Grace Episcopal Church is currently conducting a search for a new rector. Below is a summary of information gathered through workshops and personal interviews with the parishioners in preparation for creating our church profile.
1. Describe a moment in your worshiping community’s recent ministry which you recognize of one of success and fulfillment.
The descriptions below reflect two separate parishioners’ thoughts about a single recent ministry which impacted them.
“A moment of success and fulfillment for our church was the blessing of a same-sex union. We had members of the congregation attend, showing support for the couple. Many members of the congregation knew the couple previously from their attendance at Sunday services, and we were proud to be a part of the blessing. This was a time that our church rose against prejudices and judgment and treated people with respect. We welcomed them with open arms.”
“Two members of our community were homeless and we offered them shelter. They were in need and we answered. They fell in love and we opened our hearts. They found a permanent home and married. We rose to stand with them. They asked if their union could be blessed in our sanctuary. We attended the blessing in great number. Our joy was clear. Our support was equally evident. That they are both women is, perhaps, unimportant. But this was a moment of success and fulfillment for our Church.”
2. Describe your liturgical style and practice for all types of worship services provided by your community.
Grace Episcopal Church follows the traditional (formal) Episcopal liturgy. While we follow the Book of Common Prayer, our congregants are relaxed, family-friendly, not wed to formality. We offer a contemplative, Rite II, service at 8:00 a.m. For members who regularly attend our early service, it embodies the traditional approach they seek. Quiet and peaceful, the service is usually without music or song. Some refer to our 11:00 a.m. service as a “broad church approach.” While singing is the norm, this later service is more likely to vary in style and has, at times, incorporated liturgical dance, alternative music, and other creative or contemporary offerings.
Beyond our regular services, we participate and sponsor ecumenical observances with other community churches. We have participated in youth group activities with the Presbyterian Church of Radford. We offer Vacation Bible School, schedule group studies, and share in Lenten worship with the Presbyterian Church of Radford, Christ Lutheran Church, and St. Jude's Catholic Church.
3. Please provide words describing the gifts and skills essential to the future leaders of your worshipping community.
Spiritual, involved; a patient teacher; provides honest communication; authentic; humble; kind; accepting; loving; loyal; willing to share opinions; fiery/passionate; compassionate; faithful
4. How do you practice incorporating others in ministry?
Grace Episcopal Church incorporates others in ministry in multiple and varied ways. We invite congregants to be involved in our services and ministries, and we try to provide opportunities for them to choose involvement that best suits them. Some of the ways we practice incorporating others in regular, on-going ministries include: weekly service roles (e.g. lay reading, acolyting); monthly visitation teams of congregants who provide pastoral care to the home-bound; monthly outreach missions with different parishioners in charge (e.g. Radford Clothing Bank, Project Linus, Boys Home); weekly meals and services for Canterbury House at Radford University; daily mission to provide temporary shelter to homeless women in our “Grace Rooms.” We also involve others in seasonal or short-term ministries, such as “To Our House” (a winter-shelter program for homeless men), mission trips to Belize, and special events or services
5. As a worshipping community, how do you care for your spiritual, emotional and physical well-being?
Our parish has a family atmosphere. We have different personalities, occupations, ages, backgrounds, and opinions. But, principally, we have a friendship that includes everyone--members and visitors alike. Breakfast after the 8 a.m. and coffee hour after the 11 a.m. service every Sunday give us time to visit, discuss upcoming events, or hold impromptu meetings. Beyond our Sunday gathering, we provide care for one another as a parish and as individuals: we visit home-bound members, send cards for special remembrances, take food to parishioners in need. We have work and “clean up” days, lunches, dinners, picnics, meetings of committees, and yard sales that keep us in touch throughout the year. There is a strong core of congregants who devote their time and energy to Grace Episcopal Church, taking care of both the building/grounds and their own needs to be active and involved.
6. How do you engage in pastoral care for those beyond your worshipping community?
Grace’s pastoral care is reflected in myriad ways. Grace members regularly introduce, share, and strive to meet needs identified in the greater community. For many causes, we volunteer our time and talents. For others, we offer financial support. The causes we have served in recent years include, but are not limited to: Grace Rooms; Canterbury House campus ministry; Boys’ Home of Virginia; Radford-Fairlawn Daily Bread Food Pantry; Jackson Feild Homes for Boys and Girls, the Women’s Resource Center; Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia; Radford Clothing Bank; Radford Elf Shelf; Project Linus; To Our House. We have organized and participated in summer mission trips to Belize. We donate altar flowers to local nursing and rehabilitation facilities. Our Lay Eucharistic Ministers are deployed to provide pastoral care to the homebound.
7. Describe your worshipping community’s involvement in either the wider Church or geographical region.
Grace Episcopal Church self-identifies as a “missional church.” Although we are primarily involved in our local community, we DO have an impact in the wider Church. Within our geographical region, members represent Grace Episcopal Church at the annual Diocesan meeting and have provided hands-on assistance at the Roanoke Rescue Mission. After Hurricane Katrina, on two separate trips, members traveled to New Orleans, LA and played a small part in the clean-up and rebuilding efforts. Members of Grace Episcopal Church have also completed four mission trips to Corozal, Belize over the past seven years. These trips have provided remarkable opportunities to work at St. Paul’s by the Sea Anglican Church and School – offering physical labor for renovations; providing religious education for children through art and activities.
8. Tell about a ministry that your worshipping community has initiated in the past five years. Who can be contacted about this?
During an evaluation of our building space, several rooms were identified as being un-utilized. The idea of using these rooms as “Grace Rooms” - to provide temporary shelter to single women in need while they locate and secure a permanent residence - was born. Residents (no more than four at a time) may stay up to three months while searching for permanent housing. Grace Rooms provide the residents with other, very basic, services such as: a starter kit of toiletries and detergent; transportation to local food and clothing banks; sponsorship for membership at the Radford Recreation Center; and an advocate from the church to serve as a liaison within the church and community. The average stay spans four to six weeks. Residents are required to work with a community liaison (non-Grace Church liaison) to address other needs they may have and seek resources we are unable to meet. Since inception in 2015, Grace Rooms have housed more than fifty individuals. The contact person for this mission is Mrs. Lee Slusher, Grace Rooms Committee Chair.
9. How are you preparing yourselves for the Church of the future?
Unequivocally, to our core, we strive to demonstrate a welcoming, inclusive, flexible, caring, non-judgmental, open Church. We recognize the challenge in demonstrating love for all – those that are similar and those that may be different. At Grace, everyone is welcome. Everyone is accepted and respected as an equal. We strive to improve by learning from and living in communion with others. We seek not to evangelize, but instead to be living members of our faith through our service to, and demonstrated love for, all people. Whatever the Church of the future might embody, we believe that if we love others and are open to change, we will be prepared. To assist in this preparation, we value and place importance upon the personhood of the rector. We seek a rector to inspire our own sense of purpose through her/his own thoughts, words, and deeds.
10. What is your practice of stewardship and how does it shape the life of your worshiping community?
As a small church, Grace has a strong tradition of congregational involvement. We understand, perhaps more than most, the importance of everyone sharing their time and talents. For example, our stewardship of converting the unused building space into temporary residences for women in our community who are in need of shelter involved many of our congregants in diverse ways. Through this way of managing Grace’s resources we have been able to make a direct difference in the life of our civic community and the life of our worshipping community. We strive to be a caring, concerned, generous, and giving community; whose purpose is to help those who are broken and in need, as we ourselves are.
Our congregation’s practice of financial stewardship is admittedly not as focused nor as much of a priority as often found in other churches. The traditional definition of financial stewardship has not shaped the life of our parish. We have always believed our funding will be sufficient for a reasonable budget, and it has always come to fruition. The vestry appoints someone to announce our stewardship campaign at both Sunday services over two or three weeks, starting in late October. An email is delivered to all church members, and often a testimonial concerning stewardship is shared by a congregation member. Pledges are made and kept. Fortunately we have not had to suffer from financial adversity.
11. What is your worshipping community’s experience of conflict? And how have you addressed it?
An example of our experience with conflict occurred this October. The diocese was considering the sale of the building utilized for our Canterbury House ministry, a building and ministry we have maintained for many years; a place to serve Radford University students. We, as is our way, wished to address our concerns – to be heard; to be part of a greater dialogue. So we authored letters, attended meetings, offered our voices, and united in our shared vision.
Most recently, our search for a new rector has been interrupted for several months due to circumstances beyond our control. Frustration within the congregation has been, at times, intense. Yet we have striven to work faithfully with the diocese to communicate our thoughts and intent without being combative. When the diocese expressed concerns that Grace was not prepared to focus properly on the search for a new rector, we accepted the concerns in their proper spirit and have taken proactive steps to ensure that we are ready. These steps have included congregation-wide discussions and requesting the help of outside clergy experienced in conflict resolution. These actions taken have led us to a better understanding of who we are as a church: to take greater responsibility as individuals for the health of our church, to be patient that God, not we, will provide the proper timing for our search and that we can be patient without being passive.
12. What is your experience leading/addressing change in the church? When has gone well? When has it gone poorly? And what did you learn?
The parish at Grace has recently had to address change in the form of our recent Rector’s retirement. It was, initially, hard to accept because he was such an integral part of our lives and our community. However, from this we have come together as a congregation and learned more about who we are and what we value in our spiritual life. By extension, we now know what we desire in our future rector. We value authenticity and integrity. We wish to be accepted for our faults and challenged to accept others. We wish to have our core beliefs of inclusiveness and open-heartedness reflected through the personhood of our new rector. Although we recognize the void from the absence of our retired rector, we are solid in our belief that we will love our future leader just as wholeheartedly.