As a community we have developed an ethos which guides our life and actions. We were inspired and challenged by neo-monastic communities who were developing 'rules' to strengthen their life together. However, 'rule' isn't a very Grace-like word and we always want to reinvent things! So we came up with the idea of an ethos or statement of values.
The original version of 2005 centred around how we make church differently. This was our focus at the time, but over the years we have developed a stronger emphasis on community and a wider sense of engagement with the world. There are issues such as inclusivity and the environment that were always part of our values but not stated explicitly. As part of our 30th birthday celebrations we reviewed and modified the ethos to better reflect who we are now.
The short list:
Grace is a community based around friendship. We practice hospitality and inclusion.
We value human creativity as a gift from God. We offer our creativity to God in all we do.
Grace is made by the people in the community. We encourage all to contribute, in mutual respect and trust.
Grace looks outward to engage with the world and join the activity of God wherever we sense it. We are called to love the planet and use its resources wisely.
The long list:
Grace is a community based around friendship. It is self-organising with no fixed structures or leadership. Things happen by agreement and volunteering. We have open boundaries. People bring different degrees of commitment and belonging. For some it is their only church involvement, for others it is one of several things. Some have belonged to Grace for a long time, for others it’s a season in their lives. Some live locally, others are in other countries. All are welcome to belong at whatever level they want to.
Grace, for us, means God’s unconditional love and acceptance which we don’t deserve and can’t earn, as demonstrated in the life and words of Jesus. This guides our behaviour towards one another and the world.
The open nature of the community means that people have different church backgrounds and personal beliefs. Grace is a place where we can explore our similarities and differences in friendship and mutual respect. We are open to the complexity and mystery of God as revealed in many times and places. We find the Christian traditions to be a rich store of wisdom and experience. We respect the Bible as a record of God’s self-revelation to humanity. We stand with Christians all over the world when they suffer for their beliefs.
Each human life is a gift from God. Each person has equal worth and value. We stand in solidarity against any relationships, practices or structures which deny or undermine this belief. We are open to all genders, ethnicities, sexualities, backgrounds and dis/abilities. We understand that people’s identities cannot be reduced to simple labels.
We offer hospitality to all, we welcome whoever comes. We believe in the value of eating and drinking together, sharing our tables and lives, growing and nurturing relationships.
We are called to love one another and to be a healing community seeking the wholeness and liberation of all people. We hope that Grace can be a safe space to explore personal and relational healing.
We value human creativity as a gift from God. We believe that everyone is creative, because they are made in the image of God who creates. We offer our creativity to God in everything we do as Grace.
We don’t split life into sacred and secular. We expect to encounter God in all areas of life and culture, so we engage with the whole of life and culture in our worship and other activities.
Risk is a part of creativity. Failure can be part of the journey. Grace gives itself permission to push its own edges, take risks, not be afraid to fail, think outside the Grace box, try new things, reinvent Grace.
Grace is made by the people in the community. There is no separate team to make things happen and no fixed structure so we encourage everyone to get involved at whatever level they feel comfortable. We understand that people’s involvement will vary due to life circumstances. Because we don’t have fixed structures, what happens reflects the available time, energy and inspiration of the people involved - it can be ambitious or simple.
We make decisions together with mutual respect and consideration. Everyone is to a degree constrained by being part of a wider community, but the way we plan is to all bring ideas and contributions. At times this may take courage and it requires a level of sensitivity to other people who are perhaps less confident in bringing ideas. Our ideas are a gift offered to God and the community.
Grace operates on a high level of trust. We are not into controlling what people do. We encourage involvement without things being policed. We trust one another to make appropriate contributions and to take responsibility.
Grace looks outward to engage with the world. We are called to join in with the activity of God wherever we sense it. We support and encourage our members in their personal involvements, which are both small and large, individual and collective, paid and voluntary. When we come together as Grace we bring our outside interests and commitments before God, as an offering, and for communal support and prayer.
We believe that the Earth belongs to God. The resources of the Earth are God’s gifts to us, which we are called to use responsibly. We are called to love the planet, to nurture and care for it, and to resist the greed, selfishness, exploitation and short-termism that threatens it. We are called to live simply, identify with the poor and know that our possessions and wealth are gifts from God, to be shared for the common good.