Counting some of the Gifts of the Spirit

Holy Spirit Window, All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church
Holy Spirit Window, All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church

Following the custom of the parish, the Third Sunday of May (The Day of Pentecost, 2013) is used as the day for the Annual Meeting of the congregation and the sermon takes the form of the Rector’s Annual Report.

Today is the Day of Pentecost. But in this parish, it is also the third Sunday in May, which means that we hold our annual parish meeting after the 11 a.m. Mass.  (Lunch is served, news is shared, elections are held, so please stay.)  Though the official meeting happens in a little while, today I’m continuing an old All Souls custom by offering my annual report in the form of a sermon. The Holy Spirit was busy with us in 2012.

The Spirit might be mysterious, but the activity of the Spirit can be measured.
We’ve continued to raise our profile in the neighborhood, the diocese, and the city.   We had a booth or table at the Pride Festival downtown, Adams Morgan Day, and Cleveland Park Day. We added 25 official members this year, though we have more than that who are now attending.  (And since you’ll ask, we only lost 3 people this year through death, relocation, or moving a church closer to their home.)  So yes, we are a growing parish.  We reported 382 active baptized members at the end of 2012, but we also have another 200 or so who attend regularly and contribute in some way to the life of the parish.  Our total average Sunday attendance in 2012 was 161 people (which combines the 8:30 and 11 am Masses).  You may be interested in knowing that 107 Sunday Eucharists were celebrated, 122 weekday Eucharists, and we gathered for the Daily Office (usually Morning Prayer) 211 times.  Nine marriages were celebrated in 2011 and four baptisms.

In an uncertain economy, we have nonetheless gone up in our maintenance of this building.  Because of the leadership of Dale Lewis and Jeff Wells, with the volunteer help of many—especially Chris Broad.  and your generous giving, we don’t have much “deferred maintenance.” We have a lot of “present” maintenance because we are busy maintaining stone, glass, shingles, plumbing, and electrical systems. At the end of 2012, Arlin Winefordner asked if he might retire from leading our Garden Guild and spend a little more time on his own yard and figuring out what retirement might look like.  We allowed him to step back quietly, but we are enormously grateful for all his help and leadership.

The Spirit comforts in the midst of difficulty.
There were not many deaths  in the immediate parish last year, but many of you have lost family members, neighbors, and coworkers.  Among our those we mourned were longtime members Nancy Charleton and  Suzanne Eyman.  May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

The Holy Spirit sometimes provokes change.
After Jeff Workman’s death in 2011, a loss we remember especially today as a new anthem is heard in his memory, our choir endured a number of interim musicians.  With a good search and a huge burst of the Holy Spirit, we called Ben Hutchens in April of 2012 and our music making has continued to expand, improve, amaze, and bedazzle.

In late summer we had a hard conversation with our parish administrator, and while we will always be grateful for his laughter, his wisdom, and his pastoral skills, we knew we needed different support and leadership in the office in order to move forward.  Mary Beth Howard began in September and has been a great gift to us.

The Holy Spirit has deepened us.
Our Sunday school has struggled with awkward space, children of different ages and schedules, and busy families.  But thanks to Marcia Anderson and Stefanie Vestal, with huge help from Ike Brannon, and other parents who have helped teach, we’ve carried on.

Our Adult Christian formation has continued to deepen us and encourage us to focus inward so that we might be better outward.  We’ve had a number of study series with an especially thoughtful Lenten series led by a whole group of people.  This moves us forward in sharing leadership and teaching and we watched as the Holy Spirit encouraged new gifts among our members.  We watch for more.

Especially with the energy of Wes Cook, Jen Davis, Evelyn Duffy and others, the young adults have forged ahead, gotten together with regular brunches, and continue to try to figure out how to be All Souls for the young.

Personally, with your encouragement and the support of the Bishop, I’ve continued my work in the Doctor of Ministry program at Virginia Theological Seminary and completed coursework last summer.  I began and have completed my thesis project (based on our St. Francis stained glass windows) in 2013, so now I’ve got until next spring to write up the thesis, which I prefer to think of as a “book report and reflection paper.”  (It’s less scary that way.)

The Doctor of Ministry is in the area of congregational development, so I continue to learn from books and especially from you all as we resist the technical or “quick” fixes to problems that are more systemic and call for a more adaptive approach.

The Spirit Got us busy with building
In 2012 we completed our visioning, conducted a thorough feasibility study, fine-tuned plans, and began a capital campaign that has been successful not so much beyond our wildest dreams, but for those of us who dream (empowered by the Spirit), the capital campaign is meeting our dreams.  We knew, with the Spirit’s help, we could put the money together to build a small addition with an elevator and accessible restrooms, but it has been enormously gratifying to watch the Spirit uncover new gifts, new energy, new passion, new leadership.

The Spirit moves in community.
And it’s one that accurately describes how so much of our ministry happens.  We could not have done all that we did this year without a wonderful Vestry.  And we especially thank Bob Publicover,  who has completed his term and will rotate off vestry.  But there’s a lot you don’t see.  Our weekday volunteers help us do the work of a parish three times our size.  Clark Ball, Ford Chinworth, Barry Huber, and Terry Horan.  The archives room is a busy place under the guidance of Marko Zladitch along with volunteers Jeanette Studley, Maggi Tomicello, and Sandra Welch.  The choir has been resilient, resourceful, and has helped us through an unusual year, and Ben has gotten the choir room organized with extra help from Jennifer Johnston, Will Stewart, and Peter Laugesan.

We were blessed by the support of our seminarian Brenda Sol and Kat Bethell graciously chaired Brenda’s parish committee and we welcomed Tyler Doherty and thank Jennifer Crumlish for chairing his committee.  On Sundays, we’ve continued to enjoy the help of Father Christopher Worthley.  Christopher balances a demanding job with significant international travel with his sense of vocation and calling not just to hang out in a church here or there, but to make his church home with us.  And we have been grateful for the new energy and witness of Mother Elizabeth Orens.  We are grateful.

Coordinated by Bill Miller, our healing ministers have added prayers and healing touch.  Our acolytes, under  Ed Perlman, continue to lead us with care and precision.  Butch Bradburn keeps us going with a team of ushers.  We have greeters and bell ringers.  Though some of our parish are aging and we don’t always respond as creatively or quickly as we might like, our Wise and Mature luncheons have continued with great popularity, enormous thanks to Mark Hoffman for coordinating.  The Men of the Church continue to meet for fellowship and friendship, and many thanks to those who add energy and humor to that effort. And stay tuned—Mother Orens has some ideas for the Women of the Church.

The Spirit is both leading us and pushing us.
Outreach and Evangelism has increased, even as we argue and pray and struggle to re-define those words in ways that ring true to Jesus Christ and made sense for us.

We’ve continued to empower and send people out from this parish.  Christ House, Habitat for Humanity, and volunteers with some of the ministries support by funds from our Endowment mission grants.  Parishioners serve on the boards and as liaisons.  And outreach has included working on the Anacostia River, sponsoring a THC in-house fundraiser, continuing to work with Habitat for Humanity, and many others.

We are blessed with an endowment from which we make mission grants of up to five percent of the total fund.  In 2012, mission grants from the All Souls Endowment allowed us to extra support to programs in our own parish in the amount of $15,000.  We gave grants of $46,500 to ministries in Washington, DC and $28,000 to international mission efforts. Volunteers and/or resources went to Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, South Africa, Jerusalem and the West Bank.  I want to thank the members of the Endowment Board for their care and faithful stewardship, and especially for their extra work with the Vestry as we move through All Souls Forward.

A part of moving out of ourselves has included opening our doors for more people and groups.  Regular meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous continue three times a week, a new Debtors Anonymous Meeting takes place here, the farmer’s market continues May through November in our parking lot, we have become the regular meeting location for the annual prayer breakfast for the DC Recovery Community Alliance, the Federation of Citizens Organizations in the District of Columbia, People Animals Love, and the a capella singing group, The Capital Hearings.

Towards the future.
We continue to help prepare new leaders for the church.  The Reverend Brenda Sol and Shawn Strout were ordained as priests and are serving parishes.   Lisa Zaina graduates this weekend from Yale Divinity School and will serve a parish in New Canaan, Connecticut.

Various ministries like All Souls are Green, the Garden Guild, the Sunday school, the communications team, and many others are preparing us for the future.

We’re calling our plan for accessibility, “All Souls Forward: Living up to our Name,” and you will be hearing a whole lot more about that in the coming year.

The Gospel for today includes a wonderful conversation between Jesus and Philip.  Philip wants to see God, as though that vision will be enough to sustain him for ever.  Jesus says, “You want to see God?”  “Look closely at what I do, what I say, how I love… you’ll see God.  And furthermore, with the Holy Spirit, you can do everything I do and even greater works than these.”  2012 was a good and strong year for us, and 2013 has begun with even more energy and faith.  Pentecost is a good day to give thanks and also to get ready—the Spirit is just getting started with us.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen

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