Table Rock Talk June 2014

The Newsletter of Lawrencefield Parish Church

Minutes and Money

Congregational study group studies vestry minutes and parochial reports

The team tasked with profiling the congregation has spent the last month studying the surviving vestry minutes and parochial reports of Lawrencefield Parish Church to determine attendance trends and historical priorities in the areas of finances and program. The team, consisting of Karen Dalby, Barb Hinkle, Janine Reddy and the rector has noted the following trends:

Attendance has been in slow decline during the current rector's tenure. Certainly the population of the surrounding community has shrinking since 1930's, with accelerated shrinkage in last 10 years. The last of our founding members died in 2011, and the younger generation has flown in search of jobs. Other possible factors in the decline in attendance include the controversy in greater church, the economic slump of 2008, general secularization, and Sunday Youth Soccer! On the other hand, Lawrencefield is no longer seen as an exclusive community for the wealthy. Plus, we now have a small crop of 5th-generation Lawrencefielders!

No Parochial Reports or budgets survive from the Thorn years. The nineties, under Frank Brookhart, saw a gradual increase in operating expenses, with large sums occasionally being taken from the endowment to meet shortfalls and maintenance expenses. Today, draws continue to be taken from the endowment but at a much lower percentage. The parish has become more serious about stewardship and fundraising. Financial reporting has become more transparent.

Consistently the highest expense by far in the budget has always been staff, with building costs (maintenance and utilities) a distant but significant second, and outreach (including the mandatory 17% of operating expenses to the diocese) close behind.

Children's Christian education was the focus in the early years. Regular worship became a priority only a little later. For many years after, fellowship was a prominent theme and continued to be so after the present building was built. Maintenance thereafter became a recurring concern. Clergy staff changes have been infrequent, support staff changes less so.

No vestry records survive from the Thorn years. The nineties, under Frank Brookhart, saw a shift in emphasis from fellowship activities to outreach. Many outreach efforts such as Adopt-A-Highway, St. Luke's Soup Kitchen, and the forerunner to Faith in Action Caregivers, were undertaken in the 90's and continue today.

Under the rectorship of Frank Brookhart, growth was not so much in numbers but in outlook (literally.) The parish became proportionately less concerned with its own membership and more with the larger community. Significantly the church went from "chapel" to "parish" during this period.

Encouraged by interim clergy, Lawrencefield became more intentional about our mission, which became honed during the current rectorship to "Teach, preach and reach." For the most part, recent vestry actions reflect that emphasis. Programming (education, social and charity events) figures regularly in vestry discussion though rarely is a major factor in the budget. For decades, financial outreach has come from special collections rather than from the budget. Active participation in outreach programs like those above has been what concerns the vestry more than financial support.

Naturally, discussion about staff changes (Secretarial, Custodial, and Music) and the replacement of office equipment occupy the vestry at times of transition. Major improvements to the plant pop up every other year or so.

Very occasionally visioning or long-term goal-setting figures in vestry discussion.

Prayer opens and closes every meeting, with vestry members sharing responsibility for this in the last few years.

The major challenge seems to be declining population.

The Team observes that whenever the church has been in a financial bind, the money somehow comes.

Honoring the Kelleys

Farewell reception set for June 8

The Revs. Theresa and Jim Kelley, Priest and Deacon respectively of St. Luke's on the Island, have accepted a call to a yoked parish in the Diocese of Montana. The Feast of Pentecost, June 8, will be their last Sunday at St. Luke's. A party in their honor will be held at St. Luke's that afternoon from 4-6pm and all are welcome. Those interested in contributing cookies or other goodies may contact the church office for more information.

Cluster Picnic June 22

Lawrencefield joins with St. Matthew's Downtown and St. Luke's on the Island for the Annual Wheeling Cluster Joint Service and Picnic on June 22. The service of Holy Communion begins at 10:30am in a Shelter (TBA) at Oglebay Park. Drinks and fried chicken is provided. Please bring a side dish, entree or dessert to share. There will be no 8:00am service at Lawrencefield that day.

The Rector's Study

A challenging Challenge           The Rev. Cynthia Byers Walter

Since the beginning of last Advent, at least three of us here at Lawrencefield have been working our way through the so-called "Bible Challenge."

For each day, the Bible Challenge has readings from the Old Testament, Psalms, and the New Testament, starting with Genesis 1 and going through to the end of Revelation 22. A typical day's assignment consists of three chapters from the Old Testament, one Psalm and one chapter from the New Testament. Unlike the Daily Lectionary and the Weekly Eucharistic Lectionary, which also work their ways through the Bible, the Bible Challenge omits nothing. Thus, participants get to see what the lectionary editors have seen fit to leave out.

Some of the material omitted from the standard lectionaries are lists: genealogies, censuses, ritual requirements and temple furnishings. In reading this material, I have to admit it is, um, forgettable. What I try to keep in mind is to ask myself, "Why was this detail so important to record?" Obviously this stuff was important to God's people. Genealogy and census were important because Family was important. And Family was important, because long before the Bible was written down (we're talking a long, long time ago) Family was how the stories of God were passed on. Also, because property is passed on by Family, and because God's people believed their property was God's direct gift, Family was literally the way people knew they were God's people.

If genealogy was a way for people to remember what God had given them, temple furnishings and practices were a way for people to remember to give back to God. The relationship between the almighty God, creator of the universe, and the little people of Israel might have been grossly unequal, but it was reciprocal. Like all relationships, there was giving on both sides, and the giving was important to both sides.

After considering why God's people thought this material was so important, the next question to ask is, how does it relate to me?

Family is going to mean something different in modern American society than in it did in the patriarchal and tribal culture of the Bronze Age. Ritual and worship will be different. The constant seems to be that we still need other members of God's family to help us know that we too are God's family. We still need to know that God gives us everything, and although we can never repay God in kind, we respond in love. The connection between us and God still goes both ways.

Vestry Vibes

Summary of the May 18 Vestry Meeting:

  • Request to Use Building Compassionate Friends has requested to use the Lawrencefield Church building. Rev. Walter will get more details and email vestry for a vote.
  • 2013 Audit It is time for the 2013 financial audit. Rev. Walter will ask individuals to serve on the committee.
  • Past Vestry Minutes As part of Rev. Walter's doctoral work, she will be reviewing past vestry minutes. Currently, she is searching for missing minutes.
  • Junior Warden The bench that had been in the undercroft has been placed outside. Highway cleanup was Sunday, May 25.
  • Stewardship There has been a modest response to the letter that went out to parishioners in May. A letter will be sent to members on a quarterly basis.
  • Coming Events Vestry members will survey parishioners to determine if the July 4 fireworks party should be held. Vestry will vote on this at the June Vestry meeting.