August 13, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On July 25 we had an crucial and exciting conversation with eighteen members of our parish. Led by a professional facilitator, we discussed our vision for parish health and future direction for St. Spyridon Church. Please see the summary of these discussions at the end of this letter and after you have read it, we would love for you to send an email to email@example.com with your own answer to the following questions:
- What is your best time to meet between August 24 and September 12th?
- After reading the materials below, what would you add to this definition of parish health?
- How do you feel called to make a difference in our parish based on your own gifts, experiences, and resources?
- What do you see as our next steps as a parish?
We are scheduling a second Vision and Planning Session to consider practical next steps towards becoming a healthier Orthodox Christian parish. We will be prioritizing initiatives that members are ready to commit to leading and doing, using their own greatest talents and passions. (Of course, any major changes or expenditures must be brought to the General Assembly for approval.)
When we speak of parish health, we recognize that every parish is on a spectrum of health. Every Orthodox Christian parish, as long as it keeps its doors open for Sunday Liturgy, has elements of health and many blessings from God. On the other hand, there is no perfect parish. There is always room for improvement and growth. Therefore, as leaders of St. Spyridon’s, we your priest and parish council, call on you to join us as we envision greater health and to journey together along a path towards greater health and vitality. This will always be an ongoing journey.
Having read the attached discussion summary, please prayerfully consider your own sense of our purpose as a parish. What would it mean to become a healthier parish? How are you called to make a difference based on your own gifts, experiences and resources.
We want to empower everyone to be a part of our parish vision and direction, so please let us know when you would be available to meet for a second vision and planning session. We would like to hold this discussion sometime between August 22 and September 12. (We added a week to that window after this mailing went out last week via USPS.)
As your priest and parish council we are tasked with leading our church community in its journey towards Christ and the Kingdom of God. This means empowering and equipping you to share in the leadership of our church and engaging your gifts in service to God, our church community, and the world. We are excited to be making this journey with all of you.
With Love in Christ,
Fr. Aaron, Parish Priest
Gia Harrigan, Parish Council President
Future Potential for St Spyridon:
Summary Output from the Meeting Held July 25th 2020
There were five different small groups working for 90 minutes to consider the purpose of the Church and then to answer the question of what a healthy Orthodox parish should be like and what does that mean for our local church community? The five groups were engaged throughout their discussions and each developed a lot of ideas. The specific ideas for action at St Spyridon’s that came from the brainstorm varied somewhat in emphasis and focus. However, when it came to the vision of what a thriving, healthy parish looks like; a clear set of common themes emerged across the groups. What was the consensus?
There are varying levels of satisfaction with how we interact as a local church today but there is consensus that St Spyridon’s can strengthen and improve to become a significantly healthier, vital church community, and the participants strongly desired to see this happen and expressed commitment to working on these improvements.
What does that look like in the eyes of these parishioners? It includes:
- Increasing our personal spirituality
- Increasing the sense that we are a spiritual community
- Faith in Action: improving the engagement of our current, future & former parishioners in the life of the church
- Substantially increasing fellowship: the amount & depth of interpersonal interaction between our members both at church and outside of church
- Engage our younger parishioners more substantially and more creatively
- Increasing our interactions with the larger external community via service and evangelism
It is exciting to see that the overwhelming majority of the parishioners who attended this initial dialogue can readily envision a more robust, spiritual, engaging version of St Spyridon’s!
Moving toward this emerging vision with meaningful and practical effort will not be easy. It will require blood, sweat, and tears. In other words, it will require sacrifice, sustained effort, and loss–letting go of some things and changing our ourselves, our mindsets, and our behaviors.
This is the journey that Christ is calling us to. As we move along this journey, it will be inspiring; and it may be at times daunting, unclear, doubtful. However, taking the journey together, i.e., engaging in this ongoing effort to understand what a healthy church is and trying out different things to become healthier will make the vision a reality… IF we dedicate ourselves to it and engage the talents of as many of our people as possible in this journey.
This is not something that will happen overnight, and it’s not just something that the priest and the parish council will do alone. But let’s begin by finding several first steps we can take where we can engage and struggle. Yes it will involve struggle, but also learning, adventure, personal growth and a stronger community in Christ.
What do you see as our next steps as a parish? Please share your ideas with Fr. Aaron or Gia Harrigan, parish council president, or with another council member; and plan to participate in our next Parish Vision and Planning Session. Let us know your best time to meet between now August 22 and September 12. You can do this by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and answering the questions listed at the beginning of this page.