Worship and Communion
At Grace, as in the broader Episcopal Church, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is at the heart of our communal spiritual life and worship. Responses to our parish survey show that 48% of the people choose worship/communion as the most important aspect of their involvement at Grace, while 84% choose it as one of their top five. The defining characteristic of worship at Grace is the weekly invitation to the table to all who desire to come. This means we offer open communion where all are welcome to join around the table. This level of inclusion and welcome has made an impression on many newcomers and warms the hearts of the regular parishioners.
At both services during communion, worshippers have the opportunity to go to St. Luke’s chapel for anointing, laying on of hands and prayers for healing for themselves or others. The Order of St. Luke believes that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, and that healing in His name is still available for us to receive and to share with the people God puts in our path. Prayers from the BCP are used by members of the Order of St. Luke, and prayer requests are confidential.
Our worship community involves many hands. A service includes our greeters and ushers, altar guild, our adult choir, two lectors and an intercessor, three or four acolytes, two lay Eucharistic ministers, and one or two members of the Order of St. Luke. Each week we also commission a Eucharistic visitor for our homebound parishioners. The first Sunday of the month is considered family Sunday, where the youth serve as lectors and there is often a children’s sermon given. Other Sundays the younger children join the 10:45 service during the passing of the peace. Their worship time consists of their own service gathered around a small altar, and the scripture lessons often parallel the lectionary. There are many different elements utilized for them: music, picture books, discussion, story-telling, and even crafts.
Music is a significant part of the worship at the 10:45 service. There is a full choir, soloists, an organ on which beautiful music is made (even though some repairs are needed), and harpsichord music and guest musicians at special times throughout the year. The handbell choir joins in on a regular basis, most often playing from the balcony but sometimes playing in the chancel area.
Each Wednesday at 11:30, a brief service of Holy Communion is offered that includes prayers for healing and sacramental anointing with oil. Throughout the year, other services are offered on high holy days and feast days. Among the best attended are the Christmas Eve liturgies at 5:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. The 11:00 p.m. service is preceded by a 30 minute choral prelude. Holy Week is a very busy time at Grace, beginning with a Palm Sunday processional. Maundy Thursday is a solemn service with foot washing. Stations of the Cross are offered on Good Friday, with outdoor stations marked on the grounds in good weather or indoors using art work by Grace parishioners if the weather is less obliging. On Saturday Night, an Easter Vigil service is held followed by an all night prayer vigil. Easter morning is the culmination of our journey with Christ that week.
Grace would not be Grace if we didn’t spend some time worshipping outside in keeping with our GreenFaith tradition. Services include our annual St. Francis pet blessing, Rogation Sunday, and a special pollinator liturgy that has been offered for the past two years.
For more information about our worship services, click here.
"I grew up in the church but after college my experience in the church became somewhat complicated due to questions about Christianity that I needed to explore. I left the denomination I had grown up in and decided to visit Episcopal churches in the area. Grace wasn't the first I visited, but it was the last. On my first Sunday at Grace I immediately felt safe when I sat down and settled into the pew. It was like I had been holding my breath and I could finally exhale. I kept coming back to Grace, and even though I was new and an outsider the congregation quickly welcomed me into their community. At Grace I feel like I can pursue the true meaning of the Gospel with a community of people who will love and support me no matter what."
"I have been a lay reader for almost a year. I want to do it perfectly but often do not. I have found Grace to be a place where I am accepted even when I make mistakes."
"Serving at the altar is such a privilege."
"It has being good to be a part of a progressive Christian congregation that I believe is seeking to work for Jesus in the 21st century, especially in the current political climate. The church has also helped me to appreciate the Episcopal tradition of liturgy and prayer."
"We feel accepted in the church when we are able to serve as acolytes and lectors."
"Two things about the service have special meaning for me. One happens when the priest holds up the Eucharistic elements and says, “The gifts of God for the people of God.” The other is when we gather around the altar. This essentially puts us in a circle. This feeds my soul. "
"Within the Christian framework, Grace is as open and accepting as I can imagine. Grace more than elevates diversity, Grace honors it. It is a very nonjudgmental place. To me open communion is a symbol of caring. And I feel free to explore what I have come to believe." (Skeeter Makepeace)
"Having grown up in the Catholic church, open communion is very important to me. What keeps me at Grace are the people. They are very theologically advanced."
"There is a balance at Grace Episcopal Church between the services: music,socials, sermon, peace offering, Prayers of the People,and the Blessing at dismissal."
(Evelyn and Donald Seagle)
"It (Grace) just felt right...the right amount of dignity and beautiful music."
Like many people growing up in the South, church was a significant part of our early life. I was sexually abused in the church as a child; but having a father who was a minister, I went to church every Sunday. I wanted to get as far away from church as possible. As we reached adulthood, the conservative denomination we grew up in became less and less relevant to us. Unresolved spiritual abuse, doubts, and church baggage from childhood led us to hop around to several different churches and denominations before ultimately just reaching a point where it was better for us to avoid church all together, rather than go and deal with the hypocrisy, judgment, and fear. Having two young children, I feared for their safety from child predators constantly. Laura tried taking the kids on her own, but struggled to make it consistently and was all the more frustrated when she found out she’d found yet another church that is welcoming so long as you and yours love genders as they see fit.
Grace came into our life at just the right time. Laura and the boys were attending a music class ran by one of Grace’s members, Sharla. She would come home from music class and tell me all kinds of great things about Grace; it was a wildlife sanctuary, they had a community market where they gave double SNAP dollars, and best of all she went there and seemed pretty cool. Our oldest boy Thomas told me one night he wanted to hold my hand in heaven and it really got me thinking that we needed to get them into church. So, on Palm Sunday, we went to Grace for the first time as a family.
Having grown up in evangelical churches where the goal was to make God seem like the kind of guy who would come over to your house, wearing blue jeans and cheer for the football team on Saturdays; the design of the building brought on an immediate sense of wonder. God didn’t seem like some small guy that wasn’t there for me when I needed him as a child. God seemed present, big, powerful and beautiful. The tall ceilings, stained glass, and strange liturgy connected me to a stream of Christianity that I had always been taught was something to be avoided. I remember seeing a sign that said “Jesus came to take you from your sins, not your mind.”
But it wasn’t just the building that drew us to Grace, because childlike wonder can pass. It was the people. They are kind and accepting. We felt welcomed, but not just because we were a family with young children. We found a church full of people that were open and honest about their struggles and willing to listen to ours. It was ok to come to church here and have doubts about God. It was the first time I had ever felt safe at church to be myself.
We really enjoy the Open Table at Grace. I had not taken Communion in years. I did not feel close to God. I could not check off all the boxes. I did not feel welcome or worthy at Communion at other churches. On our first visit to Grace, I took Communion again and it made a profound impact. I felt like God loved me for the first time since I was a very young child. My countenance changed. My wife struggled to hide her hope, joy, and elation. The spiritual component of my healing was beginning. My son took Communion for the first time as well. Everyone kneeled down and looked him right in the eye and spoke gently and kindly. You could tell how special it made him feel. He could hardly wait to go back to communion and talked about it with anticipation all week long.
A few months after we had attended Grace we saw a message in the bulletin about Grace Speaks where Carol Howard Merritt was coming to speak on the topic of spiritual abuse. Here was a church that was not only willing to listen to the tough issues but tackle them directly. This is exactly what I needed. We attended the lecture and got to talk directly to her and found it very encouraging. The message that she had was just what I needed to hear. I hate that we have missed some of the past speakers and have been impressed by their caliber. I look forward to what Grace Speaks brings next.
We want to raise our children in this church because we believe that it is the best exposure to Christianity they are going to get. We are taking the plunge and having them baptized on Sunday, because we want them to grow up in a loving church. We are beginning the process of becoming members ourselves when the next class starts up.
Connection to the Neighborhood
Grace Church is part of the Brainerd neighborhood, located east of downtown Chattanooga at the foot of Missionary Ridge. The church is connected to this neighborhood in a variety of ways, including:
Brainerd Farmers Market is arguably our best and most enduring link to the neighborhood and community. The market, which goes into its seventh season this spring, was started by a parishioner and currently runs every Saturday morning all year round. The market is open from 10:00 a.m. to noon during the peak growing season and often brings in over twenty vendors who provide fresh vegetables and fruits, grass-fed meats, baked goods and prepared foods along with a variety of arts and crafts. The children from one community family opened a lemonade stand at the market and are looking forward to returning for this season. On the market’s best days, people come early and can often be found talking to the vendors and each other when the market closes at noon. While the market hires a market manager each year, members of the church maintain an information table which provides patrons a chance to purchase tokens for use at the market using debit, credit, and food-stamp cards. Four years ago we began offering Double SNAP -- that is $2 for each $1 of food stamps used at the market on the first Saturday of the month. Through a generous gift from a parishioner, this was expanded two years ago to every Saturday during the peak growing season and the first Saturday of the month through the winter months. This has been sustained by continued support from the parish as well as several grants obtained by our market director.
Each summer Grace holds a week-long Arts Camp for pre-school through elementary school children, cultivating creativity in the young while some of the older youth serve as guides for the program. Participants include about 60 children from the parish, our neighborhood and the inner city. The Arts Camp focuses on dance, music, art and drama; instructors come from Grace as well as the greater Chattanooga community.
Grace’s involvement with the larger Chattanooga community includes:
Connecting to the neighborhood at Christmas is a special time at Grace.
"Grace currently has six twelve - step groups meeting in our church. This must be some kind of record, certainly for Chattanooga, that we can be proud of."
Our involvement with MetMin and Double Snap warms my heart. Thank you to those who give to others in the name of Grace Church. So many don't have the means or time to do all opportunities, but when the communication is made, parish members step up! So thankful for opportunities I can give and support. Even if it is in a s small way."
"When we came to Grace, the grounds and GreenFaith were a large draw for me in particular. In 2015, I was asked to help with the March Monarch Madness where I first heard of a butterfly/pollinator liturgy. It was a beautiful and moving experience for me to hear a version of the liturgy that is usually reserved for us, human beings, attributed to the least respected of God's creation. Being connected to and seeing the earth with all of it's inhabitants as valuable and deserving of our care is one of the most important aspects of the worship community I am affiliated with."
"The garden projects created a very close and dedicated community and reached out to our Brainerd community and drew many of them into the creative endeavor. I think of Grace Gardens as both an inreach and an outreach program. Whenever Grace is mentioned people always say, "Oh yes, the church with beautiful gardens," or "the church with all the daffodils." It also seems a well-suited partner to our Brainerd Market. And I must mention the Pavilion. What a wonderful space for so much different activities."
"I have enjoyed working with The Arts Camp. I like getting to know the children and their parents, too. Even 6 months after the camp is over, I talk with the kids from the camp and I like knowing them."
I moved to Chattanooga from Savannah GA with my husband then. We visited Grace because childhood friends attended. We divorced and I more or less got GRACE in the split. This was the early 90s. I tried to continue to be involved. Taught Jr. High School. I was mid late 20s at the time with no kids so I was terribly out of my zone. I thought I was hip. Nope, I have such a laugh now realizing those youth taught me - I was NOT hip. I grew up in a wonderful active LARGE youth group and could relate to how impactful youth groups might be. It was memorable for this old gal.
My current hubby and I married in 1993 at Grace. He wasn't "getting" the ceremony and ritual in the Episcopal Church so I, being the Christian wife everyone strives to be, compromised and attended a nearby Methodist Church. After sometime, our attendance there began to wane. I realized I missed the Episcopal Church. So after a family meeting of TWO and declaring myself the religious head of this family of two, we would be returning to the Episcopal Church. Thank goodness I still had friends Jamie and Cathy Stone at Grace Church. They were so helpful for me to get acquainted and involved. I recognized many faces and met so many new ones.
So, I'm not sure why I feel so at home with Grace. I just feel comfortable sitting alone and focusing on my time in the pew. Previously, time in the Methodist Church was nothing but social. At Grace, I treasure the friendships and community I have with others. I have nothing in common with some, other than Grace Church and the love of Christ. EFM has taught me to truly be open minded to others experiences and interpretation of religion and the Bible.
Funny story of a friend in line at a store sharing life as they waited. Church was mentioned. When she shared she attended Grace Episcopal Church, the other shopper said "OH! you go to the church where the misfits attend". Isn't that wonderful! I loved that! Grace welcomes ALL. No matter what your "Odd" characteristic or label may be. My heart would just be broken to know anyone would not feel welcome.
Inclusive and Welcoming
In our Mission Statement, we say that Grace is “...open and respecting all who would come.” Through the red doors you’ll find our greeters, ushers, nametags and friendly people who want all to feel a part of the Grace community. From the daffodils on the front lawn in spring, to the red maple on the grounds in the fall, to the Farmer’s Market, to the community meeting spaces, we welcome all into our grounds and lives. We proclaim and try to live by the belief that “we strive to cultivate an open, inclusive, and affirming environment for all who would come - embracing people of every race, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, ability level, education level, and religious background.”
Grace practices inclusivity and welcoming through a richly, purposeful and nurtured hospitality that is practiced throughout the community. This ranges from extending the peace and Holy Communion together during worship to opportunities for learning, outreach and recreation together outside of worship.
For more information about our inclusive and welcoming community, click here.
" We were amazed at the hospitality and friendliness of the folks at Grace. Grace is a loving church family to be a part of and the music program is great also."
"I came to Grace Christmas Eve services for years before becoming a member of the church. At the reception following the service...a group of choir members urged me to sing alto with choir on its trip to England the next summer. I did, and found a church home, friends, great music and new spiritual experience."
"The first time I heard 'all are welcome...' to communion, I knew "all" included me."
"Not long after Jerry and I started dating, we joined the Grace Supper Clubs. One thing that struck me immediately was how welcome we felt as a couple. Many others in the group consisted of long-time married/straight couples but we were made to feel just as much as a couple as anybody else in the group. We weren’t labeled as the “gay” couple. Just a couple!"
"I am proud of the way Grace has embraced our pluralistic society. Because we have made the effort to bring all of God’s people into our embrace, we are challenged to move forward and keep up the endeavor to be inclusive of all who want to come to Grace. We need and desire to protect the traditions and love that make Grace unique at the same time using our best efforts to bring in those who might find a good place to worship and be a part of our community."
"Grace’s emphasis on fairness, equality, mercy, justice, peace, the arts, and the natural world has strengthened my faith in God. I desperately need this as my faith often wanes in light of the bitterness and diatribe against “the other” that seems to come as much from the Christian community as any unchurched folks. This church has been one that never condemns, always nurtures, always encourages, and always welcomes. That’s the Grace that I love and the one I want to see grow."
"I came to Grace early in 1982, a refugee from judgmental churches and skeptical that I could cope with organized religion at all. " After a jovial conversation with a vestry member, I realized "I was among people who took God seriously enough to make room for the misfits, even the ones who could never, ever be confirmed."
Many people believe that it was the music program that brought me to Grace, but it really wasn’t. Before I had began attending Grace, I sang with the Bach Choir and Jim Greasby invited me many times to come sing in the choir. But at the time I wasn’t interested in that big of a change in churches. I was familiar with the Episcopal hymnal and Prayer Book from my studies at the Baptist Seminary but just didn’t want to give up all the hymns that I grew up with.
I’ve spent my entire life in church, but never really felt I was a part. Even after attending a Baptist college and Baptist seminary, working for several different church in both part time and full time positions, there was something missing. Of course, I blamed myself that I didn’t have the “feeling” that a Christian should have. I blamed myself for the sin of being gay and not being able to pray hard enough to overcome it. After finally officially coming out (although not by my choice) I left the Baptist church but didn’t leave my desire to be part of a faith community. After about a year of searching I ended up in a Presbyterian church. There were wonderful people there and like all of the other churches I attended, I became fully involved to the point of being ordained as an Elder.
Still, after that, I felt like I was on the outside looking in. My ordination as an Elder pretty much came with an unspoken expectation of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and I spent many years looking over my shoulder wondering if someone would “out” me. Part of my responsibility at the Presbyterian church was chairing the Worship Committee. After a particularly busy Advent season, I needed a break. But for me, a break didn’t mean staying at home on Sunday, it meant going to a different church. During that same December, I had performed in a play at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre and met a man named Dick Ramsey. Dick was a member of Grace and invited me to visit one Sunday. It was that invitation that stuck with me and the first Sunday after the new year I was at Grace.
I had been to an Episcopal Church once or twice before and had a little knowledge of the liturgy from my seminary studies. But nothing in my past could have prepared me for that Epiphany Sunday. On the other hand, EVERYTHING in my past prepared for that Sunday. It was Baptism of Christ Sunday and as a former Baptist, the thought of infant baptism scared me. But I managed to make through the pew aerobics and then it came to the point of the service where the entire congregation knelt during the Eucharistic Prayer. I was sitting close to the back, looked up at all of the people their knees when a feeling of calm and peace washed over me. It was at that moment that for the first time in my life that church made sense, that I understood why I was there, that I no longer felt like an outsider. I had an epiphany.
However, as had been my pattern in the past, I didn’t jump in and get involved. I didn’t immediately join the choir even though they were preparing to go to England on tour. What I did do was come back every Sunday and experience the magic of the liturgy over and over and over. I came to hear sermons preached that inspired me and presented interpretations of scripture I had never heard before….I experienced MANY ah-ha moments. One of my favorite times was Fr. George’s offering plate sermons where people would drop their questions in an offering plate, he would choose 2 or 3 and began to talk about them. He never shied away from any question from “Where is God?” to “Why do you wear Birkenstocks?” He could always answer in a way that made a connection to the congregation and leave you with “you’re right and I want to know more.” As most preachers that I had experienced in the past, he didn’t pretend to have all the answers, but simply encouraged us to think and to reason for ourselves. How refreshing.
To say the epiphany I experienced changed my life is a grand understatement. I have experienced many wonderful events at Grace, but the one dearest to my heart is meeting my husband, Adam, there. I thank God regularly that we both share a deep a love and devotion to Grace and the people that make up the church.
Grace is a very active, lively church which provides many opportunities for our laity to be involved. Currently, there are more than 80 youth and adults who constitute the Liturgical Ministry of the Laity, which includes our ushers, acolytes, intercessors, chalice bearers and lectors. It has been observed that our Oblation presenters illustrate and celebrate the diversity of our lay involvement. We have spouses who serve together, male and female couples from our LGBT members, a father who alternates serving with his adolescent daughter and his pre-teen son, and a mother who serves with her adult son.
Our Lectors read the first and second lessons during Sunday church services and may also be called upon to lead the Psalms. As a lector and acolyte, Laura Bertrand shares that “being allowed an opportunity to sometimes get something wrong while performing these duties and never being reprimanded for doing so makes me feel like I am standing before Divine Grace every time I stand before the congregation. Grace is a home where your successes are celebrated and your mistakes are not held against you.”
A unique characteristic of Grace is the fact we have more licensed laity than any other church in our diocese.
The Altar Guild at Grace prepares the church for all the liturgies of the Church year. Four groups rotate weekly, with all groups scheduled for Holy Week/Easter and the Christmas season. Membership is open to all -- women, men and youth -- and is a vital ministry which enriches the individual by helping them learn about the service. The head of the altar guild states that although the ministry is demanding, she fulfills her responsibilities “out of the love and joy of serving God’s Church.”
Our Lay Eucharistic Ministers are licensed by the Diocese of East Tennessee and are trained by our deacon or priest. Eucharistic Ministers may also be trained to lead morning or evening prayer services. One of our Eucharistic Ministers said, “serving at the altar is such a privilege. When I concentrate on the elements and what they represent, it can be overwhelming. I feel the spirit of the Lord. “
The Parish Life Ministry Team is led by lay volunteers and offers the hospitality of food, receptions, and community to any who want to help. This ministry provides breakfast between Sunday church services each week, coordinates receptions for special events, as well as Rally Day picnic, and a Pentecost birthday party to celebrate the birthday of the church. The group is seeking new people who want to meet other parishioners and learn to serve meals for a large group of people. Rebecca Williams describes this ministry as “the Martha” of our church life.” The people who serve us with their lovely receptions and meals are literally following Jesus’ last commandment, ’feed my sheep’.”
The Parish Choir is composed of church members who rehearse weekly and sing for the 10:45 a.m. Sunday liturgy. The choir is often accompanied by violin, harp, trumpet, etc., played by musicians from the community, some paid, some members of the congregation. In addition, the choir sings for special liturgies throughout the church year, such as Advent Lessons and Carols, Evensong, Christmas Eve, and Holy Week. From late August through May, the Parish Choir rehearses on Wednesday evenings. “Grace is a loving church family to be a part of and the music program is great also. I love singing in the church choir each Sunday.” -Ty Sills
The Bells of Grace is composed of parishioners who rehearse weekly and play regularly for the 10:45 a.m. Sunday liturgy. The choir occasionally plays for additional services such as Advent Lessons and Carols, Christmas Eve and Holy Week. The handbell choir also participates in a community-wide handbell festival held each spring.
The Welcoming Committee coordinates volunteers to greet people as they enter the Narthex before Sunday church services. Greeters help members find their nametags, encourage visitors to sign our guest book and provide snacks and beverages after the 10:45 service so that people can mingle, talk and get to know each other better. Many newcomers find that being a Greeter helps them meet other parishioners. Also, two to three times per year, a newcomer’s party is held at the home of one of the parishioners so those new to Grace can get to know others on a more casual basis.
The International Order of St Luke the Physician is an ecumenical organization dedicated to the Christian healing ministry. We are clergy, health professionals and lay people who believe healing is an essential part of the teaching and practice of our Lord. OSL is an interdenominational Christian order of faith, prayer, and service with members throughout the world. OSL was first introduced to Grace Church around 2003 and several members of Grace Church continue this ministry by offering prayers after Holy Eucharist in St Luke’s Chapel.
Centering Prayer is based on the Christian contemplative heritage described by the Christian mystics and on the wisdom sayings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Centering Prayer has had a presence at Grace since the 1980s. The discipline of stopping twice a day to slip into silence and open oneself to the presence of God helps produce a continuous opening to what life puts in one’s path. Sharing the contemplative journey with others is an important part of Centering Prayer. A participant remarks, ”it has been for me a joyful, spiritual experience.”
The Grace Gardeners have long been a part of Grace, but in recent years their efforts have expanded. Under the leadership of church volunteers, Grace has added to the gardens around the building which include a butterfly/pollinator garden, raised beds for growing vegetables and flowers, and a free-pick garden for the community. Grace is a certified wildlife habitat and is taking steps to become a level one arboretum. In a time where many churches are surrounded by asphalt, Grace takes great pride in the connection to nature we have.
Our Farmers Market is another example of our lay-initiated ministries. Begun as an outreach to the community, it provides locally and sustainably grown organic food.
The work of the parish is driven by the Vestry -- the elected lay leaders are responsible for planning, budgeting, goal setting, property decisions and all church matters not ecclesiastical. Our Vestry has 12 members who serve staggered three-year terms. Most Vestry members serve on one or more ministry teams. They give much of their time and talent to the church.
Audio/Live stream Team A small talented group of people manage the audio/video equipment to record Sunday 10:45 services and live stream them on the internet.
"The gardens and grounds have anchored me most securely to this parish. When I am frustrated with the expected human friction in any organization or troubled by corporate and local failures, I return to what remains, at least in our lifetime, the blessed and holy communion: with creation itself. Our gardens are to me our greatest testimony to the nature of God, of the Holy, of what is treasured and worth saving.”
"(Being a greeter) is a great chance to give and get free hugs."
“I enjoy being a greeter. I get to meet more people than I would have otherwise. I feel more comfortable and involved in the church. I have hosted Newcomers parties at my house. I like getting to know the newcomers but also Vestry people that I don't usually get to know very well.
“I am impressed with how many people pitch in to make Grace what it is...all the way from the gardeners, cooks, altar help, painting and repairs...and the opportunity to service to the community.”
"I was not a 'church person.' Then I met the people of Grace and they began to melt my resistance. My involvement began to expand little by little, then leaps and bounds. I came to sing and I stayed to serve."
“I am impressed with how many people pitch in to make Grace what it is...all the way from the gardeners, cooks, altar help, painting and repairs....and the opportunity to be of service to the community.”
"At Grace, I treasure the friendships and community I have with others. I have nothing in common with some, other than Grace Church and the love of Christ."
"This is the friendliest church I have ever attended. I came because I moved into the neighborhood. I joined the choir because I came to another meeting that was cancelled and I heard the choir practicing."
"Singing in choirs since childhood, I realized one day that I wanted more from my worship experiences. I remembered Grace and made a visit. While there I spoke with the choir master at that time and knew I would be welcome, indeed encouraged, to come and sing at Grace. I did. "
"Feeling the power as people reach out and barely touch you or not even touch you. Feeling the power of the Holy Spirit flow through you, through them, from you. Feeling that Holy Spirit move. That is Grace. That is power. "
"After the death of my husband, I felt it was important to provide my young daughter with an experience of church and Christianity. The first church I visited was Grace. I immediately felt I was home. I loved the quiet reverence before each service and the liturgy. I also love the opportunity to study and come to my own conclusions with help about my beliefs. I love the openness and warmth at Grace to all people of any lifestyle and what I feel is a mostly progressive and liberal viewpoint, although I feel all are loved and welcome, no matter their persuasion. I am impressed with how many people pitch in to make Grace what it is...all the way from the gardeners, cooks, altar help, painting and repairs....and the opportunity to be of service to the community."
When I first attended Grace Church in June of 2005, I did so with the intention of going church shopping and once settled on a church, to warm a pew for at least six month. None of that ever happened.
The first group I joined was Parish Life. At that time, we cooked suppers every Wednesday night. I immediately felt a part of the group. We worked well together and had fun. Serving dinner and eating with the parishioners, helped me to know them a lot quicker than I would have otherwise. Many attending at that time were seniors who had been attending a long time, so I learned a good bit of the church's history as well.
The next group I joined was the Welcoming Committee. Unfortunately, many on the eight o'clock crew are no longer with us but really a delight to work with.
I soon became a chalice bearer and reader on the lectionary team. These are two things I have done in every church I have belonged to since the mid seventies. I enjoy reading the Word and serving at the altar is such a privilege. When one really concentrates on the elements and what they represent, it can be very overwhelming. I do feel the spirit of the lord. The same also happens when I am a Eucharist Visitor, particularly when it is someone who has been a shut in for some time.
I volunteered to go on the first mission trip to New Orleans and this was the beginning of my working with the youth. We really have a great group of kids and they continue to give me hope for the future. It is exciting to see them moving into their spiritual lives. Watching them at the altar the first time they acolyte and taking in all that is going on can be overpowering.
I have served on the vestry and continue to serve on finance committee and adult education which are important functions of the church, but are not as paramount in my life. The Outreach Committee is a committee I truly enjoy working on as we try to expand our church into the neighborhood. There is so much that needs to be done. The church is changing it's vision and it is exciting to be part of it right now.
At Grace, we believe that Christian formation at all ages involves learning, experiencing, embracing and retelling the Christian story in a contemporary way bringing new meaning to ancient truths. From the simplest lessons in the nursery to the most academically rigorous lectures, Grace strives to provide opportunities for learning and growth that challenge its members to ask difficult questions and to wrestle with these questions in a safe environment. We at Grace never claim to answer the questions, but our hope is to generate more questions for discussion and develop a shared identity as seekers and fellow travelers.
"At Grace the book reviews, Centering Prayer, Bridgewalkers, EfM, Family Promise, are such an added "beauty" not to mention helping to meet more people."
The children of a church are its most important responsibility. Regardless of economic background, children are our most vulnerable and most promising members. There has been an emphasis on hospitality to children and families. Little ones, even the squirming, fussy kind, are welcome in the services. First Sundays or the month have often been dedicated to the youngest among us with a children’s sermon, and we reserve that day for youth or child lectors. Called Family Sunday, we have used it as an opportunity to bring up specific children’s issues, and to recruit items for charity (diapers for Mother’s Day, etc.) We have spent a lot of time nurturing young families in other ways, and it’s clear that it has paid off in terms of growth and attendance. This is a blessing to the church; there is nothing more wonderful than babies in the nursery! Click here for more information.
The Youth includes youth in grades 6-12 and meetings often include lunch, usually after the 10:45 service on Sundays. They also participate in monthly meetings with other youth groups in the Chattanooga area (ChattEY-Chattanooga Episcopal Youth). In recent years the youth have gone on mission trips for a week during the summer trips to post-Katrina New Orleans and Appalachia in upper East Tennessee. Other activities include “laundry love” sharing quarters and themselves at a local laundromat, cooking for the Mardi Gras pancake supper as a fund-raiser for their outreach work, creating a haunted house for “Spirits in the Garden”, etc. Click here for more information.
Weeks Adult Forum
Originally known at the “Sunday Lectionary Class”, this class was led by our long-time deacon, Brad Weeks and has now been renamed in his honor. The participants focus on the scripture readings for a particular Sunday, digging into the historical settings, engaging in spirited conversation and finding new ways to apply scripture to our personal lives.
Young Adult Class
This is a recent addition to our Sunday morning offering, born out of a need to provide a class for young adults, especially those with children. This class is geared toward those in their 20s-40s and began by studying the book Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evan.
Episcopal Church 101
Offered once a year in preparation for confirmation, Episcopal Church 101 (formerly known as The Inquirers’ Class) is open to those seeking to become a member of Grace, and to current members wanting a “refresher” course.
"Here is a church that is not only willing to listen to the tough issues but tackle them directly."
"There is the challenge to delve more into my faith, the exposure to different viewpoints which dare me to question my own, the unquestioning acceptance into a loving community and the embrace of God's creation in our natural world."
"...attending (the) lectionary class was such a beneficial experience. We even came when there was no class; how many Sunday School classes do that? We just gathered and talked even when no class was scheduled. "
"Education is essential to equip us to live into our Baptismal Covenant and the ministries to which we are called. Education should be ongoing, and should touch on matters of theology, church history, scripture, contemporary issues, stewardship, etc."
(Parish Survey comment)
Comments below are from our youth group:
“The people are Grace Church, not the building but the people.”
“Working together, helping people.”
“Humor, happiness speaking the word of God without feeling ashamed”
"We can develop our own perception of God”
“If I didn’t go to Grace Church, I would not be a Christian.”
"Things I like about Grace church, I like that when I messed up on my reading in front of the whole church, no one was mad and everyone still is kind to me. In other words, we are very forgiving. The first couple times I served in church Brad told me what to do, but when he talked he talked really loud. It felt like everybody in the whole room could hear it. These are some of the things I like about our church."
Centering Prayer is a practice based on the Christian contemplative heritage described by the Christian mystics and on the wisdom sayings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Since the 1908, Centering Prayer has had a presence here at Grace.
Education for Ministry
The theme in Education for Ministry this year is “Living into the journey with God” and the theme changes each year in the 4-year cycle. Along with reading the assigned texts, a number of essays and interim books help the participants recognize their theological blind spots, ‘“the boulders, potholes and fog in the path” as noted in the Reading and Reflection Guide. Each week includes a theological reflection - a conversation that can address a variety of topics. The point of the reflection is to bring together belief and action. The participants have been made aware of a variety of theologians who have who have helped them understand such concepts as The Atonement and The Trinity. The EFM community is a safe place to share faith, ask question and discover tools and strategies that can enhance spiritual growth.
Born out of a desire to more indepth study and exposure to new and challenging ideas, Grace Speaks has been an ongoing lecture series offered by Grace Church since 2007.
Each year, Grace invites scholars to speak on topics relevant to contemporary religion and society. Past speakers represent of broad spectrum of interests and perspectives, and our lectures have been well attended by parishioners and members of the community at large. The free lectures have become part of Grace’s outreach into the community and are an important component of our program year.
"This practice has been, like EFM a life changing experience. The discipline of stopping twice a day to slip into my silence and open myself to the presence of God can help produce a continuous opening to what life puts in my path. Sharing the contemplative journey with others is an important part of Centering Prayer. It has been for me a joyful, spiritual experience."
"I especially like our (Centering Prayer) group at Grace because we have people from a number of different churches and denominations who participate from all over the city- Methodist, Roman Catholic, Quakers, and Unitarian Universalists. It is wonderful to hear their perspectives."
“Scripture became more personal to me with more depth. I value the time in class and the time I spent at home preparing. I am so grateful for the opportunity for the study and being allowed to hear and participate in the discussions. Since then I have been able to engage in various ministries in the church and in my own areas of mission.”
"EFM continues to stretch me to ‘think theologically’, a useful tool for any Christian, in my opinion. Other supplemental texts have added depth to my EFM experience. They push me past the foundational books of the Hebrew Bible, New Testament and Church history. Each week, I enjoy the lively and enriching discussion EFM offers. It is well worth the effort to pursue Education for Ministry and I am humbled by this sharing, thoughtful, thought-provoking and precious gift from Grace Episcopal Church.”
"I served as an EfM mentor with a group at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church. The experience of being a mentor (aka “herding cats”) and being a participant in the educational, religious, and occasionally emotionally charged sessions has given me a starting reference for my ongoing ministry at Grace Church."