“You are the salt of the earth ... and the light of the world.” Mt. 5:13,14
That may sound simple, but the truth is these things aren’t easy. They take practice. Look around on Facebook, on the news, even in churches: the predominant message of our culture says it is far better to be right, to be certain, to be first and best. Taken to their extremes, these values ultimately have a way of creating divisions and pushing others out. We’re not so sure that’s what God ever intended for humanity.
Salt & Light
A couple years ago, after St. Anne’s began to experience a new season of sustained growth, we started to wonder what it would be like to re-envision and renew the way we offer ourselves in healing, forgiveness, and love. Taking seriously Jesus’ admonition to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world,” we came up with the following series of specific initiatives, programs, and goals, all designed to help us stretch into new ways of learning, living, and sharing the healing, forgiveness, and love of God. We call it Salt & Light. Some parts are already accomplished; others are still in process. Join us and be a part.
Mission & Outreach
Mission is the sharing of God’s love and the building of life-changing relationships across any divide. That divide might be as far as the ocean, or as near as Highway 82. Sometimes it’s the barrier of a foreign language, and other times it’s the barrier of local poverty, race, or fear. Both near and far, St. Anne’s is called to reach out in mission, not because we are a “churchified” service organization, but because we shamelessly believe in the power of God’s love to reconcile all people.
- Cultivate and strengthen St. Anne’s local outreach ministries: St. Anne’s currently apportions less than half a percent of its budget to local outreach. By 2016, our budget will demonstrably reflect our love for the community by granting local outreach ministries (e.g. our Food Box Program) a higher priority. More importantly, by 2015 all parishioners will have been challenged to live into some level of ongoing local outreach as a matter of Christian practice and spiritual stewardship.
- Commit to annual mission trips for adults and youth: Mission trips create servant-leaders, destroy barriers, and change lives. Each year we will continue to foster our new relationship with the Church of Espíritu Santo in the Dominican Republic. We will also seek to provide our youth with an annual opportunity to experience mission in contexts that are physically safe, emotionally appropriate, and spiritually challenging.
Worship & Practices
The Sunday Eucharist is the hallmark of our common life at St. Anne’s. Above all else, it is what draws us together each week, grounds us in the mystery of God’s love, and teaches us how to live. However, there is much more to the Christian life than Sunday worship. To relegate our corporate and personal relationships with God just to Sunday mornings is like eating only one meal a week or sleeping just one night out of seven. Healthy churches and healthy Christians cultivate healthy spiritual practices.
- Establish a routine for daily common prayer: There once was a time when Episcopalians framed their day in prayer together, gathering each day for the services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. These days, most people have convinced themselves that their schedules are too full, and some go entire weeks without praying once. By 2014, we plan to establish a set routine for the daily offering of either Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer. Small, intimate, run by both clergy and laity alike: daily prayer is one of the jewels of the Anglican tradition and has the power to shape your life in unexpected ways.
- Read the Bible . . . the whole thing: No Christian—whether liberal or conservative, free-thinking or fundamentalist—should be ignorant of the Biblical story. Within the next three years, St. Anne’s will host a transformative, parish-wide opportunity to read and discuss the Good Book together in a year. (Heck, we may even invite other churches to join us!) And for those who can’t commit to a whole year, we’ll still offer other short-term Bible studies.
- Build community through small groups: Small groups are the lifeblood of a growing parish. Foyer groups, prayer groups, 20’s & 30’s, Daughters of the King, Bible studies . . . whatever your pleasure, we’ll encourage you to join in and practice the gift of Christian fellowship.
- Encourage year-round stewardship: Our life as a congregation requires the gifts, skills, talents, and resources of every single person. Over the next three years, we plan to move to a model of year-round stewardship, keeping us always mindful that we’re all in this together.
Spirituality for Everyone
Faith is a struggle. Prayer is not easy. We want to know God, but it’s hard to figure out how to start the journey. That’s why spirituality requires at least two things: a loving community and lots of practice.
- Establish St. Anne’s School for Spirituality: Develop an intentional, committed lay order for adult parishioners who wish to pursue spiritual development at its deepest level. This order will meet regularly, share a common rule of life, and be grounded in the spiritual practices of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who emphasized being a “contemplative in action.”
- Continue to expand our menu of opportunities for spiritual growth: Strengthen and empower our newly formed Christian Formation Commission to offer a wide variety of engaging opportunities for growth: Sunday Schools, special evening series, EfM, centering prayer, Lenten programs, conferences, workshops, and more.
- Uphold our youth and children’s programs: Our children and youth are not merely the future of the Church; they are a critical part of the Church today. We will strive to permanently fund the position of Assistant for Youth & Family Ministry—independent of Diocesan subsidy—by 2014. Additionally, all parishioners will be challenged to participate in some aspect of our youth & children’s programs at least once a year.
The growth we have experienced over the past three years has been a blessing. Our average Sunday attendance has risen each year. New families are joining. New babies are being baptized. New leaders are stepping up. People are hungry for the Good News we offer. It is wonderful. All this growth, however, has created challenges, some readily apparent, others less visible but no less important. 5 out of 10 Sundays, a new family of four has difficulty finding comfortable, contiguous pew space without having to sit right up front. Our current average nursery attendance is 22 children per Sunday, which takes us from blessedly full to dangerously full. Our children are holding Sunday School in offices because we’re out of classrooms. Adult classes are meeting in the sanctuary and chapel. And space on Wednesday nights is at an all-time premium, as we now have four groups meeting across the campus. To do the work God has given us to do in the coming years, we first have to make some room.
- Begin an additional Sunday service by Lent 2013: In Lent of 2013, we will begin offering more than one Sunday service. While the new service is likely to have its own distinct flavor—especially in terms of music, ceremonial, and intimacy—it will still uphold all the things we hold most dear at St. Anne’s. The point is not to make something strange and new, but simply to create more room for our growing church family.
- Expand existing education facilities: To do almost any of the work outlined on this page, we need the right facilities. At this point, we are drastically underserved by our current Education Building. The nursery is too small. Children’s classrooms are too few. Adult classrooms are non-existent. The offices are inhospitable and disjointed. There is no youth room anywhere. Our playground is aging and requires children to cross in front of cars. It is time—past time—to renovate and expand. To that end, the Vestry has appointed a Building Committee charged with exploring every option available. By early 2013, we anticipate completion of their feasibility study, publication of their plans, and the beginning of a significant parish-wide capital campaign. By mid 2014, we hope to be doing God’s work in our new expanded facilities.