Greetings all in the name of Christ!
First of all, I want to say thank you to those who have turned in your 2021 pledge card. To date, the response has been extremely positive. Based on the numbers thus far, I want to share two pieces of good news:
We still have a ways to go to hit our goal of $140,000 in pledges, but at this point, I believe we’ll reach that goal and then some. If you haven’t turned in a pledge card yet, but intend to, please do so at your earliest convenience. To submit a pledge card, simply click here and fill it out.
Secondly, I want to share a bit about what we’ll be discussing in worship this coming Sunday. One of the things that I feel called to do in ministry is to be in service. I pray about it often, both personally and when I’m praying with you as a congregation. I frequently say, “Help us be mindful of the call you’ve placed on our lives to be in service to one another and to the members of our community.” So this Sunday, I thought I’d spend a little time unpacking that a little bit theologically. What exactly does it mean for us to be in service to others? What are the ways that Jesus told us to be in service? We’re going to be examining those questions, and a few more, too. One other thing that I want to discuss is the mentality of a servant. Does our mindset really matter when we’re in service to others? Or is it just the action that is important? I’m looking forward to this week’s service of worship, and I hope you are, too!
Looking ahead to the next few weeks, on Sunday the 14th, we’ll be examining the Transfiguration of the Lord in Mark’s Gospel, and then on February 21st, we’ll start our Lenten Sermon series called, “Restored: Finding Redemption in our mess.” While it is hard to believe, Lent begins in just a few short weeks on February 17th with Ash Wednesday. This year, Easter is on April 4th and my current hope is that we can return to in-person worship on that high and holy Sunday! Of course, we’ll continue to monitor hospital capacity, the positivity rate and several other factors in advance of that date. Further, we’ll maintain social distancing for a while when we return to church, but I’m hopeful that a return is soon in coming.
I can’t wait to see you this Sunday at the SERVE OTHERS place.
Yours in Christ,
A MESSAGE FROM JUSTIN TO THE COMMUNITY OF GRACE UMC:
It is hard to believe that over a year ago I temporarily left my position as Director of Music Ministries at Grace to pursue a six-month adventure to live and study in Germany. While that trip was cut short to due to COVID-19, I could not have been more grateful to be able to return home and help the church manage through a truly difficult time. The music that has been achieved since I returned in April of 2020 was only achieved through the hard work of the team of staff and volunteers here at Grace. Their perseverance and dedication throughout this process has truly been an inspiration to me, and while this is not an ideal situation for anyone, I am proud of the music and message we have brought to the community at Grace.
Today, I am writing to you a different kind of farewell. I have recently been offered and have accepted a position as Director of Music at First United Methodist in Missouri City, Texas and will be moving on my from my responsibilities at Grace on or before Easter Sunday.
While I am excited for this new opportunity, I am also struck with gratitude and pride from my time as your music director. Since my first Sunday almost six years ago to the day, both the church and music program have grown by leaps and bounds. Together as a church community were able to make incredible things happen including modifications to the choir loft, purchase a new piano, establish concert series, provide opportunities for handbells and children to make music in the sanctuary after decades of absence, create positions for scholarship singers to support the education of undergraduate music students, and most importantly create symbiotic relationship between the music made on Sundays and you, the congregation. Make no mistake, nothing would have been possible without your support and enthusiasm.
The times that we have been in for almost a year now are not ideal to say the least, but it I believe that it is vital as a church that the music goes on. I have informed Collin that am I will work hard until my last day in the position to leave Grace in a healthy place for my replacement, whoever that may be, and I am committed to being active in finding the right person for the job. I will be remaining your music director until such time as a replacement is ready to take over, and there will be more updates to come as things progress.
Lastly, I cannot tell you how deeply grateful I am for the opportunity to have been your music director. Collin, the leadership, and the congregation took a chance on me six years ago to help grow the community and while I am so proud of the work we have done under my tenure, I know that there is so much more growth to be had as this crisis begins to fade. The hardest part perhaps is to say goodbye in this format, but I hope that we can create a safe opportunity to say goodbye to you all properly.
It has truly been an honor and privilege to make music with you at Grace. I’m also grateful to have worked with amazing and dedicated staff like Collin, Amber, Kim, Mary, Leonore, Melanie, my partner in crime Corbin, and the many volunteers who have contributed their time and energy.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
FUTURE WITH HOPE -
A Message from Rebecca Edwards:
Hopefully, most of you know who I am, but in case you don’t, my family joined Grace with the remainder of the Shepherd Drive UMC congregation (of which we were 3rd and 4th generation members) when SDUMC was closed in 2009. I served at SDUMC as both Lay Leader and SPR Chair (as well as Music Director) during our final 10 or so years of ministry. Upon coming to Grace, I again held leadership roles as both Lay Leader and SPR Chair, helping lead the group who crafted Grace's "Wish List" petition to the Conference (ultimately leading to Collin's appointment) and for hiring Justin & Corbin.
I was also part of the original committee who discerned and orchestrated acquiring what is now the Grace Weekday School, and over the years have served Grace in various committees, church council, I taught Sunday school for many years, wrote/lead youth skits and plays, and of course I sang in the Choir. So you might say that although Shepherd Drive HAD (past tense) a truly awful merger story with Memorial Drive UMC, our Shepherd Drive congregation HAS (present tense) a WONDERFUL merger story with Grace. And our story of Grace is not done.
As hopefully most of you know by now, the Future With Hope (FWH) Committee* was established to gather information necessary for our Grace Family to discern how best to advance our Ministry into the future, whether that be continuing ministry as an independent congregation, or merging with a larger community (Chapelwood). In an effort to garner specific questions, hopes, and fears from our Grace family regarding our future prospects, we have hosted a number of “Forums” which were basically small group conversations. We had fair response to these Forums with approximately 30-35 participants from the congregation, plus the members of the FWH committee, with Collin having attended all. Each of the forums was recorded and notes compiled which the FWH committee is collating into a set of common core questions, concerns, and desires.
In our most recent FWH meeting we discussed our next step, which is to divide and conquer to now get some answers from Chapelwood, as well as Fair Haven, which we plan to present to the congregation in the coming weeks. As you may recall, Fair Haven UMC is the congregation who recently merged with Chapelwood (about 3 yrs ago), which provides us great context for inquiring about what is (or is not) working for them in this process.
We will also be looking at how Grace can further ministry while continuing to remain an independent congregation. We want to investigate all Grace's options and best scenarios and encourage your ideas, hopes, dreams and yes, your fears or concerns, in upcoming additional forum discussions.
We have also discussed the fact that the financial outlook for Grace is currently much better than was initially projected (GREAT JOB GRACE FAMILY!) We are still running a deficit budget, but we are seeing increases in planned giving which is encouraging (please send in your commitment cards!). I would, however, like to remind us that though finances may have been our driving force for urgency in the beginning of this process, it is not and should not be our primary focus. Our primary focus continues to be MINISTRY. How can Grace continue (and increase) ministry now and into the future? What are Grace’s options? Which options give us the greatest results to preserve our identity while allowing growth in ministry and outreach (which are two of our most talked about areas of concern during the Forums, aside from the immediate financial crisis).
I attended worship at Fair Haven UMC this past Sunday and was able to have direct conversations with various worship leaders, as well as at least one longtime Fairhaven member, and fully anticipate furthering those conversations over the coming weeks. While worshiping at Fairhaven, I was struck by how much the sermon was particularly on point with Grace’s current discernment – The Parable of the Sower. I would invite you to watch Fair Haven’s worship service on their Facebook page and reflect on how YOU can help Grace sow our seeds of faith. Whether we stay an independent church or merge, both scenarios can provide opportunities to be sowers – so let’s start SOWING TOGETHER NOW!!
Yours in Grace,
Rebecca Edwards on behalf of the FWH Committee
*The FWH committee consists of Pastor Collin, Mary Gossett (Director of Family Ministries), Amber Davis (Business Manager), Daniel Jackson (Finance Chair), Kyle Thiel (Trustees Chair), Peter Zustovich, Allan Tiller, Lesley Maxfield, Mary Ann Young and me.