Last fall the Vestry began to grapple with how to go about discussing two important considerations that have been plaguing us for some time: first and foremost, enhancing the unity of our congregation, and secondly, the sustainability of offering three worship services. A Worship Subcommittee of the Vestry was formed to look at attendance and giving trends over the last ten years. Three church chats were recently held for parishioner feedback around worship services, schedule, and combined services.
This is what we have learned over the last few months. Between 2007-2017 attendance decreased by 15%. To be specific to each service between 2007-2017 there has been a 28% decrease at the Saturday 5:30pm, 25% decrease at the Sunday 8:00am, and a 9% decrease at the Sunday 10:00am. Between 2007-2017 pledging households have decreased by 35%.
At our church chats we received a great deal of helpful feedback and ideas. The chapel services share similar qualities that parishioners value: intimacy, contemplative nature of the service, a spoken liturgy without music, some value the traditional language of Rite I (others Rite II), and the timing of the services. Many people have thoroughly enjoyed our worship experience in the Parish Hall, particularly the music and the enhanced sense of unity and community. There is a desire to find a way to create a similar atmosphere in the church. Many people also appreciate the enhanced sense of unity and community at combined services, though some miss the quiet of the chapel services. There was also some practical feedback about improving our sound system that we will recommend the Property Committee explore.
After much thought, prayer, and discussion, the Vestry has decided on the following worship changes. Please know we did not come to these decisions lightly. However, we believe these changes will help us to create a greater sense of unity and grow as a congregation.
The two chapel services currently worshiping on Saturdays at 5:30 p.m. and Sundays at 8 a.m. will merge at the Sunday 8 a.m. timeslot, effective 6/11.
Effective immediately, all combined services will be held at 9 a.m. instead of some being held at 9 a.m. and some at 10 a.m. We believe this will be simpler, easier to remember, fairer to both worshiping services, allow more time for the fellowship events that follow worship and still give parishioners ample time to enjoy their afternoons. This summer we will not be implementing a summer worship schedule with a combined service at 9 a.m. in order to allow folks to adjust to the new worship schedule. However, next summer we will plan to offer a combined service at 9 a.m. in July and August. This summer we will have both an 8 a.m. service in the chapel and 10 a.m. service in the church.
Worshiping in the Parish Hall during the winter months saved money, but more importantly gave our parish a renewed sense of unity and community. Therefore we will plan to worship in the Parish Hall each year between Epiphany and Lent V (approximately January-March).
These changes will also mean that Rev. Heather’s Sabbath will now be Friday and Saturday instead of Thursday afternoon thru Saturday afternoon beginning June 9th.
Again, we did not come to these decisions lightly, but we believe these decisions will help us create a more sustainable worship schedule that will also enhance our unity as a parish.
Yours in Christ,
The Clergy & Vestry