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Christ Episcopal Church

Columbia, Maryland

An Introduction 

Christ Church is an historic parish with a modern outlook. We were established as Queen Caroline Parish by the Maryland legislature in 1727. The name Christ Church was first used when our historic “Old Brick” building was consecrated as Christ Church in 1811. It is still used for small services and other events. Our current church building, New Brick, was consecrated in 1993.

At our worship, people of African, European, Hispanic, Native American and Asian descent – young and old, wealthy and of modest means – all gather to praise God as one body in Christ, and to embrace each other in God’s love. We are first, of course, a Christ-centered community. We are a diverse congregation in all respects and this includes our preferences for high church or low church services. Our past clergy have quite successfully bridged those individual preferences. We are also, according to our most recent parish survey, “moderately progressive.”  Many in our congregation would not characterize themselves with such a label, but would view themselves as anywhere from very progressive to quite conservative. These characteristics pose both opportunities and challenges for a new Rector.

 

Our Community

We are located in the “New Town” of Columbia, Maryland which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017. In September 2016, Money Magazine named Columbia as the Best Place to Live in America. We agree! Even though Columbia is 50 years old, it is still developing, and a vibrant downtown is part of that growth. Columbia is located in Howard County, which, according to the U. S. Census Bureau, has the fourth highest median income in the United States. It also has an excellent public school system, ranked by niche.com as the best in Maryland. Our public library system is outstanding and in 2013 received national recognition as the Library of the Year.

We, at Christ Church, recognize that the prosperity and great features of our community are not shared by our residents and we are well aware that even within our own town there is poverty and there is brokenness. Part of our calling to ministry is serving those most in need.

 

Our Discernment Process

A: The Parish Profile

Through our eight-member Profile Committee we conducted a “Holy Cow” vital signs survey which was completed by 135 parishioners. A summary of this survey is available by clicking this link. Based on these results and other efforts of the Profile Committee a Parish Profile was developed to give applicants (and others) a picture of the Christ Church and our local community. The Profile is web-based, and this web introduction is a part of it.

B: The Continuing Discernment Process

After the initial work of the Profile Committee was completed, the discernment process continued with an eleven-member Discernment Committee. This Committee was given three charges by the vestry. First, it was to complete the Parish Portfolio, which is a standardized form required by the National Church that deals with salary and benefits of the position, size of the parish and 12 Questions dealing with parish life and expectations. After submission of the Portfolio to the Diocese and publication of the Parish Profile on the Christ Church web site, the Discernment Committee will review the applications for the Rector position, and submit 3 to 5 names of the best candidates in alphabetical order, without ranking, to the Vestry.

In order to answer the 12 Questions in a manner which accurately reflected the congregation, the Discernment Committee conducted sessions with members of the congregation focused on the 12 Questions. These sessions generally lasted about three hours each and about 100 members of the congregation participated. About 15 parishioners who were not able to attend a session filled out a form which asked for answers to the 12 Questions. In addition to the regular sessions, Vestry members attended a two-hour session which was directed to issues of concern to the Vestry. The comments from these sessions and surveys were transcribed by members of the Discernment Committee and formed the basis for our answers to the 12 Questions in the Parish Portfolio. The entire, unabridged transcription of the comments from all of the sessions are available by email request to the Discernment Committee. The answers to the 12 Questions submitted by the Discernment Committee and approved by the Vestry are located here.

 

Our Worship

We normally celebrate two Sunday Eucharist services, one at 8:00am and one at 10:30am. The early Eucharist is a spoken service without music. The late Eucharist may be sung or spoken, but there is always music and, on most Sunday’s, our Choir. Child care and nursery care is provided for attendees at this service. Godly Play is held during part of this service for younger children.

The traditional practice of our Rectors has been to work closely with our active Liturgy and Worship Commission to provide services which engage all members of our congregation in sharing and hearing the word of God through music and worship. Music is led by our Music Director and Choirs. Our adult choir generally consists of about 15 members and our children’s choir has about 10 participants. More information on our Music Program is located here. Sunday School is held at 9:00am between services, and parents are encouraged, during that time, to attend either our Sunday “Adult Forum” or a long standing lay-led Sunday Bible Study. Our Middle School youth follow the late service with meetings twice a month, and High School Youth Group meets every week. These meetings are in addition to other Youth Group activities.

 

Our Facilities and Property

Our main property of approximately 9 acres was deeded to the Parish in 1738. There are three buildings on the property, “Old Brick”, “New Brick”, and the Parish Hall, the third of which was constructed in 1950 and contains, offices, meeting rooms, and a kitchen.  The Parish property also contains an open field which is presently used for overflow parking when large events are held.

There is also a cemetery dating from the 19th century between Old Brick and New Brick. In addition to this cemetery the Church also maintains, but does not own, the Dorsey cemetery, about a mile from the Church, which contains the graves of descendants of founders of Queen Caroline Parish. The Church also owns a silver flagon, chalice and paten, which were purchased by the Parish in 1747 and which are still used for Communion. We also have on display the Bible which was given as a wedding gift to our first Rector, James Macgill, in 1738.

Our Commissions and Activities

Our ministries are mainly carried out through our various lay-led Commissions and Committees.

We have a very active Outreach Commission which focuses on both hands-on opportunities and financial support. The practice of the Commission is to engage in local, national and international programs. Among the local activities is providing meals, clothing and medical supplies in conjunction with other churches for a day shelter for homeless individuals. On a national level one of our most active hands-on projects is DreamBuilders where parishioners participate in constructing homes in places such as West Virginia and Mississippi. Our youth have been extensively involved in this ministry. On the international level the Parish has constructed and supplied a library at a school in Uganda, including paying the librarian’s salary. We also give support to a rural health clinic in the Dominican Republic. Parishioners have participated in programs at both of these locations. These are only a few of our Outreach activities. For a full description of our Outreach programs, click here.

The maintenance and preservation of our property is overseen by the Buildings and Grounds Commission. The Commission makes recommendations relating to the upkeep of our land, New Brick, Old Brick, the Parish Hall, the Rectory and both the church cemetery and the Dorsey cemetery. Under Maryland law the Vestry acts as the trustees of the Church cemetery and there is a cemetery trust fund which cannot be used for general Church purposes. Because of the Vestry’s practice of maintaining a balanced budget, necessary maintenance of our property has been deferred to some degree. Recently the Vestry engaged an engineering and project planning group to conduct a detailed facilities assessment in order that we could understand the full financial impact of our current and future facilities’ maintenance needs. The Vestry is currently considering how we will address those needs.

Our Liturgy and Worship Commission includes our Music Ministry, Acolytes, Lectors, Lay Eucharistic Ministers, Lay Eucharistic Visitors, Ushers and Sunday Morning Greeters, Liturgical Dance, Altar Guild, and Flower Delivery Committees. Traditionally, the Rector and the Liturgy and Worship Commission work together to insure a worship experience that is fulfilling for all.

The Spiritual Life Commission is one of the key elements in the religious life of Christ Church.  Each year the Commission chooses a theme, this year it is “Perfect Love Casts Out Fear”. Other recent themes were “Love God, Love One Another” and “Whom Do You Seek?”.  Other important ministries are preparation of lay-written weekly Prayers of the People; preparation of a Lenten Meditation Book, sponsoring a Lenten Reflection Day, and providing the Lenten Supper Series (typically five Wednesday evenings during Lent); organizing and conducting an annual Parish Family Weekend in Rehoboth, Delaware; and, sponsoring an Advent Quiet Day.

The Formation Commission at Christ Church is dedicated to supporting the Christ Church family in coming to understand one’s own Christian life through education, fellowship, and formative events (such as Baptism and Confirmation).  Formation Commission goals and activities sometimes overlap with the goals of other Commissions, but primarily focus on youth and adult education programs, youth groups, baptism, confirmation, nursery, in-reach, and newcomer ministry set it apart.  The Formation Commission provides support as needed for over a dozen ministries that fall under the broad definition of Formation.

The Communications Commission includes such varied activities as collating and mailing our monthly communicator – “Gathered Together,” oversight of our Website and Facebook page, curation of our Instagram page, email communications, and inside & outdoor signage.

The Parish Life Commission supports such activities as the Knit-Wits, Pins and Needles, Hospitality, Foyer Groups, the “fun” portion of the annual, outdoor Parish Festival, the Tongues of Fire Pentecost Breakfast, breakfast before our Annual Meeting, and other activities that enhance our community life.

The Women of Christ Church (WOCC) began in the early 1970’s, and continues to hold monthly meetings, including two in the evening to include women who cannot attend in the afternoon, and to support the life of the Parish through myriad events and support.

Among WOCC-sponsored activities are sweatshirt and T-shirt workshops for the Children of the Ark, a Valentines Coffee Hour, Hats on for Mother’s Day, Women’s History Month, Women’s Healthy Heart Awareness Sunday, Survivor’s Sunday, attendance at a May Tea, the annual Flea Market, and a Christmas Luncheon for members at an area restaurant or hotel.

The Auction Committee conducts our annual auction where parishioners and their invited guests gather for an evening in support of our faith community, fellowship and just plain fun.  The Auction has many wonderful live and silent auction items, featuring both affordable children’s and adult items and “splurge” items such as gourmet meals and vacation stays in luxury condos.  This is the church’s largest fundraiser, which last year raised more than $30,000.

 

Our Stewardship and Finances

Parishioners are very generous in the giving of time, talent, and treasure. Members actively participate in both Inreach and Outreach activities such as the Route 1 homeless shelter; DreamBuilders, which assists in disaster relief projects nation-wide; visitation and support to a state mental health facility; and the Children of Uganda project which provides funding to a rural community in Uganda.  Many parishioners give freely of their time as well, volunteering for parish commissions, the music ministry, youth activities, and special work projects on the church grounds.  Members provide lay support to church services and the parish at-large. The effective stewardship effort by the congregation has resulted in spiritual growth, a feeling of togetherness and generosity, and a sense of accomplishment.

Our Parish does not have an endowment and we rely on pledges, special fundraising events and special fundraising campaigns to meet our expenses. Recently, we completed a campaign to pay off the mortgage on New Brick. The campaign was successful and the Parish currently has no debt. Each year in December, the Vestry approves a budget for the coming calendar year. It has been a long-standing practice of the Vestry to require that the budget be balanced or have a surplus. This necessarily results in some needs and aspirations not being met, but we believe that financial discipline is essential to the long-range health of the Parish.

 

Our Governance

The Rector is Chair of our Vestry. We have twelve elected members of the Vestry and a Treasurer and a Registrar who may, but need not be, elected members of the Vestry. The members of the vestry are elected to staggered three-year terms and are limited to serving no more than seven consecutive years. After a year off the Vestry individuals may run for election again. For many years, Vestry elections have been contested by more individuals than positions being filled.

Copies of recent CEC Vestry minutes and relevant financial data will be available to Rector candidates and parishioners in the coming weeks. Qualified individuals may access them by clicking here.

 

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