We began as a church plant of Downtown Presbyterian Church. In the Fall of 2015 we conducted interest meetings to gather a core group, and began meeting to plan in January 2016. We held our first worship service on August 28, 2016. On November 11, 2018 we became a “particular church,” meaning we installed our own elected leadership. We are a member of the Presbyterian Church in America.
We are here because Greenville is a city longing for hope. It looks for it in better urban planning, newer buildings, cleaner streets, and “Top 10” lists. Many of these things we love and celebrate, but they also serve as a metaphor for what Greenville does very well—clean up the outside and hope no one sees the dirt underneath. We want Greenvillians to hear that their Creator has seen the dirt underneath—all their failures and faults—and offers them his full embrace and acceptance through the work of Jesus. Yes, Greenville needs more churches proclaiming this message clearly and boldly, while helping them grow more in the image of Christ to live out their new life in its neighborhoods, schools and workplaces.
TO GLORIFY GOD IN GREENVILLE BY PROCLAIMING & EMBODYING THE GOSPEL OF JESUS THROUGH WORSHIP, WELCOME & WONDER
On the first day of the week Jesus rose from the dead, breaking the power of sin and death. So, it is on that day we gather to worship, celebrate and remember that "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never overcome it" (John 1:5). In the midst of trial, tragedy, busyness, or mundane routine, we put down the work of our hands to consider the eternal work of God. This isn't an empty ritual that we march through half-asleep; it is the proclamation of grace in a world that tells us that our worth is in what we've done or left undone. It is the re-fixing of our eyes on Jesus, and remembering that his love for us is what defines who we are. It is the recognition that it doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, black or white, young or old, male or female—we are all one in Christ.
So, our worship is always centered on Christ and what he has graciously done for us. It is rooted in the long and varied history of the church, which has never sought to perform or entertain, but to be interactive through responsive readings and active participation through song and prayer. Finally, we realize that the style and feel of all worship is influenced by particular cultures, and we seek to be inclusive of the cultures represented in our congregation as well as those we seek to welcome.
In Romans 15:7, Paul says, “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, to the glory of God.” Since Christ welcomed us into the family of God when we were sinners, we are compelled to love and welcome one another in the same way—paying special attention to those crushed by the weight of sin, abuse, poverty, addiction and shame.
Hospitality is at the very center of the good news of Jesus—it has nothing to do with beautiful homes and well-manicured lawns, and everything to do with being seen, heard, accepted and loved. Not when we've measured up, but when we are most needy.
Jesus moved into the neighborhood of human suffering, and he spent much of his time around a table—sharing meals with all sorts of people. Jesus was hospitable to the outsider and the sinner in order to show them mercy, grace and truth. At Grace & Peace we openly share our messy lives with one another first and foremost, as we push ourselves outward to love those who still need to hear the gospel of Jesus.
To do this we must make ourselves intentionally uncomfortable. In the earliest churches people from every walk of life—rich, poor, Jew, Gentile, slave and free—responded to the good news of Jesus Christ. It was in His love and forgiveness that they based their hope and identity, joining together as one body despite their vast cultural, racial and economical differences. Not that it was easy—many of the New Testament letters were written to help these new churches see how being connected to Christ makes them connected to one another.
We believe that in our segmented and segregated culture, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the one thing that can and should cut through all lines of division and draw us together. We are at our best when we are worshipping with the same variety that makes up our city. Which means everybody will at times be uncomfortable. This is part of the joy and sacrifice of welcoming others into the body.
If the God who created the immensity of the galaxies, is also One who entered into his creation out of deep love for us, then we must be a people who live with expectant wonder of what He will do next in our lives and in our communities. And yet, it is far too easy to allow our schedules, routines and busyness to rob us of wonder. It is far too easy for that childlike sense of amazement to be squelched by pain and loss. But our sense of wonder over what God has done, and what he will continue to do is vital to the life of the church. It is vital for us to see that there is a much greater story playing out over time that we have been invited into.
So, we must always seek to awaken our imagination, to envision what God is doing in the place he has us. The author Wendell Berry says it this way: "To preserve our place and to be at home in them, it is necessary to fill them with imagination. To see them with sanctity...to imagine the place as it is, and was, and—only then—as it will or may be. In that imagining, perhaps we may begin to see it in its sacredness, as unimaginable gift, as mystery--as it was, is, and ever shall be, world without end." Or as he says elsewhere, our sense of wonder allows us to see that "there are no unsacred places, there are only sacred places and desecrated places."
As a church we seek to keep this sense of wonder alive through celebration and anticipation. In the Old Testament, feasts and festivals helped to jog the memory and imagination of the Israelites. In the same way, we seek to regularly gather around the table and celebrate that we have been brought out of darkness and into light. Picnics, parties and good old-fashioned potlucks help us to see beyond ourselves and anticipate what is to come.