Sunday Service Times Going Forward
Hello dear ones –
So to cut to the chase, after much consultation, here’s what the Sunday line-up looks like –
7:45 Eucharist, BCP style, no music
9:00 Eucharist, “9am” style (emergent, contemporary, innovative, borchestra)
10:00 Education hour
11:00 Eucharist, BCP, Hymnal 1982+, organ
7pm 1st and 3rd Sundays, contemporary
This will go into effect late September.
You can see from the input that in true St Mary’s style, there are a variety of opinions, all strongly held, all voiced respectively and with an eye for the common good. I’m so grateful for your ability to do that as a community, that is a beautiful (and in these days, perhaps rare) quality I’m so grateful for. You are extraordinary humans and I adore you.
Why this decision?
One of my primary lens was what is best for the children, and it soon precipitated the question: which children? Younger children do much better with the 9-11 window. Teenagers prefer the 10-12 window – or even later. Which demographic gets priority? I then went to my other lens – building on our strengths. Currently the biggest demographic is the younger children. This primarily came into play in the suggestion of swapping last 2 Sunday morning services, so what is currently the 10:30 style would precede what is currently the 9am style. Lots of benefits to that for teenagers especially who might be persuaded to attend church if it was the 9am style and later. Downside to that is that we would lose many of the smaller children who currently do attend, because they would be hitting their morning naptime later.
There was a suggestion that the 7:45 and 9am services become 7:30 and 9:30. 7:45ers could live with that, and if we swapped services I’d bet the current 10:30ers could handle that, but the current 9am parents in particular said it’s just too hard to get small children there by 8:30 – as it is now, it’s tough to make it at 9. So again, I sided with the small children who currently attend.
Church isn’t just about kids, what about the needs of the rest of us without children? Jesus loves you too, of course. It’s just that if you look at what St Mary’s does really well that the other Episcopal churches near us don’t, it’s the incorporation of small children in worship. There is a variety of high quality Episcopal experiences, both BCP and Innovative (as in Table 229) within a couple miles of us. There isn’t another congregation doing what we do as it regards to small children.
Why did you get to make it? The church canons (law) give only only 4 specific things a rector has the exclusive power to decide. 1) who gets hired/fired;, 2) who gets to use the building, 3) deciding the periodicals we can subscribe to (!), and 4) everything that happens in worship. This decision was going to be a difficult one, and there were lots of jokes about “boy I’m glad I’m not the one deciding”. So, with consultation from all of you (again, found here), I decided to use that power and be the one to take the heat for it for those that wouldn’t like whatever decision was made. It’s my job.
Remind me why we need an hour for education again? Our Sunday School teachers have consistently said it’s super hard to do quality formation in the 20 minutes or so we have currently given them. And, the feedback from our adult education experiments last year in the 20 minute time slot was that that wasn’t acceptable for quality conversation. And as we amp up our involvement in making the world a better place for all, if we aren’t deeply grounded in bible literacy, sound theological questions, and prayer practices, our work in the world will not only burn us out but will be less effective because the well in which we keep our grace and fortitude will be too shallow to last us. And yes, formation can and will happen outside of Sunday morning, but we also have the feedback from the parish wide survey last fall that said Wednesday nights and other times throughout the weeks were at the bottom of your choices.
What is the bigger picture? The bigger picture is that mainline protestant churches like ours have a hard row to hoe in the coming years. Attendance is shrinking, commitment is thinning, making finances volatile. Within 10-20 years many of the Episcopal St Paul churches will be closing because they can’t afford their clergy, building, or staff and have not had the foresight or imagination to do things differently. I want St. Mary’s to be one of the ones left standing, along with (most probably) St John the Evangelist, St Matthews, and perhaps St. Clements. So we need to shift so that each of us doesn’t try to do everything well. St Johns and St Clements will always be known for their solid adult choirs, organ music, and inherited BCP liturgy. St Matthews will be known for its depth of scripture study and its multi-cultural congregation. If St Mary’s is still in the mix it will be because of our fearless advocacy for social justice, our nurture of children and our innovative 9am liturgy. So the decision I made will have to support what I see is the future’s bigger picture.
So that’s how I got to that decision. I know full well that not all of you will like it, and displeasing people is not comfortable for any decision maker, so a word to those who are displeased. Know that I care about you and took your input, thoughts and feelings into account, and displeasing you is uncomfortable for me because I do care about you. You are a valuable part of our little portion of the Body of Christ, or as our Presiding Bishop puts it, our little outpost of the Jesus Movement.