Describe a moment in your worshipping community's recent ministry, which you recognize as one of success and fulfillment.
Our summer youth mission trip focused on migrant ministry. The young people came together and bonded in service and fellowship. Our youth leader, Joy Shillingsburg, has brought energy to the program that has drawn young people to participate in different programs. We are beginning to see our youth program as an outreach ministry where the fellowship comes with the service. For the first time in several years, we are sending a group of youth to the Bishops' Ball. Our youth have become more involved in the church service - such as having a Youth Sunday where they participate as lay readers, chalice bearers and ushers. We also have for the first time a Youth Delegate on the Vestry who was unanimously affirmed by the congregation.
Describe your liturgical style & practice. If your community provides more than one type of worship service, please describe all:
St. John's celebrates its Episcopal traditions as the core of our worship. We enjoy a Broad Church service, not high or low, with Sunday service at 8:00 am without music and a 10:00 am service which includes choir, music and Sunday school. Clergy who provide a meaningful sermon that feeds the soul and engages the contemporary issues of life have exceptionally blessed us. We have a noon service on Wednesdays that sometimes includes a healing service. St. John's also departs from the usual liturgy to have a Youth-led or Taize service. One of the favorite services is on Palm Sunday, when we begin a procession from our beautiful Columbarium into the sanctuary, united in song. We have a bell choir, an adult choir and a children's choir. St. John's also enjoys the annual Blessing of the Animals and other unique opportunities to embrace our diversity and welcome parishioners and guests.
How do you practice incorporating others in ministry?
St. John's has a ''circular ministry,'' reaching in to support each other during times of crisis or need and times of joy. People find a way to incorporate their talents/abilities to complete the circle. There are many examples when this circle expands to the greater community. Our ''Church Buddy'' ministry matches one of our seniors to a 4 year old in the preschool for the purpose of exchanging cards and getting together for chapel and socials. This program is well received by the preschool parents and serves to strengthen our relationship to St. John's Preschool. We want to be more focused in reaching out to our preschool families who are not attending St. John's. We plan to explore other options through social media connections. We have a dedicated group of parishioners who welcome newcomers every Sunday by staffing a table in the narthex. Fellowship at coffee hour is an important time for gathering as well. We have supper club groups where parishioners gather to share a meal and fellowship. St. John's holds an annual ministry fair (where our congregation learns about opportunities) and use church announcements, our web site and newsletter to inform the congregation about various ministries. We are open to exploring new ways to incorporate others and serve our community.
As a worshipping community, how do you care for your spiritual, emotional and physical well-being?
St. John's has a rich history of caring for one another. Historically our clergy and LEMS would goto parishioner homes of the sick and administer communion and often sit and visit with them. We assist those in need with transportation, meals, companionship and even dog walking. At this time we are on hold in getting a Deacon from the Diocese because of our transition process and the Diocese transition process. We look forward to restoring our Deacon ministry. Other groups such as Sophia Sisters provide Bible Study and retreats for women while an annual Labyrinth walk in the Columbarium is enjoyed by many from our local community. We also hold monthly meetings for those who have lost loved ones as well as for caregivers of those dealing with Alzheimer's. St. John's looks forward to growing our spiritual formation in the future.
Describe your worshipping community's involvement in either the wider Church or geographical region.
We often seek ways to make a difference in the community. We participate in Habitat for Humanity and a Jobs for Life program. The Youth had a float in our annual town Christmas parade this winter. Our Joy of Christmas program supports families and seniors with gifts and meals during the holidays. Backpack Buddies is a program that sends food home with children who would otherwise not have meals during the weekend. Our church gathers food on Sundays for Tri-Area Ministries, where it is distributed to those in need. We also make donations to Church Net, which helps local residents who are in need financial assistance for medication and utility bills. In addition, our youth group takes donated clothing to migrant workers in our nearby counties. We are also actively engaged in our broader community, participating in an annual Crop Walk, Meals on Wheels and delivering Thanksgiving meals to area homes.
How do you engage in pastoral care for those beyond your worshipping community?
St. John's outreach efforts include a number of ongoing services to people in the community who are not members of our church, including migrant farm workers, recipients of Meals on Wheels and families identified through the local schools whom we help with regular donations of food and Christmas gifts. We have had coat drives and provided donations to a local women's shelter. We have LEMs who go to those who cannot worship with us, and we encourage our parishioners to add those beyond our immediate family to the prayer list. There is a group of people who arrange flowers remaining from services and deliver them to area nursing homes.
Tell about a ministry that your worshipping community has initiated in the past five years. Who can be contacted about this?
Inspired by the 2011 ''Pastoral Teaching on the Environment'' issued by the House of Bishops our Creation Care ministry focuses on good stewardship of God's creation. In 2015, we applied for and received a grant to develop a ''wildlife teaching garden'' for the purpose of providing a natural habitat for birds, butterflies, etc. This garden is used to teach our preschoolers, church school children and adults about stewardship and caring for all of God's creation. Additionally, we are focused on improving our recycling practices and following recommended energy efficiency measures. What a blessing it has been to look out of the windows of our sanctuary on a given Sunday and see native birds visiting our garden. St. John's received an award from our diocese at the annual convention for our environmental ministry. Helen Holt, a Vestry member, may be contacted regarding this ministry.
How are you preparing yourselves for the Church of the future?
We are on the brink of an exciting new chapter in our life as a parish, the theme of which will be a deeper and stronger ministry, reflecting the face of Christ within our wider community. Inspired by our former Diocesan Bishop, Michael Curry, and authorities like Dwight Zscheile, we strive to be much more than a place to worship on Sunday. To help accomplish that goal, the vestry is reading People of the Way. We are working toward a more active adult education program and strengthening and expanding our Youth program. Our goal is to be known as a church that welcomes and accepts all people. Building a stronger faith and commitment to others will give us the ability to deal with divisive matters in a civil, Christ-centered way.
What is your practice of stewardship and how does it shape the life of your worshipping community?
As a result of our ongoing annual approach to stewardship, our finances are stable. Beyond the annual campaign, people have been generous in giving from their heart in time, talents and resources when we have a special need. For example, we raised $20,000 for a new roof in 2015. In the Fall 2016 stewardship campaign, St. John's made a concerted effort to identify our vision, hopes and dreams for the future and it helped us reach a new level of giving. We have bordered on becoming a program church (in size and activities) - more than our finances have historically supported. We hope to alter our annual approach to stewardship beyond a singular event into a program of living out our faith every day, all year long.
What is your worshipping community's experience of conflict? And how have you addressed it?
This is an area of learning for St. John's. Historically, we have relied on our clergy and lay leaders to deal with conflict. We aren't fully comfortable in talking about difficult issues; yet at the same time we embrace and are accepting of all views and different opinions. The Rector and Senior Warden have intervened with groups or individuals when a diverging view from the majority caused conflict. At other times, the Rector asked the Vestry to discuss an area of conflict and respond to the congregation. A third example of conflict resolution required St. John's to ask for support from the Diocese to help address the difficult subject of harassment. Growth in conflict resolution would lead to less reliance on the Rector. In an effort to be proactive, our youth leader and the youth group are planning an event titled, Listening Without Prejudice: Modeling Compassionate Conversation with our Youth. This event will bring individuals from diverse social, political and religious backgrounds to share their individual beliefs in a setting that encourages active and compassionate listening and dialogue. In addition to experiencing conversation without conflict, the event will also focus on the common values and humanity we all share.
What is your experience leading/addressing change in the church? When has it gone well? When has it gone poorly? And what did you learn?
We are a church open to growth and change if it advances our walk in Christ. Our hope is to call a Rector who helps us continue to grow and change. Mutual trust and respect help us remain unified as a community and allow a sharing of duties. With the announcement of our last Rector's departure, there was concern and maybe a little fear about the future. Our last Rector brought us along a bright path that felt unfinished. The Vestry took the time needed to find a good fit with our interim priest to allow us to continue growth as a church during the search. The congregation has embraced this time of change. One of the transitions in our church that seemed to go well was the acceptance of same sex marriage blessings per Bishop Curry. The Vestry devoted a retreat to the topic with unanimous support. The parish then engaged in discussions without the deep split experienced by some parishes. We weathered this decision well. Years ago, a change in administration was not well tolerated. The church was in a crisis with finances, forcing dissolution of the music program by letting go of our paid choir director. St. John's learned a great deal about financial accountability, the value of music and other programs to the parish, and the importance of transparency.
Please provide words describing the gifts and skills essential to the future leaders of your worshipping community.
St. John's is looking for a Rector who will enhance our journey of faith, equip and support us as we seek spiritual growth, and help us grow in a relationship of love and service to the wider community. We want to be the face of Christ outside our church walls. We are looking for a Rector who can preach inspiring, spiritual and intellectual sermons that feed the ''soul" and engage in real world issues to help people grow in their witness to Christ within and beyond the walls of the church. We seek to call a Rector who can embrace our traditions while helping our parish reach its full potential. We hope to call a Rector who can help us grow our programs by enhancing our youth efforts, membership, music programs and our ministry into the community. Our new Rector will continue to embrace our Preschool Program as a vital ministry of St. John's. Our hope is to welcome a Rector who will be a compassionate, caring and empathetic leader to his or her flock.Your worshipping community's website: www.stjohnswf.com