I edited and arranged this issue for St. Thomas' Episcopal Church. I also wrote the two articles at the top of page 5.
This was part of the parish's annual report.
Which committee, group, or ministry is reporting?
Who is completing this report?
John Clinton Bradley
Who else is involved in this committee, group, or ministry?
I worked closely with the priest-in-charge, junior warden, and church office manager. Collectively, we are the Parish Coordinating Committee. During the pandemic, we met every Friday via Zoom.
What is the committee, group, or ministry’s statement of mission?
According to the proposed 2021 bylaws, “The Churchwardens shall serve as lay consultants and advisors to the Rector and shall perform such other duties as may be assigned to them by the Vestry. They shall be the senior lay officers of the Parish.”
What did you accomplish during 2020?
Because of COVID-19, this year presented enormous challenges to St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church. However, I am thankful that the parish's leadership and membership have responded with flexibility, wisdom, and courage.a
In the February 2020 newsletter, I identified my six priorities for the year ahead. Below are those priorities and the progress we have made on addressing them:
- Increasing Sunday attendance. Our average Sunday attendance (ASA)— a key metric of parish vitality—declined in 2018 and 2019. Because we suspended physical services during most of the year, I anticipate seeing another decline in 2020. However, attendance at virtual services on Zoom and Facebook Live has been remarkably robust. Many of our homebound parishioners are now able to worship with us.
- Reimaging what it means to be The Episcopal Church in Bath during the 2020s. We made enormous progress in this area. We shifted from an inward focus to an outward focus and are discerning new ways to minister to our local community. The Grow Team transformed into the Mission Committee. We are in conversation with ProAction about hosting a youth learning center. The Vestry allocated a substantial amount of funding for mission—including $8000 in the 2021 operating budget and $38,766.60 from the rectory's sales. (See item 4 below.)
- Discerning our future with Melanie. During May and June, the Vestry engaged in four mutual ministry review (MMR) sessions with Melanie. At the end of the MMR, we agreed that Melanie would continue as our half-time priest-in-charge through at least June 2021. The Vestry will hold another MMR during spring 2021.
- Deciding what to do with our rectory. I am delighted that, with parish input, the Vestry agreed to sell the rectory. We completed the sale on December 21. Our profit was $116,299.80. The Rectory Proceeds Task Force recommended that the Vestry divide the money into three equal shares: a third to pay back what we borrowed from the endowment for the roof project, a third for other building restoration, and a third for mission projects. The Vestry approved this recommendation.
- Preserving our historic church. As stated above, the Vestry allocated $38,766.60 from the sale of the rectory for building restoration. The Property Committee is active again and identified two high-priority projects: repairing the rose window and repainting the nave's interior. We hope to win a significant grant from the Sacred Sites program to help us with the rose window project.
- Expanding our use of digital technology. During this year, most of our worship services and business meetings took place on Zoom. We also started streaming our Sunday worship services to Facebook Live. We purchased a Mevo Start video camera, an Amazon Fire tablet to control the Mevo, two Bluetooth transmitters and receivers to connect the existing sound system to the Mevo, and six Google Wi-Fi hubs—all of which enable us to broadcast from church. I was not able to persuade stakeholders to transition to an online church management system.
What challenges did you encounter in 2020? What challenges do you anticipate in 2021?
There was a high level of conflict on the Vestry this year. I believe this was a result of four primary factors:
- 2020 was a year of significant change for our parish as we sought to become more mission-minded. Change is often difficult. Some people resist change.
- The COVID-19 crisis reduced the amount of time we spent together physically. We didn’t have as many opportunities for meaningful conversation, which weakened our relationships.
- We had marked personality differences. Some of us rubbed each other the wrong way.
- We had different opinions on the level of involvement vestry members should have in day-to-day parish administration.
Regardless of the causes, the conflict eroded trust in one another, resulted in hard feelings, and negatively impacted our effectiveness. I initiated two actions to address the conflict:
- I called for a “listening circle” on September 30, which allowed all members to share their perspectives.
- I invited Matt Liston of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Rochester to lead us in a two-part virtual workshop titled “Conversations During Tough Times.” We held the workshops on November 10 and 17. Most vestry members participated in both sessions.
Based on the last two vestry meetings, I believe these interventions have helped the Vestry communicate more lovingly and work together more harmoniously. However, I think this will continue to be a growth area for the Vestry during 2021.
What else would you like the parish to know?
I was my great pleasure to work with Melanie, Mary, and Roxanne this year. I am deeply grateful for their leadership and support.
I created this video for St. Thomas Episcopal Church's Facebook page. The base video is from Progressive Church Media. I added "Worship with us online!" I also added the background music, which is "Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove" by Isaac Watts (1707), from Hymnary.org.