I am still relishing the wonderful events of the past few weeks here including the Ann Evans Woodall lecture by Marcus Borg and the dinner preceding it for those lucky enough to respond quickly, the extraordinary performance of Minton Sparks (http://www.mintonsparks.com/), the fabulous art and craft fair,-- a first for us in this format, including selling our the Y’All Saints Cookbook. We enjoyed a profoundly wonderful service on All Saints’ Sunday we the Faure Requiem. In addition we have hosted two splendid and dignified memorial services, the Georgia Tech Chorale, a wedding and baptisms galore. A lunch for newcomers, well attended by members of our vestry as well, was in many ways reflective of the harmonious diversity of our parish The large number of saints involved in offering these many events including our incomparable sexton team testifies to engagement and commitment in a happy and talented community. We are greatly blessed.
It is in this context that many conversations are taking place all of which are tilling the ground for a formal visioning and planning process which we will get underway late this year or on into 2008. One of those conversations s about our patterns of worship and how we might ‘stir the pot’ and ‘stir our imaginations’ in ways that will make our planning informed and lively.
Possibilities that are under discussion include transforming our service of evensong into a quiet evening Eucharist with music and keeping that going through the summer, using a wider range of hymnody, and service music in the mornings including some of our supplemental hymnals and other resources. We have also wondered if this is the year to respond to the annual requests that we use the summer months as a chance to connect with people whom we otherwise would not see by having only one main morning service. In the past I have felt that this is the wrong direction for a parish such as ours. Certainly when we have gone to one service in the recent past we have radically reduced our attendance. It is also true that we have done this in conjunction with major work in the church requiring us to move in to Ellis Hall for worship and that it is possible that we would enjoy a common service in the church enough to maintain our enthusiasm and commitment. At any rate 2008 might be a good time to try it and so have informed conversation about whether a single service in the summer is a good thing or not as we look to the future.
Other conversations are about our space use; how we might really be a ‘resource’ parish in relation to some smaller places using technology to support real relationships; what pastoral care might look like in a changing church; how we can let our neighbors know who we are and for what we stand; and all within the umbrella conversations of our vestry about where we find ourselves as we find we have to do a great deal more teaching and incorporation of people who have little or no background in the faith.
I have been thinking about how we can think more about discipleship or stewardship than membership, and how we can look consciously at our worship and ministries in terms of how they help us become the people we were created to be and share our stories of real transformation. Lots to chew on. Exciting times.