Rector's Chronicle

February 2020

The 203rd Annual Parish Meeting

Christ Church, Georgetown

Rector’s Report

Revd Timothy A R Cole MA BD MTh (QHC)

 

Last year at this meeting, I described 2019 as our REORG year. A year to regroup, take stock, to reorganize, refresh and prepare for the next stage in the life of the Church. After all our work in the Bicentennial Year we needed to take time to do that.

 

If you remember, we also had some work to do to address the debt that was accrued during the interregnum to renovate the Rectory and fulfill a very worthy Mission Commitment to Bishop Walker’s School that was over and above our annual tithe to Mission. As Ellen said, thanks to a truly excellent year in 2019 and the terrific generosity of you all, the 67 new people that pledged and the 104 people who increased their commitment, we have balanced the books and also removed a very significant section of that legacy debt, which really is fantastic news.

 

We have also seen significant reorganization on the staff front with the appointment of a new Assistant to the Rector, Crystal Hardin, our two brand new Parish Coordinators, Tonika Hilliard and Jack Fenton, and also, in the fall, John McDuffie, our part time interim priest who has come to help us for this program year. John is not here this morning as he is representing Christ Church at a certain significant national event in Miami today! He told me it was a big faith revival and he just couldn’t miss it!

 

Also, in the fall we saw the departure of Elizabeth Gardner and Elizabeth Keeler, for whom the time had come in their ministry to take the excellent experience they gained here at Christ Church and to look for positions of greater responsibility in the wider Church.  Elizabeth Gardner has just been appointed Rector of St Mark’s, Alexandria and Elizabeth Keeler is currently looking at a similar position elsewhere. In light of these moves, in the last part of 2019, we began the process of finding a new Associate Rector who will complete the new team and help put us in the right place to step forward strongly in to the rest of this year and beyond. We had 17 applications for the post, with some really very gifted and experienced people among them. We are beginning to interview a number of them now, and I am very hopeful we will find just the right Associate Priest for the parish.

 

So, 2019, was a period of REORG, and adjustment, a period of recovery from the Bicentennial and a time to prepare for the next phase in the life of the Church.  I think it is testimony to the strength and depth of this amazing Church that we have been able to take this period in our stride, to come out of last year very strongly indeed and, thanks to a really great Stewardship Campaign led by Harry Volz and Bill Burns, enable us to set a very strong budget for 2020. We are not quite at our goal of 1.5 million yet but we are going to get very close and paying off that section of debt means that we now have more available for ministry than we expected when we set that goal.

 

As you might expect in a year of changes our Average Sunday Attendance has come down a little, but the congregation continues to grow with 30 more Communicant Members at the end of the year than at the beginning. Strikingly, 51 people were confirmed or received in 2019 which is a sign of the real deep spiritual health of the congregation. 200 people, in fact, have been added to the Church Data Base in 2019 which continues the trend established in our Bicentennial year. Not all will develop into committed members perhaps, but some will in time.

 

As well all our longstanding groups and organizations that surround and support worship, that engage in our Mission and care for the poor, and center around Christian Education and Formation and the bonds of affection that run through and between all of them, I am particularly encouraged to see the beginnings of the establishment of the Parish Life Committee, a Lay Visiting Ministry and the Strategic Planning Committee.

 

The Parish Life Committee, who are looking intentionally at the life of our Church family, will help with bringing new members into the life of the Church, with the setting up of Parish Groups to offer closer community for groups that might want that, and also with developing opportunities for fellowship across our whole congregation.

 

I have long wanted to see more lay involvement in pastoral care and I hope the new lay Visiting Ministry will develop over time to provide a whole layer of care over and above that which the clergy give as a central part of their ministry.

 

Most exciting of all is the Strategic Planning Committee and the work they have begun. The buildings and particularly the Parish Hall will be a focus for their work, but at the heart of this is our chance to articulate and express the vision for Christ Church that we share as a congregation.

 

I have used various images to express what I believe is our sense of ourselves as a Church. The main one being that of the bright beacon of Christ’s light burning in our lantern tower on the corner of 31st and O. It is an important and shining light in Georgetown, the Episcopal and Church and in our nation’s capital.

 

But what vision comes down to is our sense of ourselves, who we are as a Church and where we believe God is calling us in the months and years ahead.

 

Christ Church is here to be a place where all of us can find:

 

Christ’s real presence in our hearts and lives;

where we can find real friendship and connection in the faith;

where we can find real purpose in the perfect freedom of Christ’s service and, finally,

where we can find real formation as disciples of Christ.

 

We know who we are. Whatever uncertainties that may exist in the wider Church and in our society at this time, Christ Church is a traditional, affectionate, non-political, community of faith that is committed to service of the poor, seeks to exemplify the best in the Episcopal tradition in worship, education, preaching and theology, and, alongside all of this, seeks to provide connection with God, each other and the wider community for people at every stage of life.

 

We aspire to be a Church that offers a whole life ministry, from babes in arms, toddlers, children, and teenagers, to young adults, young families, and single adults, from empty nesters, those in middle life, to widows and widowers and those in the third stage of life, wisdom and purpose. We do not say that ours is the only way, just that this is our way and what Christ is calling us to be.

 

I could go on to exemplify all these things in detail, but we would be here all morning and I know you don’t want that! But just think of the Sunday Forum, the faith and Foreign Policy Forum and the amazing Lent Program with all the Professors from VTS that is coming up, alongside our vibrant Sunday School, Baby Wise Group, Young Adults Group as well as the huge team of people who serve in our feeding ministries, on top of the equally large groups of people who support the liturgy in every week in every way.

 

We know who we are, and looking forward, we simply need to look at that whole life ministry and see where it is strong, and where it could be stronger, for every age and stage of life. As we express what we know of ourselves in the Strategic Plan we will know what we want, what we believe Christ wants, not only from our property, but also from ourselves, our liturgy, our formation and our service to, and outreach into, the communities we serve.

 

REORG – leads to planning which leads to action. 2020 is the year we will plan. We will dream dreams, examine all possibilities, pray for God’s guidance, and we will discern the next steps. We will not be able to do everything but we will be able to do what God wants us to do, if we can only be open to his spirit and the opportunities he sets before us.

 

I will finish there except to say some thankyous. First, I must thank Ellen Martin for her outstanding term as Senior Warden. I don’t say this lightly, but I doubt very much if any Warden in the history of this Church has worked harder on your behalf. Ellen inherited an unclear financial situation, a legacy debt, as well as the Bicentennial Year and this REORG year of adjustments and transitions. She has been outstanding and we are all most grateful to you Ellen, not least myself, for all the support you have given me at the times it was most needed.

 

I must also thank the Junior Warden Rusty Linder who has also given unstintingly of himself in this last year, the Vestry, especially those retiring this year and the staff who have also been outstanding and all worked extremely hard. Paul Barket has played a huge part in reorganizing our financial affairs, moving us from one accounting procedure to another and generally putting us in the excellent place administratively we find ourselves today. I would also like to thank Crystal Hardin who has made a really significant difference in Youth and Families Ministry and elsewhere and who hardly seems like the very new priest that she is, so poised and capable is she. What a delight it was to see her ordained here at Christ Church! Tom Smith has, as we have come to expect and perhaps are in danger of taking for granted, delivered, with our excellent choir, the best Anglican Church music in Washington. He is also so much more than a Director of Music and provides excellence in everything from signage to communications and publications. It has also been a delight to have John McDuffie here for the last few months. His humor wisdom, experience, preaching and positive pastoral presence has been invaluable.

 

There are too many people to thank in fact but I do thank all the leaders of all the many groups, organizations, committees and Guilds who have given so generously of your time, affection and thought to all the areas of the life of this wonderful congregation.

 

Finally, my thanks to all of you. It is a constant joy to me to wake up each day and realize that God has blessed me in the work we have all to do here and with the knowledge that I am your friend and Rector.

 

With Every Blessing,

Tim