Two Minutes for Stewardship by Avril Johnson

When Jeanne asked me to speak today in preparation for Consecration Sunday, I thought about all the reasons I love Grace:  for the opportunities to feed the poor, for the privilege of worshiping in this beautiful sanctuary, for good sermons and most of all, for the sense of community.

And I am so grateful for all of those things, but today I would like to tell you about a very different church.

In 1890 the Presbyterians built a church on the corner of SW 1st and Gibbs in Portland’s Lair Hill district. It was a pretty church.  Not as elegant and grand as Grace but very pleasing to the eye.  It had a cathedral ceiling and arched windows with pieces of colored glass.  A dark wainscoting went up about 4 feet on all the walls, and a balcony, with natural wood railings, hung over the rear of the sanctuary.

At some point in time, I couldn’t tell you when, the church was sold to the Union Gospel Mission and was renamed Friendly Chapel.

In the late 60s the Lair Hill neighborhood became Portland’s hippie district.  The psychedelic supermarket opened just down the street from the church – a place that sold everything needed for smoking pot, except the pot itself.  For that you had to go to Lair Hill Park.

During that time Willard, the pastor of Friendly Chapel, began reaching out to the young people in the neighborhood.  He invited them to church and even volunteered to officiate at weddings.  And, unlike many pastors of that time, he didn’t care if the bride and groom were already living together.

In 1970 a Christian coffee house opened in the basement of the church.  In addition to the live music, homemade bread and other treats were offered.  It became a popular neighborhood hangout.

Many of the young people who went to the coffee house Saturday began to find their way to the Sanctuary Sunday morning, and at some point, the hippies and ex-hippies outnumbered the existing congregation.  Unfortunately, except for a handful of people, the older members felt uncomfortable and left.  Union Gospel mission offered to rent the church to Willard and the new congregation, but they wanted their name back.  And so the Prince of Peace was born – a congregation of young, zealous members.

Bible studies sprang up and the new Christians took the teachings seriously.  Sometimes there were heated discussions about what a parable meant or how to apply it to your life, and some things, like loving your neighbor, appeared obvious. One point that seemed very cut and dry to most was tithing – literally giving 10% of your income to God and the church.

So people began to tithe.  Now I can’t say for certain that everyone gave 10% of their income, but I know that the pastor gave $20 out of his weekly salary of $200 and donations of that amount, and more, were given weekly. There were no pledge cards or anything that resembled Consecration Sunday; just an occasional sermon.  Annual donations ranged anywhere from $250 to $2000.   Adjusted for inflation, that would be about $1200 to $9500.00 today.

Of course it is easy to say that those numbers don’t really correspond to today’s expenditures.  Housing prices have soared past the rate of inflation and medical cost and other expenses have skyrocketed.

But these young Christians were not affluent and most were in their 20’s.  Many couples had small children.  No one drove a new – or newer car.  Some heated with wood that they cut and split themselves.  Clothes came from thrift stores and women got together to can, freeze and dry, fruits and vegetables for the winter.  They gave even though they were struggling.

I would like to be able to tell you that they all became wealthy; that they started fortune 500 companies or became CEOs of large corporations.  But giving to God is not a quid pro quo; we give because we want to, and are supposed to.

However most of the members became homeowners and found good jobs.  Some started reasonably successful businesses.  It was a time of transition: from counter culture to mainstream America, from poverty level to middle class.  But during that time of transition the young congregation gave to their church – and they gave generously.

 

Stewardship Announcement by Ben Snead Sunday, October 13, 2019

Good Morning everyone, for those who do not know me, my name is Ben Snead and Father Martin asked me to share some words with you all today about why I value our faith community here at Grace. To start with some background, Im seventeen years old, a senior in high school and I’ve been attending Grace since I was baptized here months after my birth. 

So with that I want to lay out three reasons why I appreciate the Grace community

#1 I appreciate how Grace has provided balance in my life

It should be pretty evident to anyone who has been a child, that between the ages of 0-17 you go through a lot of changes. I’ve lived in different houses, attended different schools, made different friends. So Im grateful to have always been able to return to a place like Grace every Sunday, to gather in this space with familiar faces, and to be able to put aside anything I might be worried about for at least an hour or two.

#2 I appreciate how Grace has helped me develop as a Christian

Through the years of coming to Grace I’ve been becoming more and more committed to following Christ as I move forward in life. I am confident that as I go out into the world as an adult, I can always lean my faith.  

#3 I appreciate all the individuals I’ve met at Grace.

I’ve met people that I consider lifelong friends, I’ve met some very inspirational people, and throughout my involvement at Grace, I’ve learned the importance of being a responsible, reliable person, and treating people with love and respect.

I know I’ve benefited greatly from this church, and I believe I’m a better person because I have been a part of this community. I think it’s important to always be grateful for the work of everyone who over the years built this community to be the place that has been such a point of light in my life, and in the lives of many of the folks in this room. So, for those reasons, I think we should all continue to invest in and maintain Grace, so we can extend our reach and benefit others. 

Standing with the People of Standing Rock – A Personal Reflection by Deacon Ken Powell

Dear friends in Christ,

            As most of you know a call for clergy to support the community of Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota by Rev. John Floberg for the purpose of resisting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline received an enormous response from well over five hundred faith leaders of virtually every spiritual tradition. Many of the facts and disputes regarding the project are circulating in the media for your own discernment but I would like to share with you a few personal reflections of my experience there which depart from the standard narrative.

            As a deacon called to stand with the vulnerable, to work for justice and to interpret to the church “the needs, hopes and concerns of the world” the rationale for making the long journey from Portland, OR. was self-evident. But given the immense challenges we are facing at every turn I wondered what it was about this situation that was so compelling? I soon realized that land and water anciently understood and experienced as a sacred gift of the Creator is such a rare and precious gift in our time and place that I could not imagine being silent and remote while it was threatened with desecration if it was at all in my power to be vocal and present. In that spirit, I made plans to attend the November 3rd gathering,  knowing that many like-minded souls were also to be my companions and prayer partners.

            Almost immediately the journey became a pilgrimage, and had the fullness of a sacramental immersion. I was aware of a deep need for a ritual of repentance and a gratitude to the native people for preserving a living memory of a spirituality that cherished the earth and all its creatures. I was struck again and again by the terrible dilemma of traveling roughly the same distance by automobile from my home as the proposed oil pipeline from the Bakken Oil Fields to Standing Rock along roadways that followed the Columbia, Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers– already crosshatched with pipelines and powerlines and dams. Was it hypocrisy to proceed in this way, an unavoidable entanglement, or maybe simply time to say to myself and to the world this is too much, the last straw for me? We have to find a better way!

            It needs to be told that the people of Standing Rock were spectacularly hospitable, generous in spirit, gravely committed and deeply moved by the clergy’s honoring of their dignity and right to self- determination, just as we were moved by their many tokens of acceptance and forgiveness.

            The guiding principles of our participation were simple but profound. We were guests of the governing Council and as such were required to act “prayerfully, peacefully, non-violently, and legally.” Our purpose was to “bear witness” to the truth of the circumstances and the residents right to protest in light of the invasive presence of overwhelming corporate power and an intimidating police posture. The tension was palpable on all sides. Our hope to be a calming voice was achieved, I believe, during our relatively short time at the site. Others– we hope– will continue to carry the banner of peaceful resistance.

It also needs to be told that among the mass of “protectors” –as they refer to themselves– there are those who believe that more aggressive and perhaps provocative methods may be necessary. In their readiness to expose themselves and others to a high risk of injury and potential property damage their values do not align with those of the residents to the best of my knowledge.  Our hosts emphasized, on the contrary, that they must remain behind when all is said and done and they were unequivocal in their desire to keep the peace as best they might.

            In closing I would like to highlight what I took to be the deepest and potentially most meaningful feature of the encounter between the leaders of the gathered tribes and the hundreds of Christian faith leaders who spoke on behalf of their own communities of faith from both the personal and the national level.

            In the simplest of terms this was enacted ritually by members of the universal Church of Christ repudiating the 15th century papal bull known as the “Doctrine of Discovery” which provided the “religious” justification for claiming any land in the “new world” not already claimed by a “Christian monarch”.

           If anyone needs assurance that this doctrine is still relevant just travel anywhere along the course of the Missouri or Columbia rivers to the Pacific Ocean and you will see signs extolling the “Corps of Discovery”– otherwise known as the Lewis and Clark– expedition into the lands purchased at a pittance from France, who claimed it for themselves simply because they could.

            By witnessing and burning  a copy of that document as a sign of repudiation– for the first time ever in the presence of tribal elder’s– in a sacred fire maintained by those elders on their sacred land while encircled in solidarity by those who knew the doctrine to be a part of the cross which they had been carrying, the flames to be the presence of the Holy Spirit and the ascending smoke a prayer of repentance for harm done in Christ’s name… we have hope of Christ’s forgiveness and reconciliation with our native sisters and brothers.