“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,
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.