Beloved St. John’s community,
Thank you with all my heart for participating in this fall’s changed service times experience, and for giving us your feedback along the way. The clergy, staff, sustainable mission team, and vestry have been engaging in prayerful discernment as we seek the Spirit’s leading in our community, our worship, and our mission in response to this feedback. As we seek to embody the Way of Jesus’ Love together, we want to prioritize your desire for community, energy, and experiencing the presence of God in worship together.
We are grateful for the robust response to the service times survey. We had 115 responses—more than any other survey in my time at St. John’s. Thank you! This article shares the results of the survey and describes what staff, clergy and vestry recommend going forward. Please read this entire article carefully. Each part of it is important. Thank you so much.
What you said
About 66% of you said the change in service and Sunday School times was good for you or that hadn’t made any difference / didn’t matter to you. 28% said the change was challenging but you were up for it if it helped the congregation. 15% said the challenges were quite difficult and hard to make work.
Some advantages of the changed service times and Sunday School during church you identified were: that overall attendance is up (dramatically at 10:30, while attendance is slightly less at 8:30, but the average is an increase); attendance at Sunday School is increased; the flow of the morning is significantly better for Chad and for Heather; and this arrangement solves perpetual conflicts in use of space. Some disadvantages you identified are the decreased attendance and early time of the traditional service, conflict between coffee hour and adult forum, and lack of coffee hour after the 10:30 service which decreases our ability to have community with each other.
Themes that came up consistently were that most people want the 10:00am service slot; many people would like to experiment with one service; and there is consensus that something needs to change with the conflict in coffee hour and adult forum, and availability of children’s programming during the adult education hour.
What staff and vestry discerned
After carefully reviewing all of your comments, Lisa asked staff to pray and then come up with the recommendation they thought would best address the needs of the congregation overall, that would be generative, and that would follow the Spirit’s leading. Independently, each staff member came up with the same recommendation: to move to one service. It truly seemed that the Holy Spirit is moving St. John’s in this direction. After further discussion here is what staff proposed and presented to the vestry, who agrees and endorses this approach:
Beginning January 7 and for the remainder of this program year, as an experiment to be reviewed over the summer, we will have:
- Adult forum hour at 9am, including children’s activities for older kids and nursery for younger kids; no formal coffee hour at this time
- One service at 10am, incorporating expansive liturgies from the global Anglican Communion, with Rite II prayer book service about once per month (the first will be January 14; other dates will be announced)
- Sunday school continues to happen three times a month during the service; Heather meets with parents to determine how often kids come back to the service for Eucharist
- Coffee hour at 11am after the service
What we hope this accomplishes
We hope this accomplishes a deepening sense of unity, energy and community with each other, because we are following the Spirit’s generative leading. Although we all have differences in the style of music and liturgy we prefer, we share the desire to be nourished in Jesus’ Way of Love in a way that makes a difference in how we live. We share the desire to be a community that cares for one another and models a different way of living in this fractured and polarized world. We have heard how many of you love the services when everyone is together. The sanctuary is more lively with an increased number of people; we get to know other committed St. John’s members we haven’t encountered; we are exposed to liturgy and music we don’t normally encounter; and there is increased energy and life, a palpable sense of God’s Spirit.
We believe this is an opportunity to practice generosity and love, and to prioritize community and following Jesus’ Way of Love over individual preferences about music or liturgy—although we are excited to offer a range of liturgies and music to address the variety of spiritual experiences in our community.
Particular issues this resolves:
- Creates energy in the sanctuary for everyone in worship
- Allows everyone to have the service time that most people seem to want
- Solves the issue of adult forum and coffee hour competing for space and time and opens space for both important community activities
- Offers meaningful children’s activities for older kids so parents can attend the adult forum
- Allows for change as we learn what works and what doesn’t
- Simplifies workload for staff, a repeated theme in Rena’s Sustainable Mission project
- By reducing liturgical materials makes space for our new Communications Coordinator Sophie Callahan to improve and expand communications among the congregation and with the neighborhood
- Offers chance to practice unity among people with a range of perspectives and preferences
What comes next
On January 7, we will begin this new service time at 10am. At 9am that day, we will offer the chance for people to gather to ask questions, hear more about the process leading to this decision, and share insights and concerns. You can also reach out to Lisa or Rex via email to share your thoughts at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the summer, we will gather feedback about all phases of our experimentation: having summer 2023 services in the parish hall; changing fall 2023 service and Sunday School times; and consolidating to one service in 2024.
St. John’s has always valued both tradition and innovation, and has had courage to experiment with change of many kinds over the years. Thank you for continuing that quality in order to follow the leading of God’s Spirit!
In Christ’s love,