Grace is Weird in a Good Way

A Conversation with Our Interim Pastor Dorthy About the Grace Lutheran Church Community

Interview by Mary Ann Brenan on July 13, 2021 (transcript)


Mary Ann: Pr. Dorthy, Hello.  How are you?

Pr. Dorthy: Mary Ann, I’m good. It’s fun to be here in the courtyard with you. It’s lovely out here!

Mary Ann: Pr. Dorthy, we’re together in the courtyard this afternoon to talk about your comments on why you call Grace weird in a positive way.  Because Merriam-Webster’s definition of weird is something that could be extraordinary, fantastic, and then words related to “weird” are phenomenal, rare, notable, noticeable, outstanding, prominent.  What are your thoughts about this?

Pr. Dorthy: Well, strange is another one of those words that is yeah, well there’s a lot of weird things about Grace that I like; and that very noticeable from early on is that at Grace’s core, at the core of Grace’s heart is its sense of mission.  That’s evident in a lot of the history, seeing not just how Grace was birthed, but the birthing of Grace Center and some of the missions that you’ve been involved, in the community of volunteers of interfaith caregivers, and just the number of people in the congregation who are engaged in outreach in quiet ways throughout their neighborhood or their schools or community. That’s exciting to me. I don’t see a lot of that in the churches that I have served as interim or even those I’ve been called to.

The sense of mission in some churches is a little more tied to giving special funds out, not as much getting your hands in there and doing God’s work. This church is active with Bible study opportunities, book clubs and conversations.  I keep hearing, “you know we used to have the pastors doing a Bible study. When are you gonna do it?” So, it’s coming.

Also, the strong connection to Luther House.  Grace is just weird, strange, it’s different.

Mary Ann: It’s exciting isn’t it!

Pr Dorthy: It is, and for some churches mission is scary, but it doesn’t seem to scare people here.

Mary Ann: We are a congregation that doesn’t scare easily!

Pr Dorthy: No, and with the way you rolled when COVID hit with switching gears and the tech team that quickly evolved to take care of worship opportunities for everyone, and then the initial response, you know, to getting something out, evolved to making it more seamless and less stitched together; which takes time and editing.  It went from being somewhere around 18 to 20 hours of work to put together a Sunday service and it’s now down to a more manageable six to eight hours.  Now with the reopening, that’s going to create opportunity for more people to get involved in the technology aspect of worship, but also the strong leadership here and the recognition that Grace wants to be a hybrid church, that we are serving people who can’t be here because of being homebound or distance or some other reason.

There’s also this responsiveness to worship needs. The worship and music team and the tech team – they’ve been meeting every week since March of 2020. That’s amazing!

We have had changes in staff.  You know, Hayden left, then Bryson came on board.  Donna has retired and then there’s Kristin coming on board.  So, things are evolving and changing.  That doesn’t seem to be a threatening thing for Grace that change is something that happens, even from the first “olders” that I spoke with when I came to Grace in October of 2020.  Several of them were very clear that they know things have to change and that’s okay.  We need to just do it, and that surprised me because there’s a tendency when change starts happening, especially what we’ve been through, is to hunker down and hold on to what we can, right?  (Mary Ann: it’s comfortable) yeah and that’s not been the case here at all.  That’s not to say that holding on to some of those things aren’t important.  We have to figure out what’s important now.

Another thing about Grace is the use of your facilities and property.  The opportunity that came to buy that third piece of land with all kinds of dreams and visions for what kind of ministry could be developed there.

This is why Grace is weird, in a good way!

Mary Ann: Indeed, yeah, indeed and enthusiastic.  I love the fact that even as an older congregation we still have enthusiasm and great ideas and plans for the future.

Pr Dorthy: And strong leadership.  Oh, that’s the foundation of the whole.  Strong leadership around here.  Your lay leaders have been amazing during this pandemic, and you’ve been served by some wonderful long pastorates.  You’ve had good relationships with those pastors, and maybe you’ve had some conflict? I know you have; but, you have worked through that.  And is there some hurt? Yeah, there probably is.  And we don’t want to slight any of the wounds, but to recognize that there are scars and that this is a church that is made of people who have their flaws, but are beautifully loved and loving, and that makes you weird.

Mary Ann: Well, we should be proud of that.

Pr Dorthy: Yes, well Grace was one of the first RIC congregations in the Oregon Synod and that took a lot of work and a lot of conversation.  Having served several congregations through those early days and through the adoption of social statement in 2009, I have dealt with some of the challenges that came with that, but it’s not an issue.  It’s people’s lives.  (Mary Ann: It’s an opportunity) and it’s people who we love and who God loves.  So, this is Grace.  Grace has been a leader in many ways and continues to be, and that’s weird, you know.

Mary Ann: Well, that being said, I’m so glad that you thought of that word and introduced it to us, because it’s opened up a lot more expansive thinking I do believe, yeah.

Pr Dorthy: If you think about the early church, and, it wasn’t really called the early church but, the days of the apostles, they were doing things very different, and it was revolutionary. It also was, in some ways, a bit threatening to some.   It was very different than what they were used to in terms of worship, in terms of relationships, and in terms of how politics worked, not just in the church, but the politics of being community and standing up to the empire, to the powers of this world.  And, you know, really in recent years, and I’m talking decades, the Church has been changing.  We haven’t been paying attention.  And there is a need for us to realize that we cannot go back to the way things worked, and that the Holy Spirit is with us and we don’t need to be afraid.  We can be excited and a little nervous, and that’s okay.

Mary Ann: Thank you so much for your words.  I hope that our little conversation today will ease a lot of angst, perhaps, that some people have.  We just need to keep on trusting God and moving forward.

Pr Dorthy: And being curious and open.  Right?  And that’s what we’ve been seeing on the transition team. (Absolutely) Then to see the management of the stewardship of resources here at Grace, that this is a generous congregation (indeed it is).  Yeah, so like I said, Grace is weird, and I like it.

Mary Ann: Well, I do too.  Thanks for this conversation.  I’m glad we could have it.

Pr Dorthy: I am too.