Giving Back, and What Grace Church Means to Us

We are currently in our 2019 Annual Giving Campaign at Grace Church Brooklyn Heights. As a parishioner, I want to share my thoughts about:

1) what underpins my commitment and support of Grace Church ministries; and,

2) the disciplines by which I financially support Grace’s ministries.

I love being a member of Grace Church. Anthropologists and sociologists have long ago established that it is human nature for us humans to want to affiliate with others who are like-minded, as evidenced by the groups we choose to join and be part of.

I have chosen to cast my lot with and become a member of Grace Church for four reasons:

* I want and need to be connected with a body of believers whose primary mission is building up the kingdom of God through ministries that demonstrate our response to the needs of others;

* I want to attend a church that has prophetic and stimulating preaching, rousing and diverse religious music, and christian education.

* I want to be part of a group of believers whose members demonstrate bearing each other’s burdens.

* I want to be part of a welcoming ministry that invites others to join us on this spiritual journey.

From early childhood, my parents saw to it that my siblings and I were engaged in Christian worship, service and activities including: Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Children’s and Youth Choir, Girl Scouts and Young People’s group. As a result, this set me on a path of commitment to Christian faith, church affiliation and Christian service for life.

It was during our Young People’s group meetings that our pastor introduced the discipline of tithing as a response to supporting God’s ministries. Through our discussions, we learned that the emphasis was on the consistent commitment rather than the amount.

So what challenges us to financially support Grace’s ministries?

*As I move around the church on Sundays and throughout the week, I see the generosity of Grace members giving of their time and talent.

*Additionally, we have ministries (internal and external) that require monetary support.

*Christian founders established Grace Church in 1847. We must accept the challenge to ensure that God’s work will continue in this place for future generations.

I affirm to you that I continue the discipline of tithing as my way to financially support Grace Church ministries. I encourage you to seek God’s guidance as to how you too will financially support our ministries. If you have not already made your 2019 pledge, please do so as soon as you can. I encourage you to do it today.

— Vivian Harrison


It was the season of Epiphany 12 years ago when I received a phone call from the Rev. Dick Burnett, the Rector of Trinity Church, Capitol Square, in Columbus, Ohio, and a long-time friend. We had a far-ranging conversation and eventually he asked me where I was going to church. “Actually, I’m unaffiliated at the moment. I’ve visited a few parishes in Brooklyn but nothing has resonated with me. I think I need a season apart from parish life.” Dick’s response was instant and concise, “Grace.”

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“Have you visited Grace Church in Brooklyn Heights?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Go. And tell Muncie Dick Burnett sent you. We were colleagues in Southern Ohio before his move to Brooklyn.”

As I am prone to do, I thought about it through most of Lent and decided to visit on Palm Sunday. What better time to visit a parish for the first time than on the day of a parade? I heard the Passion Reading and I heard the choir. As I was looking to sneak out through the courtyard, Steve Muncie, Grace’s Rector, was there and he greeted me. We exchanged pleasantries and I told him, “Dick Burnett sent me and I’ll be back on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday (I came twice on that day) and next Sunday, Easter.”

Fast forward: I came regularly on Sundays and attended the Rector’s Forums into June and in the Fall of that year I cautiously dipped my toe in the water and joined the Centering Prayer group. In the following year I joined the Altar Guild and then the choir. And then I submitted my first pledge. And then I did the four years of Education for Ministry and then I served two three-year terms on the Vestry. I also served as a delegate to the Diocesan Convention. I think you understand what happened. Every time I tried to get out, Grace pulled me back in!

I have become an active member of this thriving faith community and I am fed by being here with you. I love this place and, noting that the Church economic model differs from the world model of economic exchange, I give of my time, talent AND treasure to do my part in ensuring that we continue to worship in this place and be a witness to Jesus’ call to love our neighbors as ourselves beyond our walls. So, if you have not yet submitted your pledge for 2019, may I ask you to join me and others in expanding your time and talent commitment by also making a financial commitment to support our community?

In ending, I wish to thank Dick Burnett for encouraging me to come here and all of you for welcoming me.

— John Colon

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

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