19 October 2011
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a meeting at Diocesan House where we discussed a document full of statistics about the health of the Episcopal Church. The assessment was overall quite negative, suggesting a steady decline in membership, attendance, and stewardship, especially in churches in the north and east. As I flipped through the charts, however, I found myself strangely elated. For each graph that showed decline on the national level, I could point to real growth in our own parish. Our attendance continues to rise, our ministry continues to increase, and your giving—despite a time of real financial hardship—continues to be strong. Indeed, we are one of the thirty per-cent, or so, of churches in this diocese that are growing by all measures.
I believe that this growth, which translates into an increase in ministry and vitality, can ultimately be attributed to our strong sense of identity and our ability to incarnate that identity into the world. We know who we are and whose we are. And who and whose are we? We are an Episcopal Church in the Anglo-Catholic tradition where everyone is welcome. As we express our devotion to and love of God and nourish ourselves in the sacraments in and through a liturgy both loyal to the Prayer Book and ingrained in the Western Catholic Tradition, we also open our arms in love to all who walk into our doors. We incorporate into our body families of all configurations, people of all ages and races, and lift-up the ministry of all of God's children without regard to gender or sexual orientation. I would venture to say that we are most liturgically traditional inclusive congregations in our whole church. This is what makes us attractive to newcomers, this is the source of our vitality and strength.
All this being said, we are still facing challenges. I am pleased to say, however, that in the time since I wrote to your over the summer, the Wardens, Vestry, and I have been working hard to restructure our finances. We have drafted a budget for 2012 that is balanced and relies only upon an appropriate draw-down from our capital funds. At the same time, we are hoping, come July, to replace the position of Parish Secretary with an half-time clergy assistant whose duties will be split among parish administration, pastoral care, and the liturgy. We will be able to make this shift back to a model of ministry that has served us well in the past in a way that will increase our ability to minister to our community while living within our means.
This new budget—one that allows us to continue on our path of growth and vitality—is predicated, however, on your stewardship, upon your willingness to continue to share with us the gifts with which you have been blessed, in thanksgiving for all that God has given you. I am not asking you to make your 2012 pledge just because we need the money. I am reminding you that pledging is a spiritual discipline in which you incarnate with your treasure—however large or small—your belief that what we do at Saint Ignatius of Antioch matters to you, to our community, to the world, and to God. We want everyone who partakes of our common life, with whom we share the sacraments week-in and week-out to feel as if he or she has a stake in what we are achieving together and make a commitment to the ministry to which God calls us in our baptism.
In this spirit, I would ask you to pray carefully about what you will pledge for the coming year and complete and return the enclosed pledge card. I especially encourage those of you who can to consider increasing your pledge, or at least restoring it to the levels at which you had been giving a few years ago. We also hope that those who did not make a formal pledge will consider making one, especially those of you who already give, and give generously, on a regular basis. Regardless of the amount of money you pledge, I hope that you will continue the pledge you make with your bodies to come and worship, receive the Sacrament, and participate in our ministries.
In the coming weeks you will be hearing from a member of the Stewardship Committee who will wish not only to discuss your financial support for Saint Ignatius, but who will want to hear how you feel about the life and work of the parish and know what gifts and talents you may have to share. Please receive this person warmly and do not hesitate to be in touch with me or the Stewardship Committee Chair, Holly Hughes, if you have any questions or concerns.
With all my warmest wishes, I am,
Andrew C. Blume+