Rector’s Mid-Year Report
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
What is this?
A few years ago, with all that was going on with the pandemic, I began providing a mid-year report to the parish. It was so well received I have continued to do it. This mid-year report gives us a sense of how the year is proceeding at Trinity and reminds us of how we are called in faithfulness to our mission to be a place where all may Explore Faith, Embrace Community, Expect a Difference and Make a difference. I don’t set out to address every aspect of our life in this report. This is a highlight of significant elements of Trinity’s life.
Last August, Trinity’s staff and Vestry were asking the question, “Will people come back to church in the fall?” I’m pleased to report that the answer to that question is a resounding YES! We have experienced a full return to worship and participation and welcomed many new members.
On May 14, Bishop José confirmed and baptized 51 people. Only five of those were youth; the year before, 25 of our youth graduated from high school. That means we welcomed nearly 45 adult members to Trinity through this rite. That is only a portion of new members, as not all were able to be present, and not all took the Exploring the Episcopal Experience class.
Our event attendance is strong for all generations, children, youth, and adults. This summer, we already have 40 children registered for Vacation Bible School and 7 middle schoolers attending our mission experience to Graham County as part of our Appalachian Regional Ministry. In partnership with local church and community leaders, middle schoolers will assist in ways that support those in need. Seventeen high schoolers are attending our summer experience called “Blue Theology.” The high schoolers will be staying at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, where they will explore their Christian faith in relation to the whole created order, with a special focus on marine life. I’m reminded of the great Canticle in the Morning Prayer service in the Book of Common Prayer (pg. 48), where one of the verses reads,
O ye wells, bless ye the Lord; *
O ye seas and floods, bless ye the Lord;
O ye whales and all that move in the waters, bless ye the Lord;
praise him and magnify him for ever.
I give thanks because, as I speak with clergy around the wider church, many congregations have not experienced a return to normal after the pandemic.
While most parts of our common life are flourishing, it’s also true that some of our lay leadership positions remain empty. We have seen a slow return of individuals who can resume leadership roles in some key ministries—everything from Altar Guild to Outreach and more. I invite you to consider completing Trinity’s Time and Talent survey and to consider how you may be called to service and leadership (Time and Talent Survey). Your gifts and skills matter. Neither I nor the staff members may know of your interests, gifts, and passions. Please make yourself known.
We recently held a Leadership Summit, including all those who lead a ministry or group at Trinity. Over fifty people gathered with staff and Vestry to reflect on the ministries we lead and what brings us joy. “I love seeing others praise God,” said one. “The beauty takes my breath away,” said another. “Helping others find a safe place to say their prayers,” “Seeing the joy on children’s faces,” and “Serving those in need,” said others. We also considered how we might continue to strengthen our operations so that our ministries can thrive even more. We discussed how we could better show gratitude and increase awareness of the myriad of opportunities for growth, prayer, and service at Trinity.
Here’s one statistic that always catches me up short. On any given Sunday, when you include choir, ushers, chalice bearers, acolytes, readers, altar guild, linen guild, flower guild, welcome ministers, and Sunday school teachers for youth, children, and adults, there are anywhere from 125 to 150 volunteers playing a role. So many people are involved in praising God and sharing the good news at Trinity. Our life at Trinity, from Sunday to Sunday, could not happen without you and the many ways you serve God and tell the Good News that Christ gave his life so that we might have life forever.
In the third chapter of the letter to the Ephesians, the author seeks to encourage the fledging community of Jesus to carry on in ministry even though they do not know exactly when Jesus will return in glory, even though they may not be able to see the full outcome of their work. They are asking questions like, “How do we know what we do matters?” The response is, keep doing what you are doing because God can take your ministry and do more than you could ever ask or imagine. “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
So here are a few updates on our life at Trinity, always remembering that the power of God is carrying forward all we do in ways we could never have imagined.
Our worship life remains strong. Our worship services play a vital role in our chief duty as disciples—the worship of God. In our worship, we are renewed and empowered to go out in the world to serve. We care about this world and its people because of Jesus, his incarnation, his life, his death, and his resurrection.
It is because of Jesus that we are passionate about peace and justice. Because he first loved us, we love the world that he made. Trinity is a place where all can experience the breath of worship experience in the life of the Episcopal Church can be found. At 8:00, our Eucharist is more contemplative and from the traditional services of the Episcopal Church, Rite I.
The Rite I service uses Elizabethan language (thee/thou). For many, this service is a balm for the soul. So many churches throughout the country have not only dropped their 8:00 service, but they have also eliminated the Rite I service. The beauty and rhythm of this service, as well as its theological clarity, fills a vital role in the spiritual life of the Episcopal Church and for many at Trinity, including me. It is a moment of linguistic beauty that helps us touch the heart of God and allow God to touch ours. Our 10:45 main service is the height of Episcopal liturgy at its best, with choir, processions, and room for all. Our 5:30 service is drawn from the best of our evening worship services wrapped in a contemplative flavor from the Celtic tradition. This service uses the church's most modern, inclusive language and allows for a different experience. The breath of Episcopal worship can be found here at Trinity. This type of diversity and inclusivity is the call of the Anglican “middle way.”
A powerful group of laypersons and clergy have blessed us with Pastoral Care. Our Pastoral Care team of nearly ten people ably assists the clergy in leading our pastoral care ministries, including flower delivery, meal delivery, and more. Some of our pastoral care ministries were the hardest to re-institute after the pandemic because they were hands-on and face-to-face in nature. We have been able to re-institute our healing prayer ministry during the 8:00 and 10:45 services. It has yet to return to our 5:30 service, but it is our goal to return this ministry to all our worship experiences. We will finally begin re-establishing our Lay Eucharist Ministry home visitations in the coming months. This has been the most challenging ministry to re-establish, and I’m pleased we are moving in that direction.
Each time I write this and any report, it seems reasonable to remind everyone that we rely on electronic communication as our primary means of sharing information. While we have a very high percentage of members in all generations who use email, there is always a shadow side to communicating in this way. Our email boxes are overflowing, and we have more to read than we could ever accomplish. I am grateful for the Communications Team, a newly formed leadership team at Trinity. This team is working to examine and evaluate our communications so that they may be the most effective possible. Please let me know if you have skills in writing, producing videos, and communication in general and would like to join the effort. We are now exploring the return of the Trinity Commons—our quarterly publication focused less on the time, date, and place of the next event but on the "why" of faith and ministry. We could use some writers and journalists in this endeavor. Also, don't remain silent if you notice something to improve on our website (trinityasheville.org). Let us know.
Trinity’s staff is one of the most gifted, loyal, devoted, and hardworking of all churches—ever. They work collaboratively, compassionately, and with excellence. Our mission statement as a staff is: Working together, in a caring community, we are passionately dedicated to encouraging and nurturing the people and ministries of Trinity Church. We share the Gospel News – Love in Action – with all of God’s people.
Several staff transitions have recently occurred, and more will happen in the next few months. As most know, our long-term Director of Finance, Dillon Manly, has retired, and Jan Hildebrand, our former Assistant of Finance, has replaced her. Robyn McNeal, who held a position at Trinity as an Assistant Program Director, has moved into the role of Assistant Director of Finance. Robyn’s former role is vacant, and we have yet to find someone to fill it. We need the person in this role to be physically present and help welcome members and guests coming to Trinity each week. One of our values is that we see and understand the campus of Trinity Church as a ministry site.
Here is another statistic that always catches me up short. Did you know that Trinity’s Undercroft, where the Church of the Advocate meets, also hosts nine AA groups weekly? We welcome a parenting class as part of Buncombe County’s work with new parents (and led by a Trinitarian). Tuton Hall is a gathering place for other ministry partners of ours, such as Meals on Wheels, Pisgah Legal Services, the Diocese of Western North Carolina, and others. When you add these events to our weekly worship services, approximately 2000 people a week and 8000 people a month are meeting at Trinity. They are finding God and/or a way to care for themselves, their families, and their lives. We constantly ask how we are called to ministry outside our Church Street walls. And our ministry is thriving inside as well. You can see why we need the position of Assistant Program Director to be physically present. We will continue to search for the right person, and we may modify the role to attract the right candidate.
With increased participation, our Director of Youth Ministries and Director of Parish Life, Debbie Cox, continues to be pressed with her responsibilities.
During this past academic year, we welcomed 60 to 80 people at breakfast each Sunday. If you’ve not signed up to volunteer with our Sunday breakfast, it’s a great way to get to know others at Trinity. It’s a time of fellowship and fun. You don’t need to know how to cook. Give it a try. Debbie is also responsible for Youth Sunday School and cultivating relationships with the youth and children soon to be in the youth program by leading our acolyte ministry. Therefore, I’m pleased to announce that Paul Hatfield, a member of Trinity, has accepted the role of our Kitchen Manager. This role will also serve as the kitchen overseer for the Church of the Advocate. Paul will oversee our Sunday Breakfast and assist with other meal events when possible.
In addition, we have welcomed Nanette Popa to Trinity’s staff as a part-time assistant to the youth program. In the meantime, she is assisting Jo Rice until we fill the Program Assistant position. Nanette is a blessing. She is a former counselor at Camp Henry, and she comes with skills in digital technology. She is also assisting Beth Chestnut with Children’s Hour on Sundays.
We are seeking an Assistant Priest in partnership with the Diocese of Western North Carolina. For clarity's sake, Amy is our Associate Rector. The title of “Associate” signifies a position with more responsibility at the parish. The Assistant role will serve as the Vicar of the Church of the Advocate and Assistant Rector at Trinity. The ability to shape this position into a full-time role is the type of stability needed for the leadership of the Church of the Advocate.
This person will bless Trinity's priestly life, supporting our sacramental life and other areas according to skill ability. The Diocese and Trinity will partake together in the financial support of this role. A small team of individuals is assisting me and the bishop in searching for the right candidate to fill this role. The skills needed for this role are specific, and it takes some time to find the right person. As an aside, the rate of ordinations in the Episcopal Church has declined drastically. Approximately 225 people are ordained yearly, and just over 400 retirements each year. The marketplace is tight.
The Vestry of Trinity is a fantastic 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. The Vestry of Trinity is a “small group.” We pray for each other, Trinity, and parish members on our prayer list. We study the scripture together, eat and drink together, and 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 future. The Vestry also assists the Rector in overseeing the staff and the congregation’s worship and spiritual life.
Through the Vestry’s work and the setting of yearly priorities, many of our accomplishments as a parish have come to fruition. From our 5:30 Celtic Eucharist to the Appalachian Regional Ministry, our Capital Campaign a few years ago, which led to the redesign of our courtyard, to Trekking in the 828, to name a few.
This year our Vestry has priorities around examining and integrating our overall Outreach and Mission efforts. In the fall, we will be hosting an “Outreach Retreat.” At the retreat, members of the Vestry, members of the Outreach Team, and all those interested will come together to examine Trinity’s call to care for our community near and far. We will seek to understand our calling, assess our current efforts and craft a structure and vision for the future.
Another priority is “awareness.” Trinity’s ministries are broad and deep, yet we are unsure that members of the whole parish are aware of what is happening and how they can be involved. Part of this priority also includes assessing our opportunities for fellowship so members can find a way to connect better.
Lastly, we are committed to completing a goal from last year that focuses on security and safety. Upgrading and retrofitting doors so we can adjust access to the campus on Sunday mornings has taken more time than anyone ever thought. Many items on our campus are fifty years old. The doors are wooden and old, many of them rotted to the core, and we cannot find any locksmith who knows how to work the nearly 100-year-old mechanisms on some. Most of them won’t fit a wheelchair and are not even friendly to someone using a walker. Retrofitting these while maintaining architectural integrity has proven to be a challenge. All of this while monitoring the financial health of our parish (more on that below) and assisting the Rector in shaping the staff for the future, considering buildings and grounds upkeep, and other matters that present themselves day by day.
When you see a member of your Vestry, please extend your thanks.
You may recall that last year Caring for Children, the organization that runs Trinity Place youth shelter, informed our Vestry that it was ending operations. We housed Trinity Place 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 and purchase and renovate the building.
A discernment team appointed by the Vestry is diligently working to vet possible agencies that might take up the mantle of Trinity Place in the same manner as before. As I write, they are meeting with potential partners and will make a recommendation to the Vestry if they feel that a potential partner exists. If not, the Vestry will continue to discern the next steps for the property.
Becoming beloved community
Everywhere we turn, we are called to awareness and action when it comes to understanding our call to see all people as God sees. To me, this is one of the meanings in Paul’s letter to the Romans when he says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” His purpose here is not merely about morality. He is saying that when God looks upon us, he sees everyone the same. We are equal in God’s eyes. We are God’s creation whom God loves and cares for. We are equally capable of wrong and equally capable of right. We are all God’s beloved. The true sin is that we don’t treat people equally. We don’t treat all human beings as God’s children. We are tribal. We organize ourselves into groups based on qualities not found in the Gospel of Jesus. We do it by nationality, language, skin color, and many other ways. It is a holy thing to consider the ways we have done this in the past in our churches, our nation, in our hearts and to consider how the sins of our parents live with us today. We have done some of this at Trinity and I encourage you to look on our website for a few video series we held, including looking at the history of race in our own parish.
Several years ago, the Rev. Dennis Fotinos began a “Becoming Beloved Community” conversation and reading group here at Trinity. His excellent work formed the foundation of a continued group of individuals who gather regularly to consider God’s call to create a community in line with the Gospel. This book group meets regularly; you can join in person and on Zoom. I highly encourage all Trinitarians to consider joining and growing in the work of building beloved community. We're not talking about Trinity Church only here. The work is about understanding how we walk as disciples of Jesus in all places in our lives.
In some spaces the work of building beloved community demands understanding in specific ways. It is of high value to me that our work is invitational and grounded in creating a safe space where everyone can share their questions, confusions, reluctancies, joys, and sins. I’m so very grateful for the work of Dr. Sharon Lechner and Page McCorkle in their leadership of this group and the conversation. There is so much more work to do. We are called to listen, as disciples, to the one is working to make all things new.
Outreach and Mission
One source of thanksgiving is that Trinity’s outreach and care for our neighbors never waned throughout the pandemic. We maintained our financial partnership with nonprofits and ministries. 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.
For as long as I can remember, our Vestry has maintained a priority to tithe (10%) of all pledges and open offerings to our Outreach and Mission work. Every member of Trinity can know that ten percent of every dollar they give each year is dedicated to this priority. Each year, over one hundred thousand dollars is marked for ministries and ministry partners, many of whom we have direct, hands-on relationships with, including Habitat for Humanity, ABCCM, the Church of the Advocate, Manna Food Bank, and more.
We are looking forward to the “Outreach Retreat” I mentioned above in the Vestry section to help us bring further clarity to our Outreach efforts. On October 15 of this year, Outreach Team member Liz Trask organized a Rise Against Hunger packing event. This will focus on our whole morning at Trinity, and we hope to pack 10,000 meals for those in need. The newly developed “Heat and Serve” ministry at the Church of the Advocate allows members to specifically help those in need in our backyard, and some 40 people have signed up to assist.
In many ways, because our current Outreach efforts are so strong, we feel the need to clarify our structure and our calling in the “retreat” to be held in September. Stay tuned to that event.
Buildings and Grounds
Trinity’s Vestry takes the care of our physical campus seriously. The youngest building at Trinity is over fifty years old, and the oldest is over 100. It is a blessing that our facilities 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. I could list numerous projects that have been addressed so far in 2023 but let me focus on naming some significant challenges currently being addressed. I already mentioned the retrofitting of doors for security purposes and overall care.
Additionally, in the coming days, we will replace the flat roof over the church's sacristy areas. That roof has continually failed over the past ten years, and leaks have damaged cabinetry, flooring, and more over those years. Though we have attacked (I use that word on purpose) several other small leaks in the roof of the church's nave over the years, we continue to experience some that must be addressed. A particular, persistent one around the church's tower is of profound concern and will continue to require delicate assessment as our slate roof is not easy to examine without further damaging it.
Also, in the coming months, we will embark on a complete renovation of the sacristies of the church, primarily due to the damage that came with the roof failure. More specific communication on this will be forthcoming.
Our newly developed Creation Care Committee has added life and awareness in ways small and great. Through their prayer and ministry, we have a growing sense of God’s call to care for creation as we can.
We now have a thriving composting process at the church, our use of disposables has decreased, and our Church Street courtyard landscaping has been renewed through their efforts. The CCC is working together with Buildings and Grounds to create a long-term plan of ecologically sound stewardship of our land, to ensure that our buildings are updated in the most energy efficient ways, and to care for the beauty we’ve been entrusted with at Trinity. They’re also contributing to upcoming formation and education events, and working with the Church Street Collaborative to share resources and ideas. There is always more to be done, and we welcome your participation.
Trinity’s members and friends helped keep Trinity’s finances strong throughout the pandemic. You maintained your giving, and many increased your financial commitments to Trinity. We are blessed, and I am truly thankful.
Recently, I recorded a video about Trinity’s financial wellbeing with our Sr. Warden, Katherine Ray, our Financial Assistant, Jan Hildebrand, our Treasurer, Jennifer Weideman, and the chair of our Investment Team, Chad Hardy. You can find the video on our website, but you can also click here to watch the video. This video is excellent for those who want to know more about Trinity’s finances, including our sources of income, expenses, and endowed funds. One of your Vestry’s values is transparency; this includes our financial life. Your wardens, treasurer, and Vestry members are here to answer your questions about our finances.
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
May God be praised, Scott+