As the Associate Rector for St. Matthew’s, I am responsible for several arenas including Formation, Outreach, Communications and Staffing. I assist Charlie with liturgy, visioning and pastoral care. I serve as a spiritual resource for the congregation and, as Dean of the Evanston deanery, an administrator and liaison.
For me, 2018 at St. Matthew’s was a year of creativity, transition, and challenge.
Most of the formation opportunities for St. Matthew’s are created by the Formation Task Force, which I convene, and made up of Melissa Dakich, Kristin Jacobsen, Christina Padilla, and Joanne Wilson. We meet on the third Tuesdays of the month to create and facilitate monthly educational opportunities.
Sunday Workshops for Children and Families is a special gathering time on Sunday mornings. Faith formation is foundational for children and families. But life is busy, often overwhelming, and time to study and grow in faith is often difficult to prioritize. Some of us are working parents, others single-parents, many are from the area and a few of us travel a great distance to get here. We have discovered that it is difficult to find time to set aside time for nurturing and developing a relationship with God and with God’s people. Four times a year, St. Matthew’s offers workshops designed for children, families, friends and caregivers to learn the story of God together. The four workshops, four sessions each, reflect upon stories from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Gospels and the New Testament. Stories from the Old Testament begin our series followed by the miraculous events leading up to the birth of Jesus. Then we turn our attention to Jesus’s life followed by the resurrection stories that call on us to be the hearts and hands of Christ in the world. Our Sunday Workshops are designed for children and parents to learn the story of God together. Our first workshop series, offered in October, looked at Creation, the Patriarch Abraham, the story of the Ten Commandments and the courage of Queen Esther. Our second workshop series invited children and adults to create together the 2018 Christmas Pageant.
Inquirer’s U(charist)! is a newly created, formation offering consisting of six-sessions of instructed Eucharist for inquirers of all ages. We worship. We discuss. We learn. We step into the context of the Episcopal worship tradition that binds us together across time and space. Each worship session focuses on one of the liturgical elements that make up our worship experience. Through presentation, interaction and “stop-and-go” contemplative inquiry, we are invited to apply new lenses to our prayer practices and sacramental celebrations. We learn about the parts of our service (called the "rota"), find our place within salvation history, and embrace new prayer practices to fully enter into communal prayer experiences. These instructional eucharists are designed to deepen the faith of our worshipping community. Topics during our inaugural year included:
Circle of Holy Eucharist - an informative overview of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Table.
Collect Writing - What is a collect? How do we write one? Why do we pray them? The session concluded with teams writing collects for Christmas and Advent.
Liturgy of the Word - together we examined the Sunday and Daily Lectionary.
The Nicene Creed - through historical inquiry, we discovered why we say what we say in this ancient profession of faith.
Prayers of the People - this upcoming workshop will look at the Prayers of the People.
The Eucharistic Prayer and Salvation History - this upcoming workshop will understand the parts and what is happening throughout the Eucharistic Prayer.
Vacation Bible Camp gathers at the beginning of August. Last year’s camp theme was “Becoming a Person of Peace.” Twenty-four volunteers hosted 21 campers. We worshipped, sang, studies, ate and made stuff! A delightful time was had by all. Next year’s camp is August 5 - 9. We will study the scripture hoping to gain Christian understanding and treatment of our neighbors, what God has to say about this and how we are supposed to take care and welcome them.
Community Night gathers on the third Thursday of the month for food and fellowship. This community building event starts with a light supper then moves into an educational program. So far, we have had three incredible presentations and I look forward to the remaining ones for this program year.
Self defense - Chris Dakich presented an informative session on taking care of one’s self on the city streets.
Advent Wreath Making - Our community gathered to prepare wreaths in order to celebrate the spirit of the season.
Episcopal Bingo - Kristin Jacobson created an engaging game to teach the people of St. Matthew’s about the ministry of the altar guild.
A Disney Monastic - Next month I have been asked to talk about my spiritual guide to Walt Disney World.
Lent Stations of the Cross - Our congregation is invited to create liturgical art and prayer for Lent and for a Good Friday service.
Mother's Day planting - The Green Team invites us to take care of the Earth and to honor our mothers.
Confirm not Conform is our partnership formation program with St. Mark’s. Young pilgrims gather monthly to discern whether or not they wished to be confirmed in the faith. It is a two-year journey of study, fellowship, service and prayer. Each participant journals, reads and converses with mentors to discover how experiences inform who we are as people of God. Moving through the program this year is Matthew Davies with mentor Joanne Wilson, Mary de Kay with mentor Catharine Hamrick, Jason McDermott with mentor Damon Doucet, and Xander Senechal with mentor Eric Westhaus.
Education for Ministry (EfM) is a theological study course at a distance administered by the School of Theology, the University of the South at Sewanee. Through study, prayer, worship and reflection, EfM seminar groups journey together through scripture, church history and theology. Years One & Two study the Hebrew Scriptures, the Gospels and the New Testament. Year Three looks at Church History. Year Four reads about systematic theology to develop and enhance their own. During a weekly seminar, the group does 5 things: 1) Check-in - how has the group encountered and responded to God since out last seminar, 2)Worship - participants lead worship, 3) Reflect theologically (TR) - after agreeing upon a shared focus, the group examines tradition and culture, paired with experiences and beliefs, 4) Study coursework - participants discuss insights and implications of assigned readings, 5) Hospitality - the group spends time in fellowship. Kevin mentors this four-year study program on Wednesday nights. The group includes parishioners from St. Matthew’s, Grace in the Loop, St. Martin’s Des Plaines, and St. James Cathedral.
Other formation opportunities not under the direction of the Formation Task Force include Charlie’s Wednesday Morning Bible Study and Don Scott’s Sunday Morning Bible Study.
St. Matthew’s offers many unique outreach opportunities. Joanne Wilson works with outreach teams ensuring the success of our presence in the world beyond our campus on Lincoln and Hartrey. I was glad that I could contribute to the success of 2 of them - the Race Against Hate and The Pride Parade.
The Race Against Hate honors the legacy of Ricky Byrdsong, former Northwestern University Basketball Coach, Vice President of Affairs at Aon Corporation, and Skokie resident who was murdered by a white supremacist in 1999 while walking in his neighborhood with two of his young children. On Father's Day each June, the Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate brings together thousands of people from all over Chicagoland to run and walk in unity against racial hatred and violence. Last year, St. Matthew's became a proud sponsor. As part of our sponsorship, we hosted an early morning on-site Eucharist for runners and volunteers, staffed a St. Matthew’s hospitality booth which provided snacks and brochures for all gathered, and had our logo featured on over 5000 running shirts, posters and promotional materials for the race.
The Pride Parade takes to the streets of the Lake View neighborhood Chicago showing our Pride and support for our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Members of the community, consisting of family, friends and allies, made visible the love of God for all people. As fear of the other and rhetoric discriminating against those whose lifestyle may not be respected by those in power, it is more important than ever that our voices of support and love are heard. We will march with the Diocese of Chicago within the coalition of welcoming churches.
Staffing shifted last year with 2018 seeing the creation of a new staff position of “Parish Administrator.” I enjoyed working with the personnel committee, discerning together the congregation’s current needs regarding support staff. Julie Hinz was hired, bringing to the parish a high level of skill, care, and organizational skills, enhancing an often misunderstood staff position that is foundational, central and crucial to the success of the mission of St. Matthew's.
Using the Mutual Ministry Model implemented by our Diocese, I have adapted their evaluation practices to create ways to support and hold our staff accountable. The Vestry is considering having the month of September as a time for mutual ministry evaluations. I expect staff evaluations to be in sync with the vestry’s.
Damian Barta has announced his retirement from St. Matthew’s in May, The biggest staffing challenge for 2019 will be replacing Damian, the steward of the entire St. Matthew’s Campus. Although I am excited for Damian, I am saddened to see him ago. He brings deep faith and great love for the Church into his work everyday. This is a gift to all of us - a true blessing.
Last year, I particularly enjoyed assisting Mary Clark, creating congregational communications enhancing last year’s stewardship appeal. I have also found deep gratification updating and maintaining our website.
Beyond St. Matthew’s, I was recently elected Dean of the Evanston deanery and appointed by the Bishop at Diocesan Convention. A deanery is a geographically defined subset of the Diocese which exists to promote collegiality among the leadership of the parishes/missions/chaplaincies/institutions within it and to provide pastoral attention for its resident clergy. The Diocese currently has 10 deaneries. A dean is a lead clergy person within each deanery. Deans are appointed by the Bishop of Chicago and confirmed at Convention. Appointments are for two year terms, renewable up to two times.
Understanding a Dean’s ministry is locally adapted, Deans primarily provide four functions:
A dean seeks to form pastoral relationships with clergy in his or her deanery.
A dean serves, with the other deans, as a council of advice for the Bishop.
A dean convenes the leadership of his or her deanery at least twice a year, seeking to both build relationships and to educate/inform about Diocesan priorities.
A dean is responsible for providing updates for Diocesan Council meetings.
I am grateful to have this opportunity to serve my colleagues as we discern together what is needed locally from a Dean.
I give thanks that the congregation of St. Matthew’s has granted me the opportunity to be a trainer for EfM. As part of my contract, I have been granted the space and time to do 3-4 trainings a year. As a trainer, I travel across the country, leading intensive seminars consisting of 18 contact hours where I evaluate the skills and gifts of individuals who hope to be mentors leading EfM seminars on behalf of the University of the South. This year, I have been asked to train in British Columbia, Long Island and at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.
I am also writing a new book on the spirituality of New Orleans. Several parishioners have expressed an interest in participating in an inaugural retreat, testing out and reflecting upon the book’s content, in my hometown. I am hopeful this will happen in early November or March of 2020. More on that as work on the book progresses. All will be invited to participate if interested.
I look forward to another year of our spiritual journey together and am so very grateful to have been given the opportunity to serve here.