Even though our church season only extends from the beginning of May to the end of October, there are those of us who live on the island year round: it is our home. We are also residents who have owned places here for generations and are here as much of the year as possible: maybe early April to late November.
We are also citizens of Clayton and environs who are never too far from Grindstone. We are also summer residents who otherwise live in upstate New York, Florida, East Coast, West Coast and all over. We share houses with extended family and other summer visitors. We are farmers; we are caretakers and caregivers; we are construction workers; we are professors; we are business professionals; we are retirees. We are Episcopalian; we are Presbyterian; we are Baptist; we are Unitarian and nondenominational Christians and yes, we are Methodists. We are skeptics, and we are seekers. We are high school educated, and we are PhDs; very wealthy and maybe just getting by.
In all our differences, we are together in one thing above all: we love this river island, and how God has given us the gift of this close knit island family, to experience Christ’s love in this special place, so that we might learn about the deep way of love, and offer it – with the help of the Spirit – to the world around us.
Our church community offers many opportunities for togetherness. There are weekly gatherings for coffee: Women’s Coffee on Thursday mornings and Men’s Coffee on Fridays. Women’s game nights on Monday nights. Spiritual Book Discussion group on Monday afternoons. Wednesday evening prayer gatherings. Thursday night parsonage dinner/ discussions. We’ve had church members offer yoga and pilates instruction. We have an annual turkey dinner, a long-standing island tradition. We’re developing a meditation walk on our church grounds to enhance private reflection.
We take our mission as a church seriously. Once or twice a summer we hold an island wine and cheese social, a fundraiser for our mission program. Throughout the summer we offer opportunities to help our local community – supporting our local food pantry, our river fireboat (bringing emergency medical attention to the island), and a defibrillator for our island community. Our church also supports every year an international mission initiative in places like Burundi, Haiti, Malawi to support schools and medical clinics in places where some of our members have lived and visited and understand the needs of these remote communities.
Our Sunday morning worship includes a variety of voices – from our summer minister, to lay ministry leadership and other clergy visitors – during our six-month church season. Our organist/ music director organizes an informal choir during the height of the summer season, and guest musicians and vocalists abound. We offer a children’s message and a solid Sunday School curriculum, and celebrate communion the first Sunday of the month. Every summer we hold a memorial service for members of our island community who have passed away during the previous year, and a popular outdoor service by the river’s edge at Aunt Jane’s Bay where we will often celebrate the sacrament of baptism by river sprinkling or full immersion!
After church we have a festive coffeehour, either in the Carriage House (our fellowship hall) or once a year with a potluck fundraiser lunch at our island one-time schoolhouse, or also once a year with a beach-side Old Homes Day island reunion, sponsored by Dodge Hall, our community center on the island which hosts Saturday night dances and other social and civic gatherings. We also help coordinate a Memorial Day gathering to pray for and honor fallen war veterans, buried in our cemetery dating back to 1832. We also celebrate Christmas, weather permitting, with an annual Christmas Eve service in a frosty, picturesque Grindstone Church, a century and a quarter old… and counting!