Beloved Community

Session 4 - "What are our Core Values?"

St. Peter’s members on June 1st to discuss the first question: “What are our Core Values?” This question would not be fully answered in the time allotted; however, 12 participants engaged in both small and larger group discussions on this topic to provide the groundwork for the Vestry to take up the crafting of a set of Core Values.

What is the purpose of the Church?

We’ve been working with these two quotes from Archbishops of Canterbury Justin Welby and William Temple:

First, the church exists to worship God in Jesus Christ. Second, the Church exists to make new disciples of Jesus Christ. Everything else is decoration. Some of it may be very necessary, useful or wonderful decoration, but it’s decoration.

The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.

So our working definition of why St. Peter’s exists is:

To worship God in Jesus Christ, and

Make new disciples of Jesus Christ

for the sake of the whole world.

As we considered these statements, the purposes of the church broke out into four broad and interconnected categories:

Slide1.jpg

Each of these interrelated elements had several components and we identified the “St. Peter’s Specific” elements to add to each category.

Slide2.jpg
Slide3.jpg
Slide4.jpg
Slide5.jpg

Every church has these functions but each church does them differently and values different things. We spent the morning discussing what were the unique qualities about St. Peter’s approach to “being church.” These conversations begin to reveal the underlying values of the parish.

In addition to adding St. Peter’s unique approach to these items, we brainstormed descriptors of how we would speak of St. Peter’s. We also discussed the barriers and facilitators to inclusion, some of which we cannot address, some of which we need be aware, and some which can be addressed.

With the input from today’s session, the Vestry will work to craft a Core Values statement for St. Peter’s.

What qualities do we seek in ordained leaders for St. Peter’s?

This question has been asked at every session of this visioning process. A few things were incorporated in the list today. You may access the updated list at http://bit.ly/OMC-StPeters.

If you have any feedback to give regarding this list of competencies, please email your input to the Senior Warden, Judi Mahaffey at srwarden@stpetersec.org.

Session 3 - "What is our Purpose?"

St. Peter’s members and neighbors from OEC gathered on May 25 to discuss the first question: “What is our purpose?” This question focused on the intersection between St. Peter’s and the OEC community as the area of mission opportunities and 14 participants engaged in both small and larger group discussions on this topic.

What is the purpose of the Church?

We’ve been working with these two quotes from Archbishops of Canterbury Justin Welby and William Temple:

First, the church exists to worship God in Jesus Christ. Second, the Church exists to make new disciples of Jesus Christ. Everything else is decoration. Some of it may be very necessary, useful or wonderful decoration, but it’s decoration.

The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.

So our working definition of why St. Peter’s exists is:

To worship God in Jesus Christ, and

Make new disciples of Jesus Christ

for the sake of the whole world.

Dr. Steven Covey, author of the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, said this:

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Our “main thing” is worship God in Jesus Christ and make new disciples. Notice that doesn’t mean “make new members of your congregation” - although in making new disciples, you often will see new members join the congregation.

The Intersection

Toward a Beloved Community - Session 3.png

Based on our membership data in ServantKeeper 90.4% of our members live within the 15 minute drive time which is a good indication of sustainability!

Most of our work was in small group as we discussed the areas where St. Peter’s intersects with OEC. As we considered our mission, we were reminded of a very important point:

Outreach is NOT the same as Mission

Outreach may be a subset of mission, but they are not synonymous terms! Mission supports worshiping God in Jesus Christ and making new disciples of Jesus Christ. If a congregation’s outreach can be done by a secular non-profit, it is not connected to the mission of the Church.

The most fruitful mission field is in our own backyard. Just as 75% or more of a vital congregation’s membership should living within a 15 minute drive time, a significant percentage of time and money needs to be dedicated to the immediate parish boundaries of OEC.

Using MapDash, we looked again at demographics and each table listed both things we are currently doing AND opportunities for further mission to the OEC community. Some wonderful ideas were generated during our discussions!

What size should we be?

Our conversation then turned to the question: “Based on the mission opportunities you have identified, how big should St. Peter’s be?” Participants were given a table outlining the characteristics of Very Small, Small, Medium-Sized, Moderately Large and Very Large churches (available here). We had conversations about how organizational structures, communications, planning are different based on congregational sizes.

St. Peter’s Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) is now 64. We asked participants to put an “X” or other mark on the chart at the size they want St. Peter’s to be. The marks clustered around the high Medium to low Moderately Large (125-150 ASA) with a few outliers.

Given what we have discovered about our mission focus, what ministerial gifts and qualities do we seek in ordained leaders?

Mother Anjel left and Katherine Schnorrenberg introduced this question for the small groups to consider. Through this process we are developing a list of competencies that we seek in ordained leadership to work with St. Peter's. This is not only going to inform the vestry they consider calling a settled rector but it will also help inform a future request to the diocese for a deacon as we discovered St. Peter's has a long history of deacon ministers in the parish. The combined results of the last two sessions were shared with the tables for revision and addition.

Closing

Our sessions close with this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look
favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred 
mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry
out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world 
see and know that things which were cast down are being
raised up, and things which had grown old are being made
new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection
by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus
Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity
of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Session 2 - "Who is our Neighbor?"

St. Peter’s members and friends from Old Ellicott City and West End gathered on May 18 to discuss the first question: “Who is our neighbor?”

We had 17 participants in this second visioning session and engaged in both small and larger group discussions about our neighborhood and St. Peter’s place in it.

What is the purpose of the Church?

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said this:

First, the church exists to worship God in Jesus Christ. Second, the Church exists to make new disciples of Jesus Christ. Everything else is decoration. Some of it may be very necessary, useful or wonderful decoration, but it’s decoration.

Churches are often subject to “mission drift” in their lifetimes trying to be everything to everybody. One example is congregations becoming primarily seen as "social service organizations” running pastoral counseling centers, food pantries, and other social services and losing their focus on worship and discipleship.

But why do we do this? Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple observed:

The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.

So our working definition of why St. Peter’s exists is:

To worship God in Jesus Christ, and

Make new disciples of Jesus Christ

for the sake of the whole world.

Dr. Steven Covey, author of the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, said this:

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Our “main thing” is worship God in Jesus Christ and make new disciples. Notice that doesn’t mean “make new members of your congregation” - although in making new disciples, you often will see new members join the congregation.

Faith Development in Community

We looked at a model of faith communities which consists of concentric circles. The smallest circle in the center are the “Mature Practitioners” whose spiritual lives are not just consisting of Sunday worship, but who also engage in daily prayer practices, Scripture reading and study and who give of their time and money generously toward the mission of the church. Surrounding that core group is a larger circle of the “Sunday Sacramentalists” - folks who attend Sunday worship regularly, engage in some mission and fellowship, who give some of their time and money to the mission of the church but who also sometimes feel a disconnect between what happens on Sunday and the rest of the week. The next larger circle are the “Occasional Attenders” which is more than just the “Christmas and Easter” crowd. They may come when they are in town but otherwise live elsewhere (such as college students on break). The outer circle are the “Vicariously Connected” - this is the rest of our community of Old Ellicott City and the various groups who use our building (AA, NA, Toastmasters, Tiber Watershed Group, EcoWorks).

A healthy congregation has people in every single one of these circles. Mature Practitioners need the Vicariously Connected to keep them grounded in the needs of the world and vice versa as the Vicariously Connected need the spiritual support of the Mature Practitioners.

Those gathered put dots on the chart to indicate where they considered themselves on that spectrum and we had dots in every circle. This is a sign of a vital congregation!

MapDash

We then delved into a visual tool the Diocese of Maryland has licensed called MapDash by DataStory. This tool allows us to see important demographic information about our surrounding neighborhood. We looked at age groups, ethnic groups, poverty rates, unemployment rates, levels of education, rates of childcare spending, locations of schools, locations of nursing homes, and various other pieces of information about our immediate neighborhood. We then overlaid a perimeter showing the 15 minute drive time to St. Peter’s Church because one statistic about congregational engagement which is stable is that 75% of members in sustainable, vital congregations live within a 15 minute drive time to your parish church.

With the 15 minute drive time overlay, we found there are seven Episcopal Churches in this area which shows a saturated region!

Overlapping 15 minute drive times of St. Peter’s, Christ the King Woodlawn, Christ Church Columbia, Grace Elkridge, and St. Mary the Virgin Woodlawn.

Overlapping 15 minute drive times of St. Peter’s, Christ the King Woodlawn, Christ Church Columbia, Grace Elkridge, and St. Mary the Virgin Woodlawn.

If St. Peter’s (or St. John’s) closed, there are plenty of other Episcopal congregations who can pick up the slack.

If St. Peter’s (or St. John’s) closed, there are plenty of other Episcopal congregations who can pick up the slack.

The above graphics show the importance of why St. Peter’s needs to be different in some way (our worship practices are different) and why St. Peter’s needs to be a healthy community of faith.

Our small groups shared their insights from the MapDash data which will feed our next session on where the intersection between St. Peter’s and OEC is.

Given what we have discovered about our neighborhood, what ministerial gifts and qualities do we seek in ordained leaders?

Before Mother Anjel departed for the last half hour of the session, our neighbor Beth Woodruff presented us with a book of "thank you notes” from the OEC community for our work in the 2018 flood relief. This book was officially presented at the Howard County EcoWorks “EC SoakItUP!” event which immediately followed the session.

Mother Anjel left and Doug Pryor introduced this question for the small groups to consider. Through this process we are developing a list of competencies that we seek in ordained leadership to work with St. Peter's. This is not only going to inform the vestry they consider calling a settled rector but it will also help inform a future request to the diocese for a deacon as we discovered St. Peter's has a long history of deacon ministers in the parish. The current list of qualities was shared with the table participants and new items added.

Closing

Our sessions close with this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look
favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred 
mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry
out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world 
see and know that things which were cast down are being
raised up, and things which had grown old are being made
new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection
by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus
Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity
of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Session 1 - "Who are we?"

St. Peter’s gathered on May 4 to discuss the first question: “Who are we?”

We had about 15 participants in the first visioning session on Saturday, May 4th and we had both small and larger group discussions on three broad topics. 

Organizational Life Cycle & Where is St. Peter's now?
We discussed the topic of organizational life cycles and where St. Peter's has been in the past on the continuum from birth to death. The general consensus from our three small groups was we are currently in a stable place but held in tension between "healthy stable" and "stagnant stable". That is good news and underscores the reason for us doing this kind of visioning work in this phase of our communal life together.

Where have we been? An historical timeline
Part of knowing who we are is knowing where we've been. We have started a "living history" timeline of St. Peter's beginning in 1964 with the arrival of the Rev. Ray Atlee to cover the "lived memory" of our parish at this point in time. This timeline includes having our members add a sticker for when they came into the life of St. Peter's and writing down our memories of parish events as well as wider contextual events in the nation, state and community which impacted us. The timeline includes many Spirit filled and life giving moments, but it also includes some darker and more painful things which have caused deep hurt to our members. The point of this process is to tell our whole story - the things we celebrate and the things of which we need repentance and healing.

There was a very holy moment in this conversation when the topic of how disagreements have not been handled well in the past. Participants shared how conflict became protracted and personal with relationships broken over mere differences of opinion. The whole group was able to talk about how conflict has not been managed well and we will be offering this up to God for healing and reconciliation. Even though this was hard to address, not only was there some healing in just naming it, there may be a hidden call from the Holy Spirit to do intentional work around mediation and peacemaking so that we can make this a part of St. Peter's ministry.

What ministerial gifts and qualities do we seek in ordained leaders?
Mother Anjel departed for the last half hour of the session and Judi Mahaffey introduced this question for the small groups to consider. Through this process we are developing a list of competencies that we seek in ordained leadership to work with St. Peter's. This is not only going to inform the vestry as they consider calling a settled rector but it will also help inform a future request to the diocese for a deacon as we discovered St. Peter's has a long history of deacon ministers in the parish.

Closing

Our sessions close with this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look
favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred 
mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry
out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world 
see and know that things which were cast down are being
raised up, and things which had grown old are being made
new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection
by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus
Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity
of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Toward a Beloved Community

Who are we?
Who is our neighbor?
What is our purpose?
What are our core values?

These are the questions of Christian mission St. Peter’s focused on during the Easter season to gain a glimpse of how and where God is leading us as a congregation in our context. Our sessions will be on Saturday, May 4th, 18th, 25th and June 1st from 9 am - noon in St. Joseph’s Hall (under the main church). Come join us for conversation and prayer … and good snacks too.

At the end of each session, we will have a community conversation about the qualities, gifts and graces St. Peter’s will need in ordained leadership to help guide us forward. Your input is important, so please plan to be with us.