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.