ANNUAL REPORT - 2020
ASSOCIATE RECTOR'S REPORT
A Message from the Associate Rector
The Rev. David Henson
No one could have guessed where we would be at this point in 2020 when we first rang in the new year so many months ago. The emergence of the COVID-19 global pandemic forced churches to adapt nimbly and effectively to the suspension of in-person worship with no advance preparation. Trinity, of course, was no different, and much of our 2020 annual report is sure to speak to how each of our ministries adapted to this new reality.
It’s remarkable how far we have come in our ability to continue our ministry in this time, demonstrating the resilience, dedication, and passion of this faith community and its leaders. It has been an honor and a blessing to get to be a part of this truly historic time at Trinity and to play a role in continuing to proclaim the Good News in the midst of deeply troubled times.
For me, much of my work pivoted to digital evangelism, technology, graphics, and video production. Within days of the decision to suspend in-person worship, I had our parish set up for its first livestream worship service in Trinity’s illustrious history on March 15, buoyed by the parish’s wise investment in its digital infrastructure years ago and my previous experience assisting the diocese in livestreaming an event at Trinity with Bishop José McLoughlin and Bishop Michael Curry. All these factors aligned for as smooth a transition as possible in such circumstances.
In the coming weeks, I worked with our program staff members to assist with getting them up-and-running in the new digital ministry reality in their respective ministry areas. Recorded and produced videos also became a way for Trinity to communicate to its members under stay-at-home orders and these short videos either showcased ministry that was ongoing or were essentially ‘postcards’ of encouragement. For as stressful and difficult as those early weeks were, there was also something thrilling about it, witnessing the Spirit move in new ways that it hasn’t before. It made me wonder if it was a small taste of what the early days of the Church might have felt like—uncharted, unwieldy, failing, succeeding, learning something new every day, and finding God’s presence even in the midst of tragedy and difficulty.
In June, as it became apparent we were in this for a longer haul than many expected, we began to discern ways to improve the online worship experience without it feeling like Trinity Broadcasting Network. After much research, we settled on software and a second camera that enabled us in late August/early September to switch to a two-camera livestream that gives a greater feel of being in Trinity’s beloved and sacred space. This also meant that it was time to train lay ministers to run the A/V tech end of the service rather than doing the livestream tech for each service myself. Necessity has birthed a new ministry at Trinity, which includes a growing list of volunteers that includes Isaac Boulter, Todd Cross, Jack Cross, Adrian Vassallo, and Dave Hensley.
Digital ministry also meant lots of training with parishioners via phone calls to get them set up so they could join online Bible studies and gatherings. It also meant increasing our engagement and production on our social media channels. We activated our long-dormant YouTube channel—typically just used during stewardship season—and went from 3 subscribers (Ken, Scott, and me) to more than 500. Similarly, we are connecting more and more on Facebook and on Instagram, both of which serve not only our members but online visitors and passersby. Think of it as our digital front door. In a time in which social media can be quite toxic, our presence provides a witness to the Good News of God’s love, mercy, and justice. Indeed, we have found new, regular worshippers joining us from far beyond Asheville and far beyond even North Carolina.
I can say with confidence, and without hyperbole or self-importance, that Trinity is the leader in this diocese when it comes to its online and digital ministries. Our fellow Episcopal churches have turned to us frequently for advice and guidance. Our impact goes far beyond just our parish and just the community of Asheville. The willingness to invest, years ago, in our digital infrastructure shows the faithfulness and visionary leadership and the generosity to continue to do so continues that legacy and extends well beyond Trinity Church.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times, serving at Trinity is a singular experience and a profound joy to be a part of a faithful community that makes a difference.
Still, there have been losses and setbacks in our ministry this year, and I would be remiss not to note one that stings. Because of the pandemic, our kick-off Adult Mission trip to the Episcopal Farmworkers Ministry in Dunn, N.C., had to be postponed after two years of discernment and research with our Adult Mission Committee.
I continue to work hand-in-hand with Scott in worship, teaching, and preaching. I also have continued my work with the Commission on Ministry and the Executive Council with the diocese. This role gives our parish a voice on a critical commission that helps cultivate a new generation of leaders for the Church and on a council that helps set the direction of the diocese under the leadership of Bishop José McLoughlin.