While working on the social-media beat for St Nicholas, your webmistress, blogger, and social media person ran across a Facebook group called “Find Your Episcopal Church Home.” A comment there listed a number of attributes that a group member was looking for in a new church home – and surprisingly enough, St Nicholas meets many of them. Sometimes as a “small mission parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago” we forget just how much we are able to do, because of the energy and commitment so many of us have, and the gifts of time and talent we’re able to bring to bear. It’s all for the glory of God, with the help of Jesus and the inspiration of the Spirit, of course. But we really are “the little church that could, and can, and will.”
The Facebook comment was:
This is a place to post characteristics of your perfect Episcopal Church. Be specific! Don’t just say, “I want a place where I can feel welcome.” I think we’ll assume that of everyone.
I’m looking for …
- A professional-sounding choir?
- A vital ministry for young adults?
- A vital ministry for children?
- Excellent preaching?
- Outreach programs that really make a difference locally or worldwide?
- Great liturgy?
- Rock and roll praise songs?
- A place where GLBT people are welcomed?
- A place for people who are politically conservative but socially moderate?
- A place without incense?
- A place with incense?
- A place with midweek evening programs?
Dream big. It’s YOUR church.
Due to the limitations of Facebook’s commenting system (WHY are there no linebreaks, O Lord? Run-on paragraphs are an abomination) I decided to put my reply here in the blog, rather than post this very long response on the group’s Wall.
Choir: We have a very good small ensemble; we’d like to think we’re “semi-pro with big-league chops.” We regularly perform pieces by modern composers like John Rutter and Natalie Sleeth, and classics by Schumann, Bach, Tallis, Vaughan Williams, and Mozart. The music for Christmas Eve’s 9:00pm service will be VERY challenging, very beautiful, and stirring.
Young adults: that’s something we could do better.
Vital ministry for children: we’ve been offering a Children’s Gospel program, have a Sharing (activities) table in the sanctuary most Sundays, and we’re trying to get more commitment from families re: scheduling more formal Christian Education.
Excellent preaching: Father Manny, our “interim” vicar, has energized and motivated us greatly! We are in “search” mode but it is now safe to say that Manny is currently our one and only candidate, in spite of his fondness for the Detroit Lions.
Outreach: we run a small but growing food pantry program 3 Wednesdays a month. We host a dozen support group meetings (AA, GA, Al-Anon) a week. We are working with local social service agencies to offer material help to families with children (coats, shoes, donated toys, etc.). We are currently collecting New Socks for New Friends to donate to local homeless shelters.
Great liturgy: we like to think so; in the past year we have been more grounded and intentional about planning liturgy. We are very creative about the flexible worship space we have. Our music program has improved greatly in the last 5 years, with the addition of Mary Fletcher-Gomez as music director; we now boast a full choir and a fine electronic organ. We’re very excited about the pieces we’re performing for Christmas Eve, while the Liturgy Committee has done some great work with planning creative, beautifully designed services.
GLBT: A significant number of the congregation, choir, and clergy are members of the LGBT community (couples, families, singles). We cannot say this enough: ALL are welcome.
Philosophy, style: most of us would consider ourselves politically and theologically moderate center-to-liberal, with one beloved associate priest who occasionally wields a mighty Pete Seeger banjo and plays peace-and-justice folk tunes on guitar. We’re more “low-church” on Saturday nights, and a bit more “high-church” on Sunday mornings, and in the summer we go for a middle-of-the-road “broad-church” musical and worship style in the summer.
Incense: due to health/allergy issues with some of our parishioners, we’ve generally had to curtail the use of incense (but would like to use it now and then). For those looking for “smells and bells,” we do the best we can with what makes the most sense from a comfort and safety standpoint.
Midweek evening services: YES, we do! Father Manny recently started a small, quiet Eucharist immediately before choir practice on Wednesdays. As Mary is generally there early, we usually have one or two short hymns, but most of the service is straight out of the Book of Common Prayer.
To the list of desired features that someone seeking a church home is looking for, we should probably mention:
Architecture: Modern, with upholstered chairs. And occasionally, rocks. At least we’re flexible!