landscape dotted with promise and hope and renewal. We walk this path for a purpose – that we may, more and more, accept God’s dream for our lives and enact God’s dream for this world.
The year 2018 was one full of promise and new life. You called a new Vicar, appointed by Bishop Doyle to lead this community. We worried about falling attendance and low school enrollment, and we prayerfully strategized to reverse those trends. We said goodbye to beloved staff and called several new individuals to support us in our ministry and life together. We experimented with new worship forms, with outreach programming, with new community groups and classes, with new liturgies, language, and music. We explored new ways of inhabiting interior and exterior spaces on our campus to facilitate connection, outreach and worship. We worked to strengthen the church’s bonds with our school as a ministry and outreach of Grace.
All of this only scratches the surface. Our journey in 2018 was fun and exhausting, joyful and frustrating, hopeful and irritating, invigorating and challenging, inspiring and stretching and exciting. And there is more to come!
Welcome to the life of faith in Christian community. And, welcome to Grace.
As I reflect joyfully on our Annual Meeting last Sunday, my prayer is that we will wholeheartedly celebrate the joys and accomplishments of 2018, honor the legacy of this congregation on which today’s good work is founded, and be inspired by God’s vision for this community in 2019 and beyond.
With you in ministry,
“God's Creation gives us a model for making and sharing homes with people, but the reality of God's Trinitarian life suggests that Christian hospitality goes farther than that. We are not meant simply to invite people into our homes, but also to invite them into our lives.” –Lauren F. Winner, Mudhouse Sabbath
I’ve been thinking a great deal about hospitality lately. I’ve been thinking about what it would take for us to make the kind of space in our life together in order to nurture meaningful and lasting connection for newer members and newcomers to our church community.
Grace is truly a welcoming congregation. Almost everybody agrees on this. When folks visit our campus, whether for school business, for a community event, or for worship, they are met with love and kindness – consistently greeted with warmth, generously assisted in finding their way around, kindly thanked for being with us and always invited back. We welcome visitors unconditionally, affirm difference and diversity, and make space for the new experiences and perspectives that others bring. I am so grateful that this value of welcoming was already wholeheartedly embraced before I arrived at Grace early last year.
It is one thing, however, to feel welcomed among people, and quite another to become connected with them.
To be sure, many folks who are more recent arrivals with me to this congregation have found their way toward a next level of participating or belonging – exploring expressions of new ministry, bringing inspired ideas from former church communities, pledging to financially support the life of Grace in a new year, committing to new areas of service. I am so grateful for this positive energetic.
This is a good start, but we will have to do more work at becoming the kind of people who can continually make space for more and more people to connect and transform us with who they are and what they bring.
I believe that God is calling us, in 2019, to discover new ways of fostering deeper relationship with all who find their way to us and desire to know Grace as home. We are being called into a deep hospitality that goes beyond welcome to be with us, to invitation for becoming part of us. This will involve some changes to our facilities, it will mean new programming that intentionally brings us together, and it will mean – as all change does – sunsetting some old ways of doing things to make space for more inclusive and expansive modes.
God has a beautiful dream for this world, for this city, and for this neighborhood around us in Southwest Houston. And God has included Grace Episcopal Church in making that dream come true.
I’ll look forward to sharing more about this vision for inclusive and expansive hospitality with you at our Annual Meeting on January 27. I hope that everyone who calls Grace home, or who wants to call Grace home, will be with us on that day.
The Reverend Scott Painter, Vicar
“In my distress I called upon the Lord;/ to my God I cried for help./
From his temple he heard my voice,/ and my cry to him reached his ears.”
This time of year, it can be easy to forget that holidays aren’t happy for everyone.
For many of us who have experienced profound illness, trouble, or loss, a holiday can morph into another painful milestone along a seemingly endless line of “firsts” without that health, or well-being, or loved one present with us as before.
Though much of the world around us is lurching headlong toward a Merry Christmas, we who are in pain or grief receive a profound gift in the time of Advent — because this is the season for sitting still with the deep longing of creation, grounded in brokenness and sorrow, to cry for God to meet us where we are.
This cry requires us to be honest. This is not a time for a stiff upper lip, or for donning any pretense. If we are to experience joy at all with the coming of Christ at Christmas, it will depend on our forthrightness about how desperate we are for God’s healing and sustaining presence.
If the need for honesty about our pain resonates with your experience of the holiday season this year, I especially want to invite you (though it is open to everybody) to our Longest Night service at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church (1805 W. Alabama) on December 21 at 7:00 PM.
This is a special service, inspired by a liturgy from the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Andrew in Honolulu, that I helped to adapt and lead during my time as Curate at St. Stephen’s. It is a liturgy of candlelight, and quiet, and prayers, and meditative music.
It is a liturgy to guide us through our grief toward hope.
How fitting that the Winter Solstice -- the year’s longest darkness -- takes place in the context of Advent longing. Because it is darkness that calls out for light. And it is pain and sorrow that call out for salvation.
Please join us next Friday for this special time together with friends from St. Stephen’s. I will be there, playing some music, leading a portion of the service, and offering healing prayer. I hope to see you.
The Rev. Scott Painter, Vicar
Happy New Year!
I love new beginnings, fresh starts, and trying again.
For Episcopalians and Christians of many other traditions all over the world, time moves to a different rhythm from the established days, weeks, months and years set on the calendar that governs modern society.
The Church’s year ebbs and flows with the energy of the cosmos. Our Liturgical Calendar (which guides our annual patterns of worship and activities) is set each year according to the solar and lunar calendars. Some Festivals, like Christmas on December 25, are fixed in place according to the sun. Others, Easter most of all, arrive at slightly different points each year, according to the moon.
(You may be interested to know that Easter’s fluctuating situation is a result of a conscious decision of the Church, about 1700 years ago. The Council of Nicaea established in 325 AD that Easter will come each year on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox. This is why Easter can arrive much earlier or much later each year – as early as mid-March and as late as almost-May.)
It is actually Easter’s movement on the calendar each year—in relation to the fixed point of Christmas on December 25—that determines how each liturgical year will relate to the January-December calendar of the rest of society.
The church begins each new year with the season of Advent, comprised of the four Sundays leading up to the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas!).
To begin with Advent is the most counter-cultural and counter-intuitive wonder. We begin each new church year not with a big bang, nor a party, nor a pinnacle Feast. No, we start anew with deferred gratification.
Advent comes from a latin word that means “coming.” The season of Advent is a time of waiting for what comes next. But it certainly isn’t a time for passivity. NO! Advent is a time for anticipation, and hope, and preparation, and prayer.
My favorite Advent passage from Scripture is in the Gospel of Luke (3:4-5). The writer is telling about John the Baptist, who is proclaiming that a Savior is on the way. His words ring in my heart throughout the season of Advent: “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”
There is a holiness to the waiting of Advent – it is rooted in the promise that God has not left this world to its own devices and has not left us to fend for ourselves. The promise inspires us to hope; it rouses us to prepare the way for God’s salvation to be brought into every place of despair that the world knows.
How do we prepare in Advent?
As a community in worship, we prepare by telling the stories of promise, praying our hope, and singing our longings for God’s salvation. In service, we prepare by making straight paths for God’s goodness into the world: by loving and serving!
I encourage you to join in the work of Grace2Go, serving our neighbors on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 7-8:00 AM in the W. Bellfort parking lot. Just show up once, find a way to help out, and meet some of our neighbors. You can also get a name from Mitzi Coleman off of the Angel Tree. The name belongs to a child, who may experience scarcity and lack at Christmas. You can purchase a toy for that child, according to her list, and bring it as an offering of love to be shared. We also continue to accept donations for Braes Interfaith Ministries throughout December. BIM experiences a great demand on their services to the needy during holidays. Your generous gift will support that ministry. (FYI, BIM is always welcoming new volunteers!)
As individuals, let’s take time to voice our concerns and longings in our prayers. And let’s be intentional in our kindness to others, in our generosity to those in need.
Advent is the perfect way to begin our new year together in faith – with a season of holy waiting. I look forward to walking with you through anticipation and preparation for God’s gift.
“Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.”
If you’ve been in Sunday worship sometime during the last couple of months, you have probably received fresh-baked bread at Eucharist, in place of the wafers we often share. (I know that many of you have noticed this switcheroo, because you’ve mentioned it or asked about it.)
Truthfully, I prefer bread to wafers, for a reason I’ll share momentarily. But I didn’t set out to impose a Eucharistic preference on the whole lot of us. At first, we were just beginning our journey through the “bread discourses” in the Gospel of John – a series of 6 weeks during the Lectionary Cycle’s “Year B” when we read passages from the 6th chapter of John, all having to do in some way with “bread.”
After the Sunday we heard about Jesus multiplying 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish in order to feed five-thousand people, I was struck by the irony of what was happening: we were meditating on the abundance of nourishment that Jesus offers (described as more bread than we could possibly need) and then we were coming together at the table for what seemed like a meager meal of thin and tasteless crackers.
In a moment of zeal, I texted a friend for the Communion bread recipe we used to share at the Seminary of the Southwest, drove to the grocery to purchase whole wheat flour, a big jug of honey, and some olive oil, returned home and immediately began baking a first batch of bread. The recipe produces enough for a month, so that batch got us through the “bread discourses” and the month of August.
By the time September was nearing, there had been time to reflect on the experience of using fresh Communion bread in conversation with some others in our community, and also in my own prayers. While we grant that not everyone likes real bread, and not everyone can eat it (as is also true with wafers that are not gluten-free), there is something special about handmade bread, baked by someone in our own fellowship, brought forward as a gift of thanksgiving to be blessed, broken, and shared to nourish and re-member us as Christ’s body in the world. It is something that can be easily lost in factory-made and machine-stamped wafers purchased in bulk.
Just think about it – every time we gather for the holy feast of Eucharist, we are invited to bring our gifts, good and bad: the fruits of our labors and success; the works of our hands; tokens of achievement and celebration; the emptiness of our disappointments and desperation; the scarcity of our transitions and long, winding sojourns; our unrequited love and unfinished dreams! No matter how much or how little, we are invited to bring everything we are and wish we were, along with offerings of bread and wine to the table; so that God can bless and multiply it all to be enough for everyone. Then, we go out as Christ’s body and feed the world. What a glorious taste of God’s grace we share in The Holy Eucharist!
Going forward, we may not use real bread every Sunday*, but when we do, I encourage you to meditate on what you bring as an offering with the gifts of our community, of bread and wine. Meditate on what God can do when blessing and multiplying what you bring in the holy mystery of Communion.
“Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
*If you are interested in learning our bread recipe, practicing with others, and then volunteering to bake a batch or two of Communion bread for a month this year, email Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a child growing up in the rural Midwest, I did not encounter a lot of difference. Lots of same-ness or very-similar-ness. Our nearby towns were small, my school was small, my world was small. Our community valued conformity and uniformity. We were always a bit suspicious of folks who did things their own way. And we were – almost -- all white. I knew one person in my entire high school who was not Caucasian. Her name was Tina.
You need to know this about me: I was raised in a homogenous community. I didn’t grow up with much diversity.
As a young person, I knew that my world didn’t look like the one I saw on TV. It didn’t look like the world I read about in books. It didn’t sound like all the music I heard on the radio.
As a young Christian, I knew that my experience of church and people in church didn’t look like the world of the Bible. I knew this, though I couldn’t always put it into words, and I longed to encounter the wide variety of all that God made and who the Spirit has called together.
When I left home for college, I set out on a quest to encounter a bigger world. It hasn’t happened fast; but in the 25 years of my adult life I can say that it has happened. And, I cherish the web of difference and diversity that has become woven into my existence.
The first thing I noticed about Grace during discernment of a call to be with you in ministry was the ethnic diversity of this congregation. At the beginning, my eyes were drawn to the beautiful array of color among us. (I later learned that no fewer than a dozen different nations are represented among the people who call Grace their spiritual home. I LOVE THIS!)
As we have begun to walk together, I realize that beyond race or nationality, there is more, very profound diversity among us. There is generational variety, and it is increasing by the week. There is a vast array of religious experiences that many of us bring forward into our hopes and dreams for Grace. There is a beautiful range of sexual orientation and gender identity found among our growing community.
It’s much easier to be with people who are pretty much the same.
It can be a lot of work to stay in community with difference. I’ve learned this because I share in this life together with you. I hear some express frustrations borne out of saying the “wrong thing” or simply having to throw up one’s hands exasperatedly in not knowing what to say. I see how uncomfortable it is to encounter words and signs in a 60-year-old building that seem to exclude some who don’t live in the established categories of the world. I sense the irritation of learning that words and pronouns we’ve used since we started talking are no longer universal and can be used to exclude people we are growing to love.
We have to be intentional about embracing all unique persons. We must purpose to listen to every voice, to seek to understand alternate perspectives. We are invited to be open to the Spirit, who will lead us to embrace new arrivals and expand our circles of love. Our own power inevitably becomes diluted when others are lifted up. Some can experience all this as exhausting—even as an existential threat. (How can we guarantee our own survival if we don’t maintain control on things?!)
God’s vision is for a beloved community in which the walls that divide us are broken down. In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul shared this vision when writing that there are no longer simple binary categories of insider-outsider in the community that God is building—no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free, no longer male or female.
And after painting this beautiful vision, he went on to address the difficulty people were having in trying to live it out: “I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.” Exasperation!
Dr. King expressed God’s vision when he said, “Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” God will give us grace to adapt to our changing experience of community.
My Siblings in Christ, we must press forward into God’s vision for the church in which all dividing walls are destroyed. God will give us grace to lay down our agendas, our idols, our individual dreams, our frail distinctions, so that we may receive the gift of a beloved community that is a witness to God’s reconciling work in the world.
Please stay with me in this life, in this work; and press forward together toward the light of this call.
Thoughts on Who We Are and Who We are Becoming.
In Rob Bell’s latest book, How to Be Here (which I highly commend to your reading), he shares a word in Japanese that has a powerful way of capturing a special sense of purpose and vocation. That word is ikigai.
Bell writes, “Your ikigai is a web of work and family and play and how you spend your time, what you give your energies to, what you say “yes” to, what you say “no” to, what new challenges you take on, things that come your way that you never wanted or planned for or know what to do with—your ikigai is a work in progress because you are a work in progress” (56-57).
I shared a few weeks ago at the Grace Town Hall, something like my ikigai. My own reason for loving this job called Vicar of Grace comes from a sense of mission in this ministry: “To Challenge and Inspire the People of Grace Episcopal Church to dream God’s Dream for this congregation, neighborhood, city, and the world; and to lead us toward enacting that dream with God, by cultivating a culture of worship & prayer, Christ-centered community, and outreach through partnership and servanthood.”
I’ve been asked many times: “Scott, what is your vision for Grace.” My response has always been pretty much the same: “What is God’s vision for Grace? What is God already doing in and through this congregation? I’m listening and looking.”
I’m not even sure the word ikigai is meant to apply to an organization or a community or a church. And yet, the questions it raises are exactly the things we should be talking about as the people who are Grace Episcopal Church.
How do we spend our time? What do we say “yes” to? What do we say “no” to? What new challenges will we take on? What are we doing or might we do that seem to be completely out of left field – total surprises?
I think I’m starting to get a sense of what makes Grace such a special place, such a special people.
Worship and Prayer. We love to gather for joyful and authentic expressions of worship. We are people who know God as our source of being, as our strength, as our inspiration. We find refreshment and renewal in worship together. We make room for many different musical genres and liturgical expressions and instruments(!), because we know God has called us from many different experiences, cultures, and languages to be church together. We are people of prayer. Many of us find centeredness in gathering to wait on the Lord in quiet contemplation. Others are passionate intercessors and live in such a way as to be praying on behalf of others on a near-constant basis. There is so much more in worship and prayer that God has for us, and I believe we are open to all of it.
Community and Care. The people of Grace care deeply and faithfully for one another. The “greater peace” we share in worship (ha!), our extended coffee hours, and our joy in many other gatherings are signs of our desire to be with one another, to know each other more attentively and deeply. We are a diverse community in almost every way – in religious experience, in cultural heritage, in sexual orientation, in gender identity, in economic status, and the list goes on. Since we find our bonds of affection in Jesus Christ and not in tribal affinities or homogeneity, we are able to stay together and grow in love, even as much of the world finds itself torn apart. And, we care for each other. We take care of one another in times of weakness and loss, in times of sickness and death, in times of grief and in times of want. This is what church is supposed to be, and it is what we strive to be even though we sometimes fail.
Neighborliness and Hospitality. We love our neighbors, and we want to be a church that serves the people around us. Grace2Go and the Community Garden, Interfaith events on the Labyrinth and in Parish Hall, Grace Episcopal School--and free power and wifi for those who seek shelter under our breezeway: these are all wonderful expressions of our commitment to reaching out to others. We take pride in caring for our campus and making it a beautiful and safe place for others to gather. We have lovely spaces for hospitality, and we are always making room for more to be with us, to share with us, to join with us. Hospitality is a wonderful spiritual gift of Grace, and I love to see us flourish in offering it.
What are you seeing and hearing? I offer these observations, but they don’t comprise a finite list. What inspires your joy and commitment in this place? Please share with me! Email at Vicar@GraceinHouston.org or give me a call at 832.667.8601. Let’s talk.
Friends, let’s hear the Spirit calling us to settle into being who we are, and into being here – in this moment, in this place, for this time.
The Rev. Scott Painter
I serve as the Vicar of Grace. A word from our English heritage in the Episcopal Church, "Vicar" means that I serve as the priest and pastor of this congregation.