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News Category : Grace Church-Kirkwood

What's the Diocesan Youth Advisory Council?

November 10, 2014

by DYAC member Christian Davis, Grace Church, Kirkwood

Hello! My name is Christian Davis. I attend Grace Church in Kirkwood, where I’ve grown up, and have spent time at St. Thomas Deaf Church and St. Martin’s, Ellisville to hang out with my friends.  I am one of nine members of the Diocesan Youth Advisory Committee (DYAC). I applied for DYAC because I’m interested in a more active youth ministry within the diocese as well as the opportunity to socialize with other diocesan youth.


Nominees for leadership positions

October 10, 2014

Lenten Offerings from Grace Kirkwood and St. Tim's

February 12, 2014

St. Timothy's-Creve Coeur and Grace-Kirkwood Present Two Lenten Mornings

Grace Church-Kirkwood welcomes new assisting priest

January 16, 2014

The Rev. Virginia (Ginny) Bennett recently joined Grace’s staff as an assisting priest. She will be preaching and celebrating Holy Eucharist on a rotating basis with our other clergy, The Rev. Todd McDowell, the Rev. Doris Westfall, and the Rev. Jim Purdy.

Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, she has lived in the St. Louis area since 1974. Mother Bennett holds the Master of Divinity and Master of Systematic Theology from Aquinas Institute, St. Louis, and completed her Doctor of Ministry degree at Seabury Western Episcopal Seminary, Evanston, IL, in 1993.

She was ordained to the priesthood in January of 1990 and has served six congregations in the dioceses of Missouri, South Carolina, Kansas, and Springfield. She recently retired after serving seventeen and a half years as rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Edwardsville, Illinois. She has two grown daughters and five grandchildren.

Originally published in Grace Church's Messenger, January 2014 edition, PDF download.

Christmas on the River

December 02, 2013

BY BUD WILSON (featured in November 29, 2013 issue of SPECtrum)

For several years now we have worked with the Seaman’s Church Institute to supply Christmas gifts for the inland river towboats that ply the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio Rivers transporting millions of tons of cargo for domestic and international use. These boats operate 24-7, 365 days a year. The crew changes are made every thirty days while the boats are “under way”. That means that a crew gets on and is on the boat working four to six hour shifts until the next change takes place. It also means that they are away from home, their wives and children, for 30 days at a stretch. This puts a tremendous strain on not only the mariners, but their families left behind. It is the mission of the Ministry on the River, headed by Chaplain Kempton Baldridge, to make sure that not only the mariners—but their families—are supported in times of crisis while separated from each other.

Elected at the 174th Diocesan Convention

November 27, 2013

We give thanks for the many diocesan members who stood for election to governance positions in the diocese. Elected this year were:

Pet Blessings in the diocese: upcoming and photo galleries

October 01, 2013

Friday, Oct. 4

5:30 pm Calvary Episcopal Church-Columbia, Memorial Garden. All friendly animals are welcome! This year, as part of our celebration of the Feast of St. Francis, our EYF youth are collecting pet food for dogs and cats. The youth will be donating the pet food to the Central Missouri Humane Society.

Saturday, Oct. 5

The Holy Land: a pilgrimage (Feb 2014)

September 26, 2013

A Pilgrimage for members, family and friends of Grace Episcopal Church, Kirkwood and the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri led by The Rev. Todd McDowell. Rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Kirkwood. February 2014 (application and deposit needed by Oct. 14, 2013)

Youth mission news

June 19, 2013

Emmanuel youth returned from their annual trip to Guatemala, where they blitz-built 8 houses in a few days. In total, Emmanuel has built 22 homes in the last 8 years that are home to 22 families. Read more about this year's effort, which began with awareness raising in August 2011, through raising funds for the building and trip in winter and spring, ending with pictures and reports from the site on their Facebook page.

The middle and high school youth of Ascension, St. Barnabas, and All Saints’ (St. Louis) Episcopal Churches are continuing work on refurbishing Deaconess Anne House in Old North St. Louis.

Grace-Kirkwood has offered a youth mission trip each summer for the past 18 years. This year, 13 teens and six adults traveled to West Bend, Wisconsin to work with Habitat for Humanity. Five graduating seniors were a part of this year’s trip and just reported back to the congregation. You can read their Sunday sermon texts online.

Make a beautiful life: the ordination of Melanie Slane

June 19, 2013

This Friday, June 21, 6 PM at Christ Church Cathedral, Bishop Wayne Smith will ordain Melanie Jianakoplos Slane into the Sacred Order of Priests, God willing..

Formed in this diocese, Melanie was baptized and grew up in Grace Church, Kirkwood. She was involved with Episcopal Campus Ministry during her studies at Mizzou, and while a senior she began her discernment of God's call to ordained ministry. She spent a year in the Philippines with Episcopal Young Adult Service Corps and blogged that experience.

In this year of milestones, Melanie married Chris Slane (who is also a postulant for holy orders, from the Diocese of Nebraska) in September 2012, was ordained to the transitional diaconate in December, and graduated this spring from Virginia Theological Seminary with her M.Div. She has been seminarian in residence at Epiphany Episcopal Church in Washington DC, and will return as assistant rector after her ordination.

Just three years ago Melanie wrote from the Philippines:

How amazing it is to look back and realize how recently I was in your shoes. Mission trips, overnights, the Italian dinner. Those moments made a huge impact on my life and spiritual formation. Grace Church gave me the foundation on which I built myself as I went off to college. It flew by. They said it would. My greatest joy, strength, and refuge through those four years was Episcopal Campus Ministry. For once in your life there won’t be anyone else to make you go to church, but choosing to go is the best decision I made in college. Remember, the church has a lot to offer you, and you have a lot to offer to the church. . . All I can say is that if you ever feel like you are being called to do something with your life…do it! You will be amazed at where God takes you. I have learned that beautiful lives don’t just happen, they are made. Follow your dreams knowing that the church will always be there for you. Make a beautiful life. The kind of life you deserve.

All are invited to celebrate Melanie's ordination service. A reception will follow in the cathedral. (Clergy: red stoles)

More at Grace Kirkwood's website.

Youth news- Summer 2013

June 19, 2013

Emmanuel youth returned from their annual trip to Guatemala, where they blitz-built 8 houses in a few days. In total, Emmanuel has built 22 homes in the last 8 years that are home to 22 families. Read more about this year's effort, which began with awareness raising in August 2011, through raising funds for the building and trip in winter and spring, ending with pictures and reports from the site on their Facebook page.

The middle and high school youth of Ascension, St. Barnabas, and All Saints’ (St. Louis) Episcopal Churches are continuing work on refurbishing Deaconess Anne House in Old North St. Louis.

Grace-Kirkwood has offered a youth mission trip each summer for the past 18 years. This year, 13 teens and six adults traveled to West Bend, Wisconsin to work with Habitat for Humanity. Five graduating seniors were a part of this year’s trip and just reported back to the congregation. You can read their Sunday sermon texts online.

Grace Kirkwood youth missioners

June 05, 2013

Photos from Grace Church Kirkwood's 13 teens and 6 adults spending their week working with Habitat for Humanity in West Bend, WI. 

Grace-Kirkwood & St. Matt's worship as one

May 22, 2013

Pentecost Sunday was the first Sunday of the full congregations of St. Matthew's into Grace Church in Kirkwood. A detailed overview of the day's two services, baptisms of St. Matt's and Grace folks, and the following feast in the parish hall with the newly installed Christus Rex from St. Matt's from Janis Greenbaum is accompanied by four sets of photographs from Richard Corbet.

A very special edition of Grace's The Messenger is not to be missed (download the PDF). It includes a merger timeline, and more perspective from members and clergy of both churches. In a section titled "A Confluence of History," we learn more about the interwoven lives of four parishes: Grace, St. Matthew's, Epiphany, and St. Thomas Deaf Church.

Grace Church is renaming our “Bethlehem Chapel” to honor a rich history of connections to other parishes in the area. This worship space will now be called “Chapel of the Apostles.” Apostle comes from the Greek word apostellos, which means one who is sent forth, dispatched--in other words, who is entrusted with a mission. As we celebrate our merger with St. Matthew’s this Pentecost, we reflect on the mission Jesus has set for us throughout our history, which includes our connections to St. Matthew’s, Epiphany and St. Thomas Episcopal Churches. We honor this confluence of history as we continue to answer our call to be apostles of the Church.

Greenbaum has peppered the histories with many photos from the diocesan archives. The edition also contains the stories of St. Matt's liturgical items that have a new home at Grace: the Christus Rex, reredos, chalice, and kneelers.

Processing out of St. Matt's, into Grace

May 15, 2013

About 100 celebrated the last Sunday at St. Matthew's in Warson Woods on May 12. Parishioners and their families, friends from churches around the diocese, present and former clergy, all gathered for Eucharist, and leave-taking from St. Matt's, before joining Grace Kirkwood next Sunday.

There could not be a better reading than this for our last Sunday before we join with our brothers and sisters in Christ at Grace. Today we have Jesus praying to the Father in what is known as the "farewell discourse" (John 14-17). To hear Jesus praying for his disciples to be intimately connected and united as he and the Father are connected and united, is profound. Jesus isn't just praying for his disciples immediately before his death. He is praying for all his disciples that come after his resurrection and ascension. That means that Jesus is praying for us. For you, for me, for all of us sitting here, for all those sitting at Grace, for all the disciples throughout all the world, and throughout all time. In Jesus' prayer, the past, present, and future intertwine. In Jesus' prayer, we hear his desire that we become completely one. --from Rector Doris Westfall's sermon.

Photos: Vestry member Bob Schaefer, Rector Doris Westfall, Assisting priest Keith Raske at the close of Sunday's service at St. Matt's, credit Richard Corbet; Westfall and assisting priest Nathaniel Pyron at Eucharist; St. Matt's members before and after the service.

  • Video of St. Matt's last Sunday includes Westfall's sermon
  • Photos from the last Sunday service
  • Wednesday the 15th was moving day, photos as some of St. Matt's treasures arrive at Grace

Missional legacy begins with four $15k gifts

May 15, 2013

When we were discerning our future, said Doris Westfall, part of our question became, what do we want our legacy to be. That missional legacy was kicked-off on Sunday with four checks for $15,000 each, presented to ministries and non-profits that St. Matt's members were involved with and supported.

  • Trinity Episcopal Church St. Louis food ministry, Director Adrienne Fly, St. Matt's parishioners Bob and Audrey Moller
  • All Saints' Episcopal Church Music and Arts Village: priest Michael Dunnington and All Saints' senior warden, St. Matt's Crancer family: Joan Crancer, Lester A. Crancer III, Susie Crancer along with organist Bobbie Reese
  • St. Martha's Hall: Michelle Shiller-Baker executive director, St. Matt's Bob and Doris Schaefer
  • Magdalene St. Louis: Rebecca Ragland, Magdalene's board member and associate priest at Holy Communion, St. Matt's Tuesday Women's Prayer group-Audrey Moller, Betty Shepherd, Merle Kind, Marlowe Meyers, Kit Kelley, Terri Gilson, Joan Norman

The video of parts of Sunday's service includes these presentations.

Photo of the presentation to Magdalene St. Louis with 6 of the 7 St. Matt's women's prayer group members and Rebecca Ragland, credit Richard Corbet.

Grace's Tour de Food II

May 15, 2013

  • Saturday, June 15, 7:30 AM (rain date:
    June 22)
  • Ride begins and ends at Grace Church Kirkwood
  • $20 / person, collected on the day of the event
  • Reservations are required, contact Ron Ryan in advance.

Cyclists invited to be a part of this fun 10-mile or 20-mile bicycle ride along Grant's Trail. We'll have lots of great food at stops along the way and a breakfast feast at the end. The event begins and ends at Grace Church and proceeds go to Grace's Legacy Fund, with use designated for community outreach. Adults and youth over 18, plus children above 12 if accompanied by a parent or guardian, are welcome. Bike and helmet required. We have two alternative routes (primarily on Grants Trail):  "Ramblers" enjoy a casual ride for 10 miles, and the “Striders” will ride at a brisk pace for 20 miles.

More at

Celebrating new beginnings at Pentecost

May 01, 2013

Grace Episcopal Church in Kirkwood's rector, Todd McDowell, writes about the upcoming merger.

The Day of Pentecost is almost upon us, and with it the celebration of our merger with the people of St. Matthew’s Church. May 19, 2013 will certainly be among the most memorable days of celebration in our 154-year history, as we join the people, mission and ministries of two parishes into one. The last eight months of discernment and transition have been very busy indeed, but those months of hard work allow us to proceed with confidence knowing that the Holy Spirit is leading us and “making all things new.”

This exciting time is not without heartache, especially for our sisters and brothers from St. Matthew’s who join with us in this new ministry. We can learn much from their courage and conviction, their strong sense of community and mission. Much work has been done and continues to be done to make for a smooth transition. All that remains is for both communities to use their charism of hospitality, one that is shared deeply in both congregations, to go above and beyond to welcome one another, as we would welcome Christ, into this new family of God! For some this will involve forgiveness and reconciliation, for others it will simply mean taking the time and initiative and seek opportunities for fellowship with one another. Read the complete article at Grace's website.

FAQ: the merger of Grace and St. Matt's

May 01, 2013

When will the merger take place?
We will begin worshiping and serving as one congregation on Pentecost - Sunday, May 19, 2013. However, the finances of the two parishes will remain separate until the Diocese of Missouri officially approves the merger at Diocesan Convention in November.

What name will our combined church have?
The merged congregation will be called Grace Episcopal Church and will worship at Grace's current facilities in Kirkwood. We have several plans to incorporate St. Matthew's name into our parish life together, including the addition of a new prayer garden. We'll also be adopting St. Matthew's Day, September 21, as our patronal feast day.

Who will serve as our clergy?
The Rev. Todd McDowell will serve as the Rector and the Rev. Doris Westfall will be the Associate Rector of the merged parish beginning May 19.

What happens to St. Matthew's church building and property in Warson Woods?
The Warson Woods building and land will be sold. Important and sacred items from St. Matthew's history will continue to be used by our joint parish. Items coming to Grace include St. Matthew's chalice; the Christus Rex, which will be hung in our parish hall; and a brass cross, which will hang in the lower level lobby.

What happens to the money from the sale of the Warson Woods property?
St. Matthew's is making four $15,000 grants to selected ministries (to be announced May 12). They are also generously contributing $140,000 for additions at Grace, including a new prayer garden, labyrinth and an expansion of Grace's columbarium to include those currently interred at St. Matthew's. The remainder of the proceeds from the sale will establish a St. Matthew's Fund for Mission as part of the Grace Legacy Funds.

Will our ministries remain separate?
We intend to fully integrate our parish families by including ministries from both parishes.

-from a Grace Messenger article, May 2013, by Todd McDowell and Janis Greenbaum.

Community of Hope welcomes 17 lay chaplains

May 01, 2013

Community of Hope commissioned 17 people from six Episcopal churches on April 21. Having successfully completed the 14-week training program preparing them to be lay chaplains, they can now begin their ministries in parish spiritual care, hospital spiritual care, hospice or long-term residential spiritual care as well as prison ministry.

Congratulations to:
from Emmanuel Church: Jerre Birdsong, Sue Smith
from Grace Church, Kirkwood: Becky Entenmann, Dave Jayne, Ruth Jayne, Mike Johnson, Barb Kendal, Phil Morrow, Belinda Nunez, Carlos Nunez, Dianne Sehie, Shelia Stanton
from St. Stephen's Church: Donna Hawk-Reinhard, Ginger Simmons
from St. Martin's Church: John Lange
from Christ Church Cathedral: Tammy O'Donnell
from Trinity Church, Central West End: Mary Taylor

One of our hardest hours but maybe our best

April 24, 2013

Over a year of discernment, study, counsel, and preparation precede the upcoming merging of two diocesan congregations, St. Matthew's Church in Warson Woods with Grace Church in Kirkwood.

"This is a healthy merger," said Bishop Wayne Smith, "both parishes come from positions of various kinds of strengths." Smith is not one to close congregations or enforce mergers but says he will do everything he can to help parishes on this journey, when it might work.

"Often when churches merge, they've run out of options," said St. Matt's Rector Doris Westfall. Most mergers are not successful, some quote a failure rate as high as 80%. "We didn't want to be one of those statistics. We could not have done this without an extended discernment, one that was grounded in prayer."

The view from St. Matt's. At it's most robust, St. Matthew's was a congregation of 200 average Sunday attendance but today is a group with an average age of 72, and a Sunday attendance of 35. A large bequest in 2008 met the energy of a rector called the previous year and a congregation ready for growth. Some of that money went to neglected church building upkeep, some to mission, and some to identify what values were at the community's core. "That work turned out to be foundational for what was to become our future work of discernment."

Another large influx of cash came when the city of Warson Woods purchased part of the church acreage. The parish asked itself hard questions about that money--should we spend it down, maintaining the status quo for the next 5-7 years? Are we making this stewardship decision based upon our core missional values?

And that was an option early in March of 2012 when they invited St. Peter's interim rector Daniel Pearson to help facilitate their discernment. There was some grief--Why after our intentional work did church growth not happen for us? And, What is our most faithful response, not the least painful response.

The first task was learning the language of discernment, then having faith that the process would take them to what God intended for St. Matt's. "We as a culture, let alone a church, don't understand discernment," said Westfall. "If you enter with mind made up, you're not open to the Holy Spirit. You've already determined how you think it should go. There's no room for what God wishes for you to be revealed." Pearson described it as walking into the cloud of unknowing, indeed the story of the Transfiguration became a touchstone.

The vestry met every two weeks, trusting that "this is our work." Each meeting began in the sanctuary, the vestry around a lighted candle, offering prayers and sharing thoughts, with Westfall and Pearson sitting behind them in the pews. Then they'd move candle and circle into the parish hall with Pearson and vestry member Lynette Ballard facilitating honest discussion. They felt faith in the process not the outcome, that there was room for the Holy Spirit.

They identified seven options ranging from change nothing, to becoming a charitable foundation, a conference and spirituality center, perhaps a house church. A watershed moment happened at an August meeting. They took a vote on the seven options they had been discussing for months. Each vestry member got two votes. The vote for merger was unanimous. "We sat there stunned," said Westfall, "None of us expected that." Pearson said, "Do you know how rare this is?"

Vestry sent a letter to the whole congregation with details about the process, how they went about discernment, how they got to that vote. At an all-parish meeting in late August, Ballard described the discernment process in detail. The parish discussed and was voted on the list of seven options. Merger was the seventh listed. 90% of the parish voted for the merger option.

At the end of September 2012, they sent a letter to Grace Church in Kirkwood's Rector Todd McDowell, beginning the process of discernment at Grace which culminated in their discernment committee, then vestry, approving the merger.

Now the people of St. Matt's and Grace look forward to the bookend services in May, identified by Westfall as being both St. Matt's hardest hour and one of its best. "This is not the end," said Westfall. "We are being transformed."

The closing service at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Warson Woods will take place at 10 AM on Sunday, May 12, 2013. At that service St. Matt's will present some of its missional donations. The next Sunday, Pentecost, the two congregations will begin worshipping together. ISeek will include future articles with the story of Grace's discernment, some history of the parishes and mergers, and more on the services of the 12th and 19th in the weeks to come. Photos from St. Matt's website.


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