Staff Reports

Rector’s Report: 2019 A Year of Fierce Conversations
Submitted by The Rev. Charlie de Kay


I always look forward to the beginning of each new year as it provides us the chance to refresh, re-energize and start anew.  I appreciate the opportunity to look back over the past year and beyond as part of our way of imagining the future afresh. As I reflect on 2019, I’m reminded how, a few years back, the Bishop’s staff encouraged clergy and congregational leaders to read Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time by Susan Scott. The book teaches the art of seeking and succeeding in having honest, up-front conversations, especially about difficult topics. The book is a great resource for many kinds of conversations, but its greatest gift may be the ways it teaches the art of bringing forward the proverbial elephant in the room, and successfully navigating a meaningful discussion.

For me, more than anything, Fierce Conversations captures the spirit and movement of the most vital moments of the past year. We confronted our elephant in the room: church attendance is not what it was – even just a couple of years ago. As is the case in most mainline Protestant churches today, our average Sunday attendance (ASA) dropped again.  Between 2013 and 2017 our ASA hovered around 122; it dropped to 109 in 2018 and to 106 in 2019.  Given such a decline, our leadership and community have been increasingly willing – eager even – to talk frankly about our life and mission. And while the catalyst of an emptier church may be unsettling, the capacity to have uncomfortable conversations is a tremendous gift.

As your rector, my sense of excitement and hope has grown exponentially as I’ve witnessed the love and care for our church demonstrated by your willingness to respond faithfully and courageously to our reality. We’ve seen once more what an activist community we are with many A-type personalities and a devoted crew of steady workers ready to lend a hand to get it done! Creative solutions are being bandied about over the foundation of a fierce commitment to see us take on our changing context. Again, our story is not particularly unusual; most compatible worship communities are facing the same decline. What may set us apart is our courage to lean into this: the health, honesty, transparency and the strength to face the changing realities head on. 

Such fierce conversations have been taking place across the community.  I’ve heard them among trustees and former wardens, as a plan for Trust III was developed, in meetings around a possible Capital Campaign, at Vestry School, at Coffee Hour, at Vestry meetings to name a few. Our mutual ministry review was fully colored by our rapidly changing reality. The leadership, inspired by Bishop Lee’s presentation at Vestry School, requested that we engage with another book – Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territories by Tod Bolsinger. We issued a charge that the entire congregation read the book (the church made copies available in the library), and it has been the focus of an array of conversations, including: a midweek visit in July from Bishop Lee who was quite taken by the strength of your attendance, multiple vestry conversations (including a unanimous decision in August to engage with the principles of adaptive change), the midweek bible study transformed to a Canoeing the Mountains seminar, and most profoundly of all in a series of “Cottage Meetings” in late October and early November.

The Vestry, having published the findings of the Cottage Meetings in late December, is currently developing a Canoeing the Mountains/Adaptive Change Working Team, who will have oversight in making certain this work continues in a healthy and constructive way.  The team will be announced shortly. Once the team is established, the leadership plans to hold a parish-wide conversation to reflect on the findings of the Cottage Meetings, and next steps.

As uncomfortable as these conversations may be at first, they are key to our thriving in the rapidly changing future.  We need remember the journey ahead of us will not produce quick answers. This year we enter into the first stages of a period of exploration together – a cycle of planning/executing/evaluating/planning… We must be patient, and understand that our failures will teach us as much (if not more) as our successes will.  Clarity around a timeline will surely emerge as the work gets underway. We look forward to our sesquicentennial (150-year anniversary) in 2026 with increasing anticipation!

In the meantime, we already have inspiring exemplars of this kind of work in several of our ministries, but for me it’s most clear in two places:

  • the ever emerging and faithful efforts of our formation team, which continues boldly to reimagine what effective Christian Formation looks like in this moment, given our realities;

  • and the new expressions in our music program: the special music Sundays featuring gospel, Broadway, old-time religion, new music, and more; the Evanston Chamber Opera Company (EChO) works featuring works by our own Francis Lynch and others; the expansion of music during Beach Church, such delight for our first Christmas carol sing, and recently premiered St. Matthew’s Coffee House open mic night. 


The way ahead is not clear, but it is so bright. With such creativity, such smarts, and such rich diversity of gifts in abundance matched by the deep love on display for this place, our spiritual home, I can say with conviction and certainty that our best days are not behind us; they are ahead of us. We listen, learn, dream, and try new ways of being church in the place and in this moment. To paraphrase an expression going around lately, St. Matthew’s may not always have it all together, but together St. Matthew’s has it all.

I wish you all of God’s blessings and an abundance of hope, energy, and joy this New Year!

With you on the journey,





Submitted by James Jannsen and Mark Crayton

Wherefore with my utmost art, I will sing thee; and the cream of all my heart, I will bring thee.    —George Herbert (1593-1633)

                                                                                                                                          (The Hymnal 1982, No. 382)

This past summer, we celebrated 15 years as your music leaders at St. Matthew’s. It’s been an amazing journey for us, and we look forward to the years ahead. 

2019 was full of the joy of music-making to the glory of God! Our fabulous choir, as always, rehearsed for at least 90 minutes each Thursday evening and 40 minutes each Sunday morning, then led our worship in music at the 10:30am Eucharist on Sunday mornings throughout the program year. We offered new and well-known hymns and anthems of many genres and styles, in the hope of speaking to everyone in our community of faith. The tradition of great music in the Episcopal Church gives us many resources to choose from, which we endeavor to use as fully as possible.

Here are some highlights of our music in 2019 and plans for 2020:

  • On Good Friday, the choir and soloists sang the powerful Crucifixion by Sir John Stainer as its annual passion offering for the day. This piece is arguably the most important English Passion oratorio of the last half of the 19th Century. It remains in our repertory and will come back again in a few years. This Good Friday, we will bring back Charles Wood’s St. Mark Passion, another poignant English Passion oratorio that has been a favorite at St. Matthew’s over the years. 

  • On Easter Day, as every year, the choir and soloists were joined by trumpets for a glorious day of celebration. This year, the musicians of St. Matthew’s will offer All of us from Considering Matthew Shepard in addition to Missa Festiva by Alexander Gretchaninov. 

  • Throughout the year, we celebrated different music traditions on our Special Music Sundays, most notably, Godspell and Children of Eden. This year they will include Old Time Religion Sunday and selections from Jesus Chris Superstar.

  • Since starting the program year in September, we have very happily welcomed Alannah Spencer and Shay Behrends to our ranks. We still have room for more, so if you enjoy singing, can match pitch, and have a little music-reading ability, consider joining us! Our choir’s ministry is a busy—but very rewarding—one. 

  • We’d also like to thank Tim Patenode for occasionally offering his talent on the piano, playing preludes throughout the year. 

We have an amazing team of musicians here at St. Matthew’s Church! The amount of time involved for everyone to bring our music to the parish on a weekly basis deserves much recognition. We also recognize our congregation for its part in helping us make a joyful noise each week!




Parish Administrator
Submitted by Julie Hinz

2019 was a year of challenges, changes, and joys. As most know I was part time until September when I became 3/4 time and then was hired full time as of December 1, 2019. It has been a joy to increase my time and my responsibilities here at St. Matthew’s. And while there is still much to learn, I am never without an immediate task or a future project.

The Parish office has continued to function in its usual capacity, to see to the needs of the parish and its people while assisting Fr. Charlie in the day to day ministry of St. Matthew’s. In this light, my role is and will continue to be the producer of Sunday bulletins (with the editing eye of Fr. Charlie as well as the insight and assistance of James Janssen) and all that is necessary for Sunday to happen effectively, the answerer of questions, the face of St. Matthew’s to those who come to the office. In that respect, I work closely not only with the office staff but with our Vestry, ministry leaders, and community members to coordinate spaces, answer questions, fulfill needs, etc.

The organization, cleaning, and creation of processes continued this year. Communication is a moving target as what works for one group or event does not work as well for another, so the goal is to be flexible, innovative, and work toward better communication in all areas but especially when it came to bulletin/ Eblast/web announcements and prayer requests. I work closely with the Altar Guild, Coffee Crew, formation team and other ministries to clarify their needs and how the office can assist them.

In my mind, the office and those in it, are the weekday face of St. Matthew’s. When the space is chaotic, messy, unorganized, it speaks to the hospitality of the people who work there. Just as 2018 was a year of addressing the aesthetic and organizational needs of the main office, this year was spent cleaning closets, dealing with years’ worth of lost and found items, gutting and scrubbing out the former facilities managers office, and moving the former Associate Rector into that space. We now have fairly organized spaces and an empty but clean office for use when anyone comes in to help with a task. Thank you to Jack Lerman for the artwork over my desk. It adds a lot to the space and we are grateful for it.

I continue to build solid relationships with our facility users. These groups (3 Alcoholics Anonymous groups, Boy Scout Troup 912, Cub Scout Troup 912, EChO (Evanston Chamber Opera), ESIC (Improv Group), FairyTale Ballet, Girl Scouts, Judith Haddon (Voice Lessons), Lincoln Street Ballet (Hallie Rehwaldt), Overeaters Anonymous, and Wiggleworms (Old Town School of Music)) use our facilities regularly so great attention is paid to their scheduling needs, the condition of our space for their use and ours, billing/rental payments, etc. Creating safe spaces for children and adults to work, learn, and play is a necessary task.

With the departure of Damian Barta, I worked closely with Fr. Charlie and Fr. Kevin in keeping up with our property needs. With the departure of Fr. Kevin Goodman my workload grew to include website management, larger scale communication needs, creation of flyers/posters/banners, etc., working with groups such as the Formation Team and the Buildings and Grounds Team to asses needs and make programming happen. In December, once I became fulltime, my duties expanded to include bookkeeping and some financial processes. While some of that is still a learning in process, I have been able to establish a schedule for bill paying and check signing to hopefully streamline the process for those who assist.

General list of things accomplished this year…not inclusive!

  • Worship Bulletins for all Sunday services plus all other worship events (ex. Ash Wednesday, all Holy Week, Weddings, Funerals, etc.)

  • Recreation of funeral planning templates

  • Recreated General Information Form, Reimbursement Form, Home Communion Minister materials, applications for Marriage and Baptism, Facility Request form.

  • Print Community Night postcards and process.

  • Beach Church coordination including securing a concierge, coordinating with Backlot Coffee for summer coffee hour, gathering materials.

  • Creation of stewardship materials and tracking pledges as they arrived.

  • Assisting the Gala committee in tracking donations, creating silent auction packages, creating signups and buy-in party materials and other duties as requested.

  • Paying Bills and Reimbursements

  • All financial filing

  • Manage Realm (parish data base)

  • Manage Ministry Scheduler Pro

  • Archiving old materials (billing, worship materials, etc.,)

  • Organized facility files both physical and electronic

  • Electronics wiping and appropriate disposal.

  • Removal of dead refrigerator and unneeded office furniture.

  • Worked with Formation and Altar Guild on supply ordering

  • Coordinating additional cleaning needs (carpets, sanctuary floors, etc.)

  • Created, with Kristin Jacobsen, our new comprehensive Ministry Booklet

  • Professional cleaning of Parish Hall Kitchen

  • Cleaning out Lost/Found, putting out for pick up and removing anything unclaimed for donation.

  • Organize food and games for St. Matthew’s Day Picnic

  • Planning Bulletin Boards

  • Assist with Canoeing the Mountains/Cottage Meetings/Capital Campaign organization as needed.


2020 will see a continuation of many of the same things including the following:

  • Destroy out of date and unnecessary paperwork with permission of Treasurers and Vestry

  • Clean out what was the Associate Rector’s first Office

  • Work with the Altar Guild to assess contents of, clean out, and organize Altar Guild storage closet outside the Assembly Room).

  • Organize church library.

  • Clean and Organize Assembly Room kitchen.

  • With assistance, begin to address church storage areas and materials so we know what we have.

  • Work with our community groups to identify what is their property and what belongs to St. Matthew’s that should be assessed.

  • Bulletin Boards overhauled and current.

I would like to express my huge thanks to Cynthia Doucet and Dustin Vincent who worked so hard to get us a church Credit Card. Since the card was received, the need to processes reimbursements has decreased significantly and we have the funds available to purchase what is needed without putting our own funds on the line. All your time and effort are greatly appreciated.

I cannot express what a supportive, grace-filled, and wonderful place St. Matthew’s is to work. What many do not know is that our staff meetings are more than a run-down of what needs to be done. These sacred times are filled with prayers for you, the parishioners, for each other as we share our personal struggles and triumphs as well as moments of great laughter and joy. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this place, with all of you. Please, feel free to stop in the office sometime! I love getting to know the people I serve.