|Date Posted||February 18, 2021|
Maryland (Stuart Wright)
|Health Benefits||Full Family|
|Communicants in Good Standing||131|
|Average Sunday Attendance||61|
|Child Population in Church School||12|
|Adult Population in Church School||20|
|Teacher Population in Church School||5|
For more than 300 years, All Saints has been at the juncture of two roads carving through rural countryside, serving farmers and watermen, but leading swiftly to powerful cities (Washington, DC, Annapolis, and Baltimore). Its beautiful colonial brick church was built by enslaved people who worshiped here with their “owners” until emancipation empowered them to build other churches nearby that remain sister-churches of All Saints. The descendants of all these people have been joined by others who commute to halls of power and centers of technology, all of whom have been profoundly affected by the history and possibilities of this place.
The result is a small Parish as diverse in thought and every other aspect as is imaginable but unified in intention of Loving Our Neighbors (our website logo) wherever and whoever they are. Mission and outreach have been topmost core values of the Parish for decades: with no less than a tithe of our gross income used each year for others and with parishioners actively involved in many housing, food, and service programs, several of which we originated and still lead. We strive to balance that focus by emphasizing the essential ministry to parishioners that meets their spiritual needs and strengthens their faith. Worship at All Saints is somewhat eclectic – varying on a Sunday between a traditional Episcopal prayerbook service to other services that take full advantage of the flexibility that Episcopal thought and music allow. Worship draws from varied resources in addition to the Book of Common Prayer, using inclusive language wherever possible. Music, expressed in a variety of ways, is an integral part of worship. Sermons that are grounded in scriptures and that illuminate scriptural readings that relate to our daily life help to bring others to Christ and help to strengthen the faith of Christians. With lessons learned adapting to the pandemic, All Saints takes full advantage of the possibilities of interactive “Zoom” worship and has resolved to continue hybrid forms of worship allowing those within the brick church to interactively worship with others wherever they are. As stated in our Core Values document, we believe that worship, preaching, pastoral care, formation and fellowship should focus on bringing the All Saints community together in unifying love for one another who may otherwise be divided on a wide spectrum on views. Further, we believe that for the future of the church, emphasis should be given to bringing new members, especially younger people, and their families, into the church.
All Saints is beginning “Year-3” of a Strategic Objectives process whose object is discovering what our Lord would like us to be and moving determinedly toward that. It has strengthened our finances, created a consensus on our values, and led us to choose a Principal Mission to address housing needs (with a particular focus on people who have been unjustly denied the opportunities of home ownership and those who, because of their service to others, have been placed at similar disadvantage). To this end, we have begun establishment of a charitable corporation to create a pleasant, self-sustaining, environmentally appropriate, multiple-use housing concept in our county that can lead to homeownership and other positive life transitions. We intend, working through partnerships, to evolve a prototype that could be replicated throughout the country.
All Saints shares the challenges of many churches in a society that currently places less emphasis on the values of traditional religion. Most notably, we strive to be relevant to young families and to bring them into our worship community. Through the efforts of a talented Sunday School Director, we have a child formation program of rich content, but still low attendance. We have continued this program throughout the pandemic with Bitmoji virtual formation opportunities, live online activities, “care packages” and even a moving and innovating, virtual Christmas pageant. We continue to work at bringing the community into this rich environment, intending expansion of online activities to serve as a bridge to in-person attendance, facilitated by volunteer-provided transportation. Similarly, our outreach to Youth has been ever-evolving and ever-challenging. Currently our “Project Spudnik” youth garden gives young people the opportunity to learn how to garden and grow food for food pantries. Each year they produce hundreds of pounds of fresh produce, as well as wholesome personal involvement. We partner with other churches and organizations to provide youth with social and developmental opportunities, currently somewhat stymied by the pandemic. We are working this year to reconstitute our Christian Formation Commission to be well prepared for the opportunities of regathering as the pandemic wanes.
Closely related to the challenges discussed above, we must focus on succession planning as parishioners grow old. We believe the measures discussed above will assist with this goal, as will emphasis this year on serving local military families, and a series of partnered activities to better understand the needs of people who are not well represented in our Parish.
All Saints is a unique Parish that “punches well above its weight,” diverse in opinions and backgrounds and willing to love each other enough to thrive from that diversity. We ask what we should be doing and then find the means to do it. We are constantly and delightfully surprised by the answers that come. While that very “surprise” could reflect insufficient confidence that our Lord will provide, we would like to think that our persistence toward good ends that begin with no readily apparent solutions manifests faith beyond our knowing. We want to live out in our personal and church lives the love of God in Jesus Christ for all. We seek a Rector to join us and guide us on this journey.
The Rev. Canon Stuart Wayne Wright