The Ashley family from left to right, Erick, Howie (17), Kara (15), Hannah (19) and Tracie. Their oldest son, Kenny, was missing from the photo.

“All are welcome, all are loved,” said Reverend Erick Ashley of Grace Community United Methodist Church. “It is a church where every person can find a place and a purpose, all centered around a life lived in Jesus.”

Grace Community is pleased to announce the appointment of Reverend Tracie Ashley, the wife of current pastor Reverend Erick. On June 30, she preached her first message at Grace Community.

The appointing of clergy couples to co-pastor is a growing trend among United Methodist Churches. Currently, the Florida Annual Conference has 29 clergy couples with 15 of them serving as co-pastors. The model of clergy couples serving together has been successful and is producing much fruit for the Kingdom of God.

“I began feeling that my time serving Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Bradenton was coming to a close, and I requested to be considered for an appointment closer to Lithia where our family lives,” said Reverend Tracie. “I had served Emmanuel for two years and loved this church family very much, but the long drive was wearing on me and my family life.”

Grace Community was founded by local Lithia families with its first gatherings held in 2000 at Lithia Springs Elementary School. After a few years of bouncing around due to growth, the church moved into its current facility on Lithia Pinecrest in 2005.

As its name suggests, the church focuses on creating community. Although it no longer meets at the school, the church has not forgotten its humble beginnings. Grace Community supports Pinecrest Elementary by serving in its classrooms, mentoring/tutoring students and helping with special events. In keeping with its community mindset, the church collaborates with the Presbyterian Church of Bloomingdale to host free dinners for those struggling with food scarcity. The dinner takes place on Sundays from 5-6:30 p.m. at 710 East Bloomingdale Ave.

Recently, Grace Community launched a program called Military Connect, which helps connect military families with resources. From loaning home items to connecting military families with a sponsor, the idea is to support and serve the high population of military families residing in FishHawk. Further details on the ministry can be found at www.militaryconnectlithia.com.

For service times, visit www.mygraceumc.com. Grace Community is located at 5708 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. in Lithia.