February 12th, 2017
The meeting was called to order at 11:25am, with approximately 20 people in attendance
Bill Kienzle expressed some concern over the columbarium, and the documentation of what happens to the cremains in the case of a church closing. He suggested that if the Diocese doesn’t already have a database of who is inurned into each niche across all the churches in the Diocese, we put forth a resolution at Diocesan Convention to make it so. It would help future genealogists be able to track where their ancestors are. Paul Stoving pointed out, that as far as he knows, resolutions like that must be proposed at a convention a year before they are voted on, so that it might take a while, but that it’s a worthwhile concern, and something that could well be proposed from our parish.
Paul Stoving opened the meeting by reminding parishioners that in the annual meeting he had promised that we would be having open forums as a chance for parishioners to share their concerns, and he invited individuals to come forward with both their concerns and any proposed solutions.
A parishioner said that he doesn’t like Morning Prayer. He said that it seems messy and disjointed. He also said it doesn’t feel like a real church service. Others expressed that they don’t like having to juggle between 3 books and a bulletin, flipping back and forth. Others wondered if it had to be held on Sunday- but it was pointed out that attempts to hold Evening Prayer or any other non-Sunday services have not been met with any success. Some were worried it was confusing to newcomers, but it was pointed out that newcomers have to juggle the books like that anyway. Someone suggested that since Morning Prayer is only held 4 times a year, it might not be an onus to print out the entire service, rather than having people skip around in the prayer book and between Bible, Hymnal, and Prayer book, at least until people got more used to the service. The regular members don’t need the prayer book for Eucharist, since they have it memorized, and with enough use, Morning Prayer will be the same. It was then pointed out that with only four services a year, that might not happen. It was commented on that sometimes wants of the congregation conflict: Having Morning Prayer more often to get people more familiar with it would make those who don’t like it unhappy. Deacon Marge said that we probably need to educate the congregation better on Morning Prayer.
A parishioner said that he thinks the services are too long, and the ideally they should last no more than an hour. Paul Stoving said that concern was discussed during Worship Committee, but that everyone is always willing to cut out the parts that aren’t important to them personally, but those things are important to someone else. Some fear that the longer services are putting off newcomers, but others disagreed that an hour and 15 minutes is really that much longer than an hour. As part of that discussion, someone pointed out the sermons seem to be getting longer. It was acknowledged that there have been a couple recent sermons that seemed a little longer, but there was dissention among those present as to whether this was a problem. Some feel that by reiterating a point in 3 ways has people stop listening. Others felt it’s important because everyone learns and hears in different ways. Someone who said that it’s widely known that she has many conflicts with Fr Mark said that she loves his sermons and thinks they are very good and important and that the length isn’t even a consideration to her. The only consensus was that Fr Mark’s sermons are interesting and engaging, and that people feel they are part of a conversation rather than being lectured. It was suggested that people just need to prepare for the service being longer.
A point was made that instead of guessing that this thing or that thing has attracted or put off newcomers, we should gently see if we can get visitors to tell us what they are looking for, and to solicit feedback from those who return, to see what brought them back. There was general agreement that this was a better idea than trying to chase something based on assumptions of what we think newcomers want.
The point was brought up about the attendance being down, and that something is obviously wrong in that old members no longer attend. It was suggested again that Vestry members should call everyone on a quarterly basis to see how they are doing and if they have any concerns. A long discussion was had about people’s varying opinions of phone calls, and the resentment of the interruption of family time for people who work long hours. There was worry expressed that if someone goes missing because of illness, no one is contacting them. Even some of the original proponents of the idea acknowledged that they would feel uncomfortable calling or receiving calls from people they barely know, as would be the case for a lot of the members being called. It was pointed out that a lot of contacting people is being done through other ministries, without people knowing about it. Pastoral Care and Fr Mark are very good about visiting people who are sick and that the congregation as a whole is very welcoming and openly greet people who have come back after an absence.
It was asked if, as Fr Mark approaches Medicare eligibility, if Finance has considered moving him to Medicare as a way for the church to reduce some of his medical insurance costs. Finance has been having ongoing discussions with the Diocese for some time about whether that would be allowed.
As several people had slipped out during the discussion, Paul asked if there was a consensus that everyone would like to pause the conversation for this time, and reconvene in a month or so. This idea was met with approval. The forum adjourned at 12:18pm