This post provides updates on a couple of recent essays.
In my post “Indifference to Details,” I complained about the automatic door to the parking lot’s being turned off more often than not. This was the case last night when I went to church for choir rehearsal. I mentioned my concern to Jeff Dunbar, a Vestry member, who agreed to take up the matter with Dorothy. Stay tuned.
The Worship Commission met this week, and the matter of the summer schedule was raised. I don’t know that all my concerns, as expressed in “Sabbatical,” were brought up, but many certainly were. (Disclaimer: I did not attend the meeting, but I spoke with a couple of people who did.) A combination of deference to the absent rector and concern that a combined principal service would please nobody resulted, unsurprisingly, in no change to the schedule. (When the cat’s away, obsequiousness still holds sway.)
It never occurred to me that a combined principle service would retain elements of the 8:45 service. Instead, I saw it as an opportunity for the two congregations to get to know one another and for the 8:45 people to get a sense of what a traditional Episcopal service (and the prayer book and hymnal) looks like. There is good reason to believe that many 8:45 worshipers attend that service primarily for its time, brevity, and convenience with respect to Sunday School, rather than for the shape of the liturgy. Of course, we never ask people about their preferences as a way of determining how to satisfy them.
Given that we are unlikely to poll parishioners about their likes or dislikes, I would like to propose an experiment. This could be done at any time, but during the program year would be best. My experiment would require a little tweaking of the schedule, though not much. Switch the content of the 8:45 and 10:45 services, that is, have the traditional Episcopal service at 8:45 instead of at 10:45. My hypothesis is that, after a time, attendance at 8:45 would be substantial and attendance at 10:45 would be meager. What do you think?
I learned just before the May issue of The Messenger went to press that the rector was going to be going on vacation/sabbatical in mid-May. As Lou explained in his page-one essay in the newsletter, it is conventional to offer rectors a periodical sabbatical. In fact, it is sometimes difficult to get rectors to take sabbaticals due them. That said, one has to wonder why parishioners were given less than two week’s notice that the rector was about to disappear for three months. I can think of no explanation for such short notice, which seems less than courteous.
If I were not shocked at Lou’s going on sabbatical, I was shocked at the summer schedule he has chosen to use over the summer. The Rite I, 8 o’clock said Eucharist is not only a longstanding St. Paul’s tradition, it is a tradition throughout The Episcopal Church. A number of longstanding parishioners attend this service, and it seems insensitive to eliminate this service with no warning or consultation with the affected congregation. (But this is the way the most welcoming congregation in the South Hills for all generations operates, I guess. Well, maybe not for the older generation who make up most of the 8 o’clock congregation.) The suggestion that 8 o’clock parishioners can attend the Wednesday midday service is ludicrous and insulting.
In the past, the two principal services have been combined in the summer, which most people saw as a reasonable strategy. Combining the services has many advantages:
It reduces the clergy workload, even if the 8 o’clock service is retained.
It reduces the workload of laypeople—acolytes, readers, etc.
Because attendance falls off in the summer, combining the services yields a single, well-attended service, rather than two poorly attended ones.
The congregations for the 8:45 and 10:45 services, which have even fewer members in common than formerly, could get acquainted with one another. I have heard more than one complaint from 10:45 attendees that they know no one who attends at 8:45. Since I don’t know anyone who attends the 8:45 service myself, I have no idea what those people think.
Time and effort could be saved in the production of bulletins.
Members of the 8:45 service could be exposed to a more conventional Episcopal service. They might even learn to use the prayer book and hymnal. (There is no need for a program containing the entire service.)
A single principal service could be scheduled to let everyone finish church long before noon.
Michelle health is less than excellent, and combining the two principal services would be particularly helpful to her. Were she to change Lou’s scheme in his absence, I think she would have substantial support from parishioners. Lou, of course, would not be pleased.
As if being saddled with a dysfunctional schedule were not enough, I have learned that $10,000 received from the movie company that filmed at St. Paul’s was given by the Vestry to Lou for his sabbatical. (Additional money was given to the Nursery School, which had to cancel school for the filming.) I don’t know if this was accounted for in the annual report—I don’t have my copy handy—but it surely was not clearly indicated. Many parishioners thought that money from the movie would help us balance our budget, which always seems to be in need of a few more dollars. Will these same parishioners be pleased to learn that the money has gone to enriching the rector?
Update, 5/13/2014, 7:00 PM. On reflection, the $10,000 given to Lou may not be out-of-line. Churches often pay for education for priests on sabbatical. Responsible churches also create a fund for the purpose to which they add every year. St. Paul’s had not done that, though I understand that they plan to do so in the future. The annual report—I found a copy in my files—indicates a $10,000 contribution to the Sabbatical Fund last year.
What I could not find in the annual report is any entry for the money earned by the church from The Fault in Our Stars. If the revenue is supposed to be the “contribution” to the Sabbatical Fund, it appears that the income is being obscured in order to avoid its being considered an operating expense for purposes of diocesan assessment.