On the Thursday after Pentecost, May 24, I marked my one-hundredth day as Vicar of Grace. While 100 is a somewhat arbitrary number, it is a nice round one—a popular benchmark that organizational thinkers often use to frame the high importance of a new beginning in leadership. The “first hundred days” convey how crucial it is to start well – form relationships, assess the community’s health, share values and priorities, and begin to articulate a vision for the future.
As we pass from those first hundred days into a surer sense of our life and ministry together, I have been reflecting on all the good ground we’ve covered during the se“asons of Lent and Easter. We have worshiped on the beautiful Tree of Life Labyrinth and Garden—on Ash Wednesday, on Good Friday, on Palm Sunday, for an Interfaith Celebration of Music and Dance, and to celebrate the final gathering of our Easter/Spring Book Club. We’ve served more than a thousand cups of juice and coffee, breakfast snacks, and prayer with our Grace2Go “customers” and shared fertile soil and toiling hands to produce fresh vegetables in our Community Garden, yielding nourishment for our neighbors.
In worship, we’ve celebrated our diversity and complexity with joyful variety: in music, in liturgical choices, and even retrieving historic vestments and altar vessels to elevate our reverence of The Holy Eucharist. (Many of our congregants had never seen a chasuble or silver chalice at Grace!) We have welcomed more than 100 first-time visitors in Sunday worship at Grace since Ash Wednesday, averaging almost 75 worshipers per week—including many children and youth! (This is a significantly higher Sunday average than several of the last 5 years during the same seasons). Our congregation has received a generous grant from the Diocese of Texas to support renewed ministry in these months following Hurricane Harvey.
All this is only a TASTE of what God has done among us during these first hundred days. I hope you’ll join us in the Nave for a Town Hall on Sunday, June 10 from 12:30-1:15 p.m. so I can share a more robust testimony of our first months in ministry together. We’ll also take time to reflect together in an engagement activity. All this will help us make intentional plans for the beginning of our new program year at the end of August.
I can tell you this: A hundred days isn’t nearly enough! I’m so excited to continue this journey with you in ministry. God has great things in store for our neighborhood and the world through the life and ministry of Grace. Let’s go!
With you on the way,
The Reverend Scott Painter, Vicar of GraceWE'RE IN THIS TOGETHER...So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20
We at Grace recently enjoyed the annual blessing of a pastoral visit by one of our Bishops. On Sunday, April 22, the Right Reverend Hector Monterroso, Bishop Assistant in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, was with us to lead our worship as Preacher, Celebrant, and especially as Bishop to confirm and receive four people in their faith and membership in The Episcopal Church. It was a great day, capped off with Bishop Monterroso leading us in joyful dedication of the altar stone near our Tree of Life Labyrinth. (I am including a few pictures below, courtesy of Charlie Spruell, so that all can share more fully in the wonder of that day.)
In the weeks leading up to the Bishop’s visit, I had the privilege, along with Vyonne Carter-Johnson, of walking with those seeking to be confirmed (known as “confirmands”) through two Sunday afternoon sessions of storytelling, instruction, and worship, meant to prepare our hearts for Confirmation. It was a blessing to share the stories of our faith journeys together, to recall the rich heritage of our Anglican and Episcopal Church tradition, and to gather for prayer and Eucharist.
A highlight of my time with the confirmands was a discussion about the ministry of the church and “orders” of ministry within the church. The Catechism responds to the question, “What is the ministry of the church?” in this way: “The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” In other words, the church exists as an agent of reconciliation in the world. It is our core mission to bring people to God and together. Everything we do—in prayer and worship and proclamation, in working for justice in the world, and in administrating the business of this congregation—is in the service of our call to be reconcilers in the world.
As we went on to read about orders of ministry – laity, bishops, deacons, and priests, we found that as Church, we are not just to call people to be reconciled from afar; rather, we are to grow as an actual example of God’s love and the community that it brings! “The ministry of the laity is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ's work of reconciliation in the world...” The ministries of Bishops, Deacons, and Priests can be understood as vocations of upholding all the church, in various ways, in its core mission of reconciliation.
As your Vicar, I understand my calling as a priest is vitally connected to my ministry among you. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I must do whatever I can to support, equip, and encourage us as we seek to be reconcilers with God and others in this world. No matter what the task at hand – whether sweeping floors, hanging drywall, planting flowers, making music, brewing coffee, walking the labyrinth, picking up trash, or anything else--whatever we do, is to be in the service of this privilege of ministry that is ours in the world. We are in it together! And, God is with us to give grace to accomplish what we have been called to do.
In the coming weeks, we will continue to pray, to share and to learn in ways that will expand our capacity as a congregation to be reconcilers. We are in it together—for the sake of our friends, neighbors, and the whole world! And I am so honored to be with you on the journey.