A Shifting Landscape
Late last fall, the Vestry began to explore a creative vision for sustaining our parish’s mission and ministry in the coming years. We began by naming some of the challenges our parish, like most others, are facing at this unique moment in time:
We also affirmed that our parish is living into our mission by:
We are not in a rush to make any changes. Rather, we want to use this time as an opportunity to be intentional in discerning a creative vision of what sustainable ministry for this parish may look like in the coming years. To that end, there is a group of volunteers looking at staffing trends; the Property Committee has made a list of long term deferred maintenance and is prioritizing those projects; and we are applying this kind of intentionality to all of our ministry efforts as a leadership team.
Staffing Changes: Parish Administrator
At our June Vestry meeting we considered and approved some staffing changes. One of those changes was shifting the Parish Administrator position from 20 hours to 15 hours a week, effective July 1. This was not a performance-based change; rather it was a reflection of our changing financial landscape and needs. It makes sense in light of our overall projected budget deficit of $37,000 and the slow return of our property use program - in spite of our Parish Administrator’s best efforts. The administrative needs of the parish also changed during the pandemic, and will continue to evolve in the future. In particular, we have streamlined and simplified our leaflet process, allowing work to be done ahead as needed.
We discussed with our Parish Administrator when to make this change, and it was his preference to do so on July 1. Effective Friday, July 1 our office hours will shift to Tuesday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The Parish Administrator will also work remotely for an hour on Monday responding to messages, and will have some time to tend to things before the office opens each day.
Staffing Changes: Clergy Leadership
As your rectors, we have been in conversation with one another for several months about how to plan for the eventual reality that SsJA will have one full time priest, and the eventual possibility that we will have less than one full time priest in the future. We know, from resources our Vestry has reviewed, that this future reality does not need to mean SsJA is any less healthy and vibrant than it is now. Rather it will look different. We believe we can use this time with two priests, and eventually with one, to help SsJA prepare for that future. We believe empowering and equipping lay leadership is one of our primary roles.
As a point of information, Molly serves our parish ⅓ time, and Heather serves our parish full time. That said, Molly has been generous with her time, and in reality gives us closer to ½ time. We try to balance this out by giving her more time away in the summer.
Your rectors recently met with a coach familiar with our parish to help us begin to plan for these eventual changes in clergy leadership. One helpful takeaway was that we need to begin by shifting Molly’s work to ⅓ time not just in theory, but in practice. This means she will continue to engage in her church work on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and be less available the rest of the week, unless it is a matter of urgency.
Another helpful takeaway is that since we have treated our Rector & Associate Rector roles and relationship as Ministry Partners, we have both been involved with many aspects of parish life, which, in effect, has often amounted to a duplication of effort. As the clergy, we highly value having both priests give time to creating meaningful worship. We want to continue to share in responsibility for worship and in our Vestry work. We feel the place where we can free up some of Molly’s time is for her to attend fewer ministry team meetings. She will continue to do work with Caregivers, Nerd Bible Study, and will be offering our lay preachers ongoing support and coaching.
The Vestry affirmed this next step and the general shifts it will be helpful to make in light of Heather’s 2023 sabbatical (May-August). We will share more details as they become pertinent, but the long and the short is that we are making a gradual shift in how the clergy spend their time at SsJA, and we have identified some plans on helping equip and empower our lay leaders so they may continue to feel supported and encouraged in their leadership in the church.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to be in touch.
Rev. Heather & Rev. Molly
Over the last sixteen months we have learned how to be the Church in new and exciting ways that we never would have dreamed possible had the Pandemic not forced us to adapt quickly. Our parish was able to be so nimble because of the faithfulness, trust, generosity, and care shown by every parishioner. We have learned a great deal during this season, and will continue to bring these learnings into our future.
Two weeks ago Bishop Fisher lifted all Covid-19 restrictions except one (read the letter here). The one guideline we are asked to follow is to continue to offer Holy Communion with bread only. In consultation with the clergy, wardens, and vestry we have decided to lift all Covid-19 restrictions in our parish, with the exception of continuing to offer Holy Communion with bread only, for the present, and a few other caveats listed below.
For the next two Sundays we will have worship at 8 a.m. in the Church. Starting August 1 we will transition to a service at 10 a.m. that will livestream our in-person worship. At this time, we will phase out our virtual coffee hour with the hope to resume in-person coffee hour later this fall.
You may be wondering why we will only be offering one service starting August 1 at 10 a.m. in the Church. With the ability to livestream our in-person service we will be able to worship as a whole community. Attendance at in-person worship has been low (15-25 people each week). When attendance demands a second service, we will resume with two services each week.
Thank you for your patience during these many months. We know some of you may have thoughts and questions during this phase of emerging out of the pandemic. Please do not hesitate to contact us.
Rev. Heather & Rev. Molly
Dear People of Saints James and Andrew,
We are overjoyed that in this Eastertide, as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, conditions will soon allow us to resume limited in-person worship. The last year has been hard in many ways, but despite the challenges we’ve faced, we have demonstrated resilience as a faith community. We have all learned much more than we ever thought we might need to about navigating technology in order to participate in virtual worship, coffee hour, and the like.
Many of you will remember having difficulty hearing when attending worship in the main sanctuary prior to the pandemic. Others will remember what difficulty we had with sound as we began to livestream our worship from the chapel and main sanctuary during the early days of the pandemic. The clergy and vestry have spent considerable time and energy trying to resolve these issues over the last year; our investigations have brought us to the conclusion that we must look to the future and invest in an entirely new and comprehensive sound and video system.
Vestry Members Andy Levchuk and Reynolds Whalen took on leadership of the project and met with two vendors as we explored our options, and we were immediately taken by the outstanding work Small Town Sound and Photo has done with other area churches, including St. Francis Episcopal Church in Holden, Massachusetts. (If you want to get an idea of what our new livestream worship will look and sound like, we encourage you to watch a service of St. Francis’ here.) The Vestry has voted to accept Small Town Sound’s proposal to install a new system costing $15,000; it’s our hope that the installation work will begin soon.
We feel called to undertake this large scale capital improvement in order to provide a quality livestream worship experience long after the pandemic fades away. We have come to understand live streaming to be an important way that we can include those who for various reasons are not able to worship with us in person: we see it as a tool for pastoral care and for spreading the good news of God’s love well beyond Franklin County.
This project will enhance the worship experience of both those who are gathered in person and those who are watching from home. We are drawing from our savings accounts to initially cover these expenses.
We invite parishioners and friends of the parish to prayerfully consider making a special one-time gift to this project, in thanksgiving for God’s blessing as we resume in-person worship. It is our goal to raise $15,000 and replenish our savings during this year in which we are already facing a deficit budget.
If you are moved to make a contribution, we encourage you to send donations earmarked for ‘sound/video’. We also can accept donations through our website.
You will find a video from Vestry member Reynolds Whalen on Facebook, who will help lead a new team of Digital Ministers, explaining this project in a bit more detail. We encourage you to watch it to learn more.
Thank you for your faithfulness throughout this past year, and for your generosity as we seek to invest in the future ministry and worship of our faith community.
Clergy & Vestry of Saints James and Andrew