Table Rock Talk April 2014

The Newsletter of Lawrencefield Parish Church

Congregational Study underway

Initial insights reported

Several members of the parish have been interviewed recently by a team tasked with profiling the congregation. This profile will figure in the discernment of a project to be carried out by rector Cynthia Byers Walter as she pursues her Doctor of Ministry over the next three years.

The first step in this study was to contact a sampling of members to investigate who are the “go to” people in the congregation for such things as wisdom, social gathering, and decision-making. Using this information, the team prepares a “social network map.”

Initial findings are that, small church that we are, our social networks are very compact and inter-relational. In other words, A goes to B who goes to C who goes back to A and B. Older people and members with the most longevity dominate the leadership, although leadership is not a closed club – several names of relatively new members cropped up.

Other findings are that there is not a huge amount of cross-pollination between the 8:00 and 10:00 services, although there is some. People who have influence in the congregation tend to be people who have influence in their outside jobs or in the community, with a couple of prominent exceptions.

Naturally people tend to go to other parishioners with whom they feel comfortable – we had a number of people cite family members or close friends, although more than a few people said they would go to “anyone on the vestry” for wisdom, gathering and/ or decision-making.

One of the most interesting observations is that leadership is strongly linked with deep spirituality in this congregation. This is a theme we will explore more as we get into the next module, which will be in-depth interviews with some of the people identified in the first stage as congregational leaders. These in-depth interviews, which have to do with personal spirituality, are underway at this printing and should be completed by the beginning of April.

Later modules will delve into the history of the parish, statistical trends, and the nature of the surrounding community. The final step will be to use this information to analyze the beliefs and values of the congregation, and to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the leadership structures.

The congregational study part of the project should be completed by October. The study team consists of Karen Dalby, Barb Hinkle and Janine Reddy, along with the rector.

Women’s ministries studied

Information submitted to diocese

In response to a request from the Women’s Ministries’ Committee of the Diocese of West Virginia, the rector recently prepared a list of ministries in which women of the parish participate. That list, which is acknowledged to be partial, is here reported for your information:

MINISTRIES INSIDE THE PARISH: Adopt-a-Highway, Altar Guild, Altar service and lecturing, Churchyard clean-up, Coffee Hour & hospitality, Diocesan Convention delegates, Flower Guild, Lawrencefield Cares (Get-well, sympathy and birthday cards, care calls), Stewardship Committee, Sunday School, United Thank Offering, Vestry.

MINISTRIES OUTSIDE THE PARISH: Alcoholics Anonymous, Altenheim Home, Charity: Water, Charley’s Closet and Food Pantry, House of the Carpenter Angel Tree, Faith in Action Caregivers (Assistance for the disabled), Home for Men, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Kings Daughters, Meals on Wheels, Nursing home visits, Sandscrest Board, St. Luke’s Soup Kitchen.

The Rector's Study

My funeral           The Rev. Cynthia Byers Walter

Maybe it’s the anticipation of Holy Week (as I write this) but in contemplating a subject for this month’s column I had the most interest around funeral planning.

A depressing topic? Not for me! I love planning liturgy, plus the idea of celebrating my entry into God’s nearer presence when I die fills me with joy.

I realize I am probably weird in this. When encouraged by the Church Pension Fund a few years ago to notify my children as to the location of important papers (this is routine advice for clergy) my son didn’t even want to think about the possibility of locating documents after my death and refused to even talk about it. I know others find it difficult to even contemplate their own funerals, but….

As a parish priest I know what a boon it is to surviving members of the family when someone leaves a record of the kind of funeral service he or she wants. You can’t imagine what a comfort it is when people who can’t think straight for grief are at least not burdened with planning a service, and, further, know they are doing what the deceased would want. Therefore I always encourage parishioners to think about their funerals ahead of time and leave clear instructions with either me or their nearest relatives. So far, only two people have availed themselves of my offer to file their plans against future use: John Taylor and Sally Campbell. In both cases, their instructions were invaluable, and were followed to the letter, to everyone’s great comfort.

Maybe I can encourage greater participation by offering my own thought processes on the matter. First of all, this is how I feel now. I know that I can always change my mind about my choices.

The first thing to deal with will be the disposition of my body. If possible, I would like to have the Prayers at Time of Death from the Prayer Book. I want to be an organ donor and I want to be cremated, with the “cremains” (horrible word) deposited in the cheapest and most basic container. I haven’t yet decided on a place of burial, but I think I would like my survivors to disperse my ashes in the mountains. I want to have the funeral home involved to the minimal extent possible. They will probably have to handle the cremation, but I want the funeral to take place in the church. No visitations, please! I’ve been to plenty in my life and in my opinion they’re just hard on the family.

Here are the hymns I want (my three favorites): Deck thyself my soul with gladness (this was the anthem sung at my high school graduation, I have loved it ever since, and the words seem particularly appropriate to the message I would want my “mourners” to hear); What wondrous love is this (that “when from death I’m free” line makes my heart soar); and Love divine all loves excelling to the Hyfrydol tune (the most loved line here is “changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place”; plus the last line gives my family the chance to sing “lost in wonder, lost in space” the way we always have.)

If a good soprano is available, I would love to have “I know that my redeemer liveth” from Handel’s Messiah sung at some point.

The Bible readings I prefer are: Isaiah 25:6-9 (I love the food and wine imagery); Psalm 18 (not on the “suggested” list, but my favorite psalm: I love how God moves heaven and earth to come to the defense of God’s beloved); Revelation 21:2-7 (the description of the New Jerusalem moves me greatly); and John 1:1-5 (this too is not on the “suggested list” but to me there is nothing better than the eternal Word which darkness cannot overcome.

That about does it, except for the preacher and celebrant. The celebrant at a priest’s funeral is usually the Bishop, so that’s taken care of. I don’t know yet who I’d most want to preach – any of my colleagues in the Northern Deanery would do me proud, as would the Rev. Bonnie Thurston, who, though ordained in the Disciples of Christ, is one of the best Episcopalians I know, and is, in a sense, my oldest friend in Wheeling (I knew her in college.)

So there it is. Knowing that everyone now knows my preferences I can rest easy, no matter when the end comes. But, in any case, if somebody slips up on one of these details, I will not be in any position to object.

Vestry Vibes

Summary of the March 16 Vestry Meeting:

Loan Rev. Walter reviewed the loan expenditures and payments on the loan. When the amount owed goes below $8,000, Rev. Walter will inform the congregation.

Newpaper Ad A copy of the advertisement for Lawrencefield's Easter services that will be placed in the Wheeling News Register/Intelligencer was given to all Vestry members.

Rev. Walter's Sabbatical The first dates for Rev. Walter's sabbatical are June 28 through July 12, 2014.

The first Sunday is June 22 and is the cluster picnic.

The second Sunday is June 29, and Paul Hicks will conduct the service. Rev. Walter is seeking coverage for the July 6 service. Rev. Walter will be back for the July 13 service. During Rev. Walter’s absence, Dave Duymich will act as Lawrencefield Church's “point person” to handle church correspondence and issues. Church officers will handle the signing of checks. Tom Farnsworth will handle the finances of the church.

Proposed Budget 2014 Vestry members received a copy of the proposed budget for 2014. The budget committee consists of Karen Dalby, Mary Frohme, Bill Neer, and Rev. Walter. Lisa Martin moved and Aimee Stern seconded that the proposed 2014 budget be accepted as presented. The motion passed unanimously.

Junior Warden The assist bars have been installed in the downstairs bathrooms.

Stewardship The Stewardship Committee will meet on April 3, 2014.

Soup Kitchen Volunteers are needed for one of the fall soup kitchen Sundays.

Minutes and Financial Report were approved and accepted

Coming Events

  • An Acolyte Festival will be held in Morgantown, WV, on April 5, 2014.
  • The Easter vigil will be on April 19, 2014.