Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Celebrating and Pitching

St. Paul’s celebrated it 175th anniversary this past weekend and kicked off the public phase of the new capital campaign. Events began Saturday evening in the undercroft with food and drink—wine and beer were available. (The huge shrimp that were served were very good. Next time we should have real wine glasses, however. The flimsy plastic cups used for serving wine were clumsy to handle.) We even had piano music from time to time. The event was well attended—the special personalized name tags were a nice touch—and there was much conversation. (See picture below, and click on this and other pictures for a larger image.

Saturday reception

After an hour of socializing, the crowd was herded upstairs for a formal program.This was a great disappointment and belied the reassurances that were given that the anniversary, rather than the capital campaign, would be stressed. (See “Promoting the Capital Campaign.”) Admittedly, no one was actually asked for money on the spot, but there was little celebrating of our past, a good deal of self-congratulation regarding our present, and much rhetoric about the need for the capital campaign to “secure our future.” The annual stewardship campaign also got time on the program.

Much of the program was about acknowledging special visitors and people who worked on the event and are working on the fund raising. The special guests included Bishop Ken Price (see photo below), former rector Bill Pickering and his wife, and Stocky Wulsin, a former priest at St. Paul’s and, apparently, a former Episcopalian. (See “Former St. Paul’s Priest Resigns from Cincinnati Parish.”)

I will not bore you with a full description of all the little talks to which attendees were subjected, just as we were told that we would not be bored by a reciting of the church’s history. (Actually, I thought that “celebrating our heritage” was the main point of the evening!) The only historical events in the history of St. Paul’s that were stressed were the construction of the church during the Great Depression and the subsequent additions a quarter century later. It was easy to see where this was going.

A brief video by Tyler Anderson of parishioners talking about the church was shown. I was sitting near the front and could see it reasonably well, but the projector was not powerful, and the lights were left on in the nave, so I doubt the people sitting at the back had a very good view. The program concluded with the singing of “Lift high the cross,” and everyone adjourned to the undercroft for dessert.

Bishop Price in the church

The celebration continued Sunday morning with a brunch that began at 9:30. The picture below from that event also shows the computer monitor set up near the library that was part of one of the most engaging elements of the weekend. It displayed a slide show of pictures taken at St. Paul’s, some of which were from decades ago. I expressed the hope that the slide show would find its way to our Web site.

 The late Sunday service was moved to 11 o’clock and was less remarkable than the printed service bulletin  might have led worshipers to expect. It, too, ended with “Lift high the cross,” which I was told is a Bill Pickering favorite.

Printing the entire service provides many opportunities for error, and St. Paul’s took full advantage of them. The first hymn, “Christ is made the sure foundation,” for example, was printed on pages 3 and 4, which meant that one had to constantly turn pages while singing the hymn. As a choir member, I would have preferred not to carry my hymnal, but I did so anyway to make processing easier. In the Prayers of the People, we prayed for “our Presiding Bishop Katherine.” Of course, the name of the presiding bishop is Katharine Jefferts Schori. More serious was the substitution of “God’s” for “his” (BCP, page 355) and the substitution of “God” for “him” (BCP, page 367). Many people like these substitutions, but it is improper for a church to change the BCP liturgy.

The service included “The Commissioning and Blessing of Stewardship and Capital Campaign Leaders.” Some of those leaders have been at work for some time without the benefit of commissioning or blessing. Well, better late than never. Acknowledgement was also made of the 30th anniversary of Mary Weatherwax’s ordination. Interestingly, Ken Price was on the West Virginia Commission on Ministry when Mary was approved for ordination in the Diocese of West Virginia. The Episcopal Church is a small world.

On Saturday night, we were told that pledges of $450,000 for the capital campaign were in hand. That figure became $480,000 Sunday morning. Perhaps my hearing or notes are suspect. Perhaps the campaign is going very well. Perhaps one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Nice Publicity Effort

October 5, 2011, story
St. Paul’s does not always do a good job of getting publicity in local media for its programs and events. The church got a nice story placed in The Almanac about the events this weekend regarding our 175th anniversary, however.

The story that appeared in the October 5 issue of The Almanac is shown at right. It describes the events of the upcoming weekend, provides a brief history of the church, mentions projects proposed to be financed by the capital campaign, and includes a picture from the 1930s. (Notice that there is no railing on the front steps, no lamps on either side of the front door, and no brass plaque. The photo seems to have been narrowed to fit the column.)

Not all the facts in the article are well known to parishioners. This paragraph, for example, was particularly interesting:
St. Paul’s celebrated its 1924 Christmas services in the auditorium of Washington School. During the following year, with funds from the sale of its former property and funds from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsblirgh, St. Paul’s (now designated St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon) was able to purchase land at Vernon Drive and Washington Road for a sum of $17,500. A few years later, however, they sold that property. They purchased land at the corner of Washington Road and Mayfair Drive and hired the architectural firm of Ingham & Boyd.
The story is very good publicity for St. Paul’s.

Promoting the Capital Campaign

When I received my invitation to the Festive Evening tomorrow, I was a bit put off by the information that we would “Celebrate our 175th Anniversary and Kick off our Capital Campaign,” and I quickly checked with people who should know that the anniversary celebration was not simply an excuse to give parishioners the hard sell on the capital campaign. Presumably, I was not the only person who harbored such suspicions, as Lou has emphasized in church that there will be no soliciting at the Festive Evening.

Yesterday, I received my weekly electronic newsletter. I was surprised to see next Saturday’s Mike’s Episcopal Café listed as a “Capital Campaign Fellowship Event.” Mike’s Episcopal Café has, for a number of years, been a fund-raiser for the music program put on by members of the choir. The newsletter made it seem as though the event had been hijacked to benefit the Capital Campaign.

As it happens, the church wanted the choir to cancel the event, presumably because it was seen as competing with the Capital Campaign. A compromise was reached whereby, during the serving of dessert, attendees will be subjected to a 10 to 15 minute pitch for the Capital Campaign and the stewardship campaign. This arrangement seems rather like blackmail, but others will perhaps not find it objectionable. In any case, do note that proceeds from Mike’s Episcopal Café go to the music program, not to the Capital Campaign.

As for the Capital Campaign itself, let me again say that I think that more parishioner involvement is called for. I believe that many specific projects are ill-conceived and that most projects are so vaguely specified that they are impossible to evaluate. I am troubled that so many prominent parishioners have lent their support to such a poorly conceived and poorly marketed enterprise.