What is Grace?
Grace is a Christian alternative worship community/network.
It has varying degrees of importance/significance/levels of commitment for the people involved. Some are involved in other churches and Grace is a supplement, some are involved in St Mary's Ealing and Grace is part of that, for some Grace is their only church. There are also the complexities of how people's partners and children fit in or are part of Grace. But it is the people and the network of friendships/relationships that makes Grace what it is.
For more about the structure of our community see here.
For the ethos of Grace see here.
Grace is a congregation of St. Mary's Church, Ealing, London. It is part of the Church of England (Anglican).
Grace was founded by members of St. Mary's and has always been a part of that church. However it operates with a high degree of freedom and independence which is based on a relationship of friendship and trust with the 'mother' church. Some people come to Grace and also go to other services at St. Mary's, but generally Grace doesn't overlap much with the other congregations of St. Mary's. However we believe that it is good to be part of a wider church community, in spite of the ambiguities and challenges that sometimes arise.
Grace is about worship in ways and forms that we can relate to.
It is an authentic offering of worship to God out of who we are, not something we target other people with. Implicit in this is the idea that if we produce worship that we relate to, we will be able to invite friends. Grace began with a desire to reinvent worship and this is still a significant part of who we are and what we do, even though we do many other things now.
See also What to expect at a Grace service and How a Grace service is made.
Grace is about mission.
Grace has always been about mission, but our sense of what that means has changed over the years. At the beginning we hoped that creative worship events would appeal directly to the unchurched, as well as the dechurched and the disaffected still within churches. We wanted to encourage and resource others who were on similar journeys, in gratitude at how we had been encouraged and resourced, so we took early advantage of the internet to publish and connect. We created worship events for youthwork conferences, festivals such as Greenbelt, and even individual churches, to inspire people to try it for themselves.
In doing all this we found ourselves, ironically, on a mission to the Church. We have had many ecclesiastical visitors from around the globe, studying what we do and how we do it and taking it back to their own churches and denominations. It wasn't the mission we expected to have, but we embraced it as the one we were given.
At the same time, Grace supports and inspires us in our personal mission activities - working or being involved in charities and Christian organisations, social justice, arts and media, education and many other places including everyday life. Grace is a space where we can explore the issues that we care about, and develop creative responses. It gives us an unusual story we can tell about God and the Church.
What does Grace do?
Grace worship event (monthly)
This is the most public face of Grace. It only happens once a month because it takes at least a month to create each service! The discussion, study and creative work involved in making each service is a big part of how we grow as Christians and as a community. See also:
What to expect at a Grace service
Gracelet worship event (variable)
This is a simple service with a regular liturgy of quiet reflection and community prayer. It has had several forms over the years, most recently on Zoom weekly during the pandemic as a focus for community and prayer, since we could not do meals or other meetings alongside the main service.
Grace planning meeting (monthly)
This evening meeting is about worship planning, looking ahead and general direction. We arrange other meetings as necessary to plan events.
For some reason the season of Lent has always resonated with Grace. In most years we meet more often in Lent, for discussions (maybe based around a book we are all reading), prayers and meals, as well as the traditional things like Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Holy Week. We have also run a community Lent blog on several occasions.
Greenbelt is a Christian arts festival across August Bank Holiday weekend. Grace did something at the festival every year from 1996 to 2014 - services, other kinds of event, installations. For many years members of Grace were involved in running and managing the festival. Many members of Grace still go each year.
Some of the things we have done and are doing:
- Community meals, sometimes with Holy Communion
- Meeting in small groups for prayer and support, often over meals
- Farming an allotment which provides much food for community meals
- Joining other non-church community groups in Ealing and doing stuff with them
- Going to music events of all kinds
- Going to late night openings at art galleries and museums
- Going to theatre and storytelling events
- Running a stand at the London Mind Body Spirit Festival
- Going to beer festivals in Belgium
- Charity bicycle rides to France, Scotland, Belgium, Holland
Anyone can take the initiative to start or join in something and see what grows. The planning meetings or the café are the best places to share ideas.