MINISTRY PORTFOLIO QUESTIONS ST. MARK’S CHURCH HOOD RIVER, OREGON April 2017
1. Describe a moment in your worshipping community’s recent ministry that you recognize as one of success and fulfillment. In 2015, St. Mark’s hosted an auction to raise money for community outreach ministries, such as the warming shelter, the food bank and other programs. A group of parishioners, including Vestry members, worked together to create a fun-filled evening. The event, which we called “Share the Warmth,” attracted more than 100 participants (parishioners and people from outside the parish) and raised nearly $7,000.
2. How are you preparing yourselves for the Church of the future? In general, our parish is willing and eager to learn and grow deeper in its faith and love for all of God’s creation. We are open to new ideas about how we respond to the needs within our church community as well as to the needs of those within our region. Supporting programs in the Diocese of Eastern Oregon, we recently attended the Diocesan Adult Conference in 2015, learning with and being challenged by Bishop Michael Curry, and again in 2016, with Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Shori. These events have enabled us to better understand the Church as it is and may be evolving.
We also participate in various programs offered by the Ascension School and Conference Center, which is a driving spirit that supports ministries of the Church now and in the future. As well, we welcome and are eager to explore new avenues for reaching out with the message of God’s love, whether that means exploring new ways to minister to our current and prospective parishioners, relating and communicating with one another and the community at large, and/or learning how to better adapt to changes that are and are not within our control.
3. Please provide words describing the gifts and skill essential to the future leaders of your worshipping community. The people of St. Mark’s truly have a heart for pastoral care and spirit of generosity. We are seeking a rector who can help us better discern how and where to use these gifts, identify and strengthen existing avenues of pastoral care and ministry, and help us to understand our faith, deepening connections within our parish and the wider community. The ideal rector will preach sermons that motivate us to change within our hearts and minds while also inspire us to follow through on that divine wisdom through loving action in the world.
St. Mark’s enjoys an inter-generational mix of parishioners. We long to grow our congregation, both in numbers of people as well as in the diversity of those we worship alongside. This means attracting younger families and youth as well as older members, not losing sight of the importance of building a congregation that values stewardship and can help us to support our sustainability. That said, we desire a rector who can help us to best use our time, talent and treasure, too, showing us how to develop such resources and use them soundly to support our goals, such as giving back to our community.
We’re seeking a compassionate rector, with a deep sense of integrity—someone who will foster an atmosphere of transparency, while embracing people of all ages and from all walks of life.
4. What is your practice of stewardship and how does it shape the life of your worshipping community? St. Mark’s is a lively and busy parish, full of people who have energy and devote many hours volunteering their services. More than 75% of parishioners pledge financially, and most support the life of the parish, offering their time and talent in activities, such as chalice bearing, reading lessons, prayers, hosting coffee hour, helping with child care, Vestry, altar guild, bringing food to the warming shelter, or volunteering at FISH food bank.
Our approach to stewardship has vacillated over the years. More recently, our stewardship campaign has aligned with the autumn harvest season. Members are asked by the stewardship committee to share their thoughts of what St. Marks means to them on three to five consecutive Sundays. Parishioners prayerfully discern what contributions they can make of their time, talent and treasure for the coming year. Cards detailing each of our gifts are placed in the offering plate (sometimes on the Altar) a Sunday in early November. In earlier years, greater emphasis was placed on stewardship of time, talent, and treasure being an on-going discernment process, throughout the year.
We are open to creating ways to grow our understanding and practice of stewardship, recognizing that this is crucial to our church’s sustainability and the spiritual growth of our parishioners. That said, All our “doing” isn't always a reflection of how we are “being” in relationship to one another in Christ. We welcome guidance to how to better live out our stewardship in ways that nurture those relationships, our connections, and our spiritual growth.
5. What is your worshipping community’s experience of conflict? And how have you addressed it? Conflict has been an important teacher for St Mark’s. In the early ‘90s, we faced issues that forced the resignation of two rectors. Though the situations and personalities involved were different, both conflicts reflected a lack of clarity about how the rector would spend time, energy and focus. Job expectations should have been better defined. As with most conflicts, the failure was on both sides. Healing has been a slow process and continues to this day. But there’s a silver lining and lesson in all this—St. Mark’s has learned to become a better communicator and ask for what it truly needs. It’s also become more open to honest (sometimes difficult) feedback, from which it has made efforts to change and grow.
We’ve discovered that after changes and periods of “growth,” it’s important to review and assess the change and growth, not just accepting it blindly as the best course of action for us. Also, we have increasingly come to respect our differences even when we don’t always agree.
Finally, we value curiosity and are open to trying new ways of being without sacrificing what makes us unique and wonderful as a congregation. As new parishioners have joined our church in recent years, that, too, has enabled us to move forward and not dwell in past conflict. They’re simply not caught up in or attached to old drama. The pain is not part of their “corporate memory,” and this enables us to focus on the present—and our future—rather than the past.
6. What is your experience reading/addressing change in the church? When has it gone well? When has it gone poorly? What did you learn? As a congregation, we realize change is essential to our growth. During the past several years, St. Mark’s has changed enormously. 15 years ago, St. Mark’s was emerging from the painful period of conflict (see response to question 5). We developed an intentionally inward, though caring, focus. The parish grew, and bustled with the energy of families with young children.
In the last 5-7 years, we have focused outward, beyond the parish wall, building a strong presence beyond the parish walls. Today we are an older, multi-generational parish that offers a great range of services to the community. (Specific programs are listed in the answers to Questions 7, 8 and 9.) Looking ahead, we hope to find a new balance between “doing” and “being”, deepening our sense of Christ’s presence, clarifying our call at home and in the world.
Change has not gone well when it has been imposed without an explanation. Change has gone well when the congregation understood the “why” behind the change as well as had the opportunity and time to both learn about the change and ask questions. Once such changes have been made, we have generally discovered that they were refreshing and effective. Over time, we have become comfortable with what was once unfamiliar—and this has helped us to not fear change as much.
Here’s one example: Liturgically, while we remain committed to a traditional Episcopal Rite II style of worship, we have explored liturgy and prayers outside of the BCP and music outside of the Episcopal hymnal. This has been in response to people wanting to feel more relevance to the content and its power. Our liturgy wording has been “tweaked,” and while it’s different from what “we’ve always done,” we are enjoying the changes. Our ideal priest will support these and other types of changes—perhaps even seeing what changes we need that we don’t realize we need. As the saying goes, we recognize that we don’t always know what we don’t always know.
Another example has been our involvement with community outreach. We have made it part of our mission to become involved in living out our values within our region, helping those who are vulnerable, including the hungry and the poor. This has gone well for us as it’s not just enabled us to touch others in a spiritual way but for others to touch us spiritually as well. It’s also helped us to create greater connections with other organizations and churches in the area as we’ve collaborated together. St. Mark’s is respected for its level of service by the community at large— or those who aren’t necessarily our “parishioners.”
7. How do you engage in pastoral care for those beyond your worshipping community? The people of St. Mark’s care deeply about helping others and offer a wide variety of programs, including: Nine 12-step meetings each week, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Alanon, Co-dependency Anonymous, and Gambler’s Anonymous; “Free Clothes for Kids,” an annual event offering clean, gently worn children’s clothes to people in the community; and renting much of the downstairs of St. Mark’s to the Little Feet Cooperative Pre-School. Members of St. Mark’s support the pre-school’s annual spring plant sale, and enjoy seeing and hearing children on the playground when we come to St. Mark’s on weekday mornings.
8. Describe your worshipping community’s involvement in either the wider Church or geographical region. In addition to those efforts listed under Question 7, members of St. Mark’s provide numerous hours volunteering at FISH, the food pantry in Hood River. We also provide packaged and canned food as well as financial support to the food pantry. St. Mark’s provides scholarships for Ascension School & Camp Conference Center, Episcopal Relief and Development, and CROP Walks. In past years, we’ve supported the organization “Athletes for Cancer” through occasional fundraising dinners.
As an active member of Gorge Ecumenical Ministries (GEM), we participate in a voucher program that provides money for housing, food and transportation to people in crisis. We also support Hood River Shelter Services, which provides housing (on a rotating basis with other churches) during our coldest months (mid-November thru mid-March), delivering food for the guests and serving as volunteers at the warming shelter and at the cooling shelter during our hottest days. We often represent St. Mark’s when attending events to bring the community together to learn about and support those who live on the margins in our community, including Native Americans on whose land we now worship and reside and, more recently, immigrants (many undocumented) who live in fear.
Many of our members are active in volunteer ministries throughout the community, including: hospice care, Faith in Action, community choirs, Friends of the Library, Master Gardeners, WAAM (antique automobile & air museum), Boy Scouts, hospital gift shop and support dialysis patients, climate action group, and other political action committees. Five years ago, the Women’s Guild made the decision to use only Equal Exchange coffee, and we make EE coffee and chocolate available to parishioners. Recently, the Guild decided to form a partnership with Canaan Fair Trade to make their products available to parishioners, creating a sense of hope that has encouraged these Palestinian families to invest in their farms once again.
9. Tell about a ministry that your worshiping community has initiated in the past five years. Over the past five years, we developed a new ministry called “Free Clothes for Kids.” The program requires about six months of planning and organizing, resulting in a weekend in which children and teens (and even their parents sometimes!) can come to our church and pick out worn yet freshly washed clothes. It is a delight to see adults and children choose the clothing they can use – some leaving with several bags filled with clean, gently used clothing. This ministry requires many hours of work from the congregation, but seeing the joy of those who come as well as the feedback we have received from throughout the community has convinced us this is a valuable and appreciated ministry. Hundreds of children have clothing they would not otherwise have had.
A second ministry is one that we participate in through Gorge Ecumenical Ministries (GEM): “Hood River Warming Shelter.” About seven years ago, after a homeless girl died on the streets, several members of GEM came together and said “not on my watch.” In response, they began tending to the homeless in very basic ways during the winter months, such as making sandwiches and delivering them to people on the streets. People were and continue to be taught to work with this population, getting the training, food handling licenses, and other skills to ensure the quality and integrity of our efforts. Over the past five years, the concept of the warming shelter has evolved. It now offers a warm, safe physical place to get off the streets (overnight mid-November – mid-March). These homeless experience the comfort of others, a hot, nutritious meal in the evening, andfood to take with them when they leave in the morning. They get access to showers and laundry, and other services as they become available.
Today, due to losing the most recent permanent location, the Warming Shelter rotates among several churches and community centers, including St. Mark’s. The vestry of St. Mark’s sees this ministry as a core component to its mission and the parish hosted the program for four (out of sixteen) weeks during the 2016-2017 season. Our ideal priest/rector will play a pivotal role in working with our community and be actively involved in continuing to develop this program.
10. Describe your liturgical style and practice for all types of worship services provided by your community. We are committed to a Rite II tradition, offering two services on Sunday mornings (8 a.m. and 10 a.m.), both designed to be inclusive and welcoming. A small but faithful contingent of “8 o’clockers” gathers in the choir stalls. This is a more informal gathering of parishioners who prefer to remain “behind the scenes” but whose prayerful presence is important to the life of our parish. Visitors or those heading out for a day of activities drop in to the 8 a.m. service and may be surprised to find that amid this informal gathering, there’s a safe space where laughter and tears mix easily.
Rite II is also used at the more widely attended 10 a.m. service, with hymns from the congregation as well as a seasonal choir in advent. We have at times switched to a Rite I service to be mindful of language or to be intentional, such as during our worship during Lent. In some years, we have offered “high church” services during Holy Week, with the Easter Vigil procession containing multiple candle bearers, thurible and the Easter candle lit from flint and steel. Several of our young people serve as acolytes, and occasionally in other ways (i.e., reading the lessons), and often families serve as ushers.
However, it’s important to note that although we incorporate many of the Anglican traditions, our services have a warm, relaxed and somewhat casual culture. We don’t have many children in our parish, but those who are there feel free to come and go, join in and help, or participate alongside their parents. Our teens feel comfortable speaking up about a recent success or needs, such as an occasional donation request for a mission trip or a special outreach project. Our priests/clergy in recent years haven’t been afraid to admit the occasional mistake he or she has made in the service and encourages everyone to join in laughing when something happens that’s funny or simply “human.”
Music is something we enjoy and believe is a real growth opportunity. Our volunteer choir is heartfelt, held together by a couple of strong professional voices. On occasion, our token professional soprano feels inspired to belt out and empower the beauty of a song. Our music director faithfully leads the music committee, selecting hymns from a variety of sources. Musically, we have more spirit than apparent skill and are eager to improve. We hope to build up our musical abilities, offering a greater variety of music to attract a wider audience.
We are fairly relaxed, forgiving, encouraging and supportive—it’s not uncommon to see us handing a tissue to or putting a hand on the shoulder of someone in need. As we look to our future, we hope our culture of openness, support and love continues while we honor the Episcopal traditions in which we enjoy praising God, serving both him and all those who worship with us.
11. How do you practice incorporating others in ministry? St Mark's parishioners are generally proactive in volunteering for projects and events. This has been witnessed through various programs such as weekly Sunday Services rosters (which includes driving our van to pick up parishioners who could not otherwise come to church), “Free Clothes for Kids,” the Christmas bazaar and many more church wide events. Many contribute their talents even more when approached, yet good communication among parishioners has also been key in facilitating these contributions.
St. Mark’s offers Godly Play for children in elementary school (two Sundays a month, most months) and Journey to Adulthood (J2A) for middle-school kids and high-school-age youth. Currently, only one feature of that program is continuing: Each young person has a mentor from the congregation and this intergenerational ministry has been incredibly transformative and impactful for our youth, parents tell us. We realize that because we have such a large number of older adults, there’s a great opportunity for even more mentorship of youth. A Youth Collective has formed in the Columbia River Gorge that provides opportunities for the young people to come together to grow and learn, so that has been a great opportunity for these soon-to-be adults as well.
12. As a worshipping community, how do you care for your spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing? During the 10 a.m. service, there is an opportunity to share thanksgivings at the time of the announcements, and sometimes that is done. Also, less often, concerns/requests for prayer are shared at that time. Outside of that public sharing, the Outreach Committee is often the only group who knows about special needs and concerns.
We have several widows/widowers but to date, there has been no opportunity for them to gather and share common concerns. St. Mark’s has hosted a Disaster Preparedness class to which members of the community were invited, and it was well attended. But there has been no follow-up regarding that topic. The Women’s Guild meets monthly and oversees the hospitality hour following the 10 a.m. service. This group also organizes receptions for special events – Bishop’s visit, graduations, etc. Sadly, we had lots of funerals in the past year, and the Guild put together a large reception for each of them.
In addition, we have evening social opportunities: Shrove Tuesday, we have either observed a Mardi Gras celebration or Pancake Supper; during Lent, we have Soup Suppers and discussion on a chosen topic. A men’s breakfast group meets monthly – and their group occasionally hosts an event such as the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper. A women’s Bible study meets weekly on Monday mornings and includes time for personal sharing as well as discussion of the book and/or topic. Several years ago, parents of our youth gathered for somewhat regular dinners at one another’s homes, sharing food, talking about their spirituality and just discussing parenting life in general. The Altar Guild does not hold meetings, but women, in pairs, prepare the altar and flowers for each service.
There is, once again, a worship committee that meets to discuss and make decisions regarding worship, while another group that chooses the hymns for our services. Our choir (8 – 10 voices) does not robe and sing every Sunday, but they are greatly appreciated when they do sing. Again, we are a busy group of “doers.” It’s likely we could benefit from more “being together” and nourishing each other in perhaps other, less “busy” ways at times. We’re eager to experience a new leader of our congregation who can help show us the way and inspire us to identify and become an even better version of ourselves today.