Community Conversations

Feedback from Community Conversations.

During the month of July, many of you participated in one or more of the four Zoom-based Community Conversations. The purpose of these gatherings was to discuss the reported results from the parishwide survey. In addition to seeking reactions about the accuracy and completeness of the summarized survey results, we welcomed participants to share their thoughts in the current context – armed with insights from the Finance Education sessions and thinking about the new pandemic realities. 20 – 25 parishioners participated in each of the sessions.

Each of the Community Conversations in its own way called for the recognition that beyond the natural disruptions caused by the retirement of a long-time, beloved Rector, we are also facing major social disruptions – COVID-19, historic reductions in employment and economic activity and protests/awakening about racial injustice. We long for the ideal St. Paul’s church of our memories while confronting the inevitability that what we will become in the future must be different from what we were in the past.

What themes emerged?

COMMUNITY may have been the most frequently referenced idea across all conversations. We see ourselves as a community of faith, a large, diverse, strong-willed, multi-generational Spiritual Family. We fret about whether we are a cohesive community or one loosely held together.
BUILDING NEW MEMBERSHIP is a topic on many minds. These discussions often led to further reflections on what attracts people to St. Paul’s and the role of the next Rector in helping to grow the parish.
WHAT IS OUR CORE? is a recurring question which we encountered during our conversations. Traditionally we have cherished our music, outreach, Godly Play, Episcopal worship traditions and our beautiful campus. Yet we are shrinking and are unclear about what will attract the next generation of parishioners.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION also featured prominently in our discussions. We often asked ourselves whether our behavior in this regard is perception or reality. Acting with intention in both areas seems to be an area where we hope a new Rector will assist us.
MUSIC, a core strength of St. Pauls’ for many decades, was widely recognized as a cherished ministry of the church. Our next Rector must understand the jewel that our music program has been and be committed to helping it evolve as we evolve. There were many COVID-related questions about how our music ministries can operate for the foreseeable future.
SUPER RECTOR is perhaps an only slightly facetious description of our expectations for the new rector. It was often noted that all we need/want cannot be provided by a single person. We must be prepared to welcome and support whoever is called, and (s)he must recognize the need to nurture effective lay leadership as well as a team of clerical and non-clerical talent to operate the church. We are seeking an inspiring preacher (to us not at us), a community builder, an aligner, a champion of social justice and diversity, a pastoral care-giver, a careful listener, and a multi-generational translator.

What’s next?

The profile writing team has incorporated this feedback into the profile document, identifying areas of common agreement, as well as areas of divergence which may be challenges our next rector will be called to help us address. Current work includes a review of the draft and supplemental media and the engagement of graphic design experts to help us tell our story. What lies ahead in the coming weeks is the cycle of approval by the vestry and the diocese prior to publishing, followed by the sharing of the final product with the parish.

Concurrent with this process is the completion of our ministry profile, a standardized document that is posted on the national database utilized by clergy and parishes in transition. Once it is completed and submitted, our search committee will be named and applications from clergy candidates accepted.

God willing, we anticipate the completion of the profile process by mid-October.

Please continue to hold St. Paul’s in your prayers as we discern the way forward.

Ruth Desiderio