Our visit to Grace Church, Bath, fell on the day after the February meeting of the Diocesan Council in the same place. Because of that coincidence, I was able to meet with the Rector, Michael Ambler, on Saturday and to undertake a thorough review of the life and ministry of Grace Church. On Sunday morning, Gretchen and I drove to Bath as the temperatures rose in the first real thaw of the winter. By the time we arrived, everything was dripping.
I met first with the Vestry and clergy. We had a lively conversation about the ministry and finances of Grace Church, and, particularly, about the ongoing efforts to reach out to the community. We also talked about the tensions in the Anglican Communion and the ongoing work of the Episcopal Church in wrestling with the full participation of all our members.
After the Vestry meeting I had the opportunity to talk with a long time member of the parish who was choosing to be received into the Episcopal Church. The rite for confirmation, reaffirmation and reception is designed to give baptized members of the Episcopal Church the opportunity to renew their commitment to the baptized life at significant times of transition in their lives. The authors of the rite envisioned the possibility that faithful people might renew and confirm their baptismal vows at the time of marriage, the birth of a child, transition to a new job or community, retirement, death of a partner, etc. This was an occasion when the parishioner desired to renew and strengthen her commitment, and I was glad to encourage her in that decision.
The service was a joyous occasion. The music was wonderful. For those who haven’t been to Grace, it’s a contemporary, open space with seating in an arc of about 150 degrees. And floating serenely above, the good ship Mary Ann. I couldn’t find Gretchen in the congregation and looked up to discover her singing in the choir, blue robes and all. Great fun for her and the choir!
My visit ended with conversation with Grace’s curate, Martha Kirkpatrick, about her internship at Grace and possible next steps. Then Gretchen and I returned home through the mild, wet afternoon.