Dear Creator Family,
So much is happening for us this summer, a time when tradition says we “wind down,” that we must pause now to take stock. There are several areas of transition and change where God’s guidance and our action will set the course for our parish for years to come.
As far back as the recession, our parish has faced the evolving landscape of cultural faith perspective and the priority of Christian worship. This cultural shift, now the trend, marked the closing of our Pre-school and the loss of our Boy Scout Troop well ahead of their national scandal. With the arrival and lasting repercussions of the COVID pandemic and the move to online worship, the necessary and faithful change in practice by the church fueled forces already advancing in our society.
Transitions in church family life are normal: a sign of God moving in a faithful Body in unexpected and creative ways, but always to His glory. I must confess to being troubled by the transitions we have experienced over the past two and a quarter years from the pandemic. As in all families, ideologies and opinions can run deep, and no amount of prayer and devoted effort of our Vestry and staff have been able to mitigate the “fall-out” from the divisions that COVID-19 caused. We have sadly lost members of our Parish Family because we masked too long/didn’t mask enough, didn’t offer Communion/offered Communion, met/didn’t meet in person, and perhaps saddest of all, because we are trying to address these issues, but “not hard enough.”
The litany of reasons why parishioners have left is not specific to our parish; nationally parishes have echoed these concerns and lamented this trend. I have personally spoken to parishioners and priests who are fearfully and faithfully addressing these same issues, though they share our desperation and division over the matter. We are now at a transition place in our Parish life and how we proceed will require the faith and dedication of all our Family.
When the pandemic hit, our Sunday worship was only canceled for two Sundays. We were quickly able, though roughly, to offer online worship in multiple settings and ultimately from our own sanctuary. The blessing of electronic media kept us together in a time of radical isolation and provided multiple opportunities for gathering and sharing. Even now, as we are fully in-person, we are able to offer a much more refined virtual experience which we will continue as a regular part of Sunday worship. The transition to a new media, new forms, and new format of worship, and worship access has provided us with a template and a witness of possibility in faithful development and spiritual growth.
Our Parish Home
Our beloved Creator will be 60 soon! Seems like only a few years ago we celebrated her 50th with such festivity and fellowship. No wonder, and maybe in part because we are emerging thinned and changed from the pandemic, we can see her age is showing. There are many areas of renewal and repair that must be addressed, but there are several major repairs that cannot be avoided. Anyone maintaining an older home will relate to the litany of demise I can relate to you: in the past two years our church A/C failed, our septic system collapsed, our heating system burst, our drainage system washed out, and our sidewalk was destroyed. In a parish with small means, that is too much! And, not surprisingly, the way we have operated for 50+ years, that’s a lot of in-house calling and waiting, and investigating and waiting, and relying on one or two individuals to carry the burden of seeing through these needed repairs. We have never been in a position to call in the professionals, write the check, and get ‘er done, and we’re not now. In a word, it’s daunting. The good news is, we have been able to replace our church A/C and our septic system, but our heating system, drainage system, and sidewalk are all in process. To worship in the Church, safeguard the property and provide access to our facilities these three remaining areas must be completed, but there is a problem.
During this same extended period and for the same reasons, our Parish income has fallen and our fiscal stability in now in flux. Creator has always struggled with fiscal stability, and though we had many years of fiscal security, finances have always been a concern that overshadowed the best of times. Presently, we are running a deficit budget for our daily operations, and we have exhausted almost all of our reserves. The Finance Committee has met this month to discuss and double-check the numbers.
Your Vestry met yesterday to discuss all these areas and to seek God’s guidance as to how we are to move forward. It has been my experience, having served on multiple boards, that emotions run high in meetings like this. For two hours the Vestry focused primarily on our financial issues, but of course, we touched on all areas of Parish Life. We are faced with finite resources and limited abilities, we are overmatched by the tasks ahead, and challenged by forces beyond our control. What was our outcome?
Praise, Hope, and Humor
It may sound strange at first, but it was wonderful! Your Vestry met these concerns head-on by dreaming and brainstorming and hoping in all that God calls us to. With clarity and humor, your Vestry addressed the issues that face us all and have set forth a series of inquiries and short-term goals to inform and direct our next steps.
We are reinitiating our Parish Hall rental possibility, reassessing our fundraising, initiating a trend analysis of giving and expenditures for the next 30 days, discussing resources and assistance with the Diocese, and writing this letter to let you all know.
For our part, we can all revisit our stewardship and parish support. Planned, regular giving is part of faithful Christian living. Always has been, always will be. Yes, it’s a practice that makes for healthy and growing parishes, but it starts with the individual believer considering the priorities of life. I’ll save the deeper theological and spiritual considerations for a stewardship letter but suffice it to say that now would be a good time to review and recommit to your stewardship of our parish. Energy and attention can go a long way, as well. I take the crepe myrtle as my sign on that: every day I arrive and every time I leave, I pass by that glorious tree and thank the faithful stewards who wouldn’t give up and who have transformed our whole portico into a place of beauty. And the beautiful downstairs kitchen – clean and freshly painted by another faithful steward. And the upstairs bathroom, a joint effort to transform and update our aging spaces. There are plenty more opportunities to apply your time, talent, and treasure. For starters, everyone is asked to brainstorm and share every idea and dream—no matter how BIG or small.
There is a lot here to ingest, I know, but there is so much more to be had. God is faithful and seeks the fulfillment of His grace and love in each of us and through us, as witnesses in the world. This is an opportunity to receive the gifts of God through our concerns and our actions. This is the moment when our devotion to God will guide us as we steward God’s house and through our devotion, we will grow and be blessed, no matter the outcome for our Parish!
I will keep you all informed as things change and evolve. Please keep me and your Vestry informed as we grow and change together.
Peace in Christ,
Father Bill Burk†