Summary of the 25th Anniversary Survey and Conversation Circle Results — Parish Focus Group Report
by Cynthia Primo Martin,
July 26, 2021
The high level of survey response (47%) indicates the level of caring the SsAM community has for its spiritual home. It also indicates the need for our parishioners to share their voices.
Strengths that respondents noted included:
• caring, dedicated and committed congregation;
• caring for our mission as well as volunteers willing to do the work;
• our strong outreach;
• the people are the church, and that relationships and community are the reasons many have stayed engaged; several comments applauded the vestry for its hard work in addressing the challenges.
• being an aging congregation and the need to build the membership with more youth and young families (sometimes, but not always connected to SsAM’s financial challenges);
• perception of discontent and internal power struggles;
• leadership not including more of the congregation in decisions, and, empowering members to contribute;
• SsAM’s resiliency…. we have come through tough times before, including a pandemic.
There was no clear consensus on two key matters:
1) Music: for some, it is important to keep investing in the music program; but others feel the program has too much power, focus and resources.
2) Diversity: many cited the welcoming, diverse aspect of the church as a strength and part of our hope for the future; however, it was also noted that there are differences and misalignments, and that not everyone feels welcomed.
Ideas for moving forward towards a strong future included:
• make mission, faith, and ministries the priority;
• be more progressive in liturgy and theology, that we might re-imagine church, increase freedom of thought and witness on race;
• extend community engagement;
• apply lessons learned during COVID;
• obtain more spiritual leadership, inspiration and pastoral care from a priest as we call a new rector.
It was noted that much work is needed. Comments included the following:
• ensure opportunities to listen and learn from each other and build consensus. Make space to listen to one another in regards to age, gender, race and our entire community;
• review and communicate strategies for growth, ministry and leadership;
• external community engagement is a two-way street: not only do we have something to offer the community, but the community has something to offer us;
• SsAM’s communications philosophy and practices need changing;
• SsAM’s past was richer and stronger than our present because we are “resting on our laurels”; many of us rely on the strength of our past rather than look to the future.