This will be my final newsletter article as your Senior Warden. My term will expire at the end of this month, as will my tenure on the Vestry, and I simply want to say how thankful I am for having this opportunity to serve you and our parish.
The past three years have been a dramatic study in contrasts. I joined the Vestry in January 2019, as we were struggling to find parking places and room in the pews for everyone. Every weekend, we had a wonderful procession of 10-15 children marching out of the sanctuary to go to Sunday school. We were packed to the rafters for coffee and conversation after the second service, and all of our ministry programs were buzzing with activity. It was an exciting (and occasionally overwhelming) time.
March 2020 of course brought a very different set of events, as we retreated to the safety of social distancing in response to the widespread outbreak of COVID-19. Our sanctuary and parish hall fell quiet, and we were all forced to reimagine worship and service to each other and our community. We pivoted quickly, introducing an online worship platform that was almost literally held together by bungee cords and duct tape. Both young and old learned new ways to gather online, and we made significant investments in equipment that quickly improved our online worship capabilities. Who would have ever thought that little ol’ St. John’s Episcopal Church in Wake Forest would one day be beaming its worship service to the world? Yet today we are, and this new platform continues to attract new parishioners.
This past year has been a gradual return to in-person worship, juxtaposed with a fast-paced commitment to planting the seeds for future success. I’ve been thrilled to see so many people attending worship in person over the past couple of months, and I appreciate everyone’s creativity and flexibility as we adapt the liturgy to present-day challenges. We’re not quite up to full speed, as we experienced it in 2019, but with patience and grace I do believe that we’ll get there once again. Still, I recognize that these past 18 months have had both positive and negative impacts on how people relate to worship, and we’ll need to be aware that the future will probably never look exactly like pre-COVID days.
If there is any silver lining to the past 18 months, it may be that COVID forced us to do some things that we might not otherwise have found the time or urgency to do, like starting online worship or consulting with Ministry Architects to build the staff and infrastructure we need as a foundation to sustain our current growth trends. The challenges we face in terms of being a rapidly growing congregation did not start with COVID – they were in full force before we had to pause, but that pause may have given us the time (and the kick-in-the-rear) we needed to begin.
So, we find ourselves in a situation where we are simultaneously trying to return to some sense of “normalcy” while re-imagining and creating a “new normal” for the future. It’s a big undertaking, and I am excited to remain part of the Strategic Design Team that is overseeing the Ministry Architects engagement. Just like in 2019, it is an exciting (and occasionally overwhelming) time for St. John’s.
In the meantime, I know that the Vestry is in good hands with Elizabeth Melvin as Senior Warden and Kevin Closson as Junior Warden. We are also welcoming a wonderful incoming class of new Vestry members. I look forward to witnessing the gifts that I know they will bring to their roles, and to the next steps that we take together as the St. John’s community.