Part of my scope of work at Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal as Director of Christian Education is attending committee meetings —Adult Christian Education meetings, Worship Committee meetings, staff meetings, and Youth and Children Committee meetings. There are a lot of meetings! It is this collaborative effort that makes for vibrant discussions and well thought out ministries and programs.
Individuals with strong personalities often dominate the conversations around the conference room table, and it takes a certain savvy and an astute leader to navigate the strong emotions that sometimes surround the vetting of church work. Who would have thought? Here in parish ministry we intentionally strive to live out Jesus’ calling to be humble, to be loving and relinquish all things for the good of the greater good. But men and women’s feet rest firmly on the ground, tied to the earth as Adamah. People have opinions on how church work should be done, and how God should be glorified.
And there is the pull to creature comforts. What color should the paint and carpet be in the sanctuary? Who is going to fix the bubblers in the Rose Garden because the plants are dying? And most astoundingly the debate at present, will we return to the 8:00 and 10:00 worship services after a year+ of Covid-19? The numbers are down. To borrow a sports expression my dad used to say, can we field the team? And what about our technology? There is a new normal with all its complexities. The added Saturday morning tech rehearsals with the growing sound system. We also need to consider the parish life on Zoom with its virtual Coffee Hour. For in-person worship, there are the considerations of our Diocesan requirements for masks. Our children’s program is still outdoors. What about the coming winter? Lots of decisions to make and thorough discussion to be had.
All the energy of opinions, I have found, can sometimes rub me the wrong way. I wish for peace and instead receive a kick under the table. “Susan, did you ask your Sunday School teachers? Have you gotten the input needed to make the leadership decision that you are moving forward with?” After all, this is the Church and we are the Body of Christ, we say this each week during the Eucharist. I settle in my chair. And in slow reflection, all areas of accountability in this representational form of governance, I know they are right. I will need to make some phone calls after the meeting to indeed, hear what the Sunday School volunteers have to say.
It is here that heaven touches earth. I hear firsthand what parishioners are doing and thinking about their Sunday morning experience. I am so glad that I picked up the phone!
There is tenderness in hearing families describe their early morning efforts and choices to get out the door. One more organized effort to get in the car and go to church when they could just stay in bed, enjoying the Sunday morning pancakes with leisure and freedom like it was a Saturday Hearing their stories of heartfelt commitments and sacrifices, reminds why I go to so many meetings. They motivate me to do the best job that I can in vetting and constructing ministries and programs in a collaborative effort. There are parishioners’ daily lives that are affected.
The vibrant discussions in these many meetings over the past few months led to a full calendar this autumn. The bishop is coming to carry out one of my favorite days—Confirmation. We will also celebrate our patronal feast day of Saint Michael in September with a special fellowship time after the service, a taco bar, and a “Be Strong and Courageous” obstacle course for children. Blessing of the Animals will come in early October, the Parade of Saints on October 31, and then Praying Our Goodbyes for All Saints and All Souls on November 1. But first, a ministry fair is around the corner on September 12 to try and “kick start” the program year after a year and half of pandemic setbacks. My Christian Education table will have many clipboards for volunteer sign ups. I will need to get the VBS pictures off my phone and printed for a display. It is busy work time for sure! In Adult Education, we are looking forward to lay leadership revisiting a Bible Study program called Kerygma. The study of Jonah and Revelation are a few of the highlights. Our parish is also going through a Search process to call a new Rector. I wonder who our next leader will be? I hope they like church meetings!