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A Year Like No Other

A Message from Pastor Bryan

I’ve written a lot of Annual Reports over the years, but never one like this. 

Our sanctuaries were empty every Sunday. 
And yet thousands gathered for worship online every week. 

We never passed an offering plate.
And yet we met our budget, gave generously to COVID relief locally and globally, and raised funds to build-out our Digital Ministry. 

We had no programs for children or students in our buildings.
And yet we partnered with parents like never before, empowered leaders to stay connected to their kids, and designed and executed the first ever virtual Kids Week and Student Ministry Retreats.

No small groups met in homes over coffee and snacks.
And yet virtual groups became our relational lifeline, thanks to the accessibility of technology and the faithfulness of group leaders and members.

There were no crowds at church on Christmas or Easter.
And yet our virtual services reached more people than ever, and some who found us in those services are now part of the Grace Chapel family

THE WAY OF JESUS

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, our Teaching Journey began last summer as we wrestled with the presence and purposes of God in times of distress by following the Old Testament story of Joseph, in a series entitled:  God With Us?

As the new school and ministry year got underway, with all its challenges and uncertainty, we decided we could do nothing better than to follow Jesus as he called and led his followers to faith, growth, and mission.  We spent most of the year exploring the two-volume work known as Luke-Acts.  Our series titles included:

A particular challenge this year was to offer biblical guidance on the integration of faith and politics, and the pursuit of racial healing and justice.   We explored these topics in some stand-alone messages, and in a series entitled: Serpents and Doves:  Building Bridges in Polarized Times, and in our Global Awareness Theme:  Building Gospel Bridges.

A particular opportunity this year provided was to grow in our ability to preach and worship online.  Preachers have learned to connect and communicate through the camera, and enjoyed the chance to preach from a barn, a beach, an office building, and the great outdoors!

I’m so grateful for the Teaching Team that works with me to discern, design, and deliver the preaching ministry of the church.  God has granted us a diversity of gifted voices to help us hear and apply God’s Word to our lives. 

HYBRID CHURCH

After years of dabbling and dreaming, the shutdown forced us to go all-in on digital ministry.    We made a commitment at the beginning of the shutdown that our Sunday Experience would get better each week, and with God’s help, and a spirit of teachability and creativity, we’ve been able to deliver on that goal and promise.  Beyond the Sunday experience, every department of ministry, from Children’s and Student Ministries to Groups and Care and Partnerships, have all adapted their programs and leveraged technology to reach, grow, and care for people online.  

As we look to the future, and begin to re-enter our buildings, we know that in-person and online ministry will work in tandem to reach and serve more people, with greater impact, than ever before in our history.    To that end, we have raised funds, reorganized our staff, and re-imagined church to be relevant and effective in the new “phygital “world that’s upon us. 

RE-LAUNCH

From the beginning, we have said and believed that God would use this disruptive season to change us, grow us, and re-form us as individuals, households, and a church.  As we look to the new church year, it’s not about getting “back” to where we were, but about moving “forward” with God as He leads us into the next chapter of Grace Chapel’s story.  We look forward to re-engaging everyone we’ve missed this past year, and to be engaging with many new people, both those who have found us online, and those who will be looking for spiritual connection as we emerge from the pandemic.

Key elements of the new normal will include a new or renewed investment in:

  • Care and Connection: re-establishing our relationships with one another and ministering to one another in the wake of a pandemic
  • Community Engagement: serving our local communities and city in Jesus’ name
  • Growth and Outreach: reaching more and more people who are far from God and church 

GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS

Every time I have re-gathered on a Grace Chapel campus recently, that familiar chorus has been ringing in my ears.  God has been more than faithful to us through this most challenging of years – providing for us, sustaining us, growing us, and keeping us connected.   And YOU have been faithful, as well– praying, serving, giving, and showing up virtually.  I’m grateful for each one of you, and the unique contribution you make to Grace Chapel simply by being yourself and being present in any and every season.

I’m grateful, too, for the GC staff and elders, for their dedicated, resilient, and adaptive servant-leadership this past year.  It’s been a difficult year for leaders in any setting, but I know we have found strength, wisdom, and even joy in our partnership through it all.  In particular, I am grateful for my partnership with our Executive Pastor, Mark MacDonald, whose steady, skilled, and Spirit-empowered leadership have been a gift to me and to our staff and congregation in this most challenging year.

In the words of that great hymn, may our faithful God continue to grant us “strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow.”

With a grateful heart,

Pastor Bryan

"20+ years in Boston area and I haven’t darkened the door of a church. Thanks for awakening that place in me that hungers for conversation and companionship in a more Christian realm, though I am scared and feel often not worthy. To think it all started by keeping it real when Christmas Eve was presented in a barn, as the visual made it more real than ever, making it even seem inviting.  I hope I have conveyed my thanks for your ministry.  It has made a difference in at least the life of one person, myself."  (From an online viewer)

Digital Ministry: Here to Stay

We're not one church in five locations, we're one church in thousands.

"Pivot" was one of the most-used words of 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic brought a swift and sudden halt to both Sunday and midweek in-person gatherings at all of our locations, we didn't just pivot, we extended our ministry into new digital spaces in creative ways that served our at-home congregation and reached new people where they were: online.

We quickly moved our Sunday worship, Kidstown and Student Ministries onto platforms like YouTube and grace.org. We gathered as groups in digital spaces like Facebook and Zoom. While we've been streaming our services online for over 5 years, we suddenly found our live stream was reaching thousands of people across Greater Boston and around the world - many for the very first time. 

MEMBERS WHO HAVE GONE HOME TO BE WITH THE LORD:

Phyllis R. Garrett
Mark Hagenian
Stephen R. Harris
Chul W. Hyun
Edward Kricorian
Donna B. MacLeod
Richard J. Marzilli
Marshall V. Pierce

NEW MEMBERS ADDED:

Akash Ahuja
Christopher Bassett
William Borden
Suzanne Brandt
Carole Brodrick
John Brodrick
Jeffrey Cain
Arthur Camuso
Eddlyne Chonot
Shanae Clark
Christopher Coughlin
Tomas Colorado
Hannah Dacayanan
Wendy Doran
Tracy Feng
Jacqueline Genece
Rebecca Hack
Marcia Harrington
Gordon Hubbard
Kara Hubbard
David King
Jonathan Kolodner
Kristina Kolodner

Michael Landers
Victoria Landers
David Mackersie
Jennie Morley
Benjamin Morley
Catherine Namaganda
David Ochi
Tofunmi Ochi
Jean Park
Sharon Petersen
BJ Poppe
Erin Poppe
Elise Rowley
Cindy Santos
Scott Santos
Amy Sbihli
Scott Sbihli
Sam Sexer
Carlton Smith
Jennifer Smith
Shadin Thomas
Micah Whitson
Gordon Yates

Missions and Outreach

Responding Globally and Regionally in a Time of Great Need

Grace Chapel supports a total of 62 Ministry Partners in Greater Boston and around the world. Fifty-five of these partners are currently active, and seven are retirees. Of the active partners, 12 serve regionally, primarily around Greater Boston. The remaining 43 serve globally. Of this global group, 15 or 35% of these partners are indigenous leaders from the global south.

One of our local ministry partners, Boston Project Ministries, expressed thanks for the special gifts from the Grace Chapel family to support families in their local community during COVID. The funds and goods donations (ie. kids supplies) enabled Boston Project to:

  • hold two COVID family resource fairs in the summer;
  • provide grocery gift cards and actual groceries (Christmas Food Baskets) for hundreds of families;
  • assist neighbors with back rent when other resources were not available;
  • provide thousands of PPE supplies (masks, gloves, face shields, thermometers, wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.) to families, local businesses, and smaller church congregations;
  • provide short-term employment for neighbors who were unemployed,
  • develop and distribute COVID prevention education material in the local community.

The Boston Project story is just one of many stories of God's work in the local communities near and far from our church home in Greater Boston. Thank you for your generous support! 

Extending Grace During the Pandemic

FINANCIAL UPDATE AND PROPOSED FY22 BUDGET

For all kinds of reasons, Fiscal Year 2021 will be a year that many of us would like to forget! We will, however, remember and be forever grateful for the faithfulness of God’s people of Grace, especially when it comes to our finances.

The pandemic hit in March of 2020, right before our fiscal year end on April 30, and dozens of faithful Grace Chapel folks rallied to help us close that fiscal year strong. That strong finish, along with a federal PPP loan which was completely forgiven, got our new fiscal year off to a great start. With the help of 215 new first-time givers, and 131 new recurring givers, contributions totaled just under $8.1 million. This included gifts to support regular church ministries and staff at all five campuses and our online campus, and funding to support our global and regional mission partners. All that and we did not pass the offering plate once the entire year! We are grateful to God that we had the right giving platform in place to make online giving easy and seamless for our church family.

It is with gratitude to our great God and to you, our congregation, that we ended the fiscal year having met all our fiscal 2021 expenses. This is the direct result of the congregation’s generous giving and effective cost management on the part of the staff. The congregation also provided just under $400,000 in special gifts and Benevolence Fund offerings to help meet the critical needs of people in our congregation, our local neighbors, and those serving Christ around the world. (More detailed information on our special offerings and impact is in our Missions Report from Pastor Jeanette.) The continued and generous giving of our congregation is an incredible testimony to God’s faithfulness and the faithfulness of God’s people of Grace.

89 Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. 90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. – Psalm 119:89-90 (NIV)

WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT IN THE NEW FISCAL YEAR

As we Reset, Ramp Up and Relaunch our campuses this summer and fall, we have some Rebuilding that we will need to do in our general fund giving. The $8.1 million giving goal for FY21 was a reduced goal considering the pandemic realities; however, now as a church body, we need to increase our giving to meet our Relaunched budget realities. This fiscal year, we are looking to increase giving from $8.1 million to $8.9 million. That is a 10% increase on overall general fund giving but still less than pre-pandemic levels because we realize many of our people will continue to face financial hardship in the weeks and months ahead.

We will address these budget challenges by:

  • Embedding faithful stewardship more meaningfully in the life of the church.
  • Continuing to encourage people to take steps of faith on their giving journey.
  • Carefully watching our expenses to keep them in line with actual giving.
  • Communicating effectively and regularly with the congregation.

Each of our five physical campuses and our online campus is well positioned for growth and the Board of Elders is proposing an operations budget for FY22 based on $8.9 million in general fund contributions. We continue to pray that more and more people will discover life with God for the good of world and particularly in greater Boston. The pandemic did not take our great God by surprise, and He has used it to make us a more flexible and mobilized church. We have the opportunity before us to serve in ways we never thought we could and to reach more people than we ever could have hoped or even imagined. It is our most sincere prayer that God continues to show favor on us as a church committed and called to serve greater Boston and beyond for His Kingdom purposes and for His glory alone!

DIGITAL MINISTRY

Just in case the information above is not evidence enough of the faithfulness and generosity of God and His people, we are happy to report that we received gifts and gift intentions over and above regular giving of over $1.1 million to support and build our Digital Ministry. Long before the pandemic hit, we had been talking about an online campus as part of our strategic planning. We thought it would take months to develop an online service, but as the pandemic began, we ended up creating that service over a matter of days. Early in the pandemic the newly formed Digital Ministry Team said they wanted to improve the quality and content of the services and they have truly delivered on that goal week after week. So much so that in the fall, we made a significant strategic decision that we would continue to offer online services and create our first ever online campus with dedicated leadership. A subset of financial partners came forward to give, over and above their regular giving, to help support both the people and technology needed to continue to offer online services for those who prefer to engage with us that way. It is our prayer that our new Digital Ministry and online campus will prove to be the new front door for people who are interested in discovering life with God for the good of the world!   

Respectfully submitted,

Mark E. MacDonald, Executive Pastor

Please note that our final and fully audited financial statements for the fiscal year ending on April 30, 2021 will be published and available later this summer. 

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