Building St. Mary's
An Interim Report and Informal Summary
St. Mary's clergy and vestry present this yearly report to our faith community to advise everyone on the progress of the many initiatives your clergy, vestry and many committed volunteers have been working on to continue to build your church. It is a long list but there is always so much more to be done. For the present, however, let us thank our Lord for what he has enabled us to accomplish already! Thank you also to the many committed volunteers and our clergy who work tirelessly to make it all happen!
- Three full-time clergy working together as a leadership team
- Excellence in Adult Education
- Children's and Youth Christian Education
- Welcoming New Members and New Families
- Christian Outreach
- Malawi Mission
- Strengthening Families through Early Education and Intervention
- Caring for God's House
- Pastoral Care
- Raising St. Mary's Profile
1. Three full-time clergy working together as a leadership team
The strength of St. Mary's has always been the shared ministry of her people. Working together as a team, Michael, Ted and Sara have sought to be an effective and efficient resource to the uplifting and empowering of both established and new lay leadership within the parish. With their specialized education and experience, they provide the encouragement and practical know-how many new lay leaders are looking for, as these new leaders step out in faith to try new ways of ministering in Christ's name.
2. Excellence in Adult Education
Our clergy are now also expanding our educational offerings alongside our many lay- led courses. Ted and Michael offer new evening adult courses in the Bible, one in overview and the other on the Book of Exodus respectively and Sara mentors our evening Education for Ministry (EFM) class. In addition, Ted has been leading us on Sunday mornings in "Fifty Days of Faith and Life", and will begin the new "Listening to God in the Night", a Christian dreamwork series based on Joyce Rockwood Hudson's book Natural Spirituality: Recovering the Wisdom Tradition in Christianity. We are proud of the leadership teams of Bible Workbench, Seeing the Word, The Gospel Today, Sunday Adult Education, and our Book Groups and Bible Study groups for the many high quality opportunities they provide for us to grow in faith and fellowship. Over the past nine months, we have completed a plan for Lifelong Christian Formation and are working to implement continued changes and growth in this area.
3. Children's and Youth Christian Education
This Spring we completed a twenty-four month review and complete refashioning of our children's and youth Christian Education programs. Our new approach is based on a progressive developmental model that we believe is attractive to families seeking top-notch Christian education for their children and youth. This involves, a new "Children's Chapel" offering during our 9:00 AM and 11:30 AM worship services for children from Pre-Kindergarten to late primary school age. Children's Chapel features Godly Play, a Montessori-based approach to Christian formation for children. Having heard from parents of toddler-aged children and their needs, we have created "Toddler Town", a space where parents and children aged 1-3 can come through Sunday morning. A dedicated team of church school teachers offer developmentally appropriate Sunday School classes from Pre-Kindergarten to Senior High. For our Middle School youth, we are in the second year of Rite 13, the beginning section of the excellent Journey to Adulthood program now implemented at St. Mary's. Recently, we celebrated the "Rite 13" liturgy with our second group of Middle School youth (the third group of this class will have their celebration of "Rite 13" in the spring). Our evening bi-weekly youth group brings together all our youth for fellowship, fun and learning. After two very successful summer fundraisers, our Senior High youth continues working towards their goal of a trip to Malawi in Africa in the spring.
4. Welcoming New Members and New Families
Our strong new greeters program and new member incorporation process have helped many new families and singles find their way into St. Mary's over the past year. To provide a rapid and effective follow up on their first visit, we have clergy and lay contact initiated within the week, a welcome letter, handout of ways to become involved in St. Mary's, informational brochures on The Episcopal Church, an offer of coffee or a meeting with the clergy, and an invitation to a small group that best fits their expressed needs. Often these new members come with many questions about the faith and how they might best become involved in the many ministries St. Mary's has to offer. On November 13th, Michael will begin the second season of "Discover: The Episcopal Church and St. Mary's." "Discover" is for those searching for a faith community but experiencing both internal and external barriers to this. This course facilitates entry into the life of Christian faith and practice, the Episcopal Church, and St. Mary's membership. Alongside an open call for participants, personal invitations by phone, e-mail, letter, and in person are extended to folks identified from a review of all newcomer and visitor cards from the past twelve months. Increasingly, we have seen long-time members of St. Mary's bringing new faces to church with them, and we have seen our Sunday attendance grow over the Summer months.
5. Through our many Outreach projects, the people of St. Mary's "seek and serve Christ in all persons," especially those most easily forgotten or left out.
Your contributions of time, talent and treasure continue to make a significant impact in our community. St. Mary's is a covenant partner in Habitat for Humanity's Faith Relations Partnership. That means we sponsor and help to build the Faith House for a deserving poor family, through a program which helps them achieve financial independence, complete credit counseling and a knowledge of home ownership basics, as well as put hundreds of hours of sweat-equity into their own home.
From Helping Handbags to Homeless Connect to the 100,000 Homes Campaign, the people of St. Mary's have helped Anchorage to make real and significant progress in the fight to end homelessness in our community. From your contributions of "PEANUT BUTTER" to the Golf Tournament to the efforts of weekly/monthly volunteers and all cash contributions including the Alaska PFD, "pick, click, give, the people of St. Mary's help FISH (Friends in Service to Humanity) provide over 10,000 meals each month. With Crop Walk, Brother Francis Shelter, Relay for Life (American Cancer Society), the Blood Drive (BBAK) and so many more activities, the people of St. Mary's offer so much to those with so little. If you would like to be more involved with these or other Outreach activities, please let us know. Especially in this struggling economy, you make a difference!!
St. Mary's elected to become part of AFACT: Anchorage Faith and Action Congregations Together. This group is a faith based, grassroots organization which empowers everyday people to create a more just community. Through congregation based organizing, AFACT leaders - raised and trained from our own congregation - work on issues most urgent to our congregation (e.g., education, public safety, youth services and health care). AFACT is a great way for our congregation to move forward with some of the social justice issues we've been working on recently. We have spent several weeks in October in parish meetings exploring what role St. Mary's has and the discussions are continuing as of this printing.
6. Reaching Arms of Love to the Far Side of the World. Malawi mission
This year also saw one of our long-time dreams begin to take shape: an effective partnership with our sister churches in Malawi, Africa. The Burke family spent the month of May travelling among the villages, preaching, teaching, and meeting with the clergy and lay leaders there. They brought home specific plans of how we could work cooperatively with our Malawi family in areas such as micro-economic development, education, and self-sufficiency programs for those living with HIV and AIDS. These new friendships will take the next step forward in May of 2012 as a team of adults and youth from St. Mary's travel to Malawi to worship and work together in building up the Body of Christ.
7. Strengthening Families through Early Education and Intervention.
With the hard work of several dedicated parishioners, the St. Mary's Playschool has been put on a firm financial footing and through patient bridge building with the advisory council and staff of the Playschool, have more closely aligned the Playschool with the people and mission of St. Mary's. A vibrant Playschool and K-12 is an important ingredient in helping us build our church. Careful work has been dome to welcome and draw in families who do not have a faith community, and encourage ways for them to become involved in St. Mary's, on an invitatory and educational model. Our Rector Michael was appointed by the Governor to serve on the new Alaska Early Education Coordinating Council, and St. Mary's is becoming known throughout the Alaska as a leader in faith-based early education.
8. Caring for God's House.
By careful selection of projects and selective capital campaigns we have continued to maintain our facilities. Well-maintained facilities are necessary if we are to attract new parishioners and honor what God has given us. While a number of projects still exceed our present financial resources, we have focused on the areas of greatest need. Phase one of the front sidewalk study has been completed with blueprint plans drawn up and initial engineering studies complete and reported to the Vestry. The immediate safety hazard has been remediated through a "grind-down" of selected portions of the concrete. The Junior Warden's Committee, under the excellent leadership of Bob Bradley, is actively pursuing cost estimates of several different cost-effective options, including a heated sidewalk with an associated increase in boiler capacity, as well as other means of both beautifying and upgrading our main church entranceway. We have also undertaken an environmental review and are implementing a phase-in of new, lower cost and more environmentally responsible lighting, as well as necessary repairs and upgrades to our heating system.
9. Pastoral care has been strengthened in practical ways, as being at the core of our response to the Gospel message.
Pastoral care is not just what we do, it is who we are as a faith community of people who walk in the way of Jesus. Decades ago, we envisioned becoming a ministering community, not simply a community gathered around a minister. Today, we are closer than ever to this goal. Our pastoral care minister, Sara Gavit, is busy throughout the week serving as a catalyst for care, linking people in need with the resources and gifts of other parishioners, so we can more effectively minister to one another, or more properly, so that Christ may minister to us through one another. Sara and the pastoral care leadership team of Jeannie Ryan, Margaret Sharrow, our clergy and church staff, along with our Stephen Ministers and Lay Eucharistic Visitors help wrap "circles of care" around those in need. Through our employment of one full time person dedicated to pastoral issues, we have effectively leveraged the ministry of the whole community in healthy, efficient, and affirming ways. We are there when things are at their worst: domestic violence, unemployment, divorce, illness, death of a child or spouse, addiction, sexual assault, suicide, depression, and loneliness. Under Cathy Kincaid's strong leadership, the prayer chain is now active seven days a week, in responding to over forty prayer needs at any given time. Karol Libbey and Jeanne Ryan have initiated a "Coffee Pals" program designed to be a partner to our Stephen Ministry, providing skills to training to those who are willing to "walk alongside" a person who is going through a rough patch in their life. Over 90% of our pastoral care is to and with others in the St. Mary's community with whom we have an established relationship as a family of faith.
10. Joy and Reverence in Worship.
Every week, we are blessed by the continued strong ministry of our worship leaders and music groups. Dr. Marilyn Barry and Wade Hampton Miller have continued in their fine tradition of providing sound learning and uplifting worship through the ministry of music. Our many Praise Singers, 9AM Choir members, lectors, lay readers, acolytes, altar guild members, and our church staff work with passion and commitment that we might gather together in lifting our hearts to the Lord. In a world of divisions and strife, no one is turned away and all are truly welcome at the Lord's table in St. Mary's house of prayer for all people.
11. Raising our Profile in the Wider Community
At the request of the Sr. Warden and Michael, a Parish Visibility Committee was formed to assess what could be done to leverage our location at the corner of the busiest intersection in Anchorage to proclaim the fact that we have a welcoming faith community at this location, and to find an effective way of letting the many travelers know of some of what programs and activities we have to offer. This is a multi-faceted project, with at least three phases. Phase 1 consisting of repair of lighting for the bell tower, clearing out of brush and trees that had grown up obscuring many of our signs and landmarks and designs for the updating and modernizing of our signage is largely complete. The new signage will have a consistent message and design and will be illuminated so they can be viewed night and day, winter and summer. We are in the midst of Phase 2 which consists of continuing to remove excess brush and trees, raising funds to update our signage and getting the signs actually installed.
Our Blessings Overflow.
This is a lot to digest, but it only scratches the surface of the vitality and amazing work of God among us. We are not a perfect community, but we are honest and authentic in admitting the many challenges ahead of us. Where we are wrong, we seek God's forgiveness and undertake the changes we are called to. Every day of the year, through numerous small groups and "communities within the St. Mary's community" we offer a supportive, accepting, and healing place for the Grace and power of God to slowly work on God's own timetable, and in God's own inexplicable and wondrous ways. Every week, lives are changed and this world made a little better because of the faith we share and the tangible ways our love for others is made visible among us.
And you make this possible. This is a large part of your life's work, as well. Everything we do, that which is known to us, and that which is the hidden transformative work of grace known only to God - all of it happens because of your willingness to rise to the call of the Holy Gospel, and answer, "yes, Lord.", in support of this shared ministry.
We give God thanks for your faithfulness every day. We ask only for your continued prayers and support, and your love, partnership, and guidance as we move forward into 2012.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Michael Burke, Rector
Mike McCormack, Senior Warden
For your Vestry leadership team.