January 19, 2020

2019 Jan19

Rector’s Report of 2019

A Sermon Preached by The Rev. Ian M. Delinger

 

Today’s sermon will be in the form of the Rector’s Report.

 

And the Lord said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.”

 

Many of you will have read the Annual Report of how we labored together throughout 2019 to glorify God. Hopefully it wasn’t for nothing and vanity, and we pray that in whatever we do, our cause is with the Lord, and our reward is with God.

 

There wasn’t one big thing that stood out or that characterized 2019 for us. It was still a very active year for St Stephen’s. The Annual Report gave us a glimpse of all the Welcoming – Worshiping – Working that we do together for the Glory of God with and among the Good People of San Luis Obispo.

 

As with previous years, my report will be arranged under the headings of our Mission Statement: Welcoming – Worshiping – Working, but in a slightly different order. I want to give special recognition to a person in each of those categories for their outstanding service to St Stephen’s in 2019.

 

Worshiping
The worship of God through Jesus Christ is the primary reason we gather as a community. We continue to do so, in the tradition of the Episcopal Church, every Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and often on other days. Our primary worship is the Sunday Eucharist. A big thank you to the Altar Guild and to all of you who serve on Sunday mornings, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.


Our Sunday liturgy has settled into a comfortable pattern, blending worship from the Book of Common Prayer, new liturgies from The Episcopal Church, and Eucharistic Prayers and seasonal material from other parts of the Anglican Communion. Our Music Team has been established for over 2 years now. Our Director of Music Cassie Tarantino, and Organist Clare Olson, along with the Parish Choir, Choral Scholars and guest musicians, continue to enhance our worship with high quality music in a variety of genres. Together, they offer a volume and range of music that is on par with a music program of a much larger congregation than ours. The Choir continues to support our worship for 9 months of the year, and we love them.

 

The Rev Karen Siegfriedt spent a second year with us as Associate Priest. She brings a different liturgical style in her presiding and fresh perspective in her preaching. We are all enriched by ministry. As one person stage-whispered in my ear, “Pastor Karen’s preaching is a gift to this parish.” And I think we all agree. She will be leading the Men’s Retreat in February.

 

A special “thank you” to Kay Lewis who coordinates all of our Sunday Servers. The work that she does goes unseen by everyone, as she fills all the roles required on Sunday mornings.

 

Robin DiBiase compiles the data for the worship services based on the Services Register. From her data, I can report the following preliminary numbers:

 

  • Average Sunday Attendance was 72 or 73, down from 76 last year. This is a pleasant surprise because our numbers at the 10am Service dropped very low during the summer, and they stayed low in the Fall, unlike the previous year.
  • Across our 3 Christmas Services, we worshiped with 193 people, compared to 202 in 2018.
  • The Villages Average Attendance is 28.
  • Our Lay Eucharistic Visitors have taken Communion out 72 times.

 

We have had several special services, which are listed in the Annual Report.

 

The Home Communions by the Lay Eucharistic Visitors remains a valuable part of our ministry. Not only do they help combat social isolation among seniors, they bring the Sacrament so that those in their homes or care homes may share in the same Body and Blood of Christ that we do.

 

I also visit the homebound. During Easter Week and Christmas Week, I visited each of our homebound members and conducted services of Holy Communion in their homes so that they could make their Christmas Communions.

 

Between the Lay Eucharistic Visitors and me, we visit:

  • John & Mary Stuart along with Karla Gibson and Vista Rosa
  • Lynn Wiech
  • Don & Dottie Hixson
  • And Judy Tyner and Helen Hollister at Sydney Creek occasionally

 

Our Patronal Festival, St Stephen’s Day, is starting to feel like a tradition. Bishop Mary joined us for both the 8am and 10am services, with Baptisms and Confirmations at the latter. And we had a wonderful celebration afterward. This coming St Stephen’s Day, Bishop Lucinda will be with us. Soon, we should assemble a team to develop a weekend of activities for her first visitation.

 

Deaths, Baptisms, Confirmations and Weddings are listed in the Annual Report.

 

There are no major changes planned for worship in 2020.

 

Recognitions for Worshiping
You all know that the Altar Party finishes the chalices at the end of Holy Communion. This is not because we are winos – it’s because the remaining Holy Sacrament is to be reverently consumed, and if it cannot be, it’s to be disposed of reverently on holy ground. At some of our special services, I look down into the chalice and it looks like – well…does anyone know what Panzanella is, that Italian bread salad? It sometimes looks like day-old Panzanella, wet, soggy wine-soaked bread. That’s because Gina Hafemeister has lovingly baked handmade bread for Holy Communion. This has been a journey for both of us. We have tried several different styles, and she has been very patient with my requirements and very humble with her offerings. Thank you, Gina, for making our Sacramental experience meal-like and family-like.

 

Working
Thank you to the Staff who help me navigate the peculiarities of St Stephen’s. On Sunday mornings, we worship together, which is the most important thing we do. But Monday to Thursday, we are running a business. Like any non-profit, we are only as good as the staff and volunteers who run the day-to-day operations. Thank you to our Sexton Chris, Katie our Treasurer, Stephanie our Office Manager, Cassie our Director of Music, and Clare our Organist.

 

Two years running, at the SLO Clergy Retreat in February, I spent our silent time working on office stuff, because at the beginning of both 2018 and 2019, we were without an Office Manager. Stephanie Olsen came to us with a medical records background and became Office Manager in March. She climbed steep learning curves to learn about this thing we call “church”, and to take on the task of publishing “The Witness”. Both efforts have been exemplary.

 

Thank you to the numerous volunteers, among them Shannon Larrabee, Senior Warden, the Money Counters, and all of you who gave 1000s of hours of your time to aiding the workings of St Stephen’s.

One of those volunteers was recognized as our ECW Honored Woman in a ceremony at St Stephen’s Aptos in October. Jennifer Sayre is loved and valued here at St Stephen’s.

 

I continue to engage with the wider and vibrant San Luis Obispo community. I am still looking for parishioners who will represent St Stephen’s on community issues, such as mental health awareness, immigration and socio-political movements. In 2018, Clark Lewis reviewed our Social Outreach activities. The Vestry has not done a full review of the report and its recommendations, but we will this year, from the very beginning of the new Vestry.

 

We have continued our membership of the Chamber of Commerce, which ensures that we are on the radar of, and engaged with the businesses and non-profits of San Luis Obispo. We will again have ads in the Chamber’s Relocation and Referral Guide and the Visitors’ Guide.

 

As the Rector, I am engaged in several endeavors beyond these walls. To list them:

  •  I am no longer Secretary of the SLO Ministerial Association, but I attend the monthly meeting, which keeps me engaged with many faith leaders throughout the City.
  • I am on the Board of Directors of Vocal Arts Ensemble. Rosey Parks is one of the singers of the excellent choral group, and Gail Taylor’s daughter, Sarah, is the Executive Director.
  • I am a member of the Superintendent of San Luis Coastal School District’s Common Ground Advisory Task Force. Dr Eric Prater has invited people from diverse backgrounds to:
    • Find common ground suggestions through civil discourse on controversial issues that impact our students
    • Provide specific suggestions to improve policy and administrative practices as they relate to these issues
    • Provide suggestions that will improve conditions on school campuses for all students
    • Provide suggestions that will improve conditions on school campuses for all students
  • I am on the Police And Community Together group that is assembled by the Chief of Police Deanna Cantrell. The group meets every other month to discuss issues that affect both the community and policing.
  • On the Diocesan level, I have been reappointed as a member of the Diocesan Colleges Commission.
  • I am also on the Bishop’s Transition Committee, which finished its work last Saturday with the Consecration of The Rev Canon Lucinda Ashby as 4th Bishop of El Camino Real, and who is now The Rt Rev Lucinda Ashby.

 

In 2020, we hope to develop and begin to implement a Strategic Plan. I accompanied Bruno Giberti and Liz Frost on the Congregational Leadership Initiative Conference in September, hosted by the Episcopal Church Foundation. We have a Mission Statement, but we have no direction. Liz and Bruno have written about it in The Witness and will have more to say at the Annual Meeting. I have purposely given us some distance between my start here, our 150th and undertaking this next step. It is time to move forward in our Mission, and a Strategic Plan will help us get to where we aim to go. Liz and Bruno will be working with the Vestry to develop a plan that reflects what we will envision at today’s Annual Meeting.

 

Recognition for Working
On the Parish Work Day on Holy Saturday, I walked into the kitchen to find a man who is known for having a bad back, lying on his back talking on his cell phone. I panicked at first, thinking that Lee Hollister had thrown out his back and no one was helping him, so he had to call his own ambulance. Instead, he was simply multi-tasking, taking a call during his primary task of scrubbing the baseboards under the cupboards. I have the photos to prove it! During this past year as Junior Warden, Lee has both, independently, and collaboratively with the Sexton, worked down the list of long-deferred maintenance around the grounds. I don’t need to list all the projects he has worked on because it’s all in the Junior Warden’s Report. But I will mention that Lee has had to maneuver his way through the bureaucracy of City Planning, pester non-respondent contractors, generously fund some projects himself (along with Lynn), and he is still not done! We have to attend a meeting of the Cultural Heritage Committee next week! Thank you, Lee, for absolutely everything! Please, please always have someone holding your ladder!

 

Welcoming
In 2019, our biggest acts of welcome, other than how we engage with visitors on Sundays and in the community during the week, were the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, the Kids’ Workshops and Vacation Bible School. We have shifted the efforts of the Christmas Breakfast to be on Shrove Tuesday. We came to celebrate as a parish family, but also welcomed the wider community and the homeless. We brought Shower the People mobile showers onsite with the help of Bill Crewe. We hosted exactly one person to shower on what was one of the rainiest days of the year!

 

The Kids’ Workshops, arranged for school holidays when parents were still at work, proved very successful. Details are in the Annual Report. We are not hosting Kids’ Workshops this Lincoln’s Birthday and Presidents’ Day. The dates snuck up on us, and Kathleen and I just did not have the capacity to find someone who could run the events from beginning to end. If someone does want to take on that task with 3 weeks to go, please see me after the service.

 

We also worked with our neighbors Access Support Network on a 4th World AIDS Day Service, and with Canterbury on Advent Lessons & Carols and a 12th Night Carol Service. Though these services were sparsely attended, they brought in people who had not been to St Stephen’s and who were unexpectedly healed and uplifted by their time with us, worshiping God.

 

St Stephen’s is a welcoming community. We have been opening our doors to welcome people in through new ways of engaging with the community. We have adopted an Inclusivity Statement, and let’s do everything we can to live up to that.

 

As I have mentioned before, the model of being church for Episcopalians has long focused on those within these walls. But Christianity is an outward-focused religion. We have had small growth these past two years, and we can grow more. Reaching beyond these walls is the responsibility of every person here. The most likely new person to come to church is the one who is asked by a friend. So, let us all make the effort of invitation this year.

 

Recognitions for Welcoming
As you know, I am committed to working with the Food Bank and supporting Hunger Awareness Day. In my support of the Food Bank, I’ve drug St Stephen’s along with me…fortunately with no objections. And you also know that I have personal difficultly with begging for money on the street, which is the model for Hunger Awareness Day. One of these past Hunger Awareness Days, I felt that I needed to make sure all of the St Stephen’s Volunteers were doing OK, as they were scattered all over downtown. I wandered up to the County Building, and there all by themselves were Carolyn and Hugh Platt. Foot traffic wasn’t much, but Carolyn was there raising funds for the Food Bank nonetheless. Then, we hosted the Kids’ Workshops in February. Every time I turned a corner in the church, there was Carolyn. Then, we hosted Vacation Bible School in July, and there was Carolyn. Then the Kids’ Workshops in November, and there was Carolyn. Now, there are others who have done similar. But there has been something about Carolyn’s presence that has epitomized the Welcome that we endeavor to extend here at St Stephen’s. She volunteers for a lot of the activities that we host, doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes work, but as she does so, she also engages with guests and ensures that everyone has what they need. And her presence is so calm and calming, that it almost goes unnoticed. Well, you know what they say: It’s always the quiet ones!

 

The Work of the Rector
What does the Rector get up to? Working on the planning for the Strategic Plan caused me to have a look at the Parish Profile you all developed in 2015. It highlighted “Qualities in the next Rector”. They were:

  • To preside over the liturgy with care, creativity, and confidence.
  • To challenge us with preaching that is direct, inspiring in the sense that it is spirit-filled, and relevant to our daily lives.
  • To teach us the way of truth in scripture, tradition, and reason.
  • To care for us as a pastor, wherever we are in our life’s journey – children, youth, and all the stages of adulthood.
  • As a sensitive leader, to help us fulfill our parish mission, reach our goals, realize our vision, and live up to our deepest values.

I believe that I live up to these qualities; I know that I try; and I hope that I demonstrate these in a way that each of you can recognize.

 

I had a look through my calendar and chose what issues – above and beyond the day-to-day running of the parish – took the most time each month. This is not a scientific study, but more, “Oh yeah...that took some time.” This included:

 

  • February: Vestry Retreat and Kids’ Workshops
  • March: Hiring Office Manager and Adult Education
  • April: Children’s Day in the Plaza, the Bishop Candidate Walkabouts and Holy Week & Easter
  • May: Electing Convention and background work for Theatre Camps
  • June: Preparing Confirmation Classes and educating myself and the Vestry about welcoming those in recovery so we could write the Alcohol Use Policy
  • July: Teaching Confirmation Classes, a wedding and Vacation Bible School
  • August: Still teaching Confirmation Classes, preparing for St Stephen’s Day and recruiting and working with the Annual Giving Campaign Team
  • September: Welcoming Bishop Mary with all of you and attending the Congregational Leadership Initiative Conference
  • October: That annual Fall getting reacquainted and getting programs up and running, and getting ready for Diocesan Convention
  • November: Preparing for World AIDS Day, Advent and Christmas
  • December & January: Finalizing Christmas Services and everything that goes with presiding and preaching at Christmas, working through some changes to the Endowment reporting spreadsheet and assembling the Annual Report.

All this was alongside:

 

  • Writing sermons
  •  Promoting and advertising St Stephen’s, our events and our worship services
  • 7 monthly meetings (3 of which land on the same day) and 2 bi-monthly meetings along with weekly staff meetings:
    • SLOMA
    • Common Ground Advisory Task Force
    • Common Ground Advisory Task Force
    • Canterbury
    • Clergy
    • Vestry
    • Good Morning SLO
    • Altar Guild
      • Pact
      • Clericus
  • Keeping abreast of what all those who wrote these reports are doing and participating in what they as the parish are doing
  • Wednesday and Sunday Worship
  • Pastoral Visits and 1-to-1 meetings, by phone, email and in person

 

In 2020, I hope to continue ministering alongside all of you, a vocation and job that I truly enjoy. I am hoping to be a volunteer staff member at the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops this summer, which would be my 3rd Lambeth Conference. I do not know if that will materialize or when I will be notified, but you will be among the first to know.

 

As a hobby, I am a volunteer contributor to KCBX Public Radio, producing a short segment on food every month.

 

Conclusion
For a closing prayer, I would like to give thanks for you, the St Stephen’s Family, and express my wish for us all as we endeavor in our Welcoming – Worshiping – Working for the Glory of God, with and for one another, and among and for the Good People of San Luis Obispo, using the words of St Paul:

 

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in Him, in speech and knowledge of every kind – just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you – so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by Him you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9)

 

Amen.

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