Rector’s Report 2013 St. Patrick’s Anglican Church
2013 has been a year of celebration and challenges. We celebrate as we continue to enjoy our chapel that is now two years old. This year to date we have celebrate 140 weekend Masses, 32 weekday Masses and 26 Private Masses in homes and hospitals. We also celebrate that we are continuing to grow. We presented 30 to the Bishop this year for baptism, confirmation, reception and reaffirmation. While we are an average sized for an American church, to put it in a better perspective, of the 46 parishes and missions in the Anglican Diocese of the South we are #6 in terms of average Sunday attendance.
We celebrate the gifted people that God has called to serve this parish. I don’t really think of them as a staff but rather as friends and colleagues. Others outside of our parish are amazed when I tell them of the gifts of Fr. BE and Fr. Chris and how different from one another and yet how unified we are. I can’t imagine trying to care for this flock without their help.
Marty has served us year after year with utter faithfulness as Christian Ed Director, Parish Secretary, Rota planner, VBS guru and countless other roles. Beth has said to me many times what a great role model she is for the young mothers of our parish and I agree.
Josh and Cari have led, taught, played with and prayed for our St. Patrick’s Youth with great devotion. It is not a ministry that they take lightly and we see the fruit of their labors in our kids. Kudos to them.
Peter continues to skillfully shepherd the Burmese flock. They meet on Sunday afternoons and just last night there was a Burmese wedding in our chapel. It is our plan to have Peter ordained a permanent deacon next year so that he will be able to serve them even more effectively.
Kirk has done a fine job in helping to guide our worship. Unlike other traditions, where the minister of music is the center stage star of the show, being an Anglican choirmaster requires a servants heart that draws attention away from self and to the Lord. I appreciate Kirk’s willingness to be a servant.
We also celebrate the leadership of Steve our Senior Warden and our Vestry. As you saw in the Treasurer’s report they have been excellent stewards of our resources. I hear stories all the time of power plays and battles among Vestries that often include the Clergy but thanks be to God that has never been our experience at St. Patrick’s. We have been blessed with people who only care that the will of God is accomplished for our parish.
This has also been a year of challenges. It has been so for me on a personal basis as I have taken on additional roles to serve our Bishop and Diocese. I am a member of the Standing Committee, which is essentially the Vestry of the Diocese. I am also the Dean of the Convocation of Tennessee. This role is an extension of the Bishop’s pastoral care for his clergy. All of this includes more travel than I have done in the past but when I consider the Bishop’s schedule, I have nothing about which to complain. It is an honor for me to serve in these capacities.
It has also been a year of challenge in terms of the pulse our parish. I have been concerned about a number of indicators. While Sunday attendance has been steady we are in danger of becoming just a Sunday Church. Let me explain what I mean by that. There was a time when we were All Saints’ that we had 5 Bible and Book Studies meeting concurrently on Wednesday nights. Now we barely have enough people to form one. We used to have dozens attend the monthly healing service and then put together several tables at Cozumel’s for food and fellowship. Last month it was Beth and me and one other couple. Holy Days were well attended but they too have declined significantly. Recently it was me, an acolyte and one person in the congregation. The Brotherhood of St. Patrick and the Sisterhood of St. Brigid also have been poorly attended. Even on Sunday it has been my impression that a number of regular attendees have become occasional attendees and some occasional attendees have become more like Christmas and Easter folks.
It is also a concern that a parish our size should have only 64 pledges last year. You need to be either receiving from your parish or giving to your parish but doing nothing means that others are carrying your load. Even if you can only pledge $10 per week it represents an important commitment to your parish.
The last indicator that causes concern is that new people who have been added to us have come here mostly by God’s Providence. Most of our members are not actively inviting others to join in our journey. The explosive church growth witnessed in Africa is in part because each parishioner understands that it is their responsibility to add one person every year to the Church. This sense of mission seems to be gone from us.
To what do I attribute this situation? First and ironically I think it has to do with our success. We made it through the wilderness and that was no small feat. Not all the parishes that left TEC have survived. We made it a goal to be in our own worship space and we accomplished what we set out to do. But just like Israel after entering the land, we have let our guard down. We have used this as a time to relax and enjoy the fruit of our labors, and perhaps that is okay for a season. But we built this chapel to have a base for doing mission and not to become a museum. Jesus calls us to be His disciples not Sunday church-goers.
I also attribute our present circumstances to my own error as your Rector. While guiding us through the building phase I let our vision as a parish drift into the background. As the Scriptures say, “without a vision the people perish.” While I don’t think anyone will actually die from my mistake I do ask your forgiveness and I intend to correct that error. We are using this Advent to recast the vision and I hope and pray that you will go to the website and read, learn, mark and inwardly digest the clergy’s Advent sermons. We need to have our vision restored. We will also be working with the leadership of this parish on ways to practically implement the vision so that our sense of mission returns.
The importance of prayer during this time cannot be overstressed. I am in need of a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit and I believe that we need this for our parish as well. As Jesus taught us, the Holy Spirit is sovereign and moves as He wills. Thus He does not come to us simply because we add another program. He comes to us when we call upon the Lord. Jesus said that if we who are evil know how to give good gifts to our children how much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. For a season we are going to pull back on some of our programs so that we can have a season of prayer and renewed vision. Then we will add back the programs that fulfill the vision and let go the things that might be good but are not the best.
I have what I hope is a godly optimism about this New Year. I believe the leadership will work closer together than we ever have in the past and that this will produce fruit. I am attending a Clergy Leadership Training Institute to improve my skills to serve you better. I look for God to inspire many of you with new ways to reach out to others to make a friend, to be a friend, to bring that friend to Christ. The next two Sundays we will be showing the video The Star of Bethlehem. Beyond the astonishing findings, what moved me about this video was how God used this humble man, who was not a professional astronomer, to discover some amazing things. His life has gone in a direction that he never planned because he made himself available to the Lord. That is my hope for each of you. I hope that at the end of this year you will be able to look back and smile at the direction that your life has taken and that may well be beyond what you had imagined. This truly can happen when we place our lives more fully into the Master’s hands.
Fr. Ray Kasch