The past couple of years has been very hard on everyone. It has been very unsettling for many of us - not counting the numerous organizations, including churches that have had to shut their doors over their inability to continue to offer any ministry to their members. Our Korean Presbyterian friends who rented Old Brick to use as a worship space had to fold up their ministry because they couldn’t keep up with the devastation and disruption wrought by COVID.
The harsh reality is that even prior to the pandemic, most churches were experiencing some decline in membership. There are more than enough reasons to ascribe for the decline that churches are experiencing.
Thankfully, Christ Church hasn’t experienced these sorts of challenges that others are dealing with. The good news is that we don’t have to be in that position before we begin to take steps to address those potential challenges.
In my opinion, one of the gifts of COVID, if ever there is any, has been the opportunity for us as a community to engage each other, on Zoom, of course, in the sort of work that would not only grow our congregation but would offer us the opportunity to expand and deepen our ministries-making is possible for us to touch as many lives as possible while transforming our lives as well.
At our Annual Meeting last October, I shared with all of you that with the blessing of the Vestry, I have put together a group of over 25 parishioners as members of a Strategic Plan Committee. The membership of this group consisted of Vestry members and a cross-section of parishioners spanning all demographics.
This group of parishioners worked very hard, sometimes on a weekly basis. If I am not exaggerating, this group put in about one hundred hours of work to discern, sometimes with a consultant, seeking answers to questions, such as: Who are we as a community? What are our needs? Who are our immediate neighbors? What are their needs? What are the needs within the even-broader community? Where do we want to see Christ Church? What can we do about it? These are some of the questions that engaged our attention. After much deliberation, we settled on two big ideas: worship and fellowship.
In addition to the work that was simultaneously being done by the Strategic Planning group, we also set up another group of parishioners who developed a set of survey questions to gauge the interest of parishioners on a variety of issues and ministries. We then gave ourselves a month for all parishioners to respond to the survey.
The survey was a success. We had 67 responses. The responses from the survey, in a positive way, confirmed the decision the Strategic Plan Committee made to work on two big ideas covering worship and fellowship.
With regards to worship, we will soon have a third worship service that will be geared primarily toward families. This will be a brief, 20-to-25-minute Eucharist in New Brick. Children and their parents will walk downstairs for Sunday School at 9:00 a.m.
The 8:00 a.m. service in New Brick will now be in Old Brick. The reason for this shift is purely logistical. We don’t want to rush through one service because of another, nor do we want to overly burden our Altar Guild volunteers. Additionally, Old Brick is a very important part of our heritage and, as is often the case when we don’t regularly use a gift that we have, that gift tends to lose its relevance and meaning. We want to put Old Brick to use and want to make it a regular part of sacred space every Sunday.
The second big idea has to do with fellowship. Recognizing the impact of COVID on our common life, and the desire to rebuild relationships and get to know ourselves once more, we all believe that a Wednesday evening fellowship dinner, held monthly and modeled around the Wednesday Evening at Lent program would be incredibly beneficial to our community.
We will set up two working committees moving forward, one for worship and the other for fellowship. Whereas both committees will work with the Rector, the Worship Committee will help in designing the 9:00 a.m. worship and the Fellowship Committee will work on everything related to our Wednesday Evening community fellowship.
I am really excited about the steps that we are about to take. And I cannot thank both the members of the Strategic Plan Committee and the Survey Committee for their hard work and dedication.
This is a kind reminder: change is good. Sometimes we have to make changes in order to survive. Other times we have to make changes not only to survive but to thrive. And I think these ideas will do exactly that.
As I reminded everyone, no ministry in the church is set in stone. We make changes, we make adjustments, and we make plans. If one plan doesn’t work, nothing stops us from changing course. The only regret is never trying to risk a change.
Much as I highly commend these plans for your consideration, I want to assure you that we will use this summer to plan meticulously, so we can implement the best decisions in September.