Rector’s Mid-Year Report
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
—John 15: 1, 4,5
What is this?
With all that has taken place in the last twelve months, it seemed right for me to take a moment now to update everyone on our life at Trinity, instead of waiting until the end of the year. We continue to recover from the COVID pandemic and I hope this report helps give everyone a sense of Trinity’s wellbeing and celebrates the blessings we have received, even amid challenges.
It is a joy to report that Trinity continues to thrive and grow as our nation and world seek some level of normalcy after the global pandemic. Trinity is emerging from this time with a strong sense of community, faith and hope for the future. This does not mean there are no “stressors” at Trinity, just as there are many in our households, places of employment, schools and businesses. The global pandemic is a source of the economic uncertainty all around us, as well as emerging social tensions. The war in Ukraine is a factor in all the economic challenges our nation faces—an event no one could have predicted.
Yet, faced with closures, modified worship practices, the suspension of singing, the inability to be together in the same room, mask wearing, and more, Trinity has remained true to its calling and has even thrived. Through it all, we remained a place for all people, whoever they are and wherever they come from, to explore faith, embrace community and make a difference. During our time of isolation, we welcomed new members and new ministries. Our newly developing Appalachian Regional Ministry and our wildly successful Trekking in the 828 group are examples.
In the fifteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the relationship between himself and his disciples using the image of viticulture. Grape vines take many circuitous routes, reaching out far from the main branch, but they cannot live if they are cut off from their source. “You cannot bear the fruit of the kingdom of God if you do not abide in me,” says Jesus. While there were times I did not know what we were going to do during our time of separation, we remained grounded in Jesus, and his gospel. This is the only thing that held us together. Praise be to God.
Here are a few updates on several vital areas in Trinity’s life. May God continue to bless you and yours.
I look forward to seeing you soon!
Our worship life remains strong. We have returned to all of our pre-pandemic services, 8:00, 10:45 (10 in the summer) and 5:30. Nearly all the modifications we made to worship because of COVID have ended, except for hand-shaking at the peace. In the end, hand-shaking is probably the riskiest health behavior in worship. We can’t completely avoid it, and there are hand sanitizers all around our campus. Yet, it seems wise to wait before we return to this practice, if we ever do!? Please use the hand sanitation stations to increase our health and wellbeing.
When the pandemic began, thanks to a previous investment by our vestry, we were immediately ready to live-stream our services. For weeks and months, we were one of the few churches in our diocese and beyond who remained connected through live streamed services. Today, our live-stream participation remains high and adds 25 to 50 percent attendance (sometimes more) to our primary service. Our Vestry has increased investment in this format, adding additional cameras and funding for individuals to operate our livestreams. Our in-person participation is down anywhere between 10 to 50 percent, depending on the Sunday, as compared to before COVID. We know that COVID still is present in the community and some of our members continue to find it necessary to care for themselves by limiting their exposure to others. We want everyone to remain safe. Lower in-person participation stresses some of our ministries. Some of our regular ministries have fewer people involved, and if lower in-person participation continues in the long-term, we may need to make adjustments in several areas.
I want to give a shout out to our associated clergy, who have assisted me mightily during this time without an Associate Rector. They have been a major help to me and I am deeply appreciative.
As mentioned above, about 10 to 50 percent fewer persons are showing up in-person for worship and other events at Trinity. This new dynamic is consistent with data from nearly all other Christian communities, including denominations both main-line and evangelical. However, ironically, engagement in our life together is up from before the pandemic. What does this mean?
It means that even though fewer individuals are showing up in-person, more people are engaged overall when we add in the ability to join services, studies and meetings virtually. We are only beginning to live into this dynamic and we have much to learn. We want to both take advantage of virtual participation as an opportunity and recognize its limitations in building us up as a community. Congregations that had established small groups before the pandemic have shown that they have been most resilient in remaining connected because relationships had already been established. It remains unknown if virtual participation is an effective starting place to joining a church community. Understanding and responding to these shifts in culture will take time. Yet we are aware and paying attention. I am interested in your perspective and any reflections you may have. Speaking of engagement, we are restarting our traditional Supper Clubs. I hope you will consider joining this wonderful way to get to know others at Trinity. All the details are found at this link, along with a sign up sheet.
A powerful group of laypersons and clergy have blessed us in Pastoral Care during the pandemic and especially since our former assistant departed nearly one year ago. Our Pastoral Care team of nearly ten people ably assists me in leading our pastoral care ministries, including flower delivery, meal delivery and more. Yet, I want to acknowledge that being Trinity’s only full-time priest has challenged me in meeting my own expectations. Thank you for your patience with me in this area and as Amy comes onboard, I trust you will let me know of any unmet pastoral care among us.
Effective communication has become one of the more challenging aspects of church in the past few years. If your email inbox is anything like mine, you often feel overwhelmed by all the information you receive. I understand. And yet, with the US postal service changing its speed of service and with increasing postage costs, electronic communication has become our primary mode of keeping up with each other. We have over 700 households on our mailing list at Trinity. There is now no other effective way for us to communicate regularly besides electronically. I hope you receive our weekly e-news on Fridays and the Sunday emails that contain the links to join our livestream services and Sunday Adult forum virtually. If you do not receive these, please call the church office. If you have no way of receiving electronic communication, we want to know. We want to do everything we can to be sure we connect you to what is going on at Trinity.
I have never worked with a stronger and more committed group of people in a church than with Trinity’s staff. When the pandemic began, every member of our staff re-tooled and developed ministry with and among us in each of their areas, music, children’s ministries, youth, parish life and pastoral care. Beth Chestnut developed an amazing children’s curriculum delivered and shared online, and engaged our children each Sunday, and mid-week, online. Debbie Cox immediately shifted
to engaging our youth online and was quick to get back to in-person gatherings as soon as we could meet outside. Sharon Boone continued to recruit, rehearse and lead music with the limited musicians we could safely gather and helped lift us up with online meditations. Ken Wilson amazingly kept all of us informed, Jo Rice assisted each of us in putting it all together and Dillon Manly and Jan Hildebrand, in our financial area, kept us on track, worked through red-tape in applying for a PPP loan and provided up-to-date information for our Vestry. Of course, Glenn Childes kept our campus safe, secure and functioning through what amounted to a moth-balling season. We give thanks for our Deacon, Bob Zito, who came to us in the midst of COVID. His reassuring presence is a blessing to us.
When you see any member of our staff, please thank him or her for their service and ministry.
We look forward to welcoming our new Associate Rector on July 17 for her first Sunday at Trinity. Amy will share ministry with me in all areas of our life together, including preaching, worship, pastoral care and outreach. However, she will have a special focus in ministry with our Young Adults and families, including children’s ministries and youth. For the time being, Amy and I will have the same day off, Mondays, in order to give us more time together during the week. As always, we will both be available on Mondays at any time, in the case of a pastoral emergency. Call the church office to reach us. In the coming days our Vestry will announce a series of informal gatherings around the city to meet and get to know Amy. Keep your ears open for updates.
The Vestry of Trinity is an amazing group of lay persons committed to Trinity’s wellbeing and its future. Three groups (classes) of five people make up our fifteen person Vestry. Each class serves for three years rotating. We elect five new people each year. The Vestry of Trinity is a “small group.” We pray for each other, for Trinity, and for members of the parish on our prayer list. We study the scripture together, we eat and drink together, and we support one another as we consider the matters that
come before us. The Vestry cares for the “temporal” aspects of our life together, buildings, grounds, and finances but, in cooperation with the Rector, it also casts a vision for our present and our future. The Vestry also assists the Rector in overseeing the staff and the congregation’s worship and spiritual life.
This year our Vestry has three working groups. One group is working on strengthening our overall community life in terms of fellowship and relationships, one group is working on strengthening the overall safety and security of our campus when groups are meeting onsite. Still, another group is working on supporting our outreach and missions. I am honored to be in ministry with these Trinitarians. Please thank them for their service.
The Vestry is now receiving nominations for the next class of Vestry members. I highly encourage you to consider serving Trinity in this role. Learn how to be nominated and fill out the nomination form at this link.
You may recall that several months ago, Caring for Children, the organization that runs Trinity Place youth shelter, informed our Vestry that it was ending operations. We housed it in the red brick house across the street from the church. The house is the property of Trinity Church. Caring for Children did not consult the Vestry about this decision. Trinity Place has a long thirty year history and several of our current members were involved in raising funds to get it started as well as purchase and renovate the building. Your Vestry has made no long-term decision on the
future use of the building because we are committed to do our due diligence. We hope to find another organization to run a full-time, 24/7 shelter for youth. That organization may or may not exist, but we want to give time to explore that possibility. In the meantime, a group of therapists, some of whom specialize in youth, and who previously worked at Trinity Place, are making use of some of the space
Outreach and Mission
Throughout the pandemic, Trinity’s outreach and care for our neighbors never waned. We maintained our financial partnership with nonprofits and ministries we have always supported. We moved our Red Bag Sundays to be "virtual" with members donating the value of a bag instead of filling a physical bag and our Outreach Team purchased the items themselves. Rise Against Hunger helped us hold a packing event where we prepared 10,000 meals for those in need. As they continued
feeding the hungry and homeless, we supported the ministry of the Church of the Advocate. And, we launched a new ministry in partnership with local officials and church leaders in Graham Country — The Appalachian Regional Ministry. Debbie Cox, our Parish Life coordinator, connected our youth and some adults to a regular ministry of providing food at Transformation Village, a shelter for women and children operated by ABCCM. This month, we return to our youth mission experiences. Debbie Cox and myself will lead a youth trip to the Episcopal Diocese of Costa Rica, strengthening our ties in Christ with brothers and sisters in different lands. Fortunately, our outreach and mission continues to flourish. There is always room for you to be a part of service at Trinity. Please contact the church office and ask Jo Rice for a listing of ministries Trinity is a part of and to learn of ways to serve outside the walls of Trinity. Indeed, we are currently receiving input from a recent Time and Talent survey. Have you completed yours? Click here to fill it out.
Buildings and Grounds
Trinity’s Vestry takes the care of our physical campus seriously. The youngest building at Trinity is over fifty years old, the oldest over 100. It is a blessing that our buildings serve us well and continue to have room for growth. Our Buildings and Grounds Team is a group of committed members who meet each month to consider needs, concerns and improvements. Over the past year, we have replaced the HVAC system on the first floor of the office wing, upgraded the microphone system in Tuton Hall, replaced and improved the entrance to the office wing from the south parking lot and replaced the hot water heater that services
the Tuton Hall kitchen. We needed to remove several dead and diseased trees to the south of the property and prune much vegetation all around the campus. Two small but persistent water leaks at Trinity are being investigated to discover their source. We have attempted multiple times to find and repair them, to no avail. We will keep at it. Our Buildings and Grounds team, led by Art Garst, is to be commended.
The Buildings and Grounds team welcomes new members. Members of this team work together sharing care for different aspects of our campus. To join, contact Jo Rice at the church office, and she will put you in touch with the right person.
Trinity’s members and friends helped to keep Trinity’s finances strong throughout the whole pandemic. You maintained your giving and many of you increased your financial commitments to Trinity. We are blessed and I am truly thankful. When the pandemic began, we wondered if we could maintain our full staff. Blessedly, we could. At this point in the year, we have a surplus of $70,000. However, we have not been paying for an Associate Rector. Had we been paying for an Associate, our budget would be close to even. Recently, I recorded a video
about Trinity’s financial well being with our Sr. Warden, our Financial Assistant and the chair of our Investment Team, Chad Hardy. Click here to watch the video. This video is great for those of you who want to know more about Trinity’s finances, including our sources of income, our expenses and our endowed funds. One of your Vestry’s values is transparency, this includes our financial life. Your wardens, treasurer (Nancy Brooks) and Vestry members are here to answer questions you may have about our finances.
May God be praised, Scott+