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The Church of the Holy Trinity

From the Priest in Charge Perch

In February of this year, we began an experiment with the time of our Sunday Service and Sunday School.  There were several precipitating factors.  The Sunday School program was not working well for the few teachers we had.  Because of the timing, they were forced to miss the Liturgy of the Word whenever they taught.  Secondly, church attendance was noticeably down, overall.  Poor attendance is not inviting for newcomers, and so becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.  And thirdly, our new First Tuesday programs had tapped into a new segment of the congregation, leading us to want more intergenerational experiences at Holy Trinity.

            We set our goals for the experiment:  to create a functioning Sunday School program nurturing both kids and teachers; to create “critical mass” by gathering everyone into one service for uplifting worship; and to expand adult and intergenerational offerings for Christian Education.  We planned our experiment to include a series of Parish Forums for gathering congregational feedback along the way.  In the end, we came up with a simple survey which could be taken online or on paper to help inform our decision-making process in addition to the forum feedback and the attendance statistics. 

            Both the Vestry and the Liturgy and Music Advisory Team considered all the data and have concluded that our goals were not met.  We did not achieve a better Sunday School experience.  Critical mass was elusive since attendance dropped off to roughly the same level that the 10:15 service had been achieving.  Although many enjoyed the intergenerational offerings, that did not appear to offset the other downsides.

            Therefore, beginning on Sunday, September 10 we will return to two services on Sundays at 8:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.  Sunday School will continue to be a challenge.  We have yet to find a satisfying solution to our twin problems of securing teachers and competing with outside activities which involve our kids more and more on Sunday mornings. 

            We have learned some things in the course of our experiment.  Quiet, contemplative worship opportunities are desirable to many.  More ways in which to integrate our youth into the worship life of the parish need to be found.  Intergenerational activities have a lot of support.  There is interest in some teaching about our liturgical traditions.  We really do enjoy being all together more often than at our annual meetings.  These are findings we can continue to explore.

            We are hardly the only church facing problems with attendance.  In my lifetime the norm for “regular attendance” has gone from being in church every Sunday to being in church two Sundays out of the month.  This necessitates new approaches to Christian Ed, since continuity is not possible.  It means that worship must be relevant to our lives or else it will be more and more abandoned.  At the same time, our need for some time with God has increased and our desire to be mission-oriented has grown.  God is on the move.  Our new Prayer Group is already praying for the congregation and its life in Christ.  We will probably have more experiments as time goes on.  Keeping everything the same is not a long term strategy.  The changes we brave will all be part of learning and discerning how God is calling us to be the church in changing times.

The Rev. Dana Campbell