by the Rev. Christopher Potter, Vicar
With the inimitable voice of Richard Dawson echoing in my head, I hear “Survey says…”
Members of the Bishop’s Committee and of the Parish Council extend to you a grateful “Thank You” for the replies to the recent survey about St. John’s sent earlier this month. There were 75 responses to the eight questions presented, covering involvement in church activities, and inviting members to share their dreams and ideas for the future work of St. John’s.
The responses spanned the spectrum. From acknowledging ongoing positive relations with the church to identifying a lack of connection to the community and its leadership, all answers were considered both valid and valued.
It is nearly impossible to synthesize every piece of information garnered from this – or any – survey. Two dramatically different responses to the same question often left us scratching our heads. Recognizing that each person’s experience of St. John’s is going to be different, those differences could be attributed to our common plight related to COVID, or to a unique experience with a person or event.
Our beloved in Christ, Erin Schwarz, has distilled all the information from the survey and has made presentation to the Bishop’s Committee. She has synthesized the information, giving us a look at the work we need to do and what is revealed about us as a community.
Take ministry, for example. What did the collected responses say about ministry at St. John’s? Overall, most respondents recognize ministry as something we do in support of other members of the community or in service to those outside our community. There was a different perspective from the survey indicating that some believe ministry is something that is done to me – provided to me – especially by those paid to do so.
As my writings over the last weeks have explored, ministry is the divine call and the human response to our baptismal covenant. Ministry is an activity based in service to the world. Jesus’ life is the model of this ministry in his care for the sick, those who are marginalized, and those who are poor. If ministry is seen as a service one expects to receive as a consequence of being a member of a church, then religion, worship and faith have become passive activities — almost like what one experiences when attending a movie; involvement is measured only by how much you listen and watch.
Other responses asked for more communication from the clergy and from the church. (Oddly, some asked for fewer calls and letters from the clergy and from the community.) Others are waiting impatiently to come back together for in-person worship and for social events. It was said over and again how many of us feel about needing to get back together in the sanctuary to increase the feeling of ‘belonging.’
There has not been a decision about whether we would discontinue our live streaming services, but it seems many were grateful for the connections provided there. (Oddly, it was clear that some people do not know that we are still streaming live Evening Prayer services on Tuesday and Thursday night.)
As with almost all churches world-wide, it is the case at St. John’s that we are experiencing a decline in attendance and a decline in contributions. What is not clear is how much attendance will change when COVID restrictions are eased, and if donations will return to their pre-pandemic levels. For clarification, as Episcopalians we believe that church attendance is up to God, and that financial support is not left up to a single leader in the community.
As I conclude, I defer to Erin who makes very well these concluding remarks about the survey:
· Almost everyone feels a bit disconnected after two years of pandemic
· People are hungry for connection, spiritual growth, worship
· We cannot appreciate and/or participate in that which we do not see or hear about
· There is much to appreciate about our community and more work to be done
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We’ll see you at St. John’s this weekend:
• Saturday worship at 5 p.m. in the Chapel
• Sunday worship at 8 a.m. (in-person only)
• Sunday worship at 10 a.m. (in-person and ZOOM)
• Godly Play and Nursery at 10 a.m.
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The Diocese of Los Angeles has changed its mask policy from “required indoors” to “strongly recommended but not required”.
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Can You Help?
Orange County Rescue Mission desperately needs hygiene items for the formerly homeless living in its transitional facilities in Orange County. Jim Palmer, the nonprofit’s president, said the need is “dire” for the 178 residents at Village of Hope, Tustin Veterans Outpost and Double R Ranch. These are the items the Rescue Mission is seeking soap/shampoo, underwear for women (all sizes) and children (all sizes), toothpaste, razors, shave cream, feminine hygiene products, laundry detergent and rolls of toilet paper. The organization said it also needs new sets of twin-size sheets, bath towels and bed pillows.
Donations can be dropped off at the Village of Hope at 1 Hope Drive in Tustin. The donation warehouse is open between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Sunday. Items also can be bought online and sent to the Village of Hope, using the address above.