THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF THE ASCENSION
NORTHWOODS, MISSOURI 63121
May 26, 2015
Dear Friends in Christ,
Next month, the Bishop’s Committee will begin the development of our 2016 strategic plan and budget. For the past five years, our efforts have focused on creating an environment for worship and ministry that reflects our mission and can be sustained over time. The recruitment of a music director, renovation of the parish hall, upgrade of our financial management and reporting systems and landscaping have each contributed to positioning us for the future. None of these were specifically intended to grow our congregation (although we’ve grown significantly). Rather, they were essential to maintaining our current membership and securing a solid foundation on which we can build.
During the next several months, we’ll assess the strengths and weaknesses of our congregation, as well as the realistic opportunities for growth and the threats to our survival. This will be both exhilarating and frightening as we honestly look at ourselves and the larger community we serve. If we are to benefit from this time of analysis and planning, I would suggest that several principles guide our discernment.
First, as the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously quipped, “We’re each entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts!” Our deliberations will need to be guided by objective data and research. We also need to be prepared to acknowledge that things we may believe to be true about our congregation or community may not be. And, we’ll need to understand that some of our best ideas and most fervent hopes may not be realistic.
Second, we’ll need to avoid falling prey to what some have called The Seven Last Words of the Church: “But, we’ve always done it that way.” While rightfully proud of our congregation, history and way of doing things, it’s essential that we take a fresh look at ourselves and the needs of the community. Rather than fearing change, it’s imperative that we thoughtfully manage it.
Third, we share the responsibility for Ascension’s future. While joining in Eucharistic worship on Sunday morning is the foundation of our life together, simply “showing up” is not the discipleship to which we’ve been called, nor is it sufficient to ensure the continued viability of our congregation. Each of us must be actively involved in our ministries if we’re going to grow and thrive. Assuming that “someone else will do it” will not sustain us.
Finally, I invite you to join me in the sense of excitement and hope as we begin to envision the Ascension of the future. Today’s church is challenged in many ways, and we’re not immune. The number of Americans who identify as “religious” – let alone Christian – continues to decline. Even in our own North County neighborhood, barely 20% of the residents believe that “faith” plays a significant role in their lives. Nevertheless, we’re called to be the presence of Christ among all whom we might touch – the faithful, the skeptical and the disinterested alike. I firmly believe that our ministry can and must continue. But, I also know it will take a realistic plan and our personal, as well as collective, commitment to it. May God bless this journey and each of us as we walk it together.
However, even as we begin this planning process, the work of our congregation continues.
· On Saturday, June 6, we’re hosting a “Tailgate Sale & Fundraiser” on our parking lot from 7:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M. to support our community ministries. If you’re interested in reserving a space or volunteering to assist with the sale, please contact Georgia Harrell at (314) 524-4880.
· We’ve been invited by Advent Episcopal Church (Crestwood) to join them for their annual picnic on Sunday, June 7 at 12:00 P.M. The relationship between our congregations began during Lent when we shared five weeks of reflection and conversation on the racial and socioeconomic challenges facing the St. Louis community. Please talk with Rev. Deb (whose “home parish” is Advent) if you’re interested in attending the picnic.
· On Friday, June 19, Ascension middle and high school youth will join the youth of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church for the Episcopal City Mission Summer Celebration at Grace Episcopal Church in Kirkwood. We’ll depart from Ascension at 4:00 P.M and return by 9:00 P.M. Dinner and transportation will be provided.
· Ascension will host Vacation Bible School in conjunction with St. Louis County’s Summer Meals Program June 22 – 26 from 8:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M. Volunteers are needed – whether for a few hours, one day or the entire week. Please contact Tarell Gray at (314) 719-9859 if you can assist with this vital ministry.
· The Bishop’s Committee will meet on Sunday, June 28 in the sanctuary from 12:30 – 3:30 P.M. to conduct its routine business, as well begin the strategic planning process. Lunch will be provided.
Mary and I will be on vacation until June 18. In the interim, The Rev. David Fly will be assisting with our worship services, and The Rev. Michael Dunnington will join Rev. Deb in responding to pastoral emergencies. Should you need pastoral care while I’m away, please contact the parish office at (314) 361-0105.
Finally, please join me in congratulating Richard Carter on his baptism and Rev. Deb. on her receipt of the Doctor of Ministry degree last weekend.
May God continue to bless you with grace, joy and love.