Giving Back, and What Grace Church Means to Us

When Allen asked me to talk to you about why I give to Grace Church, and what Grace means to me, I said, “Of course.” (By the way, I learned very quickly that it’s hard to say "No" to Allen….just saying!)

Anyway, when I started to think about why I give, the first, short answer that always came to mind was, “Because I feel obligated to.”

Now, that doesn’t sound very intentional, does it?

Actually, it is. It goes like this:

* Grace gives me many, many gifts, for which I am immeasurably grateful.

* I have an obligation to express my thanks, and I want others to experience those same gifts and many more, at Grace and beyond our walls.

* The sure way to achieve both these things – give thanks, and share gifts – is to provide financial support to Grace’s mission and programs, proper compensation for our staff, and upkeep of our historic buildings.

So, in my heart, where gratitude and intention reside, I know I willingly give to Grace out of gratitude for what Grace means to me, and a desire to share it with others.

First, it’s about community. I am blessed to have had Grace Church a part of my life since I came here for the first time in –- I’m guessing, was it 1985? –- as a single mother with an 8-year-old in tow. I was welcomed by Goldy Sherrill. A few years later I was urged to join the Choir by Lynn Vardakis and welcomed into the Choir – actually by Paul’s predecessor. (For church music junkies, you know, the Choir is like that old advertisement for the Roach Motel – you get in, but you can’t get out.) Anyway, the rest is history, and here I am 34 years later.

The Grace community has always been here for me -- during happy times and, moreover, during some unanticipated and very difficult bad times. It’s a sense of security. It’s family. I am so grateful for that, and I want that for other people.

Second, it’s about our faith tradition and a personal faith journey. Like many of us here, I’m not a Cradle Episcopalian. (I won’t bore you with the story of how I was first introduced to the Episcopal Church – too much family drama there.) The point is that over these years Grace has enabled me to pursue a spiritual journey at my own pace, without judgment or indoctrination -- but rather with thoughtful stimulation, enabling me to question on the one hand, and to have eye-opening “Aha!” moments on the other. There’s such a spiritual freedom here. I am so grateful for that, and I want that for other people.

Third, it’s about mission. I believe so completely in what Grace stands for, what we do and what we want to do -- now more than ever: Our open doors. Our outreach programs. Raising awareness. Speaking truth to authority. Guiding our young people to help them courageously live the Christian life, because tomorrow will come quickly, and they will be challenged. Working side by side with fellow parishioners from all 3 services to help others outside the Grace community in small ways, or to raise money together – as we have done in the last weeks and days with our annual WinterFair - so we might help others in greater ways.

But we all know we need to do so much more to help heal our broken world by sharing our gifs of community, welcome, spiritual freedom and support for others. And the reality is that Grace can’t do it without financial support.

So, to come full circle, for me, giving to Grace is about gratitude and obligation. I’m grateful that I can support Grace to the extent I’m able, and I personally feel obligated to do so as a means of giving back, and giving forward, because I won’t be here forever. But I do it intentionally, because I want to share with others the same gifts I have received. Giving helps make those gifts possible.

Thank you.

— Barbara Becker

 
I have been coming to Grace Church for about 24 years. When I walked through our doors for the first time, I was a total stranger. I didn’t know anyone here. I had moved from the Upper East Side to Concord Village. Back then, it was a quick 10 minute power walk on Sunday morning. For the past 13 years, I have been living in Upper Manhattan, near the George Washington Bridge. I am on the subway at 6:30 in the morning to be here for the 8 o’clock service. 
Since I am usually a reader, I like to get here early to be sure everything is in place and that I’m prepared. 
 
Why do I make this early trip? I’m not required. Our wonderful staff and great clergy have to be here. It’s their job and I hope they love their jobs. For you and me, it’s all voluntary.
 
The pews could be empty at 8 AM; empty at the 9:15 service; empty at the 11 o’clock. But that’s not what is happening. We are here. I choose to be here.
 
I have to wonder why I do come to 8 AM. Here are my thoughts:
 
This is a meditative time in the week for me. I can sit in peace and think and pray about what’s going to get me from one Sunday to the next; one day to the next; one hour to the next. I ask for grace and mercy and forgiveness in my prayers.
 
I look around the congregation and see that here are my friends. I pray during the liturgy with my friends and as part of Healing Ministry team, I pray with them for healing for themselves, their friends and family.

Paul Olson provides such beautiful music and if he knows your favorite hymn, he’s likely to work it into our Sunday service.
 
The preaching is powerful by both Father Allen and our Associate Rector, Erika. I look forward to their Sunday sermons to give me my pep talk for the week. No pressure! It’s just how I feel about it.
 
I have already made my pledge to Grace. I stuck my neck out a little bit more than last year. Not $100,000, mind you – I am an artist on a budget. I believe in being responsible, not irresponsible. I want to give support to Grace Church in return for all the support Grace Church gives to me. I want to be sure that when the next stranger comes through our doors, the lights 
are on and the welcome is warm!
 
I hope you feel the same way, too, and that you will pledge your support to Grace Church.
 
Thank you.
 
— Karen Loew
8AM Lay Reader and Healing Prayer Team