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.