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What We Learned in 2019
It is safe to say that 2019 was nothing like what we anticipated!
In January, we faced uncertainty about our staffing model. Through prayer, discussion, and discernment, we saw our way through to continue the commitment to full-time clergy. Then in June, our long-time music director had to leave us, and we felt a little bit of the wind come out of our sails. By the grace of God, however, our music ministry evolved to include new voices, new instrumentalists, new types of music, and a continued bright sound. What an amazing gift!
The lesson we learned from that, and that we continue to learn, is that God is always doing much more than just what we see.
2019, then, turned into a year of seeing. All the way along we found new things about ourselves, our parish, and our journey with God.
Early in the year, Pat Culver and Jan Metcalf raised the idea of having an Irish Festival. Soon we had a festival of Irish music, food, culture and all things green, matched up with a silent auction. Community members gave items to the auction, including their own skills and services for sale. We learned that we have seamstresses, pet caregivers, window washers, landscapers, cooks and more. We also learned how much we love green milkshakes and Irish music.
The Irish Fest then led to a plant sale, a barn sale, and a new crew of folks helping out with our Lasagna/Spaghetti dinner. New gifts abounding.
In the second quarter of the year, I personally learned about asking for help and letting others step in to lead. First (though it’s hard to remember now), I suffered a significant fractured disc requiring spine surgery. It was a hard thing to let go of all my responsibilities for two weeks, but our fabulous leaders made it seamless for me. I was so grateful.
Later in June, I took two weeks to go study In London. While away, I wrote back every day about my experiences, and all that I was learning for life back at St. John’s. Again, were it not for our leadership, that could not have happened.
Perhaps the things that we learned the most had to do with our property. Boy, do we see our campus in new ways now.
There is a famous children’s book called “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” The premise is that if you give the mouse a cookie, he will then want a glass of milk, which will lead to spilled milk, and then to an adventure in cleaning, etc. We had a similar experience when two different families approached us about selling portions of our campus. First, prior tenants approached us about selling the Rand House, our rectory. Then, our neighbors Curt and Michelle Laraby proposed buying the lot contiguous to their Monroe Street property. Suffice to say, nothing is as simple as it looks.
Over the course of 12 months, we learned a very great deal about the history of our property, the zoning code of the Village, what it takes to reroute utilities and ensure property boundaries, the exceedingly rich history of the titles and deeds that led to our current campus, and exactly how many engineers, attorneys, contractors, municipal authorities, Diocesan authorities, trips to the archives for historic records, vestry resolutions, contracts, maps, and judges it takes to transact these sales. I praise God every day that I’d had the project management experience of my secular career. I also praise God every day for our terrific wardens and Vestry, who were onboard every step of the way.
The lesson learned in this process is that God has given us a deep well of talent, commitment, drive and passion. Even when the campus was ripped up with earth movers, we remained optimistic. Even when it felt like we were taking one step forward and two steps back, we retained a sense of humor. And through it all, God prevailed.
In the fall, we took on a variety of new things, including the Congregational Leadership Initiative, which gave the wardens and me a new network of colleagues from whom to learn and grow. We blessed the animals and fed students at RIT. We grew our monthly Silver Spoons luncheon. And in the midst of all of it, I took on additional responsibilities at the Diocese, as Dean of Transitions.
God is stretching us and growing us. This year we gained a number of new members, some new pledges, a variety of new folks stepping into leadership, and a variety of new ways of seeing each other. God is active here at St. John’s, and giving us the tools and resources to live in our next phase.
Thank you to all who helped make our current reality happen. I am so very, very grateful for Allene Baillargeon and John Richards, our wardens. Jill Lloyd, our parish administrator, cheerfully keeps us all organized and on track. Our Vestry: Allan Shafer, Glora Ulrop, Michelle Laraby, Gina Hurley, Andy Smith, Don Terry and Mark Donahoe, have given so much thought, energy, and guidance to our ministries! Jane Jobe and Will Ingle do an extraordinary job managing our finances. I’m especially grateful to Will, who significantly expanded his role this year to assist Jane with all the details. To our musicians, our altar guild, our lectors, crucifers, coffee hour hosts…you make our worship so very special. To all of you who made a meal, sent a note, volunteered for an event, brought in something for the food cupboard, or sang a hymn loudly, thank you. Thank God for you and for all that you have done. Thank God for St. John’s and its presence in this place.
With peace and hope in Jesus,