Vision and Future

Dear Servants,
Sunday, February 12th, we had our Annual Meeting as our by-laws require. We selected new vestry members: Ann Shower, Cynthia Stehouwer, Bob Doak, and Justin Smith. Please pray for each of these amazing members of our body as they take on positions of leadership. In addition, we approved by-law updates to include language regarding our statement of faith as a parish and our core purpose statement. I encourage all of you to visit our website and read our statement of faith under the “About Us” section. We heard from our Treasurer, Adrienne Boada about the financial condition of the congregation (full financials were sent to members via email), an update on our Building Fund (which is now over $300,000) from Bernie Daquila, and discussed our hopes of future facilities.
During the sermon on the 12th, I shared my vision for the future of Servants of Christ and my plans for facilitating that future by taking the remainder of my sabbatical that I cut short five years ago. For those that weren’t around back then or who have forgotten, a sabbatical is “a healthy and effective means of preventing burnout and of renewing and enhancing a professional’s capabilities for dealing effectively with problems facing those who need help. […T]he overall goal is rest and renewal, not rigid adherence to a prescribed plan of action.” A sabbatical “might involve study, travel, writing or some combination of all three, blended with a good measure of relaxation and family time.” (source: Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Clergy Compensation Guide)
I have discussed with the Vestry and have their support to take ten weeks starting after Easter for my sabbatical. In my absence, Fr. James Manley will be leading our staff and serving as the primary preacher. Fr. Michael La Cagnina will be leading pastoral care with Fr. James and Fr. Myron serving in support as available. Ethan Stonerook, our new senior warden, will lead our Vestry meetings.
During my sabbatical, I will begin a Doctoral program from Trinity School for Ministry. I believe this degree will give me more tools and preparation for leading Servants of Christ in the future.
Another part my vision for the future of Servants that I shared on the 12th is a goal to begin to look for and hire a second full-time priest to serve our parish. The reality is that while God has called me to remain in Gainesville for the foreseeable future, we should remember that “every pastor is an interim pastor” – a fact of which I was reminded in Next, a book Bishop Neil Lebhar had all the clergy read. (Next: Pastoral Success That Works, Vanderbloemen and Bird, Baker Books, 2014)
Because most churches do not spend time planning for this fact, they find themselves losing valuable momentum in the work God has called them to accomplish when a pastor leaves. For this reason, Bishop Neil has asked that every parish submit a succession plan to him by Easter. I am grateful for the accountability of reading this book. As I began to work with the Vestry on succession, I sensed a vision for cultivating a young priest who might one day succeed me as rector of Servants of Christ. This may be years down the road, but the reality is now is the time to think about it.
The timing of my sabbatical and mentioning succession might seem to some to be connected, but I assure you they are not. Some members of the congregation have asked me privately if I’m trying to tell the congregation I am planning to leave. No, that is not at all my plan. I do think the time has come to plan for the future of Servants of Christ, even while we are still waiting for our permanent facility. The plan our Vestry is developing would have provisions for sudden need for succession but anticipates a gradual process. Once the plan is finalized and approved by our Bishop, we will make the plan available to members.
Friends, God is establishing our congregation as a “city set on a hill” and a light in the darkness of our world. I am so thankful for each of you who make up the body of Servants of Christ. Enjoy the remainder of the season of Epiphany, Lent is coming!
Onward and Upward,
Alex +

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