Fresh Start

Fresh Start

Posted on September 04, 2016

Leading up to Grace Church's 25th Anniversary, we are counting down the days by posting 25 blog posts in 25 days by 25 authors (well, 24... Dave wrote twice)! The post below is one of these posts. 


The second Sunday morning in September, 1991 was a morning I’d long looked forward to seeing arrive. Months of preparation, discussion, decision making and simple, hard work had gone into making the first service of the new Grace Community Church a reality. The moment had finally arrived; it was time for our first service as a new body.

The service was in a warehouse, a warehouse that still resembled a warehouse in every respect save the 400 or so plastic, pink chairs set up in semi-circular rows in the middle of the room. A small podium stood before this gaggle of chairs and a small electronic keyboard sat off to one side. This was all that was needed to have church that morning. I remember almost nothing of that first service, but I do carry an image of Dave Rodriquez leading the singing and Penny Rodriquez playing the keyboard in my mind. It is just a snapshot of a memory: faces in the over- crowded seats; the unexpected overflow of folks standing in the space behind the chairs. The picture painted in my mind is one of promise. I remember wondering, “What will become of this new community?” it was my hope for a fresh start and a differently-directed gathering of people who were serious about following Jesus that excited me that morning. And I am certain that this picture of that first morning with all of its possibilities and open-handed trust will never leave me. My hope is that I will never lose that sense of anticipation that filled that morning. My prayer is that I will always be filled with that kind of wonder that still asks, “What will God do through this community in the years to come.”

The Management Team was gathered; all of Grace’s pastors were in the room. It was 2008 and we were in the midst of implementing emergency procedures to lessen the financial hardships associated with all that had come our way due to a major financial downturn. Budgets had been cut; spending frozen; the staff had taken a pay cut. Offerings were down and there seemed to be panic in the air. And yet we’d not met to further talk about how to weather this storm, we’d met to talk about making full-time something many of the pastors and parishioners could no longer ignore.

We were surrounded by special needs children and their families and we were fairly confident that if we didn’t open our doors to helping meet their needs no one else would. The discussion was very straight forward. To proactively begin this ministry as a part of Grace Church every other established ministry would have to cut its already whittled-down budget. The money would have to come out of what was already planned for other things; the space to house this kind of a ministry would have to come out of space already in use by other ministries; our established ministries would have to forfeit hiring new staff in the future. We all knew that a decision to follow this pathway would impact every other ministry in the Church in some way and in some cases not in subtle ways and yet there was almost no discussion needed. We knew this was exactly what God wanted us to do.

I have been a part of many important decisions during my 25 years at Grace, but I don’t know that any one has been more important that this one. The need was clear. The way to meet that need meant sacrificing and committing to a long term willingness to obey God’s call to help carry the burdens of others. I will always see that moment of decision as one of Grace’s finest hours. Our LIFT ministry, a ministry which has come to define the kind of community God has called Grace Church to be in his world.