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Jim's Corner

It is not everyday that a parish takes the time to examine itself to evaluate its mission and vision. Parishes need to do this periodically, because self-reflection and prayer help clarify what God is calling the parish to do. Change is part of life and, sometimes, the mission of the parish needs to be redirected to reflect current reality. God does not change, but a church’s mission and vision will.

On February third, St. Peter’s vestry took the day to gather with Lynn Farlin, the Canon for Formation, to focus on what God is calling us to do by reexamining our mission statement. But before I go any further, I think it is important to review how we got to this point.

When I was called to be your Interim Rector in July of 2022, one of the first things I did as the interim was to observe the parish. I learned, and personally experienced, how newcomers and visitors are welcomed; how you worship; how parishioners interacted with each other; what ministries were active; how the Day School related with the church; how the parish is connected to the diocese and with other denominations’ churches, among many other things. During the Interim Ministry Training through the Interim Ministry Network (IMN) I took in October and November 2022 and January 2023, I began to discern the need for St. Peter’s to revision its mission. I began working with the Transition Team and, working with Canon Farlin, presented my IMN project to the vestry, which would be preceded by a Mutual Ministry Review. This review would help us understand what was going well in the parish and what needed attention. The project I presented was a detailed process of looking at who we are, who is our neighbor, and what is God calling us to do using four Formation Events. The work the parish did during these events was used during the vestry retreat in February of this year to come up with a new mission statement, and, for the first time, a vision statement.

The former mission statement, you may remember, was: “We celebrate our life in Jesus Christ, proclaim our faith in Him through word and deed, and create a loving and caring environment that draws people to Jesus and equips them for ministry.” As a result of the vestry retreat, the current mission statement is: “We celebrate the love of Christ and proclaimour faith by welcoming and serving all.”

When a parish has a clearly-defined mission, the vision for the parish becomes evident. The vision statement that came out of this mission statement is to see St. Peter’s as: “A vibrant, thriving community of all ages with a focus on outreach, fellowship, and faith.” If we are faithful to the mission, eventually we will see St. Peter’s prosper and the vision realized. This is not the vestry’s or the rector’s responsibility alone. Everyone in the parish is called to live into the mission statement to make the vision for the parish become a reality, with God’s help.

Both of these statements are brief, cogent, and easily memorizable. One goal was to have statements that everyone of all ages can remember. The mission statement should guide the Ministry Action Plan (the MAP is the budget). Everything we do as a parish and everything in the MAP should support the mission statement.

We can look around ourselves and see a lot of things that need to be done in Jesus’ name. No one parish can do everything, so we need to stay focused on our mission. Other churches have their missions, and they will be engaged in activities other than those of St. Peter’s. I would argue that one could substitute “parish,” for “member” in his organic vision of the church in 1 Corinthians 12:14f. “… the body does not consist of one member (parish) but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body;’ that would not make it any less a part of the body….” St. Peter’s is a part of the body with its unique function (mission). There are currently fifty-two parishes in the Diocese of Southern Virginia. If one of those parishes should say “because I am not St. Swithins-by-the-Sea, I do not belong to the body;” that would not make it any less a part of the body (the diocese). So, every parish has its mission which serves to build up the body of Christ, and St. Peter’s now has its new mission. Let’s embrace it, live into it, and celebrate the love of Christ.