Grace Notes, Age 4


By Nancy Peregrine

What I remember first is the rough coolness as I reached down through the wet leaves for a sure handhold.  My right hand it was, grasping around a branch that just fit my four year old size.  I felt more secure then as I stepped onto a solid but sloping trunk.  How strange and wonderful to walk on a tree as it lay down instead of up.  I had tried to climb into such great maples but never could have gone so high nor played among its boughs when it was standing up.  I was a fairy in a magical world only birds and squirrels could know.

I explored a bit – finding twiggy nests, moss like lace, and ferns that cradled drops of rain from last night’s October storm.   Most interesting were the sparks dancing on the wires woven through the branches.   Probably, I thought, the tree had brought them from the sky where the winds were, but now they writhed black and ugly, like the big snakes in my cousin’s jungle book.   I didn’t like their smell.

My parents had been glad enough to see me off to Sunday School on that brightening October day dappled with iridescent puddles.  I had walked a slight mile across the Skagit River Bridge toward the white steepled church but found trees tossed everywhere.  I wished the Gillis kids who lived down the road were with me.   I knew they wouldn’t be afraid to play with the cables as they sparked and tossed with their own energy.   My mother called them tar heels, but they were such fun – playing tag, London Bridge, and hide and seek.  Their grandmother sang at the piano squeezed next to the kitchen table in their house, which was always so warm and smelled of biscuits and the laundry water boiling on the wood stove.  My favorite was the Sears catalogue in the outhouse which we didn’t have.

I knew if I stayed too long in this enchantment I would be late for church.  The music, my favorite part, would start without me.  I especially liked “Jesus Loves Me.”  I began to hurry through the canopy, humming like a monkey, trying not to slip onto the highway or tear my dress.  Ahead I heard shouting, and saw men running toward me waving their arms.  “Stop!”  They screamed.  “Stop!  Stop!”  Someone yanked me down and away from the embrace of the limbs and set me hard onto the solid pavement.

“We’ll walk you to church from here,” a big beard said.  “There’s more down wires ahead, but we’ve pulled them away so you won’t get hurt.”  Chain saws started up in the distance and so did the church piano, so I trotted hand in hand with the big plaid shirt and slid in just in time for “Onward Christian Soldiers.”  A prayer or two later, I went with the other children downstairs for crafts and story time. I was focused on coloring Jesus and his sheep when shadow flicked across the table. I looked out and saw my father’s legs run by the window toward the back door.  “How lucky, “I thought.  “He’s come to see my picture.”

His face, usually twinkling with humor, wasn’t smiling; it was wild with worry.  He snatched me up from the table – my picture and crayons falling to the floor.  My teeth pressed against the rough wool of his shoulder.   I felt his quick gasps of breath as he hugged me close.  “Let’s go,” he said.  “Why can’t I stay and finish?” I asked.  He nodded to the teacher.  Without a word we walked out of the church basement toward home.

The trees were in pieces by then and seemed more wounded than magical.  My father set me down and through the drone of chainsaws and power company trucks, and gently explained about the wires that carried electricity from Diablo Dam to Seattle.  “But,” I said, “Jesus loves me, and He held my hand through the branches and the wires so I could get to church.”

Nancy Peregrine began attending Grace about six months after moving to Hansville from Vashon Island in 2012, where she was a member of Church of the Holy Spirit. She is not only a life long Episcopalian, but a legacy one as well: she discovered that her great grandfather, Simon Peregrine, was a pillar of the community of Tenino and of the local Episcopal church there.  “So I come by it naturally,” she says. She has always loved the act of “going to church” and believes it probably started with the little Baptist Church in Marblemount which features into this story. 


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The Skirt Of God

By Michele Bombardier

Eagle - Susan Andersson - 2018

Photo by Susan Marie Andersson.

If God were to spread out her skirt
and tuck me under like a wing
maybe I could alight
maybe I could branch,
bloom, then fly my petal self face-down
onto the ground, the wind a call

to prayer, like the eaglets call
from the nest in the old fir, their parents skirt
the clouds, while flying up, they face down
at the same time, a grace, each wing
a rudder, is this not hope? A branch
that grows from the stump, a light

in the dark woods, no source of light
to be seen, but illume enough to call
out a warning when the branch
catches and tears the skirt
or shirt or whatever, because we wing it
on the dark path times, and we all face

the dark path. We feel along, our face
clenched, until our eyes adjust to light
or dark, same thing, same as wing,
that thing we do when we fly, when we call
ourselves divine, holy, worthy to skirt
despair, that black claw, that branch

of sharp thorns. How to branch
like a Madrona? Smooth, strong, facing
and twisting in the wind, a cascading skirt
of blossoms. To burn hot, to throw light.
I pray my life to be so fragrant. To call
forth the sweet smell of loam.  To take wing,

fly, no more sitting in the wings,
even the owl leaves the high branch,
she responds to the night calls;
the owl flies in the dark, her face
open as the sea,  she doesn’t need light;
she knows the night will catch her, skirt

her like a woman in an apron catches apples, branches
shaken by the wind, first heavy, then light.
Heavy. Now blossom, now Light.

Michele Bombardier’s book Fireball Of Sin On A House Of Prayer will be published later this year. Michele’s work has been published in over thirty literary journals such as Alaska Quarterly Review, Atlanta Review, Artemis, Bellevue Literary Review, Poetry International and others. She recently earned her MFA in poetry at Pacific University in Portland. Michele works as a speech-language pathologist on Bainbridge in her own clinic and loves the magic and mystery of communication and connection.

Susan Marie Andersson has worked as a freelance advertising photographer and graphic designer in Los Angeles and Seattle for over 20 years. She is also a certified marine naturalist and in her spare time does educational and advocacy work to help with the recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whales. She and her son Eli and husband  Ken Bennett first attended Grace the first Sunday following 9/11/2001.


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The Violent Violet Light

By Katie Kent

Violet Light in Spectrum

The spectrum of visible light. Nikola Nastasic, Getty Images

[It’s now been a year since Grace member Micki Babcock’s grandson, 18-year-old Simon Kent, was rushed to the hospital with a rare autoimmune disease, just as her daughter, Katie Kent, was returning from a conference. Today, the very good news is that Simon’s bone marrow transplant (from an anonymous donor in Germany) was successful. While still getting frequent check-ups, he was released from the hospital in February to recover at home, where he’ll be in isolation for 9 months. However, he is allowed to have friends visit, while wearing masks, gloves and gowns. And he can take great pleasure in video games and Skyping with friends everywhere. Here’s Katie’s account of the ordeal, first published on the CaringBridge website:]

JOURNAL ENTRY: February 18, 2018

I’ve always had trouble with the words violent and violet. Just that little tiny “n” that separates destructive power from a light purple that names, in plural, nosegays of yore. Purple prose, purple and pink and queer, versus violet, something supposedly calming, benign…

Two children died while Simon was in the Pediatric ICU. I don’t know if they were in the room across from us for some specific reason. The first child was well-known to all the nurses, had been in many times before, and had what were clearly life-threatening (what a word) disabilities that meant the family knew death was coming soon. (Not that we conversed about it; in places like the ICU you nod and smile and turn back to your own stall in the market of life and death.) As it became clear the child was dying, family members arrived and stood together, and we concentrated on Simon, on giving the group what little bit of privacy one could seize in such a place. The second time it was a baby, alone, in a huge crib. No one but the nurse was there, no one had visited. The staff never cross-talked, they never told us anything about the other patients. I knew this baby died because of the violent violet light.

The Great Gatsby ends with the image of the green light at the end of the dock. Students always seize on this: “a symbol” of money, jealously, the “go” of a traffic light that signals a car crash, or is it the freedom to go, to let go? After each child died, a solitary janitor came into the room and turned on some sort of machine that emitted a violet light. The whole room glowed — at night with the lights turned down at our end of the hall, the violet light was exponentially more visible than the tiny twinkling sparkles of the IVs surrounding Simon. I now know this light was emitting radiation, its purpose to destroy any germs left behind. At the time I suppose part of me understood this, too, but I preferred to see it as a kind of memorial, like a candle, left behind once the actual life and body had gone. The violent violet light, eradicating, as it commemorates, at least for a few hours, a life.

For weeks, we watched Simon fight to live, a cliche that in our case was true–or was it fight not to die, a locution no one uses. We barely left the ICU, I wore the same clothes for two and a half weeks, the entire time Simon was in the unit, as though if I did not take off the clothes I was wearing before I got the call from Ben, I was insuring that Simon would live. And once he was off the respirator and the drugs that kept him in an induced coma, he was moved to another unit, but it was another five weeks before we knew he was going to make it, but I learned to pace my grief and brush my teeth. The violet, violent light never appeared in his room, except in my nightmares. But unlike the comma I placed just now between the two adjectives, I will never, ever be able to separate the two.

Kathryn R. Kent is the Chair of the Department of English and Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Williams College in Massachusetts.  She is also Director of the Summer Humanities and Social Sciences Program there. 

Editor’s note: Thank you to Grace member Patricia Erskine, an active member of the Grace Pastoral Care Team, for forwarding this journal entry and for getting permission from Katie to re-publish it. Anyone who wishes to quote or reprint the article should contact Katie directly at

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The Other Side of Belonging

By Diane McGrew

Diane_Harry_Carolyn_cropped (1)

Diane and Carolyn with one of their two “privileged” dogs, Harry.

Belonging has always been important to me.  I believe the best way of belonging to a community is to contribute.  So when my wife and I moved back to North Kitsap, and to Grace Church, two years ago, I was determined to become a full member of Grace Church by taking part in my tribe, the Music Circle, and all the other places I could fit in and contribute. This was good, and I was excited to retire at the end of last September so I could be even more involved at Grace.

Then I had a heart attack last October while at the Grace Retreat at Fort Worden, and found out about the other side of belonging.

So many generous women, men, and kids of Grace gave so much to Carolyn and me:  Prayers, love, meals, cards, flowers, a prayer shawl (which I will always sleep with), and other lovely and loving gifts. I’ve made a full recovery, and then some, and I know the love of Grace Church folks has a lot to do with that; and that is a huge gift.  But the big surprise was the overwhelming feeling of belonging that I feel now.  And this is truly the gift of God’s grace.

I am amazed at God’s transformations of what we would call tragedy into grace.

Diane McGrew describes herself as “a wife, step-mom, grandmother, and retired software engineer.” She began attending Grace in 2003. She and her wife, Carolyn, live in Poulsbo with their two privileged dogs. She loves creating music, getting out into nature, and reading.

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Catechism Boot Camp

By Florrie Munat

Florrie - T

“Sweet and earnest”: Florrie, almost 13, the age she started “Catechism Boot Camp.”

In September 1960, I was a thirteen-year-old child who had just entered eighth grade—my third and final year of junior high school! I knew I was perched on the threshold between childhood and adulthood. But before I could become a grownup, I would have to jump over two big hurdles.

Number One. My home state of Illinois required all eighth-graders to spend the fall semester studying the U.S. Constitution. On December 1, we would take a state-standardized test. My history teacher, Miss Bagley—who smelled of coffee and wore wool socks and slippers to class—told us gleefully, “Class, if you do not pass the Constitution test, you will not pass eighth grade. And if you do not pass eighth grade, you will not be allowed to go to high school!”

Number Two. My hometown Episcopal Church required all eighth-graders to spend the year studying the Catechism. On May 1, we would take a church-standardized test. My minister, Reverend Boynton—a handsome former U.S. Marine—told us soberly, “Children, if you do not pass the Catechism test, you will not be confirmed. And if you are not confirmed, you will not be allowed to go to heaven!” Okay, those weren’t his exact words, but I read between the lines.

So that kind of killed the joy of my final (I hoped) year of junior high school—studying the Constitution on weekdays and the Catechism on weekends. In my worst moments, I imagined my life would remain stuck in some sort of perpetual Groundhog Day where I would never pass the tests and therefore never be allowed to go to high school or heaven.

Gone were those gentle Sunday School classes when we colored pictures of Jesus with a lamb draped over his shoulders, and Jesus about to heal a lame man who was being lowered by ropes into a Pueblo (that’s what it looked like to me). No, we eighth-graders had serious doctrines to memorize. To make matters worse, Catechism classes were held on Saturday mornings so Reverend Boynton himself could teach them. My friends and I secretly called those sessions, “Catechism Boot Camp” in honor of Reverend Boynton’s military service.

During those endless Saturday morning classes, Reverend Boynton diligently taught us the definitions of doctrines such as resurrection, salvation, and the sacraments, while I scribbled the answers in a spiral notebook. (The first question of the Catechism is, “What is your name?” After that, it gets harder.)

After class my friends and I would quiz each other. “What is thy duty towards God?” “What is thy duty towards thy Neighbour?” (Whoever wrote the Catechism must have thought we all still lived in 17th century England.) My personal favorite was, “What meanest thou by this word Sacrament?” The answer is etched on my brain to this day: “A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” Today I find those words beautiful. Back in eighth grade, they were meaningless syllables I had to regurgitate on the test.

On Sunday mornings we eighth-graders were allowed to practice being adults by sitting next to real adults in church pews. Though of course, we weren’t allowed to take communion because we hadn’t passed the Catechism test yet.

As it turned out, all that hoop-dee-doo was simply a clever ploy to make us study. Everyone passed the Constitution test, so everyone got to go to high school. Everyone passed the Catechism test, so everyone got to kneel at the communion rail. (The going to heaven part is pending.) Hallelujah.

This Lent I’ve been thinking about my thirteen-year-old self. I have a lot of compassion for that sweet, earnest child who thought faith (and good citizenship) could be obtained by memorization. In fact, I’d memorized the definitions of resurrection, salvation, and the sacraments so well that eight years later—when I decided I didn’t believe in those words as defined—I left the church because I thought it would be hypocritical to stay. It took me thirty-five years to realize that those definitions paled (by a long shot) when compared to who I am and how I behave in the world. (It also explains why these words from the Grace liturgy touch me so deeply: “We rebelled against you, and wandered far away. And yet, as a mother cares for her children, you would not forget us.”)

I wish a teacher (Marcus Borg?) had been around back in 1960 to say to me, “Hey, no need to memorize answers and pass a test. What’s in your head isn’t nearly as important as what’s in your heart. Just try to be good to yourself and others.”

And it would have been nice if someone (Brian Doyle?) had told me, “When you make a mistake, God says, ‘That’s okay. Try again. You’ll do better next time, I know it!’ You don’t have to earn God’s grace, it’s there for you.”

And instead of describing the Supper of the Lord as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace,” it would have been more helpful if some adult (Ann Lamott?) had said, “God is so happy when you eat the bread and drink the wine! And afterward when you walk out that big church door? God really loves it when you bring peace and love into the world. It’s so great when you do that! And you could make a big difference. You never know, because life is one big mystery.”

Now, that’s a Catechism I would happily commit to memory.

Florrie - Now

Florrie Munat began attending Grace in 2003, shortly after she became her husband Chuck’s caregiver. She has taken part in Grace’s pastoral care and welcoming ministries. Florrie has recently published her memoir, Be Brave: A Wife’s Journey Through Caregiving. You can learn more about Florrie and Chuck’s caregiving story at

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Who’s Your Jesus?

By Kathie McCarthy

Wandering has been part of my journey. In my wanderings I’ve come across many different visions of Jesus. I love sharing them. I love that moment when someone is surprised by someone else’s version of Jesus and their hand comes to their heart or there’s an unexpected intake of breath.

Please wander through these images…

Consider slipping into slow and quiet. Perhaps call to mind a contemplative process familiar to you and let it settle upon you.

May these images hover and shimmer and shift and change within you.

To begin: When you think of Jesus, perhaps a certain face or image comes to mind; perhaps you hear certain words; perhaps you feel a presence. What happens inside of you when you think of Jesus? Remember this.

Kathie - Jesus 1

As you see this image, what happens inside of you? How does it affect you? All reactions and responses are fine; simply notice.

Kathie - Jesus 2

As you see this image, what happens inside of you? How does it affect you? All reactions and responses are fine; simply notice.

Kathie - Jesus 3

As you see this image, what happens inside of you? How does it affect you? All reactions and responses are fine; simply notice.

Kathie - Image 4

As you see this image, what happens inside of you? How does it affect you? All reactions and responses are fine; simply notice.

Kathie - Image 5

As you see this image, what happens inside of you? How does it affect you? All reactions and responses are fine; simply notice.


As you see this image, what happens inside of you? How does it affect you? All reactions and responses are fine; simply notice.

My curiosity is always about how our beliefs and therefore our lives might be shaped by the images we hold of Jesus. Thank you for giving yourself time to savor these images.


  1. Good Samaritan, Icon
  2. Christ in the Wilderness, Stanley Spencer
  3. Mustard Seed, Kimberley R. Greeno
  4. Black Madonna, Anire Mosley
  5. Jesus Listen and Pray, Father Bill McNichols
  6. Jesus Washing Disciples Feet, Gary Karl Nauman

Kathie McCarthy leads retreats and journeys through her company, Silver Sage Sojourns. You’ll notice the “Who’s Your Jesus?” cards in action in some of the breathtaking photos on this website. Kathie has been part of the Grace community for many years and has worked with youth and adults in several different ways during that time.

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The Flowers Appear On the Earth…

Photograph by Beulah Downing


My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my fair one,
    and come away;
for now the winter is past,
    the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
    the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
    is heard in our land…”

Song of Solomon 2:10-12, “Springtime Rhapsody”

Beulah Downing and her husband Dennis have been members of Grace for nearly 20 years.

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