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Decade of Grace

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S: Decade of Grace - Cross of Grace Lutheran Church

BC: Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 | Many thanks to our designers and photographers: Mark Blachly, Linda Buechler, Howard Graham, Mark Havel, Stephen Jordan, Kevin Minnick, Keith Mitchell, and Scott Nellis

FC: A Look At Our First Ten Years 2001-2011

1: Cross of Grace Lutheran Church Formed in June of 2000 First Worship Service at Doe Creek Middle School October 15, 2000

2: Cross of Grace's Beginning By Pastor Ron Voss I continue to give thanks that Cross of Grace has developed into a strong, stable, mission-minded congregation. Servants of Christ Lutheran Church had been involved in three Mission Founder congregational developments before we entered into outreach to New Palestine. A Mission Founder is a congregation who assumes the primary financial responsibility for the development of a new congregation for a period of three years. In the late 90s that was approximately $120,000- $140,000 commitment. The three we were involved with were Westfield, Indiana, one in Tennessee, and one in South Carolina. At the time we decided to look into the New Palestine development, we had some members from that area, and the idea of a new Lutheran Church came up during a Bethel Bible class. We also felt good about the possibility of being personally involved in the start of a new congregation. We could send people into the area to help with initial calling, some of our present members would form a core for that ministry, and we had the money to support such an outreach effort. Being aware of what was involved with mission development we also knew that the new congregation, if it took off, would need a piece of land on which to one day build. Harrel Cohron and I looked for land on Washington Street starting at the Marion/ Hancock county line. We contacted a realtor, and after making a number of contacts, came upon the piece of land on Mount Comfort Rd. that was ultimately purchased for Cross of Grace. Servants of Christ voted to purchase the 10.3 acres of land for $125,000. The congregation that is now Cross of Grace would not have been started under the ELCA mission development structure of the 1990s simply because the New Palestine area, though growing slowly at that time, was not considered to be as a high-growth area such as Westfield, and thus not worthy of a major financial commitment of the national church at a time in which mission support funds were continuing to decline.

3: We contacted the Synod office and asked if any retired pastors might be willing to do some initial outreach work in the area to see if there was sufficient interest to start a new congregation. Three different retired pastors were contacted and all said no for various reasons. When Clark Hobby was contacted, the name of Dave Solida was suggested. Dave was a lay person who had worked in some congregations but was working full time in another job at the time we approached him for this responsibility. Dave was presented with the possibility, and he said yes. A steering advisory committee was formed and they started to plan for the first service. Janis and Anne Janelsins and Orlyn Mogler from St. James in Greenfield were involved from the very beginning. Space was rented at Doe Creek Middle School and the congregation began to grow. As the congregation grew, it became evident that a full-time pastor would be needed to continue and expand its development. At the time this was still an outreach of Servants of Christ and so Servants of Christ issued the call to Pastor Mark Havel in May, 2001. He was assigned to develop the congregation in New Palestine. At the time of his call (ELCA policy has since changed), a graduating seminarian could not be called to a new ministry development. Servants of Christ also gave Cross of Grace a Bethel Bible Series enrollment, and a number of members of Cross of Grace participated in the scripture study program in the first years of its congregational life. Living deeply in the Word of God has provided a solid foundation for this congregation. The new congregation continued to grow and expand under Mark's leadership and formally organized on December 2, 2001. Mark Havel is an exceptionally gifted pastor and was supported by a deeply committed core of initial members who worked hard to develop and expand this ministry. The Holy Spirit has blessed and guided this ministry every step of the way, and thus, we can only say thank you to the Lord for what is today Cross of Grace Lutheran Church - and to God be the glory! In Christ's love, Ron Voss

4: Top Left: Doug Gast (Pastor Mark's Internship Supervisor); Ron Voss (Pastor of Servants of Christ); Dave Solida (Lay Evangelist for Cross of Grace); Pastor Mark Havel; Steve Albertin (Dean of the Indianapolis Conference). Above: Three of Cross of Grace's Founding Members, Lance Oxley, Janis Janelsins, and Larry Christle Left: The first congregational picture of Cross of Grace's congregation, 2001

5: First Fall Picnic at Paul Ruster Park | Lance Oxley, Pastor Mark Havel, and Janis Janelsins at our first Prayer Vigil, held in a heated tent on the new property off of CR 600 West. November 16, 2002 | A Time of "Firsts"

6: Cross of Grace first began meeting at Doe Creek Middle School, under the leadership of Lay Evangelist David Solida (pictured below). That's where our first baptism and first confirmation celebrations were held. | In addition to the school cafeteria, our ministry happened in nursing homes, local parks, back patios and in the kitchens and living rooms of our homes.

7: In July of 2001, Servants of Christ Lutheran Church purchased 10.3 acres in New Palestine for Cross of Grace to build upon. On April 27, 2003, Cross of Grace had our official 'Groundbreaking' Ceremony.

10: 'Sweat Equity' - Fall 2003 Right: Pat Rosner and Evan and Jim Vance work on organizing and moving building materials. Bottom: Jim and Evan Vance, George Searfoss, John Hassman, and Garry Buechler lend their help and hands to the building project.

11: Our Partners in Mission not only laid carpet, painted walls, and helped with construction, they also painted prayers and blessings throughout the facility during the building project. | Our Partners in Mission, Fall 2003

12: On December 24, 2003, Cross of Grace was able to celebrate our first Christmas Eve worship in the new building. It's still remembered as one of the most meaningful events from our earliest days.

13: With the help of many Partners in Mission, several congregations, along with the larger Church, the first phase of our Mission Center was completed in early 2004.

14: On February 22, 2004, Cross of Grace officially dedicated our Center for Mission, in worship, with Bishop Jim Stuck and Pastor Mark Havel presiding.

15: There were so many firsts at this time. Cross of Grace was growing, and the Spirit was moving.

16: Worship, Learn, and Serve in the Name of Jesus Christ

21: Cross of Grace Highlights 2000-2011 June 8, 2000 Steering Committee met for the first time October 15, 2000 First Service at Doe Creek led by Dave Solida August 12, 2001 Pastor Mark's Installation at Cross of Grace December 2, 2001 Cross of Grace becomes an official congregation of the ELCA and a Charter is signed April 20, 2003 First Easter Sunrise Service on our new property April 27, 2003 Groundbreaking for our church December 24, 2003 First Christmas Eve Service in our unfinished church building | February 22, 2004 Building Dedication Fall 2004 Handbell Choirs and Youth Group began December 2004 Hired Keith Payne to lead Contemporary Worship Service January 9, 2005 Started Contemporary Service August 2005 Hired Linda Sevier as our Administrative Assistant September 2006 Started Grace Quest Spring 2007 Expanded our Fellowship Hall November 2008 Hired Scott Nellis as our Ministry Coordinator November 2011 Hired Jim Rowe as our Minister of Music and added our Evening Worship Service

23: Top: First Awestruck Youth Mission Trip, 2009 Above: Vacation Bible School / Christmas Cantata Below: Prayer Shawl Group / Women's Circle of Grace

24: Above: Scott Nellis with the high-school Sunday School class: From left, Thomas Jordan, Nick Hopkins, Andrea Bailey, and Emily Michaelis Left: The Cross of Grace Youth Group, 2006

26: Left: Our first co-ed Softball Team Below: Alice Jane Christle, Monique Galster, and Carol Graham

27: Above: Grant Hickman poses for his VBS action shot Right: Kindra Moore, our VBS director from 2007-2010

28: And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more. 2 Corinthians 3:18

30: Cross of Grace Staff December 2011 | Mark Havel is our Pastor at Cross of Grace. He and wife, Christa, have two boys, Jackson and Maxwell. He feels blessed to share grace in ways that too many people don't find when they come to church--that is, the unconditional love of God with no pre-requisites, no questions asked and no strings attached. | Linda Sevier is our Administrative Assistant at Cross of Grace. Linda's personal goal for Cross of Grace is to share the good news of the Cross and the blessings that can be found in grace with all who pass through the doors of our Mission Center. | Scott Nellis is our Ministry Coordinator at Cross of Grace. In this job he wears many hats, some of which include leading the Middle-School Youth Group, playing drums in the Modern Grace band, designing the church newsletter and other publications, and overseeing all of Cross of Grace's small groups. Scott's passion is working side-by-side with everyone here at Cross of Grace to further the Church's mission in our community. | Jim Rowe is our Minister of Music at Cross of Grace. In this job he hopes to be a conduit for young people to participate more fully in the music program at Cross of Grace, just as he was encouraged as a young musician. He is humbled by the trust given him as Minister of Music at Cross of Grace Lutheran Church.

31: “Grace does not depend on what we have done for God but rather what God has done for us.” Philip Yancey

33: Left and Bottom: Our first Seder Dinner, April 2011 Top Right: Our first Mission Team to Fondwa, Haiti: Judy Jordan, George Searfoss, John Ricci, and Lee Knight

34: Reflecting on Cross of Grace's History | How Cross of Grace Got Its Name by Susan Oxley, Partner in Mission since 2000 At one of our first church meetings, we were given the challenge of choosing a name for our new church. My husband, Lance, and I got out our Bibles and started brainstorming about ideas for a name. We started writing down every phrase that we came across. I remember having a whole page filled with two columns of ideas like, “Streams of Living Water,” and “Holy Trinity.” We wrote down everything we could think of and tried not to rule anything out until we shared it with everyone. After spending quite a bit of time on this, I remember looking at our list and thinking that not one name on it sounded right, but I was all out of ideas, and I was frustrated. What happened next may sound strange, but it was the only time in my life that I’ve ever been convinced that I heard God talking to me. I was looking at our list, and the words “Cross of Grace” came into my head, as clear as day. I absolutely knew that it was the right name for our church. At our next meeting, I didn’t even have to launch a campaign for the name...when everyone heard it, they knew it was right, too. Ever since that time, I have jokingly claimed the credit for our name. I have met other pastors who have commented on the wonderful theology behind our church’s name. I love to hear comments like that. Still, from the minute that name came into my head, I knew that it didn’t come from me. It was totally, 100% a God-thing. I believe he used “Cross of Grace” to bless all of us by the promises the name holds. Although we don’t deserve it, by God’s grace we are saved because Jesus died on that cross. That empty cross is our symbol of God’s loving grace. A cross, and grace. That pretty much says it all.

35: Above: Abby Blachly Below: Angi Johnson and Angel Hughey | Above: Pastor Mark confirming Kristin Villiger Below: Andy, Addie, and Angie Crawford

37: Cross of Grace Youth Group

38: Reflecting on Cross of Grace's History | Our First Building-Fund Campaign by Larry Christle, Partner in Mission since 2000 My wife, Alice Jane, and I were looking for a church to attend in New Palestine. We attended the Lion’s Club Fall Festival and there was a booth sponsored by the new Cross of Grace Lutheran Church. They were going to start a new church in October, 2000, at Doe Creek Middle School. Since I had taken early retirement after 36 years in general construction, I thought that maybe in the future this new church would need someone to pound some nails. I never thought that in a few years I would be volunteering to be the chairman of the building committee and then the project manager of this new church in New Palestine. After we called a full-time pastor, Mark Havel, we knew that this group of people was being serious about building a new church. Our building committee was formed with a great group of people: Cindy Mattes, Pam McCallister, Fred Golgart, Pastor Mark and myself. We were advised by Pastor Ron Voss of Servants of Christ Lutheran Church (our sponsoring church) to hire a consulting firm whose partner was a member of his church. With their help, we hired an architect, who prepared some preliminary drawings and cost figures. Our committee had spent many hours visiting other churches, had discussions with many other people, and also had spent time together discussing the pros and cons of a design. Then came the point where we needed a building-fund campaign. The church council hired an outside consultant to advise the ways to raise this money. He thought—based on the number of members and giving units—that we could expect about $250,000. Pastor Mark thought that this number was too low. He thought maybe $300,000 would be closer. However, the Sunday when all of the numbers came in, we were close to $330,000. There were many tears and happy faces when these numbers were presented to our Partners in Mission. It meant everyone was serious to get in gear and build a church for God. We contacted the Synod office in Chicago to discuss acquiring financing through their mission fund. We were told that most new churches need seven years to set up a history of membership and how much each family unit could contribute. We told them we would look elsewhere for funding. I had a contact with a loan manager at the Pendleton Bank. Pastor Mark and I met with this man and gave him all of the facts of our membership, the amount of money for our building fund, the size of the church, etc. We stated that we owned 10 acres, which Servants of Christ had purchase for us at $120,000. He said he would give us $1.8 million, but only if Servants of Christ would co-sign the loan for five years. In closing, he stated to us, “You build and they will come.” He was so right. We were blessed to have Pastor Ron Voss and Servants of Christ behind us to get us so far ahead of the “experts.”

39: Above Left: Scott Nellis and Paul Helms talk on a Sunday morning. Above Right: Mark Blachly leads the Grace Quest kids in another lesson. Left: Stephen Jordan serves Cross of Grace every Sunday as our Audio/Visual technician.

40: Top Left: The Women's Bible Study Top Right: Pastor Mark leads a meeting Bottom Left: Ben and Bethany Blachly serving as ushers Bottom Right: One of our Men's Bible Studies

42: Reflecting on Cross of Grace's History | Change Can Be Good By Debbie Searfoss, Partner in Mission since 2000 Ever heard the joke about how many Lutherans it takes to change a light bulb? Answer: 10. One to install the new light bulb and nine to commiserate about how much they loved the old bulb. During my life I have learned that when I begin to feel comfortable, God mixes things up. When we moved to Indiana in 2000, we left behind a church that was established in 1737. 263 years of history, a beautiful stone and stained glass sanctuary, a carillon and an entrenched tradition (sometimes associated with Lutherans) of resisting change. I was comfortable there. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead Our family arrived in Indiana just about the time Ron Voss and his crew of church builders started work in New Palestine. I attended one of those meetings and met a group of people who were willing to“change the light bulb,” so to speak. But would that place be a church home for me? Those first few years were full of physical labor (carrying bins of materials for worship), spiritual labor (knocking on doors and asking people to come to church!!), slightly out-of-tune music (the piano at Doe Creek resisted change, preferring to remain slightly flat), and a series of firsts: First worship service, first newsletter, first budget, first Christmas Eve service, first handbell anthem, first choir anthem. If something did not work, we changed it. Meanwhile, this group of light-bulb changers transformed into a faith community. Change was ubiquitous. Change was our mantra. Church building is not easy; is not always comfortable. But it has helped me to grow in faith. Faith that accepts that God's plan will not be predictable or trouble-free. But participation in God's plan requires openness to God's plan, not stubborn adherence to my plan. Cross of Grace is a small group of people committed to changing the world. Change is good.

43: Awestruck Mission Trip 2010 | Kristin and Katie Villiger, and Eleda Plouch run laps around the parking lot at a Youth Group meeting | Jackson Havel, Will Ammerman, and Bethany Blachly await their activity during Grace Quest

44: Reflecting on Cross of Grace's History | Our First Christmas Eve Service In The Church By Debby Hildebrandt, Partner in Mission since 2000 What a night...Christmas Eve 2003 was a crisp, cold evening, with a thin layer of snow covering the ground. Over one-hundred people walked into an unfinished building named Cross of Grace Lutheran Church. As we entered through the plywood door, we saw unfinished walls, cement floors, pole lamps connected to the electricity, space heaters, and, of course, a roof over our heads. Scriptures, personal messages, words of inspiration and names adorned the walls and the floor, written by all of us during an earlier celebration. The sanctuary chairs had arrived early so we all had a seat as we listened to a keyboard and guitar fill the room with music. Real candles glowed in our faces as we sang “Silent Night.” You see, we were used to battery-powered candles while worshiping at Doe Creek Middle School. What a journey...everything we had dreamed about in the previous few years came alive as we celebrated the birth of Jesus. What a sermon...hearing Pastor Mark speak about the journey of Mary and Joseph as they made their way to a stable in Bethlehem to await the birth of their son. What a special night for Mary and Joseph. What a special night for all of us ... a night to remember. Thanks be to God!

45: Above: Our Soup, Salad, and Scripture class walks our prayer labyrinth. Right: The High-School Youth Group Below: Pastor Mark gets heckled over his fondness for Oprah.

47: As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of being an official ELCA church, it's interesting to look back at some of the events that took place during those early years. Many of you may not know--and some of you may have forgotten--that soon after moving into our new building we buried a time capsule container in the ground near the dated rock in front of the church. One of our charter members, Orlyn Mogler, was in charge of the project, assisted by Pastor Mark and my son, Mark. Orlyn did quite a bit of research to determine what materials would last the longest, what type and size container would be best to use and what sealants would keep the contents preserved and dry. He settled on a two-foot length of eight-inch PVC pipe, with caps on each end, glued and then sealed with silicone. It will be interesting to see what it looks like in 100 years! After deciding on the capsule itself, an invitation went out to members of the congregation to bring any items they wanted to be placed in the capsule. Everything had to be small enough to fit in the capsule and it had to be something that would likely remain intact and not deteriorate over a period of many years. I remember a few of the items and somewhere there is probably a complete list of what was placed inside, but you're not going to read it here. | After all, when it is dug up and opened one day in the future, its contents should be a surprise for everyone. When that event will happen is anyone's guess. For now, and for many years to come, it will remain where it is at, holding a few secrets about how God started us on our special journey here at Cross of Grace. At left: Mark Hildebrandt and Pastor Mark dig the hole for the time capsule. | Reflecting on Cross of Grace's History The Time Capsule by Wes Hildebrandt, Partner in Mission since 2000

49: Brian and I had lived in New Palestine for 18 months before Cross of Grace found us. We had seen ads but didn’t consider attending until Pastor Mark and Larry Christle came knocking on our door one night. We were so impressed with them and what they had to say about the future of this little congregation that we agreed to give it a try. At that time, it was a small group of 50 people meeting at the middle school. Our first Sunday we knew without a doubt that this would be our new church home. The worship had been special, but it was the people. The people were amazing! The most relaxed and friendliest church we had visited in the previous 18 months. As we worshipped each week with our new church family and observed these people as they carried crate upon crate of hymnals, altar vestments, posters, easels, Sunday-school supplies, and, of course, snacks, we were humbled and inspired by their servants’ hearts. We chose to join them. We started out small; we would bring the bin of nursery toys to place in the back of the worship room. After all, our one-year-old son Caleb was using them when he wasn’t pushing folding chairs around or crawling under the easels. We also didn’t want to be left out of this special thing that was happening. Everyone helped. There was rarely a “typical” Sunday. Pastor Mark was always coming up with ideas and asking us to “Play Along.” Caleb’s favorite was when we all took off our shoes and worshipped in our socks on Maundy Thursday. I loved when the public confessions became unique, and more specific each week rather than the one in the LBW; I thought it through and confessed my sins at a deeper level. Brian loved any time he could use his wood working as a gift to the church. If we chose to play along, it always led to us growing more knowledge in our faith and in our relationship with Jesus. It also led to taking chances because sometimes the idea was not something we would have thought up. I am great with putting up walls of what I will and won’t do. But I played along with many of Pastor Mark’s ideas, even when I wondered where he had come up with such a crazy idea. But in doing so I was so richly blessed by God with friendships, confidence, and a deeper faith while serving. We knew Cross of Grace was special when we were there; but it was after we moved to Ohio that we were really made aware of this. It's rare to be involved in a congregation where God is working, people are getting to know Jesus, and the community is coming to see what you are about. There are so many churches that just keep doing what they have always done. Cross of Grace has a gift of seeing where God is working and joining Him in that work; taking a chance and just going for it. My, Brian’s, Caleb’s and Danielle’s standard of what a church should be was raised by Cross of Grace. | Reflecting on Cross of Grace's History by Pam McAllister, Partner in Mission 2001-2008

51: My Story, Our Story by Denise Miller, Partner in Mission since 2001 | 10 years ago, I watched a banner being staked into the ground in front of Doe Creek Middle school, announcing the meeting of a Lutheran church. I had already visited many local Lutheran churches looking for my new church home. Growing up in central Illinois, my family attended a small country Lutheran church where all of my milestones were celebrated: confirmation, catechism, first communion, 4 formative years of our high-school youth group “Luther League,” my father’s funeral, my wedding, my mother’s ordination, my mother’s second marriage, my life. The best part of that time in my life was that I was able to share every one of those moments with my very best friends. For me, finding the next church home was very important and very emotional. I would give this new church meeting in Doe Creek a try, but with much trepidation. How could a new church that doesn’t even have a pew to sit in be a home for my future babies, for my adult time of learning and for my personal growth? As I chatted about my concerns with my mom, she gently said “maybe this isn’t about you, Denise.” And I recounted all of the ‘my’s’ in the concerns. She told me that this could possibly be a once-in-a-lifetime journey for me. “When would I ever get a chance to be part of growing a church community?” In addition to the banner staring me down in front of my work place and my mother’s encouragement, I had a wonderful soul working in the same building who also gently pushed me to attend—Orlyn Mogler. He was my watchman, so to speak. He would pop into my classroom, ask me how I liked the services and sermons, notify me of changes as they happened and encourage me to get involved little by little. He was a very important part of God’s plan to keep me coming back. Shortly after, I was asked to do jobs I never thought I was qualified to do—Sunday school teacher (isn’t that just for the really biblically ingenious ladies in the church??) and church council secretary (isn’t that just for the well-organized and well-versed in the church workings??). But if Anne Janelsins and Lance Oxley thought I had it in me somewhere, I would try my best to fake my way through it ;). “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Phil 4:13, and I had to convince myself of that. That‘s what C.o.G. is all about—the people!! They believe in each other, they encourage each other and they teach-lead-love each other as they go. This church home is an amazing blessing in my family’s life—a bigger blessing than I prayed to receive. I have looked at this journey as a complete walk of faith, I have watched and learned from the more experienced families over the years, and I have grown an amazing love for God’s word from my new church home. God is great and can do all things... even without a pew to sit in.

53: Reflecting on Cross of Grace's History From a Knock on My Front Door... by Lisa Evans-Powers, Partner in Mission since 2000 | One very warm July Saturday—about 11 years ago—I was busy getting my three young children where they needed to be. Sara had already left with her dad to a NPYL Allstar softball tournament, and I was getting Ryan ready to leave for his Allstar baseball game. I was getting three-month-old Kari's diaper bag ready, when someone knocked on my front door. Without thinking, I opened the door to find two men—whom I did not know—standing on my porch. Dave Solida and Lance Oxley were walking the neighborhoods of New Pal, giving information about a new Lutheran church that was soon coming to the community. I remember thinking, "These guys have two minutes, then I have to leave." However, what I was determined to make a two-minute conversation turned out to be a relationship that has been one of the most important to me and my family. I remember asking them what synod they were from. They both looked surprised that I even knew what a synod was! I explained to them that my family had been members of Bethany Lutheran Church in Indianapolis for several years, and had been searching for a new church home since moving to New Palestine about two years before. This was my first introduction to Cross of Grace. I remember meeting that first time at Anne and Janis's home; the first worship services at Doe Creek; and taking my turn at playing the piano once a month. I also remember the Sunday when we signed the charter, and, of course, the first Christmas service that was held here before the church building was complete. It has been an amazing experience to watch the services evolve from what I used to call "Church in a box" at Doe Creek, to what we are fortunate to have now. I have always felt that as my family has changed and experienced its own growing pains, Cross of Grace has done the same. When Sara celebrated her First Communion, and Kari was baptized, my family had faith that this was a congregation that was going to survive and be a very important part of our lives and community. It's very nostalgic to look back, but it's also a very good feeling to think about what lies ahead.

54: Top Left: Tonya and Jordan Reid at our Annual Pet Blessing Top Right: Bob Dalton serves Tom Bancroft at our Seder Dinner Bottom Right: "Hope" was one of many leader dogs trained at Cross of Grace by the Searfoss family.

55: Reflecting on Cross of Grace's History A New Home, A New Experience by Carol Graham, Partner in Mission since 2002 | Almost 10 years ago my husband, Howard, and I experienced a major lifestyle change when he retired from Exelon (Commonwealth Edison) and we moved from our 26-year Illinois residence to New Palestine. During previous trips here to visit our daughter and family, we had visited several Lutheran churches in the area. When we moved, our daughter told us there was a new ELCA church meeting at Doe Creek School. I have to say that we are proof that the Cross of Grace outreach booth at the Lion’s Fall Festival really does work—because that is when we first experienced the smiling faces that the church has to offer. The first Sunday we attended service at Doe Creek was a mixture of emotions for me. Always apprehensive to go into a roomful of strangers, I was calmed to find smiling, friendly people introducing themselves, and immediately telling me about this new church. I have no idea what Pastor Mark preached about, but I do remember that, like all of his sermons, I not only related to it, but wondered just how I felt he was talking to me. And on our way home Howard and I agreed that we may have just found our new church home. One of the impressions I've had about that “developing” time at Cross of Grace is that, because we were a new church, we had no history—so we couldn’t say things like, “But we have never done it that way before!” We were (and still are) a mixture of life-long, active Lutherans from various synods; people “coming back” to the church; and curious people who have never heard the word Lutheran before. And yet the overwhelming feeling I had that first Sunday—and still am reminded of—is that ALL are welcome—ALL are God’s children—ALL receive God’s grace —and ALL are empowered to share that news. And thank you, Pastor Mark, for keeping things interesting—because where else could I see a YouTube video as part of a worship service?

56: Top: Pastor Mark leads a First Communion class Above: Max Havel Far Left: Cross of Gracer and Pastor, Fred Hubert, presides over worship Left: Logan Oxley, Lauren Bailey, and Claire Hornsby at Camp Lakeview

57: Our First 10 Years... by Pastor Mark Havel Partner in Mission since 2001 | Dear Partners in Mission, As a compilation of the milestones and special events, this book marks the first phase of our life together. It is as exhausting as it is exhilarating to see all we have accomplished in our first ten years as a congregation. It is great to reflect on the swiftness with which we were able to establish ourselves as a people of God and to grow our family of faith here in New Palestine. I love the record of our history represented here. As I look at these pictures, though, I can’t help but notice how much ten years changes a person and a people when God is involved. Yes, you notice full heads of hair that no longer exist. You see small children who have become young men and women. You see men and women who have become parents, grandparents, husbands, wives, widows, graduates and more over the course of a decade. And I’m struck by what you don’t see here, too. There are many faithful hearts and hands whose pictures didn’t make the cut, because they’re too busy, too often, working behind the scenes. There are those no longer part of our congregation, having moved on or moved away for a variety of reasons. I hope they carry with them some measure of the grace they experienced during their time with us. And, of course, there are the many ministries, organizations, individuals and families who have been blessed by our prayers, our offerings, and the works of service our time and talent have brought to bear on the world around us. I love to reflect and to relive and to revel in our days as a family of faith so far. I am proud of the ministry we are about and of the memories we have created. I want this story to be told often and with great joy. But I want us to do all of that as a way of celebrating our grounding in God’s grace and encouraged to share that grace as generously as we can manage so that the world around us will know and continue to be changed by the good news that brings us together. Many thanks to everyone who has been part of making our first decade of grace matter. Many thanks to all those committed to the next chapter of our life together. And thanks be to God for where we’ve been, for wherever we’re headed, and for promising to be with us every step of the way. Peace,+Mark

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Linda Sevier
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  • Title: Decade of Grace
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  • Published: about 8 years ago