Last week I had the opportunity to listen in on some of the Stakeholders’ Zoom meetings with Grason Hudson, the principal architect for WKWW. WKWW has been hired by the Vestry to focus on the Facilities portion of our three-pronged Strategic Plan. The overall plan is “to assure that our facilities, financial and human resources will provide a strong future for our ministries.” Our facilities are the brick and mortar assets that will best support and grow the essential ministries of St. Paul’s— Worship and Music, Christian Formation, Administration and Site, Hospitality and Outreach. As I have had a little bit of time to reflect on those meetings, I came away with the following impressions.
First, I think the Vestry made a wise choice in hiring WKWW. Grason’s attentive listening, probing questions, and conversation starters invited us to think not just about our immediate needs to address safety issues, ADA compliance, and improve accessibility and functionality of the space, but to be forward looking. He invited us to think about how our space will be used in the future. What new ministries might this new space make possible? It is often said that our children are the future of the church. Our children are not the future of the church, we are the future of the church. What we do, or don’t do now, will determine what our ministry looks like five or ten years from now.
Second, it is evident how much you all love St. Paul’s and care for its people and ministries. You are enthusiastic about sharing the good news of God’s love with the wider community. Your dedication, coupled with your time, talent, and treasure is an investment that continues to grow. Even a world wide pandemic has not stifled you! St. Paul’s had an average Sunday attendance of 174 (pre-pandemic), which places it in the top 25% of Episcopal churches in the United States. 75% of all Episcopal churches in the United States have an average Sunday attendance of 100 or fewer people. As we return to in-person worship, and as scientific protocols permit, it is reasonable to think that our numbers will keep growing. The Strategic Plan is a vision for a growing church.
My third observation is more of a call for courage and perseverance. In order for churches to grow in transformative and life giving ways, they must be able to break free from the force of gravity. The force of gravity is a powerful force. The force of gravity is present in every church; and the force of gravity can manifest itself in many ways. The force of gravity is an individual, or individuals, with a myopic vision of ministry. The force of gravity is the powerful voice that keeps saying, “it can’t be done.” The force of gravity is an individual or individuals who will actively try to sabotage a project. The force of gravity an individual, or individuals, who are content with the way things are and resistant to change of any kind. You get the picture. The work of a growing church is to trust in God enough to break free from the forces of gravity (whatever they may be) and step out in faith, confident that God will always give us what we need for the journey.
Be kind to one another. Pray often. Keep the faith.
P.S. Please remember to support our ministry to those who are food in-secure by bringing non-perishable foods to the Blessing Box and to the Red Wagon.