Monday, August 06, 2007

Sand, Sea, Sky and Sacrament!

Sylwia Kapuscinski for The New York Times

Today's New York Times carried this photo illustrating the article "Sand, Sea, Sky and an Invitation to Worship" about the Saturday services held by Trinity, Asbury Park NJ on the beach during the summer.

Loved the piece in the paper this morning ... and then I checked my email during lunch and found this great "back story" from a member of the parish profile committee which I share with gratitude -- and permission! -- on this lovely August Monday:

We knew what we wanted and we knew we wanted to grow. We called a marvelous priest, David Stout, who at the time was serving on the staff of St. Bartholomew's in New York City. As most of you know, under Bill Tully's outstanding leadership, St. Bartholomew's has gone from moribund to vibrant.

And so, in two years time, the average Sunday attendance at Trinity has tripled. How? Well, obviously the rector deserves a lot of credit and we had friendly folks who really did want to grow. We had leaders who had no problem sharing leadership tasks with new people. Although we have a partnered gay rector, the largest percentage increases in membership have been among those over 65 and African Americans. Indeed, the percentage of gays and lesbians in the congregation has declined, although our numbers have also greatly increased.

We went from having one priest to having three, plus a deacon, plus a Presbyterian minister and a Roman Catholic priest assisting. All but the rector are non-stipendiary and we are currently working on ways to afford a second, badly needed full-time assistant.

So, when I hear about the Episcopal Church declining, I tend to think it's because of demographics or because the congregation doesn't want to or doesn't know how to grow. Liberal parishes today can be just as vital -- and purpose driven -- as any conservative congregations.

Kim Byham
Lay Representative of Province II on Executive Council
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So there you have it ... Go in peace to love the Lord and grow the Church!

4 comments:

Muthah+ said...

YEP, Growth happens when we least expect it but work our butts off just the same. No time to groan and cry about what other people are or are not doing. Just get out there and love God.

Anonymous said...

Amen! When a community actually embraces the good news, amazing things can and will happen!

-anthony

Anonymous said...

There's no comparison between the general state of vitality of parishes holding to God's Word versus the revisionists. This goes for denominations in general and the statistics are staggering. As for st. bart's, it was growing under Alpha, which then got kicked out, and now it's declining in vitality.

Mark said...

Yes. Faddish placebos like the label "orthodoxy" do tend to offer an immediate swell in a cyclical way -- of course, they have no root and die when they see it didn't meet their needs and doesn't address reality.