Hello St. Paul’s. Dean Penny is on vacation this week, and she asked me to write a letter to the congregation from my perspective as your Dean’s Warden. As I thought about our journey together in the past year, I found inspiration in this passage from Hebrews:
“23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10: 23-25 (NIV)
A little over 7 months ago, the clergy, staff, and lay leadership of St. Paul’s made the difficult decision to respond to the unfolding COVID-19 crisis by closing the church campus and making worship available only through online channels. The St. Paul’s community quickly pivoted to find new grace-filled ways to keep meeting together and encouraging one another. When circumstances forced us apart, we experimented with new ways of connecting, and we reaped unexpected benefits.
- We started Circles of Love as a network of care and communication that will endure beyond the current crisis.
- Our clergy and staff added tech support as a tool for pastoral care.
- We began to produce vibrant online Sunday worship offerings and make them freely available on multiple platforms. Our viewer numbers testify to the reach and impact of these offerings.
- Morning and evening prayer went online and became sources of spiritual renewal in our weekday lives. These offerings have created communities that daily encourage each other on the journey.
- We shifted committee meetings to Zoom without skipping a beat, and our virtual committees remain effective at using our resources wisely to further the mission of St. Paul’s. I, for one, am glad to avoid traffic and parking by attending committee meetings on Zoom, and I hope the flexibility of virtual meetings will encourage more members of the congregation to get involved.
- Formation became virtual. We are now interacting face-to-face on Zoom for the Sunday Forum, classes, book studies, Sacred Ground, and EFM, having lively discussions and thoughtful reflections. This virtual real-time format has allowed us to welcome brothers and sisters from around the world to join our formation offerings.
- Our irrepressible nature found new ways to have fun, with virtual coffee hours, play readings, musical events, Friday Fellowship (with party lights!), and special celebrations such as the St. George’s Day tea.
- We are trying to find safe ways to worship in person, both outdoors and indoors. It this year has taught us anything, it is to be creative and nimble when we plan, always mindful that everything can change at a moment’s notice.
We have faith that a time will come when we can gather for worship and fellowship in ways that we remember fondly. The organ will thunder and the choir will soar. We will celebrate the Eucharist and commune over coffee. In-person hospitality and outreach will resume. We will pray, laugh, and work together at the same table.
We also know that when we gather together again, it will be in a changed world. We will be re-thinking almost every aspect of cathedral life, from our spiritual practices to our HVAC system. We will watch the completion of a new 20-story building to the north, that will provide St. Paul’s with new offices, parking,
and facility space. Our “new normal” will include activities that enriched our life together during our time apart, such as online Morning and Evening Prayer, and at least some online committee meetings.
And when we gather in this changed world, we will be a changed people. We will not un-see the images of a suffering world, or un-hear the voices crying for justice, or un-learn the lessons of vulnerability and mutual dependence that became part of our lives in the last 7 months. We will be asked to find new ways to carry out the St. Paul’s mission to “Love Christ, Serve Others, Welcome All” in our changed world. When we respond, we will discover unexpected spiritual gifts.
In this stewardship season, I invite you to reflect on the blessings and challenges of 2020. Generous gifts of time, talent, and treasure kept us rising together while we were apart this year, and have kept us rising together for the past 150 years. Please consider making a financial pledge for 2021 in appreciation for these blessings and challenges, and as a sign of your commitment to be a part of St. Paul’s plans to continue rising together. Please visit the “My Pledge” page that you can access from the St. Paul’s homepage or visit directly at stpaulcathedral.org/my-pledge, to sign up for one of the virtual stewardship events on November 1 and 8, and to make a pledge of support.
Blessings to you all,
Donna O. Perdue, Dean’s Warden 2020