By Erika Shenk-Tessin
I bet you didn’t know that nine years ago, I was a single mother of a six year old boy who applied at a temp agency after walking out on a crooked bookkeeping job without another job in place. I was on welfare and living check to check. Then a call came in from Steve Wade, asking me to interview. I was in the car driving home and remember pulling over and writing the name of the church on a matchbox ” Grace Ipiskopal Church”. I was to meet with Steve Wade and Father Ed on November 10, 2006 my birthday! A few days later, the day came, I had just been dumped by my fiancé and let’s say I was a tad fragile. I came into the office and met Betty Lewis’s friendly face. Ed, Steve, and I had the interview in the Parish Hall. I was asked a series of questions and as I answered them, I slowly fell apart. I’ll never forget Steve reaching out with concern and Ed patting me on the shoulder and feeling such love!
It was soon after I started, I learned about Ed’s retirement, and Steve was taking a job at United Way. They told me something as they departed, “Erika we hired you because you can do this, you can help pull the church through the transition, you can help the poor, we have faith and we know you can do this.” No employer had ever uttered such kind words to me or had faith in me in that capacity. Fast forward to Daniel’s arrival, mortified, he would let me go, he continued to utter the words “you are safe here.” And for another six years I was!
After following the soft sound of the Holy Spirit, I was baptized three years ago on Easter Vigil, being accepted into the fold, was the most precious day of my life aside from my children’s birth, and my wedding. Since my Baptism, I have tried to grow more and more into my role of a Christian and what that means. And it is easy to do, when you have as many role models as I have – ALL OF YOU!
We have been through so much in this time: I had a baby, was married, bought a house, stopped receiving welfare, and grew into my skin as an adult. I have become a yoga teacher, learning a trade that has saved my life on a lot of levels. And I even had the honor to lead some of you in yoga practices. I don’t think any of those items would have happened had I not started my job at Grace. I have made friends who turned into extended family. I have arranged over 100 funerals, many baptisms, scheduled weddings, and a good many projects in between. It has been glorious!
Now it is time. It is time for me to move along to another piece of my journey. To live my dream and truth. I really thought I would stay at Grace forever, that eventually someone would arrange my daughter and son’s weddings and eventually my funeral. But, something is stirring within me and my husband. I feel the breath of the Holy Spirit calling me away, calling me to my trade.
It is with a very happy heart, that I bring this news to you. I thought when the time came and I had to write this, I’d be a basket case, but that isn’t reality. And that is why I know I am doing the best thing for my family and myself. You are all so dear to me. And I am grateful for your prayers, our moments of laughter, our moments of tears, your compassion and kindness (despite bulletin errors), your willingness to bend an ear on my behalf, for caring about my family, for caring about me, for showing me what the face of Grace looks like, and being the example of WWSS (let’s say it together, Welcome, Worship, Study and Serve).
From the very bottom of my heart, Thank you for being part of the best years of my life (so far)! As children of God, as men and women of Grace, I Love you and thank you for showing me the power of the Gospel. Namaste
The Power of the Gospel, Ben Harper
In the hour of richness, in the hour of need,
for all of creation, comes from the gospel seed
now you may leave tomorrow, and you may leave today
but you’ve got to have the gospel, when you start out on your way….