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Letter from the Wardens
To our beloved parish family,
Greetings of the Advent season, of new life and hope coming into the world! We hope this letter finds you well and leaning into the spirit of these joyous but ever-so-busy days.
We write now to preface with our own feelings of anticipation and enthusiasm Morgan's detailed (and compendious!) description of forthcoming changes in our Sunday morning schedule, which will begin on the Sunday of our traditional Epiphany brunch, January 5, 2020. In the attached document, Morgan provides a full portrait of how this will unfold, and the thinking behind this experiment in our common life, so there is no need for us to do that here. But the headline is this: We will consolidate our two main Sunday morning services into one, 10 a.m. liturgy. This service will follow the Holy Eucharist rite, except the last week of each month, when the treasured tradition of Morning Prayer will be honored and preserved.
This is a major shift, we know, and one which will occasion other changes in our morning pattern – a pattern grown comfortable to us, precious in fact, even as it has become untenable over time. On reflection, it is astonishing that our formidable and beautiful array of four Sunday services has been sustained all these years, even as our attendance, annual budget, and staff have been severely pinched and our lay volunteers – the very ones who make our services go – have seen their ranks progressively thinned. That has only happened through incredible devotion – and we should all be grateful. But we also know we must not take this sacrificial spirit for granted. In the letter that follows, Morgan makes a compelling case that trying a shift in our service paradigm is a necessary and healthy step for our community. In fact, your Wardens are convinced, this change represents one of our best hopes for growth at a time when the world needs, we need, this singular Christian community of ours to realize its full and holy potential.
One thing we two may be best positioned to assure you of is the loving and deliberative care with which these changes have been conceived, tested, and refined based on feedback from parishioners, clergy, and staff. Nothing was preconceived and nothing was rushed. We have been close to the gestation of this plan and moved by the spirit with which it came to life. With the Parish Profile as a primary lens, Morgan and the staff first raised the prospect of a change in our Sunday pattern over the summer. They saw the risks and challenges, of course, but were united in belief that the benefits of boldness were greater. Then, heeding guidance from the Wardens, Advisors, and Vestry, Morgan resolved to pause and go deeper on the question, to take a season to get to know us better and to take soundings from a broader spectrum of our community. He leaned into that charge, manifesting not dismay at the delay but a burst of energy and creativity. In part, that power of mind and heart drove the remarkable sermons of this fall and the series of made-for-grown-ups "brass tacks" forums that brought new depth and transparency about the challenges that face us. Morgan and the staff also conceived a pilot of this new pattern of services, fellowship, and formation for All Souls Sunday, beginning with Parish Breakfast. It was new, soul-nourishing – and delicious!
After All Souls, Morgan solicited the feedback of the parish – and there was a lot of it. Building on the input from the parish and from us, Morgan reflected deeply, again partnered with the staff, and then proposed the new plan that follows. He has addressed, as they can be addressed, a host of concerns, and no worry of ours has not also worried him.
So, we ask this: that we lean not into our fears but into excitement at the possibilities ahead. We don't know that this new schedule will work in every aspect, of course. But we do know that what we are doing now does not prove a recipe to grow or even to stave off further decline. And so we are bound to be a little daring; indeed, we should want to be, knowing that we are going to learn a lot together, and that, if we fall short in any way, we will adapt, re-consider, and move on.
We are eager to begin this new rhythm of life together – and can't wait to see the ways in which we will grow and deepen the bonds of our community. It is thrilling, to anticipate what it will feel like -- and sound like! -- to pray and sing together, and break bread together, on the first Sunday of the year. Our prediction: Love will abound.
With blessings and gratitude,