TLDR: Four services a Sunday have forced us to create a preaching and celebrating rotation for our clergy. This is good news which will require your understanding and support.
There are signs of growth everywhere and we are cautiously optimistic that our church has turned a corner in terms of our membership decline. This coming Sunday, for example, we will baptize 3, confirm 8, receive 2, and reaffirm 1. Sunday attendance has also improved. Please see the breakdown of all attendance for the last 8 weeks:
Now, let me clarify the numbers a bit further. The in-person number may have some repeat counts: The clergy, ushers, vestry of the day, and acolyte masters may do more than one service and may have ben counted twice in some cases. I am willing to reduce the total for the day by 10 for the 9:00 and 11:00 am services. These reductions still give us an average Sunday attendance ranging from 286 to 374. I will ask ushers to pay close attention to altar party members who attend more than one service and to extract them from the second, third, or fourth count.
The online count bears some clarity as well. When it comes to online viewers we count engagements. What this means is that we count anyone who is at any of our services for a portion of time and interacted with our content in some significant way. Having said this, most of our online engagements stay for the majority of our service. Some people may disagree with us counting a person who doesn’t stay to the end of a service, but this is not unusual. We know these viewers are interacting with our services, writing comments, liking our content, and viewing other pages in our website. I also suspect that the total number of people watching online is higher than we are documenting. We count logins, but we have no way of knowing how many people are watching the same screen. I know that when my wife watches from home, our nieces and nephew watch with her. I suspect there are more people watching us online than we know, and I also believe that some of these people are finding their way into our pews.
Even with the proposed adjustments to this count, it is very apparent that our church has been growing. This growth has necessitated a few changes to our preaching and celebrating schedule. There is no healthy way for one priest to do four services a Sunday (in addition to Sunday afternoon meetings, pastoral care visits, etc.) I ask for your indulgence on this point. I will be at most services, most of the time, because I know it is important for all parishioners to see and hear from their rector often. Sometimes, however, I will choose to sit with my family or with parishioners. I will also give Mother Beth Anne and Fr. Pinzon the flexibility to rotate in and out of these services. Having multiple celebrants and preachers every Sunday will result in multiple sermons being published on our website every week. I encourage you to visit our site and watch what other preachers have done during their services.
We have assigned clergy to specific ministries, and I ask that you see the attendance of any clergy as though the other two clergy are there with you as well. We cannot be at everything, especially as we continue to develop new ministries, engage with our community, and serve in Diocesan boards (I just became a Trustee of the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin.) The one activity in which the clergy will engage together is our Pastoral Care meetings. It is important for us to continue to pray for parishioners in need, for those in hospitals and/or recovering from major illnesses who might want a visit, and for those who have solicited prayers through our website. We will continue to develop our calendar of home visits from those meetings.
We will endeavor to provide cleaner numbers in the future. In the meantime, pray for our growth, engage in ministry with us, and contribute generously to our common mission.
God is alive and well among us.
May his Son continue to bless you,