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