Letter to the Congregation - August 2020

Dear People of St. John’s,

                I usually offer an August letter to the congregation, giving us some sense of where we stand in our hopes and dreams for the year and some sense of what we ought to do before Christmas, to lay a foundation for the year ahead. Obviously, this has not been the year we expected, overtaken as we all have been by events beyond our control. Many of the initiatives we might have undertaken have been sidelined by the pandemic, which nonetheless has invited new creativity in our ministry. This year, we have improved our capacity to stream our services over the internet, remaining connected with the congregation during our various stages of restricted activity. We moved many formation ministries online, including adult Bible studies and youth and children’s ministry. Eventually, we were able to offer outdoor worship, which has been a welcome in-person gathering for some of our parish family, in the relative safety of the warm outdoors. Last week, the bishop offered the possibility of resuming limited indoor worship, for which we are beginning to plan.

                We are now looking toward the fall and the usual resumption of many of our ministries. The Vestry met last week and reviewed plans the staff has been making. We plan to offer online, in-person, and outdoor opportunities to be the people of God in worship, study, and service this fall. I hope that St. John’s offers you spiritual friendship, a community of prayer and praise, and opportunities to serve, no matter which variety of gathering you may choose during this season. Be sure that the health and safety of our church and community will always be foremost in our planning. Look for more detail announcement soon.

                Our staff is smaller than it has been in the recent past right now. I did not feel moved to hire a new Parish Administrator with so much uncertainty in the air. Right now, with few events, meals, and programs, our part-time Administrative Assistant Megan Griffin is handling things well, with a general pitching-in from the rest of the staff and the clergy. There is a chance we will sense some new possibilities for a more streamlined staff as we come out of the pandemic experience in the months ahead. We will do our best to sense the point at which an increase in ministry activity requires more staff. Join me in thanking the St. John’s staff for their commitment and creativity in this season.

                Some of our 2020 goals, shared with you last fall, have been entirely disrupted by the pandemic. We had hoped to build on Fr. Scott’s Holy Land pilgrimage to offering enriching journeys for the Christian life. Well, this did not prove to be the year to send groups abroad! Other goals found unexpected expression; we noted a desire to grow in worship, developing a new style and time for a worshiping community. Little did we imagine that would be online and in the parking lot. We named a hope to include more people and younger people in our ministries of worship, with youth lectors and greeter/oblationers. We are now reincorporating lay readers into our ministry and will be including some youth members in that group. Our desire to grow in hands-on opportunities to love and serve our neighbor was stymied by this year’s conditions, but we have given generously to ministries providing support to our unemployed neighbors. We wanted to create new gatherings to build relationships within and across our generations and are working on an outdoors foyer group ministry. We slowed down on some anticipated improvements to our campus, waiting to see what financial effect the pandemic would have on us. Committees have been at work on policies for a St. John’s endowment fund and on strengthening and potentially revising our alcohol policy. We greatly increased the number of church members who are Safe Church certified. Some years, our chief accomplishment is rising to unexpected challenges, which I think we can thank God for inspiring us to do this year.

                The congregation’s gracious response to the work of your staff and leaders has been most encouraging. Over and over, you have shared kind words in emails, Facebook comments, and in notes you have sent with your checks. Many of you have found new expressions of your ministry during the pandemic. You have been tremendously generous in spirit and giving. You have continued to testify, to pray for the spread of the kingdom, and to support the ministry of St. John’s, even with our ministry much curtailed. I will always remember with joy just how good this church has been in the face of our present adversity. In the midst of the admitted mess of 2020, the work of the Spirit among the people of St. John’s has been a bright spot.

                In the last four months of the year, we will continue to pray for good health, a vaccine, and wise leaders. We will hold up the unemployed, essential workers, and students and educators. We will make plans for the future, knowing that course corrections are inevitable, and that God will not leave us comfortless. I know that I can count on your prayers, engagement, generosity, and love as we move forward and that God will bring all these things to a good end.

Yours in Christ,

Nicholas M. Beasley