In late May, the Vestry voted to focus on ‘’four priorities that will define both how it budgets money and how it shapes its presence in a city of need.
After several months of discussion and refinement, it has chosen to focus on hospitality, worship, service and learning, finding in the matrix a way to help others, minister to the parish, welcome the stranger and continue the congregation’s yen for meaningful formation.
“This is what we are committing ourselves to become,” said the Reverend Sandy Webb.
“This will be the major tool for the administration committee when they craft next year’s budget. These are our core priorities,” he said.
To see the priority statement, go here.
Besides welcoming everyone, the hospitality is to be intentionally outward as we “respond to God’s love with friendliness, generosity and kindness.” In worship, the priority statement reminds the congregation that “we exist to glorify God,” but moves on to say that we also prize meaningful worship and opportunities for all to serve.
The service will be rooted in community but not one-sided. “We will work alongside the people we serve, learning from each other and building personal relationships,” as the congregation has done in its work with Emmanuel Center and outreach across the city.
Learning as a priority is punctuated with the proviso that Holy Communion is a community of teachers and learners and that besides the challenge of offering thoughtful learning opportunities, “we will also discuss how our faith applies to the real issues that members of our congregation are facing.”
The priorities will become the template for deciding how the church’s money is spent.
“It will also be the tool we use when we are presented with opportunities to sponsor something or participate in something,” Sandy said.
The vestry has been working on its priorities essentially since its winter retreat, honing the direction and then aligning clergy roles to fit.
For the next year at least, the bulk of Sandy’s time will be spent in overseeing worship and leading the kinds of “signature” classes that have defined adult formation since he arrived in 2013.
Hester’s majority focus will be coordinating parish life and outreach, plus her own preaching schedule. Ben’s focus will be the pastoral care of the congregation, including much of the hospital and home visiting.
By late summer, the Vestry will have selected three or four parish statistics for measuring the progress of each priority.
“That will also help us decided to where to make investments,” Sandy said.
Extra weight is to be given to hospitality as a way of demonstrating the church’s welcome to all people, including the hundreds that know us through exercise programs, the meeting space we provide and the sacraments we offer to all.
“I hope people in the pews will see us balance the welcoming of new folks and fellowship with returning folks, balance our inward focus on formation and our outward focus on service,” Sandy said.
As the design phase of the $7 million construction and renovation project proceeds, the Vestry is equally determined that the work of the church -- its preaching, congregational care and formation -- is not diminished by the construction that within a year will affect all the daily routines in the church office.
“One of the major discussion points at our (February) retreat was around how we maintained a strong organization around this capital campaign but at the same time, not losing sight of the bigger mission we have and how we pay attention to the daily life of the church and what the parishioners need,” said John Lewis, senior warden.
“That led to a discussion of: Do we have a methodology that makes sense in terms of how we use the resources we have? What our strengths and passions are and then, how do we find the best way to focus our resources?”
Staff and vestry defined the priorities through writing and discussion. The individual responses were compiled and shaped into a narrative. Clergy responsibilities have changed to reflect the new emphasis.
With the capital campaign now in the design and drafting stage, the Vestry is also clear that Sandy’s role is to lead the church and its work and not be mired in project management. The Vestry is in the final stages of hiring an owner’s representative to advocate for its interests.
“It goes back to the initial discussion we had at the retreat,” Lewis said. “We can’t allow Sandy to be sucked into this project full bore and be unable to do the normal, daily activities of running a church. We have a lot of things happening around ministry. Those things will never go away. The construction will be here and gone in few years.
“Most of the parishioners are aware of the construction. They want to see it happen. But at the end of the day, they want a reason to come to church. They have a need to be fed. They want programs, other activities and small groups.”
The leaders of the three Vestry committees associated with construction have been directed to keep Sandy apprised of their actions, but he will not be their spokesman.
“I will go to every committee meeting, stay for 20 minutes and leave,” Sandy said. “We are asking the chairs to come back and report to the Vestry. I will know in advance what is on the agenda and I will weigh in. When they finish their work, the chairperson will send me the notes. I will give immediate feedback, but the chairperson will report to the Vestry.”