Intentional Speech- The Journey toward a Mantra

By Katherine Gaines

For at least the last four years, I have been intentional in the words I choose when describing something or someone. The obvious cause for this intentionality was my introduction to the world of social work. I learned a great deal about Person First Language which, as the name suggests, requires one to use the person first and their descriptor second. This is the difference between “disabled people” and “people with disabilities.” This distinction reminds us that anyone we refer to are people first and foremost and, therefore, not so different than ourselves. I take similar care to refer to groups by their preferred names and people by their preferred pronouns, all with the understanding that labels and descriptors are powerful and can be harmful if used incorrectly.

We as the GOTH house have decided to adopt a mantra which will remind us of our purpose here at Grace on the Hill as well as center us during our spiritual time together. We are in the process of developing this mantra, taking time and care to be intentional in our choice. With my background, I fully appreciate the task of finding a phrase to describe our purpose here, one that encompasses the spirit of the five of us individually as well as our group. Mantras are so important for centering and returning to focus when the heavy tasks of life start to blur the image of what we’re here to do in the time we’ve been given at Grace on the Hill.

Whatever mantra we GOTHs adopt will remind us of the service, justice, community, and theology of place we try to focus on while we’re here.

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Prayer Ribbons


A poem, by Erin Monaghan 

Like the birds, who do not worry about what they will eat,
we leave our prayers and do not worry that they will be forgotten.

Like the flowers, that are clothed in beauty and dance in the wind,
we leave our prayers and admire them as they blow.

We take back our hours, and bring our concerns to the Lord.

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Social Justice and the Episcopal Church

By Katherine Gaines

As I mentioned in the blog post on Theology of Place and termination, I am a social worker by profession and by calling. My time at Grace on the Hill is heavily influenced by this identity. As a social worker, there are six core values in the Code of Ethics that we adhere to:

  1. Service
  2. Social Justice
  3. Integrity
  4. Competence
  5. The Importance of Human Relationships
  6. The Dignity and Worth of the Person

These values are also fundamental in the Episcopal church as evidenced by the content of the Book of Common Prayer. Intentional words regarding justice, service, dignity, integrity, and relationship can be found in various forms of the Prayers of the People, Collects, and the Prayers and Thanksgivings. Form VI (p.392) includes prayers for

“this community, the nation, the world; for all who work for justice, freedom, and peace. For the just and proper use of [God’s] creation; for the victims of hunger, fear, injustice, and oppression. For all who are in danger, sorrow, or any kind of trouble; for those who minister to the sick, the friendless, and the needy.”

The Prayers and Thanksgivings include prayers specifically on social justice, wealth, the poor and the neglected, and various vulnerable populations; all with the goal of healing and peace. As a social worker and as a member of the Episcopal Service Corps, I am called to serve those who are vulnerable in the City of Richmond. This is not light work by any means and it is encouraging to be reminded of this calling through my trained profession as well as through my time with St. Andrew’s. I think a prayer that encompasses a lot of the work we at Grace on the Hill have been given to do is the Prayer for Cities:

“Heavenly Father, in your Word you have given us a vision of that holy City to which the nations would bring their glory: Behold and visit, we pray, the cities of the earth. Renew the ties of mutual regard which form our civic life. Send us honest and able leaders. Enable us to eliminate poverty, prejudice, and oppression, that peace may prevail with righteousness, and justice with order, and that men and women from different cultures and with differing talents may find with one another the fulfillment of their humanity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

I’d like to leave you with the words of Nelson Mandela that address social justice and service, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

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Transitioning From “High” to “Low” Church

My first memories of church include the fog of incense and the sound of bells ringing throughout the stone Nave. I grew up going to a high church where smells and bells were the norm and church holidays required pomp and celebration. I was an acolyte beginning at age nine and slowly graduated up the ranks to thurifer in high school. My friends and I would compete for chances to do 360s and argue over who made the church smokier.

One of the hardest transitions for me has been adjusting to church life at St. Andrew’s. I still hear the bells during the blessing of the bread and wine, I’m still shocked when there’s only one crucifer walking both the choir and the clergy to their places. Slowly, I’m adjusting to the services that have different traditions to the ones I grew up with.

I didn’t attend church in college because both Episcopal churches near me weren’t the high church I was used to. Branching out is not a strength of mine; I dislike change yet frequently feel restless if I let my life stand still too long. My time at Grace on the Hill is challenging me everyday. I’m rarely here stagnant, there’s too much to do and see, but it’s forcing me to thrust myself into change and the unknown.

I’m embracing change and learning to appreciate the different traditions and the beauty, tranquility, and history of St. Andrew’s.

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The Episcopal Asset Map: What It Is And Why It Matters

By Erin Monaghan

What does a diocesan intern do? Broad answer: a lot of things in a lot of offices. Specific answer: work on the asset map.

What is the Episcopal asset map? It’s an amazing tool that brings together information about churches from around the globe into one searchable database. It can tell you where the closest food pantry or young adult’s group is, all within the Episcopal Church.

Where can the asset map be accessed? This will take you directly to the map of the Diocese of Virginia. From here, you can either search by ministries and church groups, or look at a list view to find your church name.

When is the asset map useful? In crisis, connection, and creation. When crises occurs, like a hurricane, the asset map is an available tool to see what churches have kitchens or showers to provide to those who no longer have access to theirs. If you have ever wanted to get involved in a ministry, involving immigrations services for example, you can search the map and see the closest church that you can connect with. When creating a new ministry, such as a community garden at your church, you can search if other Episcopal churches have done so before to receive guidance and advice.

Who runs the Episcopal asset map? All of us! That’s what makes it so amazing. Episcopal Relief and Development made this map so that any person in any congregation can update their church’s information by taking a quick survey. The red “take the survey” button can be found in the upper right corner of a church’s profile page. After they take that survey, the diocesan map administrator (that’s me!) will approve of the changes and they will be available for public viewing.

Why does this matter? Because we are the Body of Christ at work in the world. We as individual congregations, diocesan communities, and throughout the Episcopal church are actively doing the work of Christ. This resource connects us all to one another and allows for an open flow of information so that we can keep serving. As we see the map filling in, and begin to understand the ways that or brothers and sisters in Christ are at work, we can know how to pray for and encourage one another as we serve our Lord.


To visit the map and explore ministries around the diocese go to
To visit the St. Andrew’s profile and take the survey visit


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The Bus Route

By Lauren Gustafson

One of my daily duties at Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School is driving an afternoon bus route. There are days that I dread the activity, it makes my afternoon slightly longer and the students tend to be rambunctious and after a long day, I just want to go home. But despite my initial dread, I always enjoy it immensely. Almost every student greets me by name and says goodbye when they get off. They’re so happy at the end of the day that it immediately changes my attitude.

Classes have only been in session for three weeks and I already love these students unconditionally. My bus route, while rowdy, gives me a chance to interact with these students outside of the classroom and see a small sliver of their lives outside of Anna Julia Cooper. Now, I’m not delusional enough to think I know all about their home lives or their lives within their communities, but I do get small windows into their world.

I watched one of the fifth graders get off the bus and run directly to her younger brother, seeing them hug and walk towards home made me smile. One student always says goodbye to me when she gets off and asks if she’ll see me tomorrow. Generally, the answer is yes. Another one decided that his stop was one block up from the official stop (well, as official as an unofficial bus stop can be), just because one afternoon we had to take a detour and that’s where I dropped them off. I’ve interacted with mothers and grandmothers and other relatives, not only through the bus route but also through picking up students who missed their bus or were unable to get to school another way.

One thing that strikes me about these neighborhoods is the volume of stray animals, or just wandering animals. The other day, I watched a dog with matted golden fur cross the street leisurely in front of my bus. A week ago I saw a kitten in the bushes and earlier this week, I saw a white dog (a Westie?) with a dirty belly. I empathize with these strays. This is a time of transition and adjustment for me where I constantly question where I belong and where home really is. I’m struggling with fitting in and belonging to a community that is very different from the one I was raised in, and as I adjust, I know that I am in the right place because I know that I belong at Anna Julia Cooper.

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People are different

By Timothy Nixon.

People are different. We all have different personalities. Different interests. Different opinions. We come from different backgrounds – have different life experiences. There is a wide breadth and beauty to the vast differences we can find among ourselves. There is a richness of humanity that is too large to reside in any single person. An Image of God that spans the human race.

Differences are challenging, though. We like to be with people we can relate to. We are drawn to people who are like us in some way. Often we turn away from those who are more different in favor of those who are more similar. In doing so we create in our social network a bubble of similarity, protecting us from appreciating our differences. This is so very natural and easy to do – I’ve done it myself.

In an intentional community like Grace on the Hill, though, we are challenged to connect with each other regardless of how different or similar we are. We are challenged to see the whole of each person and embrace them as part of our community regardless. In so doing we are challenged to recognize and admire our differences, big and small as they may be. When we leave here, perhaps we will have learned that difference is something to be embraced. Perhaps we will be more comfortable in appreciating the differences we see in the people we will come to meet. Perhaps we will leave here different than the way we came.

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