I’m Nicole Zaro Stahl. I’m a 13-year member of this wonderful congregation. For my stewardship testimonial, I’d like to start with a prayer.
Gracious God, in your loving heart there is room for everyone—without exception. Give us courage to be so at home in you that we dare make room for others. Let your world be a place of delight and homecoming for all creation. Amen.
This brilliant distillation of our theology, created by Dean Emeritus Alan Jones in 2016 to honor our Year of Home, offered me a new vision for living out my “golden years.”
Embracing this message of acceptance and inclusion liberated me from the black sheep mentality I’ve been lugging around since childhood. These 43 words assured me that I have a rightful place, not just in the Grace community, but in the world. Further pondering led to the corollary: just as I have a rightful place, so does everyone else. We are ALL children of God—whether we subscribe to a particular faith or not, and no matter who or where we are, even sprawled in a stupor on the sidewalk.
The repercussions of this conviction ripple through my life. While still a work in progress, I strive to be less judgmental and more patient. I listen more. Not surprisingly, I learn more. And as the volunteer team leader of our Dinner with Grace ministry, I get to put these words into practice in two disparate settings twice a month.
On cooking night, a gaggle of good-hearted individuals, of all ages and experience levels, gathers to prepare a near-gourmet meal for the residents of a supportive housing facility, known as an SRO, in the Tenderloin. Volunteers sign up online, but
I never know exactly who’ll be there. I get nervous when it looks like we’ll be understaffed. But then lo and behold, someone unexpected—first-timer or long-lost old hand—appears at the door. The new arrival is warmly welcomed and quickly assimilates into our group. I always feel as if we’ve been graced by angels.
There’s more evidence of the divine as, amid friendly banter, our apron-clad volunteers focus on the work at hand, for a few hours immune from the turmoil of the world outside. When the food’s done, the Home Prayer is the ritual grace for our communal meal. The entire evening is a joyful illustration of our mission to make room for others, and it feeds the soul for hours, even days.
The Home Prayer is also our grace when serving at the SRO the next day. It’s a treasured opportunity to share our message of respect and inclusion. I can’t say exactly what those folks are thinking, but their effusive gratitude and smiles lead me to believe they find solace in these words as well as the meal.
The Home Prayer and Dinner with Grace are a sampling of the profusion of gifts the cathedral has to offer, and why I’m so committed to providing support with my annual pledge. In addition, I’m following the inspired example set by our beloved congregant Alma Robinson, who, on reaching a milestone birthday, celebrated by making a gift to Grace in the amount of her age. Well, today’s my birthday, and earlier this morning I made my gift online. It is truly more blessed to give than to receive.
Fall is stewardship season in the Episcopal Church. It is a time for us to show our appreciation for the love we experience in our caring, inclusive community. Our participation in the stewardship campaign means that we make the ministry and message of Grace possible. When we pledge, we become a part of something bigger than each of us individually. Join us in pledging today.