From now until Pentecost (May 23), the vestry will be leading St. Stephen’s in a Mutual Ministry Review. This review is a requirement of the Letter of Agreement that I signed when I first arrived at St. Stephen’s, and I took its presence in the fine print as a good sign. It meant that we were all committing to be open and honest with each other as we dedicate some time after our first year together to reflect on what we’ve learned about each other and the state of our relationship. The Covid-19 Pandemic has made such a review even more necessary. I heard someone say recently that Covid has essentially turned every parish into a church plant. No matter the length of a church’s history, every parish in the country has gone through so many profound changes in the past year that it’s as if we’re starting afresh. We have to reflect on the new practices that the pandemic has led us to take on (online worship, online meetings, circle practices, a changed engagement with music and Christian formation, and many more) and then decide which we want to continue and which need to change as we ready ourselves to resume our in-person life together. And we have a grand opportunity to think about and plan for the future.
When thinking through the Mutual Ministry Review, the vestry articulated a long list of things that we would like to learn about. How can we better serve children and families? How do we make people of all ages feel included? What is the state of our current relationship with OSU, and what would we like that relationship to grow into? Where is our music program going, what will our worship look like, how are we functioning administratively, and how many of our resources should go to maintaining and improving the building? What more could we do to reach out to the broader community? What do we imagine our future will look like, and what is the future of the church in general?
We turned to Alice Carroll to help us design a process that will allow the entire parish to help us think through these questions. Alice was very responsive when we told her that we’ve been through a lot of discernment sessions in the last five years, and are tired of appreciative inquiry and putting colored dots on a sheet of paper (in short, all the usual methods that a church uses when going through a time of transition). Alice helped us come up with a very simple method for involving the entire parish in our planning as we emerged from the pandemic and continued to settle into having a new priest in the pulpit. We will do nothing but conduct one-on-one interviews with each other. We felt that this would serve a dual purpose. The vestry will learn what it needs to know, and we’ll also have a chance to renew some old friendships or begin some new relationships.
So the plan is this:
- Beginning on March 20th, vestry members (and any others who would like to volunteer to help with this) will set out to interview parishioners, community members, outreach partners, building users, and others.
- They will conclude these interviews by April 17th.
- On May 8th the vestry will meet with Alice to go over the results.
- On May 23rd, Pentecost Sunday, the vestry will share the results with the parish.
We have only ten vestry members, and more than sixty households in the parish. And we want to interview many people who aren’t members of the parish. So we won’t be interviewing everyone, but will try to interview representative samples. If you would like to be interviewed, please let me know. Conversely, if you really don’t want to be interviewed, you can let me know as well. I’ll be putting the list of interviewees together this week and next, so that we can stick to our schedule. If you would like to help with the interview process, we would be very appreciative. Just send me an email indicating your willingness to help.
I’m very excited about this project, profoundly grateful to the vestry for taking it on, and can’t wait to see the results!