O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
In the + Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Because Wednesday was the Fourth of July, I thought I'd look back to the founding of our country. At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin is alleged to have said, "We must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately."
It was a desperate time, and the fledgling United States was risking everything on the states uniting behind a common cause - life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The signers themselves were risking the punishment for treason by declaring independence from England's colonial power.
Not being an historian, I wonder whether it was idealism, the pressure of outside circumstance, or simply the realization that everyone was needed that led to focussing on the common good and the need for interdependence and inter-reliability.
Something similar happened in Israel at the time of David, as we heard in the first reading: all the tribes of Israel came to David and said "Look, we are your bone and your flesh.
"The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be the shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel...
"So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel."
David made a covenant – a sacred promise that binds each party together, each committed to the other - with the people of Israel, and they anointed him. He promised to be their king, protect them and keep them; in return, they accepted his rule and anointed him as their consent to be governed by him.
A nice story. One that dovetails with our own story in this country: “no rule without the consent of the governed”. We could leave things there and be content.
But we can’t.
Enter Paul, like a thorn in our side, to keep us honest and to keep us focused on who we are, what it means to be a community, and, of all things, not to acknowledge our strengths, but our weaknesses.
He writes: “But the Lord said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
2,000 years after Paul wrote them, his words are directed to us. We hear them and think “What?”
But here’s the thing: if we look at the gospel passage, Jesus sends the disciples out two by two. “He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.”
In other words, we don’t need a lot of resources. In fact, sometimes they just get in the way. Martin Smith, author and former member of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, told me about his first day at St. Christopher’s Hospice in England as a seminarian. He told me of the Matron’s instructions to him on his first day: “Mr. Smith, behind that curtain is Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones is dying. Go sit with him and keep him company.”
Martin had nothing but whatever experience he had at the time and an open heart. He went. And sat. And kept faith with a dying man he’d never met before in one of the most intimate moments of anyone’s life.
All of this points to a way of being. From King David, the way of being is covenantal – each party making a sacred commitment to the other. From this part of St. Paul’s writing, being means relying on God’s grace and being able to admit one’s weakness, not as a defect, but as a strength. Jesus sends us out, two by two, just as we are, with only a few basic essentials.
We are sufficient in who we are: in our strength and in our weakness; called by God, and beloved of Christ, each of us is capable and worthy of love. Each of us can feel hurt, overlooked, not wanted, fragile, or ashamed.
But each of us can love, support, befriend, accompany, and provide hope for another.
It is into this fellowship of authenticity that we are called, my sisters and brothers; into this community that relies and depends on each other that makes us a vibrant community of faith and that serves as an example and an inspiration to the world.
The Rule of the Society of St. John the Evangelist’s chapter on Life in Community states that “We are given to one another by Christ and he calls us to accept one another as we are. By abiding in him we can unite in a mutual love that goes deeper than personal attraction. Mutual acceptance and love call us to value our differences of background, temperament, gifts, personality and style. Only when we recognize them as sources of vitality are we able to let go of competitiveness and jealousy.”
What would it take, beloved of God, for each of us to take one step toward abiding in Christ and strengthening the bond that connects us to each other?
What are you willing to risk to go deeper? What strength or vulnerability would you share with Christ – and through Christ, be willing to move more fully into being ‘united to one another with pure affection’, as the Collect puts it?
St. Peter’s is many things to many people. At our core, we are centered in the person of Jesus Christ. As the Israelites centered around King David, as the Signers of the Declaration put the common good above self-interest, as Paul lived into God’s grace, as Jesus sent the disciples as they were, so can we, in our time, open our hearts to God and to each other. And accept our selves and each other for who we are in mutual appreciation and in mutual love.
That door is open. I am ready to go through it with you as your priest. Will you go through it with me and with each other?
 Collect for 7th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9
 2 Samuel 5:2b-3.
 2 Cor 12:9-10.
 Mark 6:8-9.
 SSJE Rule of Life, Chapter 5, “The Challenges of Life in Community”.
Fr. Harding’s acceptance, Lucy G. Moses Award for excellence in historic preservation from the New York Landmarks Conservancy
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Chelsea – 346 West 20th Street, Manhattan
St. Peter’s Church opened in 1836, on land that writer Clement Clarke Moore conveyed to the vestry. Moore’s family owned much of the land that became Chelsea, and he served as a church Warden for many years. St. Peter’s was one of the earliest English-parish Country Gothic churches in the U.S., and inspired builders of many other religious properties.
By the late 20th century, the charming stone building faced major challenges: a deteriorating structure and a dwindling congregation with limited resources. A 1990s conditions survey led to restoration of the clock tower and recommended roof replacement, but the Church could not afford it. The failing roof allowed leaks to infiltrate the walls and interior for nearly 25 years.
Facing a crisis, energetic new leadership initiated a successful campaign to fund urgent rebuilding of corner piers above the roof. This work involved numbering all stones and documenting their location, before disassembly. The rebuilding installed internal stainless steel rods to tie stones together. And finally, the aged roof and drainage system were replaced. With the building envelope secured, the vestry can now take on work to restore the historic interior.
The Church of St. Peter’s, Chelsea - Reverend Stephen Harding
Old Structures Engineering PC - Marie Ennis
Plan B Engineering - John McErlean
Seaboard Weatherproofing & Restoration - Jack Slowik
West New York Restoration - Kevin Crawford
William Stivale, Building Conservator - William Stivale
FR. HARDING'S ACCEPTANCE:
I would like to thank the New York Landmarks Conservancy for this award and for your support of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Chelsea over so many years. It really does mean a great deal to us.
This has been a team effort, and we would not have received this award without each one of our donors, the Diocese of New York, William Stivale, our Building Conservator and Marie Ennis, our Engineer who nominated us for the award, the craftsmen and construction companies who did the work, our Vestry, our parishioners, our staff, Chelsea Community Church, and our neighbors.
This award is wonderful. But we’re not done yet. I will use this award as inspiration to keep going.
On behalf of all the people that use St. Peter’s and the Rectory, I thank each one of you for your participation and for your support of the restoration of St. Peter’s.
Thank you so much.
The Reverend Stephen Harding
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Good Friday – 2018.
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Chelsea, NYC.
(preached by the. Rev. Dr. Storm Swain, Associate Priest.)
[begins without an opening prayer]
Here we are again.
In a moment we will be at the foot of Cross,
in the midst of the story that we know so well
and yet need to hear again and again.
We hear it every Sunday,
sanctified and sanitized from the horror,
that somehow on this day, we hear anew.
As we step into the story Jesus is being executed.
It is not fast, it is not pretty;
It is body, blood, breath.
He has been arrested; his due process, seemingly like all the others, guilty until proven innocent, the authorities washing their hands of any complicity in systems of oppression, racism, religious extremism, and abuse of power.
He has been passed over and passed on, his innocence less important the popularity and position of those in power.
He has been stripped and paraded almost naked in front of voyeuristic others like any other victim of sexual abuse.
He has been whipped, tortured, the blood that drips from his head, his back , is enough to fill a cup.
He has been lain down and nailed to a cross, the torn flesh on his back pressing into the hard wood, nails tearing the flesh of his hands and feet, as each strike of the hammer rings out like a shot in the night.
As he hangs there, the weight of his body drawing him down, so his chest struggles to rise and fall, he can’t breathe.
The one that we have followed,
this simple Jewish teacher, preacher, reacher,
the one we have listened to, the one who has listened to us,
laid his hands on us for healing,
the one who has called us to him, no matter our age, or ability, gender expression, race, sexual orientation,
the one who has crossed the social borders, and taken down the walls between us,
the one for whom we have flooded the streets, lifted our hands, open our ears,
the one who open our hearts, opened our minds, filled our bellies,
the one who has even raised Lazarus from the dead,
Is he Mad?
He could have stopped this.
He, who has power to turn the world upside down,
why didn’t he stop this
We’ve heard the stories,
some have even started to write them down,
we’ve spoken to those who have seen the reality,
of water, wine, wind, and word attuned to his command.
Or is he really Mad?
Was he just imagining it all?
The Father that spoke to him?
The Holy One that spoke to us in his words?
Was it all imagination, a fantasy, delusion, hallucination?
Yet we’ve seen the power, the ultimate affront to life, that walked out of the tomb over a week ago.
And this week he has broken bread yet again with his beloved friend Lazarus, who does not smell of death, even as he has a far away look in his eyes.
If he had the power to turn that around,
why didn’t he take the power to turn this around?
Or is he Bad as they said?
Is the Victim really the Persecutor
Is he the one that broke our laws?
The one who will make us unclean, impure, impoverished
by his outrageous inclusivity?
by his attention to those that are “them” and not “us”?
by his turning over the tables of profit and privilege?
by his negating the structures of religious power and telling us that God is a close as opening our mouths in prayer, and eyes to others?
by his talk of a Kingdom that we can’t even see?
by his offensive claims that he and the Divine are one?
Or is he telling the truth?
Is this what he meant ?
It doesn’t make sense given his power.
It doesn’t make sense when we think of power, as power-over;
It only makes sense as power-for, power for others, power for us;
power that is so powerful, it is willing to give up power-over,
power-in-weakness, power-in-solidarity, power-in letting go of power,
experiencing the worst of what we can do, be, feel;
forsaking power, forsaking certainty, forsaking life, being forsaken?
We weren’t expecting this when he said he will be raised up and draw all people to himself?
All people, not just us, but those who aren’t even here:
those who have run away, those who are too scared to be on the streets, on the front lines, those who have denied, those who have stripped, and hammered, and don’t understand;
those who haven’t seen, haven’t cared, haven’t even heard yet.
Them and us. All people.
And here he is, all people, and one man.
Somehow even in the horror, we hear echoes of the Holy.
In the silence we hear the ‘still, small voice,’ that is louder than time, than death, than the impossible, than all that would silence it over the centuries,
and we are called again to lift our minds, lift our hearts, and lift our lives to the Cross.
We, here, know the story so well,
Is there anything new to learn from it,
anything that can change us again and again as we walk away from this place?
How do we, with the named and unnamed courageous women that followed, the Marys, with John, his beloved, with Mary, his mother, whose grief was stabling her heart, with the those in uniform who were doing what was asked of them, how do we see anew, and be seen?
If we see with the eyes of Jesus, we will see that we aren’t the only ones gathering at the foot of the Cross, we will know that he wasn’t the only one hanging there. There are those on his right and left - others being executed, deemed to be disposable. Others who are perpetrators of crimes that those in power see as worthy of death, or victims of a justice system that privileges the powerful.
There are other families gathering in grief, in horror, helpless and hopeless, in the face of death that they have no control over.
Jesus calls us to not just look at him, but to look where he looks and see what he sees.
Jesus sees, and Jesus dies.
Here the text invites us into the silence when the world stands still.
Is the silence as long as the six minutes and twenty seconds that Emma Gonzalez stood in front of the crowd?
Is the silence as long as the six minutes and 20 seconds that it look to shoot seventeen young people in Parkland?
Is the silence as loud as the ringing in the ears of those other who heard the shots ring out?
Was the crowd as big as those who gathered last week to say that power needs to be power for rather than power over, that the freedom to live needs to be privileged over the freedom to be armed with weapons that are seen as overkill when used on animals, but entitlement when used on humans?
Were the nails as cheap as the bullets used to execute Alton Sterling, as cheap as those that shot 17 year-old Courtlin Arrington, shot to death at her Alabama School, whose name we only know because it was on the lips of eleven year-old Naomi Wadler, as cheap as those that killed Stephon Alonzo Clark, shot do death in his grandparents backyard, armed with an i-Phone?
I brought these nails three years ago, cheap and easy to get. [thrown down on the pavement]
I brought these bullets, three days ago, cheap and easy to get. [thrown down on the pavement]
17 bullets; $7.98.
These deaths, this death take us to the foot of the cross, out into the world, and back again.
When the stripped, shamed, tortured, crucified Jesus dies, those on his right and left are not yet dead.
In the face of religious sensibilities that would not have real reminders of death hanging around during a holy festival, the bodies were to be removed from the crosses.
When Jesus is removed, he is dead already. This is not the fate of those on his right and left. It is the fate of those in uniform to actively extinguish their lives. It is the fate of these companions on the cross, to have their legs broken, so they bleed out, and die.
Jesus descends to the dead and he has company, those on his right and left, …Alton, Courtlin, Stephon, the 17, the Sandyhook 26, Pulse, and all those named and unnamed.
This body is broken, his blood is poured out, and he is joined by company, ‘angels, and archangels, and all the company of heaven,’ all those who have descended to the dead.
And it seems like God has forsaken the world. It seems like the powers win, that power-over always has the last word.
The Word is silenced. In this moment Love does not win? Love dies,
and there is no Amen.
© Storm K. Swain, 2018.
This is something new for me and for St. Peter's Chelsea. I'm trying to work out how we can broadcast live events and stream them to our website. Any suggestions would be appreciated! In the meantime, stay safe in this storm.
God bless you,
I am a man of peace. I believe in respecting the dignity of every human being and I seek the presence of the Divine in everyone. I was taught by my grandfather, a Brigadier General and career Army officer, that 'You never point a gun at someone unless you're going to shoot. And you never shoot unless you shoot to kill.'
I cannot see the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School; Aurora, Colorado; Emanuel AME Church; and the ongoing murders of innocent people as anything but domestic terrorism. It is time for this evil of domestic terrorism to be exorcised from our country and our culture.
Shame on our elected officials for their failure to provide public safety to our students and citizens; shame on the NRA for being complicit in domestic terrorism through their implacable stance against anything they believe limits their right to bear arms and for forgetting that 'rights' have responsibilities and obligations; shame on us as Church for not doing more to end this violence.
I am determined to work to reduce gun violence in the United States. It is time for this insanity to end.
June 19, 2015
My Sisters and Brothers -
The shooting inside Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina appears to combine two of our country's ugliest realities: racism and gun violence. The intentional taking of another's life leaves behind it a residue of disturbed and violent energy at its site; beyond the shock of violence and death, the victims' families must deal with the inescapable and incomprehensible 'why' from within a void of absence, grief, and loss. That eight people were killed inside Emanuel AME Church during bible study and prayer speaks to the openness and vulnerability of 'the church' and violates our sense of sacredness and safety.
The murders of nine people involved with Emanuael AME Church were brought close to home when my friend and Storm's colleague, Matthew O'Rear, posted on facebook, asking for prayers for his classmate, Clem Pinkney, who had been killed in this shooting. Our response as individuals and church is to pray for those killed and for their families. And as hard as it may be, to pray for Dylann Roof and his family. But we cannot stop with prayer and consider our work done.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." Our country, with regard to racism and gun violence, needs restructuring. The list of those killed by gun violence, from Columbine to Virginia Tech, to Aurora, Colorado, to Sandy Hook Elementary School, to Emanuel AME Church, is too long. I believe that we, as St. Peter's and as 'the church' have a responsibility to speak out and to take action that will help find a way to regulate guns and to live out the promise we made in our Baptismal Covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons, and to respect the dignity of every human being.
Of your charity, please pray for those who were killed: the Rev'd Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, the Rev'd Daniel Simmons Sr, and the Rev'd DePayne Doctor. Please pray for their families, the clergy and congregation of Emanuel AME Church, Dylann Roof and his family, and that we, through our prayers, words, and deeds, may be a voice and a presence for good.
As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos. (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, 1956)*
June 12, 2015
My Sisters and Brothers -
This week was a bit of a whirlwind that started with the Vestry retreat last Saturday, included a day trip to Los Angeles on Monday to meet with a member of our Advisory Committee, meeting with members of our Advisory Committee on Tuesday and Thursday, and going over the contractors' initial bids to restore the roof with Bill Stivale and the contractors yesterday.
Throughout this week I have been thinking a great deal about purpose. Travelling to Los Angeles on Monday and briefly being in a different city gave me a wider perspective and helped me think about the purpose of my life and of our life together. My high school's founder, John Phillips, wrote that "goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous, and that both united form the noblest character, and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind". He held that the most important thing that the faculty could do for their students was "to learn them the great end and real business of living."
I believe that everything we do at St. Peter's reflects our belief in a purpose greater than our selves. We come to church for connection, solace, and renewal, but also to be useful to humanity through our programs of service and through our lives: that the great end and real business of our living at St. Peter's is to care for others through our common life in Christ.
These thoughts started at last Saturday's Vestry retreat, where, after discussion of St. Peter's Mission, the Vestry approved the following Vision and Mission statements:
Our Vision for St. Peter’s is to be a place where anyone in Chelsea or beyond can come and feel welcome, whether for program, spiritual or religious connection, or simply to read in our garden.
Our Mission for the next five years is to position St. Peter’s as a neighborhood church in Chelsea with balance between religious services, a neighborhood center for ideas and programs, and living out our wider mission to the world through social action.
These statements are the result of the work that we did last Fall (see the summaries of our conversations on mission below), the state and scope of the restoration project, and our call to serve our community and neighborhood. The Vestry has decided to begin by putting our efforts into the following four programs. Please let me or a Vestry member know which program you would like to help with:
The Food Pantry: We pack and distribute 22,000-plus bags of food each year. We would like to look at what we’re doing and how we do it, as well as to develop additional funding for our program.
Fulton Houses: We would like to establish an appropriate presence in the Fulton Houses through a series of informational meetings, with the possibility of developing a weekly Eucharist there.
St. Peter’s Community Open House: We are planning to host a reception for all of the groups that use our space so that they can meet each other and the congregation. This open house is scheduled for September 15, 2015.
Events: We are planning a lecture and a music series for next Fall and Spring as a means of serving our neighborhood. We need help in planning events, including our Holiday Fair on December 5th, 2015.
With the adoption of the new Vision and Mission statements, I feel as though something has become unblocked and that we now have a renewed sense of purpose: to be a neighborhood church for our community. In this context, our purpose in restoring the church building and rectory are not simply to restore them, but to restore them so that we can serve our neighborhood by having services and programs in them.
Here are the summaries of our conversations on Mission:
Session #1 Summaries: Who are we in God and who is God in us?
We are seekers who are drawn by grace to a common source, a common well, and in this sense, we are on a pilgrimage, a journey. We are diverse in so many ways: history, culture, class, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation. Each of us brings to the well our particular talents, resources, and a network of relationships. We have a “golden rule” that we aspire to keep. We come to this common source as a community gathering at St. Peter’s in Chelsea, at this moment in time seeking healing, wholeness, connection, and to be renewed, refreshed, fed and nourished. We come to the well, but it is God who draws us there; it is God who calls us there; God who moves us; God, who is the source, the wellspring, and the water.
We are a community of healers and seekers on a pilgrimage to and with God, moved by God’s grace. We choose to live by the “Golden Rule”. We also value relationships and view them as a way to connect with God, help others connect with God, and cultivate a spirit of grace within our own community. There is also a deeply rooted pain and fear of vulnerability that blocks us from seeking who God is in us stemming from feelings of unworthiness and shame. Overall, we focused on the importance of grace and our journey to the well (source of God).
Session #2 Summary: What is Mission?
Mission is of God. It is a dynamic process that resides within the Trinity and gushes up and over into creation. It is not external to creation but always present, leading us to see goodness in the midst of chaos, to embrace and be open to diversity. Each person has a spirit, talents, and we come together to share them, to share each one’s particular resources with those of others. God’s long-term Mission goal for humanity and all creation is that same oneness in diversity that is the Trinity.
Session #3 Summary: Why Do We Do Mission?
We do mission to commune with God and the Trinity. Our mission with a little “m” connects us to each other and the source of living water in a circle of giving and receiving where grace and love flows through and out of all the members. We become like little wells of living water ourselves (God in us). It is simple, uncomplicated, and empowering. This translates into action through compassion, understanding, mindfulness, sharing and encouragement as we grow together and outward as God instructed us to do. Thus, we also become more human and who we are in God.
We do mission because it is the way we metamorphose into a community, toward the unity of God’s larger Mission.
Session #4 Summary: Who Are Our Neighbors?
The neighborhood defined by our parish boundaries is one in transition, in which a population that is diverse in terms of race, class, sexual orientation, age, and social status seeks to live together. There is some tension, division and even hidden communities. But while the general sense of “neighborhood” has diminished, small communities continue to congregate in public spaces throughout Chelsea in lively pools of life. Yet, these micro communities seem to have no connection or communication with one another. In the previous session, we talked about the “living water” that flows through an infinite circle of giving and receiving in relationship. So how do we extend that circle with our disparate neighbors in Chelsea? And how do we extend it with our neighbors beyond Chelsea as we seek to understand and act on our connections with them?
Session #5 Summary: What Are Our Gifts and Talents?
The plethora of skills we individually bring to the table can help us with a multitude of projects to serve our community. There is a willingness to serve that is simply seeking out leadership. Providing a space with opportunities for people to participate and share their skills should be a vital part of our mission, but also how we can help each other grow. We seek to do this in a way that is inclusive, hospitable, and thoughtful. As Canon Jeanne Person revealed during the service, our gifts and skills are God’s gift to us, but our use and cultivation of these gifts are how we serve Him. How can we foster a culture where people feel comfortable to identify, explore and employ their gifts and skills? What kinds of projects could use our skills?
Session #6 Summary: St. Peter’s Food Pantry
St. Peter’s has been operating a food pantry for food-insecure individuals and families for many years, seeking to imitate Christ by sharing what we have with those who have less. Lately, as need has increased, access to food has decreased. Some neighborhood food pantries have closed altogether, and our church’s financial resources for our food pantry are diminishing. The ministry has reached a turning point. Although no consensus emerged on a way forward, several ideas were raised: Limit the number of people we serve; commit as a parish to raise awareness and resources to meet the growing need; ally with other houses of worship in the area to work together to meet the needs.
June 5, 2015
My Sisters and Brothers -
One of the questions that I keep asking myself is 'where is the presence of the Divine in all that I am doing?' At times, the answer is hidden; at other times, the answer is that we are restoring our buildings and rebuilding our Church. With Bill Stivale and Marie Ennis (our Building Conservator and Structural Engineer)'s help, I am seeing the skill and craft of the original builders, who built a roof that has lasted 184 years. With the help of each of you, we are rebuilding our Parish and our Church for our time and the future. Together we are figuring out who we are, what our neighborhood needs, and how to be a contemporary Church that is connected and part of our neighborhood. Our restoration of the buildings and re-building the Parish are the same project, and I am glad that you are part of it.
We have some new web pages as we work to improve our website as well. These are intended to be real time posts and updates about what's going on in the construction, fundraising, and Mission areas. You can visit them at www.st-peters-blog.org - and photos of the work being done are also on our Facebook page, stpeterschelsea. Thank you Joe, Keith, and Jen for your help in making this happen!
As we go forward together, I am providing the links to two articles on Mission that I'd like everyone in the Parish to read and to be thinking about: http://www.religionnews.com/2015/06/02/farewell-column-plea-christian-congregations-look-outward-commentary/ and http://livingchurch.org/covenant/?p=5540. Note that the data that show that parishes with a clearly defined mission tend to grow and that multiple follow ups after an initial church visit are important.
The Vestry has received these articles and will be discussing them in the context of rebuilding the Parish at the Vestry retreat tomorrow at the Church of the Ascension.
The most recent edition of 'The Living Church' arrived earlier this week. I read Victoria Heard's article on '6 characteristics of growing churches' and want to share it with the parish and with you (http://livingchurch.org/covenant/?p=5540).
Her characteristics are mission, children participate in the liturgy, Sunday school, a culture of learning for adults, hospitality that counts, and adding a service with sound. The Vestry will be discussing all of these characteristics at the Vestry meeting this Saturday, and I encourage you to think about how we are/can improve these characteristics at St. Peter's and to share your thoughts with me and any member of the Vestry. (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)
The Rev'd Stephen Harding
St.Peter's Church, Chelsea
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