I’ve thought long and hard about what I am supposed to say in my end of year report to the parish. I can tell about accomplishments I feel we have made this year. I can talk about hopes and dreams of the future for St. Luke’s, and I will do both, but first I want to tell you about being a Senior Warden, what it has been like and what, in my understanding, it should be.
I was absolutely astonished when Father Phelps asked me to be his Senior Warden...and I say his Senior Warden because that is exactly what the Senior Warden is, the priest’s warden, the lay person in the church who supports the priest, while the Junior Warden is the people’s warden, and supports the life of the church as he assists the people.
The day Father asked me to be Senior Warden, I went home and looked up everything I could find on the internet about what I was supposed to do. Here are the things I was told. I am going to summarize them, but you can read the diocesan directive below:
Meet regularly with the rector to review the life and work of the congregation, plan ahead, anticipate and resolve problems
Provide leadership in the vestry to identify the vision, mission and goals of the congregation, make and implement plans, assess progress and celebrate achievements
Provide leadership in the congregation by demonstrating a consistent positive attitude that seeks to solve problems and learn from mistakes, recognizes accomplishments and gives thanks for those things that build community and further the mission of the Church
Pray daily for the rector, leaders and members of the congregation
Be available to discuss any and all concerns with the rector; maintain confidentiality where appropriate
Be available to discuss any and all concerns with members of the congregation; avoid making hasty judgments, encourage complainants to speak to those involved, discuss problems with the rector
In cases where the rector, staff or vestry is beleaguered or unfairly criticized, foster understanding and reconciliation and distribute accurate information
In cases where the rector is overworked, disregarding his/her health and well being and that of the family, encourage the rector to take corrective steps, solicit the vestry's support in reducing workload, adding staff, or funding a sabbatical as appropriate
Assist in identifying persons for leadership roles, and participate in inviting them to serve in those roles
Be prepared to assist the rector or to step in and do what is necessary (make an announcement, turn up the heat, write a letter)
With the rector, announce the bishop's pending visit and prepare a report on the spiritual and temporal state of the congregation to be discussed with the bishop during the bishop's visitation (Title III, Canon 14, Sec. 1(e))
After reading all of that I told Raf that I thought I had better call Father and tell him I couldn’t be his Senior Warden, but first I prayed long and hard and asked God’s guidance, and God encouraged me to stay in the position this year and that He would guide and help me, as he always does, and so I stayed, and He did.
I hope that in the future as other Senior Wardens are appointed, they will look with care upon this job description, keep true to it, assist the rector in a very strong manner, and do the job to the best of their ability, God being their helper.
God bless those people who follow in this role, and the other lay roles of the church, as St. Luke’s makes its way into this new year and new decade. God bless this parish as it works and grows, as it shows the light of God’s love in the community, as it serves and nurtures its congregation, as it joins with other churches in serving, as it works with the diocese to follow God’s teachings and may it always stand as firmly in the faith as it has done in the past.
Now, as to accomplishments this year, here is a sort of laundry list.
I have met, on most Thursdays, with Father Phelps, to discuss the life of the parish, his goals and hopes for the church, who’s sick, who’s well, who is attending, and who is not attending on the weeks he is not here. And by the way, I hope that the ushers and Vestry will continue to assist Father in this when he is not able to be here. He is, after all, serving three congregations, and he simply cannot be in three places at once. In my opinion he has accomplished this role remarkably well in the past three years. I honestly don’t see how he has done it all. Three churches, with three different faces, facing different problems, and seeing to address the work of God in three different missions. He is one of only two priests in the diocese who do this, and it is a remarkable feat. At the end of this talk, I will elaborate on this in more detail.
This year our parish has grown, and on the 31st we will see two new people confirmed into the Faith. We have had three baptisms and another confirmation this year as well. St. Luke’s is growing.
We have reached out in outreach, with Connie Cowan leading the way, and an Outreach Committee has been formed with many plans underway. We have served more people in the community through our Christmas boxes than ever before. We are providing food for the community food pantry at First Christian Church. We are hosting a very large Girl Scout troop made of up girls who either are being or have been served by Hope Incorporated. We had gone Christmas caroling at the Mall. We have provided the refreshment spot for the Zonta Tour of Home, bringing a large number of people through our doors and welcoming them. Perhaps some will return.
We have begun more Parish Life opportunities, especially led by the Boswells, the Kimbroughs, and the Watsons, with monthly parish get togethers, times of fellowship and food when we can sit down and get to know each other a little better. We are establishing a Parish Life Committee that will plan dinners, parties, picnics, and other things to encourage our parish to meet often as a family, not only in our worship, but also in our fellowship.
In the past three years Mary Alyce has established and provided a Children’s Montesorri-style Sunday school class, and while she had only one student for a couple of years, she is have three and five children now attending. Mary Alyce pledged three years of her life to establishing this class and teaching, and, ladies and gentlemen, that time is coming to an end. If you want to see Christian education for children continued at St. Luke’s some of you MUST step up to assist and then take over this class. It takes commitment and training, but without Christian Education, St. Luke’s cannot adequately minister to this congregation.
Also Doris McConnell is teaching an adult class, and even though many Sunday there are only a handful of people, Doris soldiers on. This is a Bible study class, and may I ask, when do we get too much Bible study? I encourage all adults in this parish to attend this class, to bring their Bibles to church, to sit down and discuss the Faith. Thirty minutes on Sunday morning, from 9 - 9:30 isn’t a lot, and I promise you will be blessed over and over again. Christian education isn’t just for the children!
As most of you know Mike McConnell has worked overtime in his repair and maintenance of the church and rectory. The roof is fixed and the water problem in the Sunday school wing is being addressed, as is the problem in the back of the nave. The nave and parish hall have been painted, as has the rectory. Other much needed maintenance items have been and are being addressed at the rectory to make it a more pleasant place for our rectory and his wife to live.
I am going to challenge you, with Father Phelps’ help, to set up a couple of other committees in the future, one a worship committee that will coordinate with Father Phelps, the choir, the readers and servers, the ushers, to assist in an organized approach to all our worship services. But I am not challenging the Vestry to be the committee. This must be a parish led committee. Remember it isn’t up to the six people on the Vestry to do all the work. It is up to the entire parish to work together for the health and wellbeing of our church. We must all be a part of this process, or St. Luke’s is destined to fail.
I also challenge you to set up an evangelism committee. We must reach out into our community, not just with giving, but also with inviting unchurched people in the community to join us. We are a family, and we want our family to grow. Who of you will volunteer to be a part of this or some other committee. I hope at the end of this meeting you will pick something you can do, and ask a Vestry member or Father Phelps how you can help St. Luke’s!
To that end, I want to bring to you a challenge, not from me, not from the Vestry, but from Canon Hough, and ultimately from Bishop Iker. As I have said, Father Phelps has three churches for which he is responsible, and because of that we have only 1/3 of Father Phelps’ time and attention. The Vestry and Father Phelps have met with Canon Hough and declared our desire for St. Luke’s to have more of Father’s time, while at the same time, giving Father more time. We have asked that Father serve only this parish and the lake, and to reach that goal we need to be serious. This means we need to attend church each Sunday, if our health permits, we need to serve on committees and be available to come here to do the things that need doing...this is not just a Vestry job, it is a whole parish job. We need to talk to the bishop when he visits in two weeks and encourage him that St. Luke’s is ready to make a step toward becoming a full-time parish by being half, rather than a third, of Father’s responsibility. I know many of you know the bishop well. Show him how determined we are to have our priest with us more because by doing this he will have more time to help us grow and to nurture our faith.
Finally, I want to thank all of you, for your support of me, of Father Phelps and Father Swickard, and of St. Luke’s this year. Without our family here, there would be no St. Luke’s. But remember the challenge, we cannot sit back and be complacent, if we are to move forward we must all work together, for the glory of God, as a beacon of His love in our community.
God bless us, everyone.