Grace Episcopal Church, Martinez, California, Minutes of a Meeting of the Vestry – Mutual Ministry Review, July 31, 2019
Present: The Reverend Dr. Deborah White, Lynda Dyer (Sr. Warden), Jim Maniatis (Jr. Warden), Christina Reich, Connie Towey, Stephanie Zichichi
Absent: Pat Hambly, Ron Luttringer, Paula Menconi, Josh Senn
Guests: Denise Obando, Transition Minister, Diocese of California; Jennifer Sabroe (Clerk)
Call to Order and Opening Prayer. The meeting was called to order at 5:10 p.m. and led in prayer by Rev. Deb.
The vestry reviewed the issues of importance identified at last year’s Mutual Ministry Review and discussed what is being done and what still needs to be done.
Denise defined Mutual Ministry. The mutual part of mutual ministry review is what are the people of Grace and especially its leadership are doing, not just how Rev. Deb is doing as Rector. It is about how are we doing this together. How are we getting people to take responsibility? How do we prepare the next Vestry? We need to have balance on the Vestry in terms of areas of interest, so that all areas of church life are represented.
What is being done and what is going well? Facebook, Grace Notes, announcements (both oral and included in the worship bulletin) at both services, Vestry minutes posted on website and parish hall bulletin board, vestry members rotate each week (on their assigned VPOD day) to address the congregations at 8am and 10am during announcements, vestry members’ email addresses and photos are on the back cover of the bulletin
Newly formed Welcoming Committee is putting together a welcome packet.
Faithful Forums, attended by both 8 and 10 o’clockers is a place where we have meaningful conversations together.
What needs to be done (or could be done better)?
- Vestry members attend their non-regular service more often; find opportunities in conversations to let people know how and where information is available (website, email, bulletin announcements, bulletin board, etc.)
- Work on communication with each other, members of congregation.
- Find ways to bring people from both services together
- Make table prompts for coffee hour?
- Do a Faithful Forum about Welcoming, have a conversation as a group about some of the challenges between the 8 and 10.
Denise’s questions/discussion prompts: How often do parishioners approach you as a vestry member? In between services, what kinds of things are going on that bring people together (from 8am and 10am services)? How do you feel as one group? Can we more intentionally mix people up? Do you ever say how was your vacation and where did you experience God?
There was discussion about the practice of a group of 8 o’clockers who go to breakfast together, off site, immediately after the service, which can be perceived as a separation from the church community. When they leave, many 10 o’clockers are arriving, and they don’t run into each other. There are events when we are all together, but it can feel like “separate but equal.” There was concern expressed about the difference in the two groups (8 o’clock, 10 o’clock). The 8 o’clockers don’t have the same knowledge base about what’s going on across the congregation. For example, the unawareness of the attendance growth at 10 o’clock including in the increase in young families with children.
Presence in the greater community
What is being done and what is going well? Weekly articles on Faith page of Martinez Gazette; Rev. Deb has met with City representatives (City Council and MPD) regarding homeless; Outreach committee works with C.O.R.E. team (Coordinated Outreach Referral, Engagement); Grace team works at Loaves and Fishes once a month; Yoga at Grace every Tuesday evening (open to the community); Faithful Forums are open to the community, alternate social welfare and theological/liturgical topics; Episcopal Church items are posted on our Facebook page.
It was noted that at September’s Faithful Forum there will be a presentation from St. Mary the Virgin’s (SF) Social Justice Committee.
We hosted a Whole & Healthy Church workshop earlier this year and posted it in the Deanery.
We’re talking about starting a Sacred Space in Contra Costa.
We’ve also participated with Contra Costa Interfaith Council’s Green Spirit booth at John Muir Days event in Martinez the past two years.
What needs to be done (or could be done better)? A question was asked if there is an opportunity to get involved with Juvenile Hall; it was suggested to poll parishioners to find out what organizations/ efforts/causes they are involved with outside of church (good topic for a table prompt).
There was discussion about welcoming and the reality that we all have different views and opinions about many things. But for welcoming, it is important that we live the belief that all are welcome here.
What is being done and what is going well? Started a Welcoming Committee which is putting together a welcome packet for visitors/newcomers; creating a buddy system and recruiting buddies to escort people to coffee hour and be their contact; making nametags for everyone; Vestry liaisons to committees and ministries has been positive as it another level of contact with participants and between ministries; attendance is up at 10.
Things are coming up organically, such as “How to Pray” small discussion group using the online video lectures (ChurchNext); Stephen Ministry introductory workshop; young families are hanging out together at a local playground. Mutual not completely reliant on the priest.
Rev. Deb’s bible studies are very substantial and she uses every opportunity to educate and teach.
What needs to be done (or could be done better)? Online directory, not everyone happy about it, they are used to a paper directory, so we are working to help people sign up and get comfortable with it; the welcome packet will include detailed information about various ministries to get involved in; let people who are reluctant to commit to a committee but would like to be on call to help, know that’s okay.
How do we feel about growth? Rector can’t do it all. Because, when a congregation is a certain size it has a relationship with a priest functioning more on a family size structure, that’s where everybody has contact and everybody knows everybody, and their names. When you start growing you lose some of that. Is the welcoming committee big enough to match people, maybe buddy system?
What is being done and what is going well? Rev. Deb is developing a Podcast; Rev Deb read a letter from a grateful participant of the Wednesday Eucharist and Bible Study who expressed appreciation for her knowledge, welcoming heart and approach to studying the scriptures, openness and inclusiveness.
What needs to be done (or could be done better)? Once Podcast launches, advertise! (Gazette, Diocese, etc.)
What is being done and what is going well?
In response to a prompt from Denise about ministering to people passing through, several vestry members shared personal experiences: The Christmas pageant is designed to include all children, even as they walk in the door for the first time; a vestry member shared she tries to make people feel loved, welcomed and appreciated when they’re here, even if they never come back; another shared meeting a man who was from out of town and here just for that Sunday who she had a great conversation with at coffee hour; another shared experiences when we’re hosting receptions (after weddings or funerals) and taking care of our guests, many times we find them in the kitchen with us chatting and helping with the dishes; a number of parishioners have significant others/family members who only come to food events and they are always made to feel welcome.
Yoga at Grace was discussed as an example of something that was started as an outreach/evangelism offering at Grace. When it began a year ago it was attended by 14 parishioners. Attendance is now 5-6, with half of the attendees parishioners, the others guests from the community.
Regarding children, when currently have 14 children in Godly Play (up from 1 when Rev. Deb’s first Sunday). We have several youth who have aged out, so we have an age gap between 10-18 years old.
What needs to be done (or could be done better)?
There was discussion regarding survey responses around children, noise in church, children’s choir, etc. Part of it is generational. The conversation has two ends, educating the people making negative comments (differences in parenting, what we mean by welcoming all, etc.). The other half is educating parents about the fact that older folks can’t hear as well, they may not be able to hear the service. Middle ground is how to help both of those groups enjoy worship in the best way possible and accommodate both groups. This has been a conversation on the Worship and Liturgy Committee for two years. What we’ve done:
- We ring the bell three minutes before the service, signaling quiet in the nave
- Doors close at the beginning of the service, to filter out noise from the narthex
- Moved announcements to end of the service (mixed reaction) to eliminate the sense of a “break” at the Peace.
- Institute the child’s area in the back, and now have backpacks with coloring pages for families to take to their pew.
- Encouraging hard of hearing folks to not sit in the back (where the children usually are).
- Children are coming in from Godly Play, at the end of the Peace, which encourages a quiet entry.
- Retrained the acolytes.
This is also a growth issue, as more people start coming and we are no longer a family size church with maybe one child acting up, you now have a few and people don’t know each other as well and can be less understanding. People find they are happy with the growth but not necessarily certain aspects that come with growth.
What survey can help with is you’ve planned, done some things, and re-evaluate. What’s working what’s not working. Continue to recheck.
Closing Prayer and Adjournment. The meeting adjourned at 7:10 p.m.
Jennifer Sabroe, Clerk