Grace Turned 10 years old the first Sunday of Advent 2020
10 Years of Progressive, Emergent, Christian Community Grace is an unabashedly progressive community that accepts people as they are and nurtures their individual experience of God within community. We do this weekly at our sacred gatherings--a coffee house style worship that is rooted in the teachings of Jesus. Often there is a meal and there are always children. No pews, committees, or doctrines for that matter. Just a simple invitation to authentic engagement in the world, both within and without.
VALUES Progressive Faith We don’t practice a tired old dusty faith. We are vitally engaged in the world. Doctrines and confessions? Not us. Instead we offer room to question and explore. Specifically, as progressive Christians we are willing to create new traditions, celebrate diversity, seek justice, care for the poor, liberate the oppressed, protect the environment, and always, always gather as a community in new ways. Community Driven & Connected Community is the heart of grace-filled living. We are committed to being community to each other. In community God’s presence is most palpable to us. Community is also where the most positive change occurs both in our personal and collective lives. That is why we are actively engaged in other communities from worshipping with those experiencing homelessness, to insulating houses in Maine, to providing a thank you breakfast for hard working school staff in an underserved elementary school.
Emergent Grace displays many characteristics of "defined" emergent churches: it is experimental in worship, prioritizes dynamism over stability, and prefers stories to doctrine. At Grace we claim our emergent identity for one simple reason: we are emerging. Actively. Right now. We wrestle weekly with what it means to be a 21st century community that desires to follow Jesus. Tradition isn't on our radar screen. We never ask: What did we used to do? Instead, we are always looking toward the future. What can we do that’s new? How can we be a community better? An urgency propels us forward to find better ways of loving and new ways of being.
INITIATIVES Empowering Disciples We are first and foremost followers of Jesus. Following is uncertain, occasionally terrifying, but also filled with purpose and joy. Jesus’ first motley crew of disciples had no assurances as they followed him through the dusty Galilean countryside or wept at the foot of his cross. We too have few assurances, yet we are a faith community emerging from Jesus’ invitation to follow. We do this imperfectly at best, but with persistence. We offer the tools, support, and spiritual nourishment needed to follow Jesus in the 21st century. Children & Youth We believe children are to be seen AND heard. Children and youth are fully included in community life, both in worship and service. Their antics and energy delight us. We believe supporting their spiritual growth is one of our primary responsibilities as a faith community. Justice We do not shy away from the difficult justice issues facing us, locally and globally. We frequently engage in study and action around current issues such as BLM, LGTBQ+ rights, and hunger. Actively seeking justice is our job description as disciples. We get our hands dirty and our hearts warmed.
RESOURCES Authenticity Grace invites everyone to be exactly who they are: broken, joyful, struggling, achieving, depressed, doubting, grounded. There is nothing to hide at Grace. And there is no reason to hide. We bring our full selves to every community gathering. This authenticity is at the center of everything we do. Faith We rely on our collective faithfulness as a community. We don’t measure our success by numbers, but by faith, hope, and love. Weekly Sacred Gatherings We have sacred gatherings every Sunday (in non-Covid times), beginning with a shared meal and finishing with sacred conversation. During this time we nurture our relationships, deepen our faith, care for one another, delight in children, and are reminded of the critical work we are about as the disciples. Relationships Text chains, Marco Polo, Walks, Zoom calls. You name it, the people of Grace are connected. Our community is ever strengthened by both long term and new relationships that develop through our shared spiritual journey. Adaptability We pivot quickly. We’ve gathered in five different locations and continued as a community when there was less than $500 left in our bank account. We continue to adapt to the changed landscape of Christianiy in the midst of a pandemic and in a technological world. Virtual Presence From Facebook to Instagram to Zoom, we strive to not only share the “church” model we have developed, but also the possibility of progressive Christianity as a real and present choice.. Just in the past year we have had community members from as far away as Austria and Colorado and California join us on a regular basis. Pastoral Care On staff we have two ordained ministers, one of whom holds a PhD in theology, and a spiritual director. Abby, Jon Paul, and Kathy offer care to whomever it is needed to weather life’s storms. Diversity Grace’s community is diverse in look and life experience. Members include LGBTQ+ folks, inter-racial and interreligious couples, those who are non-Christian in origin and practice, retired, underemployed, and over employed individuals, those in recovery and those seeking healing, single and partnered, cat and dog obsessed, undocumented and green card holding immigrants as well as Mayflower descendants.
10 YEARS When I (Abby) was called to “start” a church over ten years ago, I never looked back. It was, and continues to be, the perfect call for me. During these past ten years there have been many moments in which I have wept, wondering what I had said yes to. Emergent church ministry is not steady work. It is utterly unpredictable. It is also filled with boundless joy. Through it all I prayed often, “If you called me to this, God (!!), we need you to see us through.”
God has seen us through. Grace is thriving.
Often people will ask me how many people are “members” at Grace. I don’t even know how to answer that question. Numbers cannot measure authenticity, engagement, passion, or spirit. I simply answer with stories. These stories are varied and powerful. They are about a junker car purchased that changes a life, about the hard work of rehab, about laughing so hard that you can barely breathe, about vulnerable words spoken and feelings confessed, about finding belonging, and about the mundane and transformative life of community.
Grace uses “spiritual journey” as its unifying metaphor for life together. I too, as the chief evangelist and pastor of Grace, have been on a spiritual journey these past ten years. I have discovered a God who always shows up and doesn’t seem concerned with rules. I have grown more committed to the teachings of Jesus and less concerned about Christian theology. I have felt the very palpable presence of the Spirit right in the middle of Sacred Gathering. This journey has led me to a more comfortable identity, not one that is boundaried as pastor, but a life-giving identity as a disciple who happens to preach. I couldn’t love my work more. I couldn’t be more proud of who we are as the people of Grace. And I couldn’t be more thrilled that we are still serving God and the world ten years later, and have no intention to ever stop.
Thank you for your prayers.
Thank you for your financial support.
Thank you for believing in our vision. Our cup runneth over,
Abby occasionally known as Rev. Abigail A. Henrich, but only when I need people to take me seriously