In the last 20 years God blessed this congregation by raising up powerful leaders for the wider church through the ministry at 40th and Meridian. Pastor Fecher emailed these leaders and asked them to briefly answer the question: What role did Gift of Grace play for you as you became a pastor?
Here are their answers,
Rev. Daniel Sorensen:
I had been discerning my call to ministry for several years before Gift of Grace. When I finally began moving toward seminary, my own congregation in Everett was on the verge of closing. My spouse and I were attending a discernment workshop in Oregon where we met several people from a church called Gift of Grace in Wallingford. Even though we lived in Marysville, a significant distance away, we chose to relocate our church membership to GoG. The closing of our congregation was incredibly sad and painful. Yet the bishop gave us a wonderful sermon on Easter Sunday, or last day as a congregation, about the Christian message of new life overcoming death. And so we worshiped with GoG briefly for the summer before setting off to seminary. We tried to stay in connection with GoG through newsletters and giving (when we could). First Call out of seminary was back to Western Washington but it was a difficult and trying time. Pastor Jami was still “our pastor” and was there for us as we struggled through the first three years of ministry. Second Call was better, moving from a congregation into pastoral counseling and social service. In our new church we were glad to show the videos from the ELCA, especially Harold and Debra’s story from GoG. We were able to challenge our church with a local example of what it means to be actively doing God’s work in the world. Now in a third call working as a Pastoral Counselor with CHI Franciscan Health in Federal Way, we are glad to again be able to support GoG through prayer and giving (more consistently now that seminary is over!)
GoG will always hold a special place in our life as the fertile soil that we landed in after the death of our congregation and the place where we were able to grow in faith and love toward a new life in Christ Jesus. Thank you for your continuing witness to the world.
Rev. Kari Reiten:
The mischievous Gift of Grace children changed the course of my life. Through those squirmy little rascals the Holy Spirit awakened my sense of call to professional parish ministry. Pastor Fecher’s dynamic proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ galvanized me to pursue that call.
I loved working with those kiddos. They were not sweet little cherubs (although they had their sweet moments). But they woke me up to recognize that I, along with other Christian adults, need to treat them not as “the future of the Church,” but as full participants in the Church here and now. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians:
“The members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensible, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor.”
I went to seminary with this deep conviction spurring me on to focus on “lifting up Christ for my youngest neighbors, inviting them more deeply into the life of God.”
The children are all grown up now, but their impact on my life and ministry has not diminished. I am grateful for them and for Pastor Fecher and many other Gift of Grace sisters and brothers who have nurtured and encouraged me through the challenges of seminary, candidacy, and parish ministry. I give thanks for our ongoing partnership in the Gospel.
Rev. Aimee Appell:
Shortly after Kari Reiten left for seminary, I took over in the office. I was a stay-at-home mom at the time, and trying to figure out what was next for me. I knew how to do office things, and there were office things that needed doing for a few hours a week, so it was a good fit. And to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. Not the office things, really. But being there, in the church, answering the phones, listening to people’s needs, thinking about how the church might be able to fit into their needs and their lives. So I applied for the job when it came open. Fortunately for me and for Gift of Grace, the search committee had the extremely good sense to hire Christ Carpenter instead for the job of Parish Administrator. But that led to a strange conversation between myself and Jami, in which the upshot was Jami saying, “Look, I’m not here to offer you the job. We’ve hired someone else. However, I would like to offer you a different job, one with more responsibility and zero pay: Council President. And while you’re doing that, it’s time for you to begin discerning whether you are called to be a pastor.”
When someone like Jami Fecher suggests a thing to you, it is best to pay attention. My father had suggested a pastoral calling once, but parental suggestions are easily dismissed. But Jami has a way of putting things that is thoughtful and considered, so that it cannot be so easily dismissed. I began to pay attention to this possibility, and heard it echoed by others. As council president, I found my commitment to Christ, and to the Church, growing and deepening. Much to my surprise, I began to suspect there might be something to this whole Body of Christ thing. One day, during a council meeting, Jami and I were talking theology, asking how God was calling us to be as a congregation, and someone commented, “You guys are swimming in pretty deep waters, there.” And I replied, “It feels more like being sucked under sometimes!”
That is how Gift of Grace has been for me. It was the swimming pool in which I began to test the waters of faith. Early on, it was a safe place to splash about in the shallow end, but I quickly found myself swimming in the deep end. The community helped me explore, and Jami was a lifeguard who helped me navigate the deeper waters, and who showed me how to swim when I was being sucked under. Even now, when I have not lived in Seattle for 9 years, Jami is still my pastor, the one I call when I need pastoral care, advice, or encouragement. And Gift of Grace is still my church, the place I learned what it is to be the Body of Christ in good times and bad.
Rev. Brian Julin McCleary:
Gift of Grace played an incredibly important role in my discerning a call to ministry. The community of God’s people gathered at 40th and Meridian allowed me to be a part of a place that allowed for confusion and mistakes, and treasured exploration that inevitably demands error and course correction. Gift of Grace was for me a gathering of Christians who were delightfully and painfully honest in a way that was very liberating. Rather than being a people that pretended order and neatness, we were a group of folks that treasured the messiness of life because in knowing that reality as fully as possible we were expectantly prepared to receive the re-ordering and life-giving love of God poured out in Jesus Christ. Quite practically speaking, GOG allowed me the space to play with preaching (a task so daunting in my childhood imagination that I’d come to assume there was no way I could be part of such a vocation) and church leadership that opened up a long-simmering suspicion about professional church work.
Rev. Valerie Carlson:
Gift of Grace helped me discern a call to ministry, sent me to seminary, and supported me monetarily, emotionally, and prayerfully there. But before that, you did something much more important to me, you lived out your mission statement: to invest your whole selves in lifting up Christ for your neighbor, inviting them more deeply into the life of God.
When I came to you my investment in the life of God (including Christ and my neighbor) was low. And it remained low for a number of years as I participated peripherally at GoG, but YOUR investment was high and eventually God revealed Godself to me through your steadfastness in the beauty and horror of life together. I found myself grasped by God and pulled more deeply into the life of God.
And, God’s grip has never weakened. Nor has your witness of it in my life. Even now, as I serve as a pastor in San Luis Obispo, CA, 1019 miles away, you continue to lift Christ up for me through my relationship with Pastor Jami (my daddy), who mentors me, does theology with me, and prays with and for me.
Thank you for recognizing me as your neighbor and lifting up Christ for me. Your faithful witness to God’s faithfulness has made and is making a difference in my life.
Through the years, Gift of Grace has been blessed by many people who have shown particular aptitude for public leadership of Word and Sacrament ministry. We have been the “sending congregation” for 5 such people who went to seminary. We have also been the temporary home to several pastors on their way to serve else where. In every single case we have been and still are greatly encouraged and enriched by their participation.
Introduction to the all the photos. These photos were picked by me, Pastor Jami Fecher from among the photos we had on hand. We do not have photos from all 20 years. Most of the photos we have were taken when Kari Reiten was acting as parish administrator. She was careful to document our main events. The descriptions of the photos are told from the faulty memory of Pastor Fecher.
This is a letter I sent to several officials regarding SHARE:
I am writing to encourage you help SHARE continue to do their mission of keeping homeless people together, sheltered and safe. It is well known they provide the largest number of beds for the lowest cost in King County. Although they certainly provide social services SHARE is not a social service agency, but a self-help group of homeless and formerly homeless persons dedicated to supporting persons experiencing homelessness.
Our congregation has benefitted greatly from SHARE in the ten years we have hosted an indoor shelter at our church. Although SHARE has an entirely different mission from ours they have helped us steward the resource of our property so that we can more fully do the ministry that is our main mission. SHARE makes it possible for us and many other host churches to participate in aiding persons we otherwise would not have the means to aid. In addition, the persons of SHARE have taught our congregation how to be more respectful to those whose life situation is radically different from ours. The lesson was not pleasant for us to learn, but SHARE taught us by remaining true to their own values and priorities while encouraging us to clarify and remain true to ours. They did it with a humble, patient, tenacity which we sometimes mistook for obstinance, not realizing the obstacles with which they were already coping.
From my viewpoint the social good SHARE provides King County far outweighs whatever criticisms might be rightly made of SHARE (since none of us are above criticism or beyond improvement). SHARE is transparent in its goals and remains steadfast to them. In light of the crisis of the sheer numbers of our people in King County experiencing homeless right now, today, I encourage you to use your influence to immediately clear the way for SHARE to get the relatively small funding it needs to do the job to which it is dedicated, to which it has remained faithful for more than 20 years and which has proved already to be a profound success.
Pastor Jami Fecher
Gift of Grace Lutheran Church
2102 N 40th street
Seattle, WA 98103
MAUNDY THURSDAY 7 PM
Our celebration calls to mind Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples. We will move through the main parts of that “night in which He was betrayed,” including; Holy Communion, foot washing and the stripping of the altar, which leads us into the austerity of Good Friday.
GOOD FRIDAY 7 PM
A sparse and somber worship, including the reading of the Passion of Jesus, the great Bidding Prayer of the Church and the Adoration of the Cross.
Our celebration of Christ’s Resurrection begins with Easter Brunch at 9, provided by Grace Gospel Chapel. Worship is at 10:30. It blends ancient rites of the Church with current cultural expressions of who we are & who we shall be by God’s grace. Following worship, about 11:40 is GraceFeast Sunday dinner, a continuation of the Easter brunch.
You are invited, this Sunday, March 20th, from 5-7PM to a ‘Pulled Pork Picnic’ in the Gift of Grace basement, hosted by the ‘Power of We’. ‘Power of We’ is a youth service group made up of ten local kids ages 12-14 years old who will be helping prepare and serve the meal in conjunction with Matthew, a talented chef that has been cooking outrageously delicious meals in people’s kitchens for special dinner parties and gatherings. There will also be live music performed by some of the kids. Matthew is part of the Facing Homelessness community (www.facinghomelessness.org). Please come and enjoy yourself for this FREE community gathering and get a chance to sample Matthew’s chef skills!
St Marks invites you to a Hymn Festival at Saint Mark’s on Friday night, February 5, at 7:30. A great Hymn Festival needs lots of enthusiastic singers of all ages and abilities.
Thanks to underwriting by a generous donor, this event will be free.
William Porter will be our guest organist. He improvises music on the organ with astonishing skill and imagination, and his hymn-playing inspires robust singing. Mr Porter’s appearance is part of St Mark’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of their Flentrop pipe organ.
Parking at Saint Mark’s is free!