Our Founding Pastor: Nanette Sawyer

You could say that I am the daughter of Grace. And it would be true--my mom's name is Grace Marie. But it's not the case that this website, or this community project, is named after my mother. No, the grace we're talking about here is a much bigger, much more encompassing, and a more multi-faceted grace. This is the grace that everyone is related to: the grace of God.

And in that sense, too, I am a child of Grace. A child in that I am small in relation to a divine love so vast it is unfathomable. A child in that I am protected through a bond of love that is unbreakable. I am not a nameless child, but one given a name before I was created; called into existence by name, by a Being Beyond Names.

Nanette SawyerI have always been a seeker; seeking after God/spirit/relationship with the divine. I was raised Christian, but it was in what I call a hellfire and brimstone church. That didn't really work for me!

I "left" the church when I was a teenager, proclaiming that I was not Christian. If what I saw around me was Christian, then I was not that!

Always the seeker, I took up meditation with an Indian meditation master and went to Harvard Divinity School where I received a Masters of Theological Studies in Comparative World Religions. Somehow, I tumbled into a small urban church in South Boston where I encountered a way of being Christian that changed my life.

It turns out they were Presbyterian there, and I came to know about "Reformed" theology, and the idea that the church needs to be "reformed and always reforming." This little church was based on a strong belief in God's love and graciousness, and they acted that out in the neighborhood! (It's Fourth Presbyterian Church in Boston -- I'm so proud of them.)

I came to Chicago in 1999 to attend a Presbyterian Seminary in Hyde Park (McCormick Theological Seminary) and got a Masters of Divinity degree in 2002. So, in a turn of events I would never have anticipated 15 years ago, I find myself an ordained minister.

I was called by the Presbytery of Chicago in November of 2002 to begin an experiment in new ways of doing church. We began in earnest with spirituality discussions and book groups in coffee shops and tea houses in 2003.

In January 2005, we received seed money from the national, regional, and local branches of the Presbyterian Church, (USA), to start an experimental new church, a "church without walls," so to speak. That year we began renting space in the art gallery where we were until March 2011, at the intersections of Wicker Park, Bucktown, and Humboldt Park.

From March to November of 2011 we gathered in a variety of neighborhoods, then settled in an art gallery in Humboldt Park until Easter 2012. Since we were leaving Wicker Park, we changed our name to the more expansive "Grace Commons." Finally, in November 2012 we moved to Rogers Park and began gathering at St. James Presbyterian Church where we met until November 2015.

On December 1, 2015, I moved on to a new role as Minister of Congregational Life at Fourth Presbyterian Church in downtown Chicago, and the Grace Commons community has continued to meet as a house church, gathering in homes, at pubs, and other public spaces to pursue spiritual practice and missional generosity.

Explore this site for more info about Grace Commons community life. Or, read my blog for more about my ministry and spiritual perspective: Christianity, Creativity, and Healing