Monday, January 16, 2012

Candidates for Bishop Announced

Last night, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh announced the names of four priests who have been nominated to be the next Bishop of Pittsburgh. Additional candidates may be added by petition before the April 12, 2012, election. You can read details on the diocesan Web site. The blog Our Pittsburgh Diocese is offering to be a clearing house for information about the candidates.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

R.I.P. Father John

I just learned from Doug Starr that Fr. John Thomas has died. A service for him will be held at St. Paul’s at 1 o’clock this Saturday, January 11, 2012. The e-mail notice from St. Paul’s is here. (An update of the service time for the Friday visitation is here.)

Please pray for Janet and for John’s family.

Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord: And let light perpetual shine upon him.

Monday, January 9, 2012

State of the Parish

I attended Adult Forum yesterday morning. This had been described on the parish Web site and elsewhere as a “State of the Parish Meeting,” which sounded interesting. I failed to read the fine print, however, which indicated that the discussion was largely to be about financial matters:
State of the Parish Meeting
Please join us this Sunday, January 8 between the 8:45 and 10:45 services to review where we stand financially and address questions and comments from the congregation.
That said, the presentation, by Bob Johnston, with the help of PowerPoint slides, was both helpful and encouraging.

For those who missed the presentation, here are some highlights:
  • We enter 2012 debt free.
  • 2011 ended with a $7,000 surplus.
  • Although more pledges have been received since the last report, the stewardship campaign did not reach its $650,000 goal. (Current pledges were stated as about $581,000.)
  • Present estimates show a $25,000 shortfall in 2012, though the intent is to have a balanced budget this year.
  • The presentation only involved the operating budget, but several off-budget items have been moved into the operating budget. (This improves transparency in the long-run, but made the numbers presented a bit harder to put into perspective.) In response to a question, Bob admitted that this would increase our diocesan assessment slightly.
In response to a question from the floor, Bob said that the capital campaign had pledges of $660,225, with about $90,000 already collected. Exactly how the money will be spent has not been decided, but Bob suggested that a committee would probably be formed for the purpose.

Helpfully, Bob sent me a copy of his presentation, which you can see here. Note that the slides in the appendix were not shown yesterday.

As you will see from Bob’s slides, the full financial accounting of the sort presented in the annual report was not available yesterday. I asked if we would have a session before the annual meeting in which those who were interested could ask questions about the parish’s financials. Bob didn’t have a problem with this—we have had such a meeting in the past, which avoided long financial discussions at the annual meeting. Lou, however, wanted to have such a meeting after the annual meeting. Of course, last year, we avoided discussion of financial issues by Lou’s arbitrarily cutting off debate at the annual meeting. I hope that does not happen again.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Refuge or No Refuge?

I am not a regular attendee of the 6 PM Refuge service. I was ill for most of December, however, and haven’t rehearsed with the choir in weeks, so I thought I would worship at the evening service today.

I arrived at St. Paul’s about 5:55. Only one car was in the parking lot, though one entered the lot just behind me. I headed for the door nearest the elevator, waiting for whoever was getting out of the other car. Unfortunately, I discovered that the  door was locked. It only took a few minutes to determine that all doors were locked, and, except for a second floor room in the education wing, no light could be seen in the building.

By the time I returned to the parking lot, seven people had gathered for a service that, apparently, was not going to happen. We speculated that the service had been cancelled because of the Steelers game, but two people had checked the church’s Web site in advance to be sure that the service was indeed scheduled. After waiting for a while, we all went home.

When I checked the church’s Web site, I found this notice for the week of January 8:
Refuge at St. Paul’s
Refuge at St. Paul’sresumes [sic] with a new Season of Clarity this Sunday, January 8 at 6:00 p.m. Come early for the prelude and stay late for a glass of wine. Refuge is a multi-sensory, contemplative, and creative worship service. It is not to be missed. Refuge is a truly unique and moving service.
 So, why was there no service? I have no idea.

I take away three thought from tonight’s disappointing experience:
  1. Why are we even bothering with a service that can only attract seven worshipers at the beginning of a new “season”?
  2. How  do we expect to develop a congregation for a service that is often cancelled for one reason or another and sometimes doesn’t happen for no apparent reason?
  3. Not everyone planning to attend Refuge can be expected to check the church’s Web site, but what does it say about our concern for worshipers when checking the Web site doesn’t even help?
“[T]ruly unique and moving service” indeed!

Update, 1/9/2012, 10:11 AM: In response to an e-mail question, Kris gave this explanation for yesterday’s lack of a Refuge service:
Yes. I am going to put an apology in the weekly email. The heat is out in the church and there is an electrical problem with some of the outlets in the chancel. With those difficulties on top of there being a playoff game we decided it best to cancel.
We announced it at church, called the usual suspects, put it up on facebook, and unfortunately, when we went to send an all parish email found there was an issue with the network and couldn't send one out. We didn't realize this until after church was out. I was going to put signs up but got distracted and left without putting them up. I apologize for forgetting the signs.