This was the lead line on the report back from the US Congregational Vitality Survey that we took back at the end of March. The tag-line reflects our belief that we ARE spiritually vital and alive. And we are!
As a reminder to those who took the survey (and a heads-up for those who have come to Good Shepherd since the survey was administered), the goal of the exercise was to identify what we believed are our greatest strengths. And the results showed that we were strongest in “Caring Relationships” and “Ecclesial Health” *, followed closely by “Spirit-inspired worship”. Where we are least strong is in “Evangelism”. In our greatest strength, and our “growing edge” (i.e., Evangelism), we mirror the diocese as a whole.
I believe this is good news! We ARE vital. We have so much going for us (as the survey suggests).
· We are welcoming new families and individuals to worship every week!
· We had a good number of folks either Confirmed or Received into the Episcopal Church at the last Regional Confirmation
· We are well on our way to finishing the “Season of Discovery" of the Priest-in-Charge process. We should have a summation of what we’ve learned prepared for the congregation’s review by the end of the summer.
· By the end of the summer, we should have our basement repaired and back in use by our Sunday school, as well as by several of the outside groups that keep our building busy during the week. (Did you know that we have over 300 people through the building each week during the school year — not counting parishioners?)
· By the end of the summer, we should have our new organ installed!
· Our Sunday School and Youth Programs are going like gangbusters!
· We’ve made some fabulous plans for adult education for the fall and beyond!
· AND, indicative of our main strength of “Caring Relationships”, we are re-invigorating our Congregational Care Ministries!
All of that speaks of a vital congregation: we are full of energy and lively (see definition #2 in the graphic above).
Where we are headed is suggested in the definition #1 in the graphic above: we are going to march forward into what’s “absolutely necessary or important; essential”! Of course, that part of the definition is reflected in the bullet points above! But there is clearly more. The Church’s mission is “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP, 855) — in other words, to evangelize. And that responsibility falls to all of the “ministers of the Church”, that is, “lay persons, bishops, priests and deacons” (BCP, 855). So we have work to do! And efforts are underway to (re-)evaluate our outreach, to consider what it means to “Invite, Welcome and Connect” people at Good Shepherd . . . in short, what it means to "spread the good news”.
With the “Season of Discovery” behind us, we begin to move into the “Season of Visioning”! "Who we are" is part of the visioning, as we need to take the best of our past and present into the future. Opportunities will abound over the next several months as we seek to discern where we are called to minister as a congregation (including a time to talk about the Survey — see the article included in this “Sheepskin”). We will need to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit to explore new opportunities for mission, while maintaining those important ministries that are near and dear to so many at Good Shepherd.
It’s an exciting time! It’s a time to be VITAL AND ALIVE!