When Love Leads to Growth
We never really set out to grow at St. Anne’s, but over the past several years, we surely have. How? Mostly because of you who already call St. Anne’s your spiritual home. When newcomers are asked why they decided to join St. Anne’s, the main reason is, “Because of the love I found here.” There are other reasons, too. Our worship is unique. Our message of healing, forgiveness, and grace is strong. Our dual commitment to the spirit and the intellect is a gift. But above all, God’s love is here, and that’s what people are looking for.
Our challenge has been managing and adapting to the growth God has sent us. To that end, we built our new Ministry Center, added clergy and staff, and are expanding what we do both within and beyond the parish. But as Fr. Lonnie and Sr. Warden Alan Peaslee have shared in their joint sermon sermon “Jesus Knocking,” it also means moving to two Sunday morning services. On August 23, 2015, we will make the move to the following schedule:
9:00 a.m. Worship
10:15 a.m. Sunday School & Fellowship
11:15 a.m. Worship
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why another service? We have room.
A. To you, yes. To a newcomer, no. When a church reaches 80% capacity, newcomers often don’t return. They feel there’s no room for them. Hard as it is to believe, St. Anne’s is and already has been over 80% full, on average, since 2009. Listen to Fr. Lonnie’s full explanation on this in his sermon “Growth in the Family Tree,”
Q. Are we really 80% full? Some Sundays my pew feels empty.
A. Yes, on average. We have 4,550 inches of pew space. Building code allows 18 inches per person, but that’s not realistic. (People cram for Christmas, Easter, weddings, and funerals, but not for Sundays.) Generally, folks need about 30 inches of space for personal space, pocket books, and good ol’ American girth. By that metric, St. Anne’s comfortably seats 151 people on a Sunday. 80% of that is 121. Our average attendance for last year was 163. So yes: about half the Sundays of the year, we’re at or over maximum comfort capacity.
Q. Is this only about attracting & accommodating newcomers?
A. Actually, no. It’s about the parish as a whole. It’s about moving to a size that can sustain all that we’ve accomplished with God in recent years. It’s about Sunday School teachers, and worship leaders, and foyer groups, and a critical mass for inviting others into all that we share. Our goal is not infinite growth, but growth to a sustainable place. The truth is, most churches function well when they have an average attendance of either 100 or 225, but the intermediate–where we are–is difficult and unsustainable. But ultimately, it’s about the idea that we have something beautiful to offer to people in our community, and offer it we should. Some people call that evangelism; we just call it being St. Anne’s.
Q. I thought we already had a second service at 5 p.m.?
A. We did. When we last had this conversation as a parish (three years ago), our solution was to create a Sunday evening service. Frankly, that was the “safe” option; no one really had to change from the 10 a.m., so no one did. The service was lovely, but at the end of two years it was averaging only about 5 people, including the clergy and musician. We need a different solution: one that is better connected to the activities and fellowship of Sunday mornings at St. Anne’s.
Q. Will we lose our intimacy when we go to two services?
A. Yes and no. It’s true we won’t all worship in the same room at the same time, but part of our planning will include creating a Sunday schedule that allows for overlap via Sunday School, coffee hour, etc. Frequent parish events, parties, and small groups will also keep us close. It’s worth noting, though, that when asked why some newcomers ultimately leave St. Anne’s after a brief time, the most common response is: “I needed more space. I loved the worship, the message, the theology, but St. Anne’s is such an extraverted place. I needed room to be quiet, to be me.” Providing a little more room for the more introverted among us–without losing our love for one another–is something of which we at St. Anne’s are certainly capable without losing the heart of who we are.
Q. How will the 9 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. differ?
A. In most respects the two services will be the same. Same readings, same prayers, same sermon. Both will have Communion and healing, as always. The main differences will be in music and ceremony.
The 9:00 service will have a full choir but will be slightly simpler in terms of ceremony. Fewer acolytes, shorter processions, no incense. (Think of it as the “non-smoking” service.) The 9:00 will always be contained to one hour.
The 11:15 service will be somewhat higher, meaning it will have more acolytes, regular use of incense, and a stronger emphasis on the ceremonial. 11:15 will still use congregational hymns during processions but will also include more specialized music provided by our gifted musicians. during Communion and healing.
Q. How will Sunday School & fellowship work?
A. Sunday School for all ages will take place 10:15-11:00 in the Ministry Center. Youth and children’s classes will meet upstairs; adult classes will meet both upstairs and downstairs. Class schedules and locations will be posted in the Ministry Center and printed in the bulletin. Parents, please ensure that your children arrive at and depart from their Sunday School classes on time. The Parish Hall will also be open 10:15-11:00 for fellowship for adults who choose not to participate in Sunday School.
Q. Which service is the “family” service?
A. They both are. While some churches place a greater emphasis on “family” at one service over another, we recognize that either of our two services can be a good fit for any given family. Nursery will be available at both. Initially, Godly Play will be available only at the 9:00 service, but that could change once we see where the need is. Acolytes will be used primarily at 11:15.
Q. Do we have the people-power for a second service?
A. Most likely. Keep in mind that one service is likely to be smaller than the other. Consider our Wednesday night Eucharist. It is a fully functioning service, but it only requires one priest and one Eucharistic Minister. We will be calling on heads of various worship ministries to help us with this planning.
Q. When will we move to two services?
A. Our goal is to start August 23, the week after Rally Sunday.
Q. What if I feel uneasy about all this?
A. That’s normal and expected, and you’re not alone. This is a significant change. Just remember two things. First, your questions and concerns need to be heard because they might help us think through something we would otherwise miss. Any input you have is welcome; contact David Fant, who is overseeing this process. Second, remember that we are not the first church ever to move to two Sunday services. (In fact, we are the only church in the Diocese over 104 that doesn’t have two services). If we keep the conversation about the main thing, which is love, the rest will surely figure itself out.