I am very pleased to include a copy of our parish’s priorities for the next several years in this issue of The Epistle.
We worked diligently for the past five months to create these priorities. The process began with a Vestry retreat at my home last May, where we established a set of five priorities. We distributed the initial draft of the priorities to parish members and had a parish meeting to discuss them in July. Based on feedback from that meeting, we significantly altered one of the priorities and clarified the others. After several rounds of feedback from members of the Vestry on the next draft of the priorities, in August the Vestry voted to submit the priorities to the parish, by mail, and ask for further comments. Based on those comments, which included no substantial changes to any of the priorities, the Vestry voted to adopt the priorities at its meeting in September.
I am pleased that we have adopted these priorities with a unanimous vote of the Vestry and with no voiced objection from any member of the parish. I believe that they will provide us with significant direction as we work to make parish life more meaningful for our members, proclaim the Gospel in our community, and further the work that God calls us to do.
Bringing Others to God
We have a long tradition of actively welcoming all members of our community and those visiting our community to our worship services. Further, we have a longstanding tradition of accepting individuals, couples, and families where they are in their faith journeys and helping them develop a closer relationship with God. We believe that St. Paul’s parish promotes and enhances peoples’ relationships with God through our liturgies, our preaching and other forms of teaching, our service to others, and our supportive relationships with each other.
We understand that several issues can make it difficult for some people to begin or continue their faith journeys, including: (a) the busy schedules of many individuals and families, (b) the difficulties presented when children’s activities (e.g., sports) are scheduled during times when most church services are held, and (c) the anxiety that people can experience when they consider attending services at a new parish (e.g., whether they will be welcomed, whether they will be able to follow the service).
We take seriously our baptismal vow to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.” We believe that encouraging individuals, couples, and families to join St. Paul’s parish is an important way that we can “proclaim by word and example.”
Therefore, we establish as a priority of St. Paul’s parish to increase our parish membership. We hope to accomplish this by: (a) expanding our efforts to make those in our community aware of St. Paul’s, our beliefs, and our practices; (b) continuing to create a welcoming environment for all who attend our services; (c) exploring additions to the times and places of our current services, and (d) developing strategies to reduce the anxiety that some people may experience as they consider attending services at St. Paul’s for the first time.
Enhancing the Experiences of Our Elderly Parish Members
We take pride in the fact that several members of our parish family are elderly and have been part of our parish family for decades. During their decades of membership, these women and men have contributed to St. Paul’s in many and varied ways. We cherish these members and are grateful for all they have contributed to our parish life and to the lives of other parish members.
Therefore, we establish as a priority of St. Paul’s parish to honor these men and women and keep them as active members of our parish. We hope to accomplish this by reaching out to them and reminding them of the important place they have in our parish; taking the sacraments to them in their residences if they are unable to attend services; and creating opportunities for them to continue an active role in parish activities, as they are able.
Increasing the Use of Our Church Buildings
St. Paul’s has a strong tradition of serving our community and we believe that making our buildings available to community groups is one way that we do this. In addition, we strive to be good stewards of our parish’s financial resources and believe that funds contributed by community groups toward the maintenance of our buildings can supplement parish funds.
Currently, four groups use our parish hall for meetings: the Boy Scouts and the Cub Scouts (Troop 74 and Pack 74) meet weekly except during the summer, the Finger Lakes Family Network meets every-other week throughout the year, and the Concerned Citizens Committee of Seneca County meets monthly and uses the kitchen and dining room for occasional fundraising dinners.
Therefore, we establish as a priority of St. Paul’s parish to increase the number of community groups using our parish hall for meetings and to explore whether it would be appropriate to make our church building available to other religious groups for services.
Helping Others Understand Who We Are as Episcopalians
We are proud of being a parish in the Diocese of Central New York, the Episcopal Church of the United States, and the Worldwide Anglican Communion. We believe that Episcopalians share many basic Christian values and beliefs with those in other denominations. In addition, over the course of several centuries, the theology, liturgical practices, and community involvement of the Episcopal Church have developed in specific and sometimes unique ways.
We believe that the Episcopal Church and St. Paul’s parish are well suited for meeting the faith-journey needs of those who share our interests in scripture, tradition, and thoughtfulness. Further, we believe that helping others understand the values, beliefs, traditions, and practices of the Episcopal Church and St. Paul’s will encourage them to visit our parish.
Therefore, we establish as a priority of St. Paul’s parish to inform those living in Waterloo and surrounding communities about the values, beliefs, traditions, and practices of the Episcopal Church and our parish.
Being Attuned to the Changing Faith Needs of Our Community and Diocese
We recognize that the population of our region has decreased over the past several decades and that a smaller percentage of the people living here are active members of a faith community than were active members in years past. We appreciate that our obligations and commitments are not only to St. Paul’s parish but also to our Diocese, the Church, and to the faith needs and interests of those living in our local communities.
Therefore, we establish as a priority of St. Paul’s parish to recognize the possible need to merge resources with other parishes in our Diocese in the future. While we do not currently foresee this need, we express our willingness to explore it if future events suggest that it would be wise to do so.
This is an exciting time for our parish. I hope that you will join in the excitement as we move forward together.
Go with God,