Greetings with Grace: It is hard to believe that we have already started our second month in 2024, and our Lenten journey is about to begin. We have much to celebrate as our accomplishments have already started to create a burst of energy in the life of our community! May all of these updates give you as much life as they are giving our growing work in the City of Billings.
We have made major strides in giving the financial health of the church some attention. We accomplished our goal of starting 2024 debt-free by rapidly raising money to pay off the church loan. The Methodist Helping Foundation estimates that this accomplishment will save us $35,000.00 in interest over the next 5 years and now our rental property is revenue-generating for the first time in a long time! We also held a special Charge Conference on Sunday, January 28th to establish our new endowment with special guests: Rev. Karen McRae, Eastern Montana District Superintendent, and Kristi Kinnison, Executive Director of The Methodist Helping Methodist Foundation. Behind the scenes, the Administrative Council and Finance Team have begun our finance migration to a new institution which we hope provides better interest yields and greater transparency. We also have a small team working to update record-keeping and reporting abilities using new accounting software. We celebrate and lift up the many opportunities we have bravely stepped into as we realize our dreams of improving our financial health.
As I write today, I can inform everyone that we have had a mental health provider move into our building and another starts moving in this month! Our building will be a place where they will continue to grow their practices and we will be the safe refuge for them to provide their services to the community. This strategy not only provides partnership opportunities, it is revenue generating and clarifies that as a spiritual community, we support the need for increased mental health services in our city. With these additions to the building, we will all need to make shifts and changes to our routines as we practice the most radical hospitality we can muster.
Even more exciting is that we have had several new ministry ideas get off the ground in January! We have had enough signatures to launch a NEW HIKING GROUP, which is planning their first community hiking experience (be on the lookout for more information), a NEW WALKING GROUP (people interested in having a group of people to walk with during the week) has begun planning, and we are collecting items to stock the nurse’s station at Lewis and Clark Middle School, a new relationship! Our Dinner Theater cast has been rehearsing and tickets will go on sale soon for shows in March. The Huffman’s are planning for a new collectibles sale in April. Deborah Cox resurrected Super Bowl Subs (the 19th Annual back after a break), with sandwiches made by children from our Grow at Grace Sunday School program on sale for Super Bowl Sunday. Brushes of Grace, our community art program continues to offer new and exciting classes and there is another Sip & Paint event scheduled for March! This week the church was contacted by a national prison ministry organization that would like to expand into the Billings Women’s Prison and is looking for a partner church!
We have done all of this while supporting our existing ministries like Grace UMC Quilters, Choir, Pray Group, Family Promise, The Freestore, Grace Queer Adults, Rainbow Coffee House, Beyond the Surface, and the Grace Elementary Enrichment Program (GEEP)! Speaking of GEEP, our children’s space (I think we should call it “The Grow Zone” is getting a complete makeover! After deciding to put new flooring in the room, our project evolved to include: drywall ceilings, a new paint job, new-to-us cabinets, and more accents. We still need to put on some finishing touches, so be on the lookout for a special e-mail with an Amazon Wish List if you want to help us finish the project. Thank you to many volunteers who have dedicated their time to assisting in this and other projects, Erika Peters’ Paints and her fabulous team, and the GEEP team who have endured major disruptions to their program. As in all major projects, we and our leaders have learned a lot and apologize for mistakes made as we manage the many different projects happening in the life of the church right now.
My reflections this week have greatly been on how I show up and how WE show up as a church. Lent begins on the 14th with Soup Lunch and Ashes, from 11:30-1:30 at First UMC Billings. This year at Grace, we will have the imposition of ashes during Worship on the first Sunday of Lent, February 21. As we prepare our hearts for a season of sacrifice and self-examination, let us soak in the powerful, albeit not perfect ways, we are growing as people, as a community, and as faithful followers of Jesus. We will be letting the words from “Good Enough?”, a devotion by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie, guide our spirits during our 40-day pilgrimage. I encourage you to order a copy for your own Lenten journey as well!
Grace & Peace,
Rev. Samuel Beaves-Fisher
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