2019 was a historic year on several counts:

  • We brought our expenses into line with our revenue.
  • We completed the sale that had been in the plan for nearly 20 years.
  • We celebrated our Sesquicentennial, culminating in the Gala and the transformation of our space.

Looking back over the first six years of my tenure we have made a lot of improvements to our facility. It’s easy to lose sight of how much has changed.
The change had begun when I arrived: the organ had just been rebuilt and the chapel had been stripped.

Then, as I arrived,

  • We sold the Nutmeg lot.
  • The bishop’s staff moved out.
  • Redesign of the chapel began.
  • We returned the choir to the chancel.
  • We installed colored exterior lights.
  • We replaced, refinished, and renovated floors in church, chapel, Great Hall, including the removal of old carpet.
  • We constructed new bathrooms in great hall.
  • We installed a TV and sound system.
  • We made electrical upgrades – remember when we operated the lights in the cathedral from the circuit panel?
  • We improved our security through the camera system and keyless entry.
  • We established a music endowment.
  • We developed policies and procedures to guide our ministry and administration.

Much of this was possible only through the generosity of individual parishioners, the Society of St. Paul, the LLC overseeing the property sale, and a federal grant.

Already in 2020 we have seen further improvements with the elevator renovation.
Any day now we will have a working heat and air system in the Great Hall basement offices, and soon after that in the sacristy.
We will have an ADA compliant entrance to the great hall basement.
The splendid Steinway piano will return to us around Easter, rebuilt and good as new.
We’ve started a buildings and grounds reserve fund for major projects.
Next month we will see a grove of trees planted in Balboa Park, contributed by members of this cathedral in reparation for the trees we lost when construction began.

So much of what I’ve mentioned is physical, buildings and spaces that support our ministry. But all this would be meaningless without a community that seeks to love God and love our neighbor. How are we changing?

In these six years we have grown in our love and care of each other. We have grown closer together through the summer socials, through the Stephen Ministry, through greater transparency around our finances, through our shared involvement in Pride, Showers of Blessings, and other community events.

There is much more to do.
On the physical plant:

  • Replace old ceilings in the offices and choir room.
  • Install heat and maybe air in the rest of the Great Hall building.
  • Begin occupation and use of the new building to serve our parish, our diocese, and our neighbors.
  • Convert the chapel undercroft to a neighborhood outreach center.
  • Convert the basement offices to a music center, bringing all the elements of our music ministry – rehearsal, vesting, office and library – to one place.

While we await the completion of construction and the projects I’ve listed, we can continue to grow in our love of God, neighbor, and self. Chapter is launching a strategic planning effort to facilitate this growth over the next three years of construction. We will seek to grow internally through practices of discipleship, prayer, and the reading of Scripture. And we will seek to grow externally, in our relationship with the neighbors in Banker’s Hill, learning how we can better serve them once we have the new building. The 2019 wardens, Susan McClure and Marshall Moore, helped to get us started with this, and I hope they will remain engaged.

What do I mean by growing internally? The congregational surveys we’ve taken over the last decade indicate that this is a vital and engaged church. We are in the top tier of Episcopal churches by many measures. One measurement we haven’t taken is that of spiritual maturity and depth. One organization describes four phases of spiritual development among Episcopalian churchgoers:

Exploring: you have lots of questions and aren’t especially committed to a particular faith community;
Growing: you are drawn to the community and have made a commitment, such as pledging, but you still have lots of questions, and you still look to “the church” to provide your spiritual nourishment;
Deepening: you are all in: this is your spiritual home and your faith family; you start to take responsibility for your own spiritual growth and feeding;
Center: Jesus is at the center of your life and your relationship with him informs everything you do.

The vast majority of Episcopalians fall in categories two and three. Category four is a small minority of both lay and clergy.
It’s just one way to think about our spiritual growth.

People are hungry. There are holes in our lives that only God can fill. Many of us don’t even recognize our own hunger because the church has never helped us to wake up to it. We don’t know what we are missing because we haven’t been taught to look for it. So we feel content just where we are. Complacency about our level of spiritual engagement is a very common phenomenon for Episcopalians, and in fact, the surveys we have taken here indicate that complacency is the most likely challenge for a large, energetic, progressive and liturgically enrishing church like ours.

God loves each of us exactly as we are, and God also wants us to grow into the full stature of Christ. Every time we witness a baptism we promise to help each other do just that. That means working to engage ourselves and each other more deeply in Scripture and the sacraments, in loving service to others, and in putting our whole trust in God, individually and as a congregation. That’s what I mean when I talk about discipleship.

Growth in discipleship might mean taking Education for Ministry. It might mean a regular practice of reading A
and thinking about Scripture. It might mean going on a weekend retreat or a mission trip. There are lots of resources and opportunities offered by the Episcopal Church, and we can identify the right ones for who we are.

A first step is to determine where we are as a congregation so that we can create the right clinate for growth. So our interior strategic planning team will be looking at assessment tools. One such tool is RenewalWorks, from Forward Movement Publications, something recommended by our bishop. We are currently evaluating it and other tools. If you are interested in helping with this effort please contact Donna Perdue or Sue McClure.

The other element of our strategic planning exercise is exterior. Who are our neighbors? Bankers Hill has changed a lot in recent years. Do we know who lives here now? Do we know what they need? How can we best love and serve our neighbors? The exterior part of our team will be reaching out to the organizations and residences around us, developing a strong relationship with HOA’s, boards, and small businesses, and coming to understand what they need in order to flourish as a community. As we build trust, over time we will come to better understand what ministries and programs we might offer once we are in the new building. If this aspect of our planning appeals to you, please talk to Jairus Kleinert or Marshall Moore.

Just a couple more things: our Gala150 raised about $30,000 towards the initial cost of converting the chapel undercroft to an outreach center. Obviously that isn’t nearly enough to get the job done, and we will need to do some serious fundraising and grant writing to move the project forward. If you have grant experience I encourage you to join our grants committee: John Will is a good contact for that. The $30,000 will allow us to move forward with a first essential step: assessing the asbestos in the undercroft and what it will take to remove it. That’s something I hope we can do this year, as well as starting to get some preliminary designs.

The last item on my agenda is to let you know that Chapter is allowing me to take some sabbatical time this year. I will spend the whole month of March in Costa Rica, fully immersed in Spanish, to take me to the next level of fluency. And I will also take the month of June, to rest and hopefully explore more of California. I am grateful for Chapter’s support in this, and also to the diocese for a grant which will help to pay for supply clergy as well as my Costa Rica expenses. Even though our finances don’t currently allow for a native Spanish speaking priest to care for our Misa group, I remain fully committed to supporting our Latino members. Our location demands that we serve this population and many of our Misa members have been faithful for up to two decades. Our future as a denomination lies in our ability to become a truly multicultural community, and St Paul’s should be leading the way forward.

Dean Penny with the 2020 Robinson Cross recipients,
Jen Jow and Susan Jester

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