Grace in Transition
November 17, 2022
Welcoming Our New Interim RectorWe are delighted to announce that we will have a new Interim Rector joining us at Grace just in time for Advent. Their first Sunday with us will be on November 27.
The Reverend Nat Johnson (pronouns: they/them) comes most recently from St. Paul’s, Seattle, where they have been Interim Rector since November 1, 2021. Prior to that they served as Transitional Deacon and then Curate. Part of their work also included Interim Pastor for Children and Family. Nat grew up in the Church of the Nazarene and then found their way to the Episcopal Church in 2008 through Church of the Good Shepherd in Colorado Springs. After completing their undergraduate degree at Nazarene Bible College, Nat moved (back) to Seattle area to complete graduate work at Seattle Pacific University where they earned a Master of Arts in Theology, focusing on the intersection of Sacramental Theology and Gender Studies in their thesis.
After entering Postulancy in the Diocese of Olympia, they completed a Master’s Certificate in Anglican Studies at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, CA, and did their field education at Epiphany (Seattle), before landing at St Paul’s in the late summer of 2019. Since then, Nat has been accompanying St. Paul’s in their transition to a new Permanent Rector since early 2020, where they have served as transitional deacon and then curate, with a focus on Formation, Outreach, and Daily Office, before being called as Interim in late 2021.
Nat is married to Megan Dimock, and they recently added a tiny human – Asher Jules – to their family. They enjoy good food, good company, and quiet evenings at home with their two cats – Simba and Nala. Nat and their family look forward to getting to know the People of Grace Episcopal Church during this last leg of the journey of transition
Please join us in welcoming Nat!
November 9, 2022
Update on Search Process for our New Rector
The listing for Grace’s new rector is now posted on all the relevant websites. It will remain open until December 15th. Word of mouth is a great resource, so if you have priests or friends in other dioceses who can help us get word out about our opening, now is the time to reach out to them. Churches receive packets from their candidates only after the position is no longer being advertised and candidates have had initial vetting from the diocese. So, we expect to receive our list of candidates from the diocese sometime in January. Our search committee will then begin the process of screening applicants, conducting interviews, and arranging travel for potential site visits with some candidates. Please keep this thorough and deliberate process in your prayers.
September 25, 2022
Dear friends at Grace Church,
I have bittersweet news. I have accepted a call to be the next rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Seattle. My last Sunday with you as your interim rector will be All Saints Sunday, November 6.
St. Paul’s in years past was Andrew’s and my home church, and I served as their deacon for three years before seminary. Since we left five years ago, they (like you!) have experienced many transitions and changes, and so this call will be a new adventure for me and for everyone at St. Paul’s. They are a different parish, and I am a different faith leader. I look forward to a permanent call at a church close to our Seattle home, and I am particularly drawn to their context of urban ministry at this time of great challenge and opportunity for the city of Seattle.
I can hardly describe how blessed I am by all of you, and the trust you have placed in me, first as your curate and then as your interim rector. We have endured many transitions and challenges together, and I have always delighted in the confidence, good humor, and hope that anchors Grace Church, and orients you positively to God’s bright future here.
Your wardens and vestry are already working with the diocese to make plans for continued interim clergy leadership while your search committee continues its work. Please keep them all in your prayers, and pray also for the rector candidates who will begin their discernment with you in the coming months.
Meanwhile, I want you to know that I will remain one of the pledging households at Grace Church in 2023. I have already filled out my pledge card and submitted it, with my prayerful intention to stay connected with you in this diocese as we all turn toward a good, strong new year.
I have spoken more than once about heartbreak, which is a powerful dimension of Christian faith and life. And so, naturally, I know that my heart breaks once again as I prepare to leave Grace Church. I have brought my full self into this work with you, and will leave some of my heart here. Thank you, thank you, for your trust, your faith, and your determination to cultivate God’s resurrection garden here in this beautiful place for Grace.
Rector Search Update
(September 8) Please join us at Grace Homecoming this Sunday, September 11 at 9:30 to formally thank our profile committee for their work in creating our parish profile, and to bless our search committee as they begin their work to call our next rector.
It has been slightly more than a year since Wren’s resignation, and although that feels like a long time, we have been engaged since then in a deliberate process which will ultimately lead to the calling of our next rector. Although it is tempting to feel impatient, ultimately we know that our next rector will arrive according to God’s timing.
This last week the bishop’s office approved our parish profile. This profile was created to reflect Grace church as we currently are, based on input gathered by the profile committee. Many hours of work, writing, listening, and praying went into its creation and we are so grateful for the service of the profile committee: Valerie Reinke, Anne Kundtz, Barbara Hume, Melissa Meyers, John Crawford-Gallagher, and Bill Anderson.
The parish profile will be posted on our Grace website, and distributed by the diocese to a national audience of candidates. Finding the next rector is a process that will continue to require our patience. It is important for the committee to allow the discernment process to guide them in their selection. Their work is done confidentially, to protect the privacy of the candidates who apply. The search committee also functions independently. They work directly with the diocese; the wardens and vestry members do not participate. Ultimately, the search committee will select one candidate to present to the vestry, and the vestry will vote to approve or decline that candidate.
While we wait, as a church we can continue our practice of self-reflection and preparation. We invite you to join us as we pray for the future of our church, for insight into how we can welcome our next rector well, and how we can build a strong and lasting relationship with that new rector. A new rector will bring change, and may press us to examine some of our practices with a fresh perspective. Our hope is that we are open to the leading of the spirit of God among us, so that together we can grow into the Grace church of the future.
(July 29) We are excited to report that a final draft of the Grace Profile has been submitted to the Bishop’s Office. There it will be reviewed by Bishop Rickel, sent back to Grace for vestry approval, and then posted on our website for all to see, including and especially: prospective applicants for the position of our next Rector.
As you are aware, this is the culmination of three month’s work. To review: the Profile Committee started by collaboratively designing and administering a survey which netted 133 respondents. Then, with leadership from John Crawford-Gallagher and Melissa Meyers, we hosted focus groups with inventive activities like empathy mapping and “draw your next rector” that really got people engaged. Two in-person focus groups reached 46 people.
Our head writers, Anne Kundtz and Barbara Hume, drew from these sources for the original sections of this report and then staff, vestry members and program ministry leaders submitted descriptions of their ministries. Bill Anderson worked with representatives of Finance and Stewardship to make sure their numbers and narrative give a fair picture of our current status. The whole committee combed through the document again and again to ensure clarity, accuracy and authenticity.
Florrie Munat and Ken Wesley served as our external editors. Once they gave the document the thumbs up we transferred it to Barb Levy, who collaborated with Valerie Reinke to design the final product, including beautiful pictures supplied by Ronda Broatch.
We are also grateful to Beth Orling, for keeping the channels of communication open, to our wardens, Heather and Luke, and to our interim rector, Stephen, for their support along the way.
With great love and deep appreciation for the village that is Grace,
The Profile Committee: Anne Kundtz, Barbara Hume, Bill Anderson, John Crawford-Gallagher, Melissa Meyers, and Valerie Reinke, Chair
(June 2, 2022) The Profile Committee has finished collecting the story of Grace Episcopal Church. Thank you to everyone who filled out the survey online or participated in a focus group. Your input was essential for gathering data about who we are now, and our hopes for our next rector.
The committee is collating all the gathered information to create the profile. They hope to have the profile complete by the end of June, at which point it will go to the bishop for approval. Please continue to pray for their work, and for the volunteer members of the committee. They committed an intense amount of their time and resources into this project - and we are so grateful.
During this time of preparation for our next rector’s arrival, all of us at Grace can reflect on our past and current relationships with rectors, and consider how we want to show up for our future rector. It is a good time to look back on what we have done well in those relationships in the past, and where we can grow in the future. Our Wardens have been offering some brief talks each Sunday during the 9:30 liturgy to help us reflect and prepare both individually and collectively.
This past Sunday, the Homily was offered by one of our Wardens, Heather Paar. In the gospel reading from John 17, Jesus prays for his disciples, and all believers, to be one with God and one with each other. Together on Sunday we considered how important unity in the church is to Jesus, and how we can be strengthened when we are united. If you were not with us on Sunday and you would like to listen to the homily, you can access it here.
We can continue to pray for unity at Grace together:
Almighty and everlasting God, hear our prayers for this parish family. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent. Grant us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(May 26, 2022) Thanks to everyone who showed up for the focus group meeting led by the Profile Committee on Sunday, May 22. People talked about what our new rector will see, hear, possibly feel when s/he arrives here and the potential pains and gains for the congregation and for the priest among us. We illustrated and wrote down our hopes for our new spiritual leader. We noticed that we have expectations for a saint to move here! Senior Warden Luke Yoder reminded us that even as we expect our pastor to care for us, we will also need to care for our pastor.
Now the Profile Committee is tasked with consolidation of all the thoughts, hopes, and ideas that Grace folk have provided through focus groups and the survey. The result will be the Grace Profile which will be sent to the Bishop and will be read by all potential candidates for our new rector.
Please remember this Committee, all Grace folk, the bishop, and potential candidates in your prayers. And don’t forget to give thanks for our interim rector, musicians, home groups, altar guild, servers, and all who work so hard to make Grace Church the place we cherish for our spiritual solace and stimulation.
What is a profile?
The parish profile is a document that describes the culture of Grace and articulates what we hope to find in a new leader.
The work of the Profile Committee is to gather the story of God’s work at Grace so that it can be shared with prospective rectors as part of the recruitment process. The committee is currently in the process of “self-study” — gathering information about the ministry, gifts and offerings present here. Everyone is invited to share their experience and wishes! To this end, expect a written survey and opportunities to participate in focus groups.
Once approved by Bishop Greg Rickel, everyone will be invited to read, comment, and make suggested edits to the profile. When finalized, it will be posted to our website and included in the Office of Transition Ministry Profile. At that time the work of the profile committee will end, and a search committee will be formed to continue the process.
Please pray for your profile committee: Bill Anderson, John Crawford-Gallagher, Barbara Hume, Anne Kundtz, Melissa Meyers, and Valerie Reinke.
Save the date:
Focus Group Meeting: Sunday, May 22nd, immediately following the 9:30 a.m. service and finishing by 11:45 a.m.
Transition Update - The Profile Committee
The next step in the search for our new Rector is underway. The profile committee has been assembled and includes the following individuals: Valerie Reinke, Anne Kundtz, Barbara Hume, Melissa Meyers, John Crawford Gallagher, and Bill Anderson. Please keep them in your prayers as they undertake this important work.
Our search process involves the work of two different committees. The committee members are appointed by the Wardens, but then the committees work independently, reporting back to the vestry and the congregation with their progress.
The first group is the profile committee. Their job is to create a large document which is a profile of our church. This document will then go to the diocese and that is what future candidates for Rector will look at when considering whether or not they would like to be considered for Grace Church.
The work of the profile committee will be writing, and also conducting focus groups with the congregation to make sure that the document accurately reflects Grace Church. You will be invited to participate in this work through weekly questions which you can answer in person on Sunday, or online, and through focus groups. Please help the profile committee in their work by participating and offering your insights.
After that document is complete and sent to the diocese then a search committee will be assembled. The search committee and the profile committee will not have overlapping members. No one on the vestry can participate in either committee. It will be the job of the search committee to actually review the applicants for the Rector position, conduct interviews, and ultimately make a recommendation to the vestry for one candidate.
We are so grateful for these members who have offered their time and talents to this work. Please support them with your prayers, encouragement, and your participation.
“Love Jesus” — Transition time at Grace
Welcome Ivar Hillesland, our Transition Consultant
“During transition, friends and siblings in Christ may experience anxiety, fear, sadness, loss, grief, anger.” That's from a valuable resource, “Transformational Change: Clergy Transitions in the Diocese of Olympia.” It's true we've experienced most of these since we learned of Wren's departure in June. And, it's equally true that we've been deeply reassured by the love and joy that have sprung forth in the ensuing time. We are enormously grateful to have welcomed Stephen as our Interim Rector. He's inspired us with his homilies, cared for us as our pastor and kept Grace sailing safely toward its future.
As Stephen continues to pastor us and lead the staff, the Vestry will begin working with a Diocese-recommended consultant who can guide us through the transition process. Please look at the “Diocesan Transition Guide. It is thorough and detailed in describing the steps we are now taking, as well as the roles and responsibilities of all.
Transition Roles, briefly:
“Priests who carry out sacramental and pastoral duties but may not be called as the...permanent priest...function as chaplains or companions to the congregation while Transition Consultants work directly with folks on the process...the Interim Priest does not participate [in transition committees or conversations].”
“...the Canons give the wardens authority that is typically exercised by the priest...” [chairing meetings, managing staff, communicating about Transition...] The wardens may ask the Interim Priest to fulfill most of these, except Transition activities.
Vestry & Treasurer:
Vestries, as elected leaders of the parish, “stewards the resources of the congregation and ensures that the church continues to carry out its mission.” Elected leaders work with the Transition Consultant, and find and appoint members of the Profile and Search committees as well as receive regular reports of their work. The Vestry met with Ivar in November to review the process and roles/responsibilities. The Program Ministry Council also had the opportunity to participate in that initial meeting.
Treasurers carry out their usual work, monitoring payments and income, providing reports to the Vestry and congregation and assisting the Vestry in developing the annual budget, including for Profile and Search expenses.
The staff is critical to maintaining the mission of the congregation, especially during a transition. Hours of work and responsibilities may change. Flexibility is key. Due to the possibility of conflicts of interest, Diocesan policy excludes the staff from roles on the Vestry, Profile Committee and Search committee.
The Whole Congregation:
“The most important thing a congregation can do is to love Jesus...and reconcile the world...Keep being the people of God...throughout the search for a new priest leader. Successful calls follow honest conversations about who we were, who we are now and who God is calling us to be.”
Be ready to think about and answer these questions, be ready to help with the Profile and Search work. Love Jesus.
Please contact Krista Webb with your interest in serving on the Profile Committee.
We are delighted for you to meet our Transition Consultant, Ivar Hillesland; we've asked Ivar to introduce himself below. Welcome Ivar!
Grace Wardens, Daphne Davies & Luke Yoder
Greetings on behalf of the Diocese of Olympia!
Ivar HilleslandI am eagerly looking forward to walking alongside your congregation during this time of transition. I have always admired the life and ministry of Grace from afar and have many friends who have served or attended there. I know that you have been through many challenging transitions these last many years. No transition is easy, but even as we grieve the loss of potential futures and the endings of eras it is always also a time of living into God's hope-charged calling and the celebration of the unique gifts of your own identity. As our society slowly crawls its way back into the daylight (fingers crossed), it is as good a time as any to be finding our way into the next chapter. Building on the strategic work you have recently done and the pastoral guidance of The Rev. Stephen Crippen, I anticipate a deeply meaningful process to set the stage for the coming years.
In the name of Christ, peace be with you all,
The Rev. Ivar Hillesland
Ivar Hillesland is the pastor of Church of the Apostles, a joint Episcopal/Lutheran worshiping community in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. Born and raised in Washington State, he is a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University, Yale Divinity School and Pacific Lutheran Theology Seminary in Berkeley. He currently serves on the steering committee of the Episcopal College for Congregational Development where he has taught since 2014. Ivar is a member of the consulting network of the Diocese of Olympia and, as an administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory, frequently works with individuals and churches on intercultural competency and communication. He also serves as the music leader of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Ballard. Ivar lives with his wife Targhee and three boys, Olyver, Odin and Orion in North Seattle.
Dear Friends, Neighbors, and Newcomers:
A longtime friend asked, at Grace last Sunday morning, “What’s happening in the transition?”. She worried Grace people would think nothing was going on. Sometimes steady progress looks like status quo, but it’s not. What’s going on? A lot.
Once we bid a “good goodbye” to Wren in late July, the Vestry worked toward finding an Interim. We were truly blessed when Stephen Crippen agreed to transition from our (very experienced) Curate to our Interim Rector. And, we know you’re learning how truly fortunate we are, with his organized leadership and his heart-and-spirit-touching homilies.
What’s happening in our formal Transition?
The Vestry is working closely with the Diocesan guide “Transformational Change: Clergy Transitions in the Diocese of Olympia-Resource for Congregations.” At a special combined meeting on November 17, the Vestry and Program Ministry Council will meet with a diocesan transition consultant to take the first steps toward the selection of a Profile Committee. (We will introduce our consultant soon.) Stephen will be our spiritual leader and pastor as we move into this phase.
So what else is moving us forward in our Transition?
Staff, Vestry and PMC are going strong. Here are a few examples:
- Our work is anchored to and guided by the principles outlined in the Grace Strategic Plan.
- Stephen is working with an advisory team to facilitate discernment about and development of our liturgical/worship life.
- New cameras and improved sound delivery facilitate Sunday worship in-person and via Zoom.
- We created a new Family Ministries Coordinator position and welcomed Kerstin Cathcart as its leader. Go Forth Sundays bring children into the heart of worship and into the Service Sundays offered by Outreach.
- We continue offering robust Adult Faith Formation, including several book studies, a series with Steve Garnaas-Holmes, and our ongoing Women’s Circle and Men’s Group. We will also be welcoming a nationally-known guest preacher, the Rev. Dr. Mark Jefferson, to Grace on November 21. We continue to hold Kim Cockroft in prayer as she steps away for a time to care for her family.
- Vestry and PMC work is shared through monthly Leadership News. Stephen writes weekly e-news notes on a variety of issues and concerns we’re working on during this time.
- We have thanked our devoted former Parish Life team and welcomed new ministry leaders: Edith Coburn and Rachel Brandt.
- The building, grounds and gardens are spruced up regularly (thank you Place for Grace, and staff!).
- We have commended those who have died to God’s care, and interred our loved ones in the newly planted Memorial Garden and in the Memorial Wall.
- Pastoral Care continues its quiet presence alongside those who mourn, are troubled or ill, or simply in spiritual need.
- Our dedicated Tribes leaders have met often to discern a new way of gathering for shared service, and to consider a new name for the Tribes.
- Our Personnel Manual has been revised and updated. Our website has also been refreshed and streamlined. (We continue to publish transition information on this page.)
- The Treasurer and Development chairs have worked with energy and focus on monitoring income and expense and on raising funds for the ongoing work of Grace.
- Outreach keeps up the good work of caring for our region and world through Butterfly grants and the active service of Service Sundays.
- Anchored by the loving care and direction of Ann Strickland, the Music Circle raises voices in song.
- A new committee is collaborating with Stephen on the hiring of a new Music Director, a process the congregation can be actively involved in through a public meeting (Nov. 14, 11:00am).
Our vestry recently reflected on the transition at Grace through the lens of the “Benedictine Life” model for congregational development, a tool that helps faith leaders assess the health and wellness of their congregation with the spiritual principles of St. Benedict—stability, listening, and an openness to change. Esther de Waal, a scholar of Benedictine spirituality, famously said, “God is not elsewhere.” At the heart of this transition is our firm belief that God is here, and we have all that we need. Even as we imagine a bright future, we open our hearts with gratitude for all that is happening now in this grace-filled community of faith.
Daphne Davies and Luke Yoder, Wardens
During this time of leadership transition, while we continue to hold Wren Blessing and her sons in our prayers, and while we begin to imagine our future, we remember that God is here with us today, and we gratefully celebrate and share God's abundant grace in the here and now.
Our New Interim Rector
We are pleased to announce that Stephen Crippen is staying with us as our Interim Rector. For more on this news, click here.
What's Happening in the Coming Weeks
- Now that Stephen Crippen is staying with us as our Interim Rector, we are beginning the first stages of planning for the transition.
- You can contact Canon Arienne Davison at [email protected].
- You can contact our wardens, Daphne Davies and Luke Yoder, at [email protected] and [email protected].
Coming up in Fall 2021
- Listening sessions during the early weeks of the transition.
- Information about the future discernment process for a new rector.
This diocesan resource offers more information about the transition:
- “So You’re in Transition: An Orientation for Vestry/Bishop’s Committee”: https://vimeo.com/542425396
Our Farewell to Wren Blessing and Her Family
To view a farewell video for Wren, created by parishioner John McKenzie, click here.
To read Wren’s letter to Grace, click here.
To read the wardens’ (Daphne Davies and Luke Yoder) letter to Grace, click here.
Click here for Warden Daphne Davies’s remarks at the 9:30 service on June 27, 2021.
Click here for Warden Luke Yoder’s remarks at the 9:30 service on June 20, 2021.