Describe a moment in your worshipping community’s recent ministry which you recognize as one of success and fulfillment.
The response to this question is as varied as our parishioners. For the senior warden, it was the seamless way the congregation managed during our rector’s recent three-month sabbatical. For our junior warden, it was the successful completion of the repairs to our historic sanctuary and parish house after they were badly damaged during a hailstorm last summer. For a parishioner whose ministry is caring for our church grounds, it was the participation of many parishioners to clean up the gardens for spring. For a member of the altar guild, it was the appreciation shown for how a beautiful flower arrangement enhanced worship. For someone involved in our annual Christmas Shop, it was the closing day of that successful fundraising event. For a choir member, it was feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit during the last notes of the community Christmas concert. For a parishioner who volunteers at the food pantry, it was the look of gratitude and relief on a single mother’s face when she received the turkey and makings for Thanksgiving dinner. The diversity of interests and fulfilling ministries is an integral part of what makes Emmanuel Church a special place to gather and worship.
How are you preparing yourselves for the Church of the future?
Because of the growing secularism of our world, we want protect and strengthen three traditions: 1. open vibrant worship -- inspiring sermons, music, lectors, altar guild, and ushers; 2. loving care of our parishioners -- devoted care by the rector and parishioners; and 3. life-changing community ministries -- as described in Sections 5, 6 and 7. While the future of the church is beyond our doors our parish house serves as a hub for the community. In 2005, in a great leap of faith, we committed $2 million to repair and enlarge this historic building. Today, it is a resource for the entire town. We welcome AA meetings, bridge clubs, music lessons, theater groups, flower shows, weddings, concerts and other users to become part of the greater Emmanuel family, tying the church to the community in many important ways. To improve the effectiveness of all of our ministries, we’re installing an advanced A/V system to connect the church and parish house, and to stream content onto the Internet. We are also making improvements to our website and Facebook page. Whatever we do in the future, we wish to remain a Christian house of worship and service, and a home for hope and help.
Please provide words describing the gifts and skills essential to the future leaders of your worshipping community.
Warm and skilled pastoral care giver; Relevant and articulate preacher; Teacher who deepens Scriptural knowledge in today’s world; Inclusive and collaborative leader.
Describe your liturgical style and practice for all types of worship services provided by your community.
Worship at Emmanuel is a joyful experience. At 8 am there is a traditional Rite I service with organ and congregational hymns led by our music minister. The 10 am service is Rite II and features a 16-voice choir accompanied by organ, piano, or other instruments. Eucharist is celebrated at both services, and our rector welcomes all to our open communion table. Parishioners of all ages are welcome at either service. Music is an important ministry at Emmanuel. Our hand bell choir regularly supports our worship. At the 10 am service, the vocal choir typically sings an introit, the psalm and an offertory anthem. The repertoire ranges from traditional Anglican chant to contemporary gospel. Congregational singing is enthusiastic. The church offers wonderful acoustics and our rector and music minister collaborate closely to ensure the hymns and other music reflect the liturgy and enhance worship. The Flower and Altar Guilds are diligent in making the altar beautiful and we have a dedicated cadre of lay readers and LEMs. We also offer a monthly healing service, often attended by non-parishioners and described by many as incredibly powerful.
How do you practice incorporating others in ministry?
When asked why they continue to worship, parishioners most frequently cite a strong sense of community, where each person is important and acknowledged. We genuinely care about one another and make it a point to know about each other’s joys and struggles. Members often express a sense of deep connection and emotional intimacy with one another. On the whole, our members and rector are very willing to support each other IF we know there is a need (e.g., visiting in the hospital, sending cards to the sick and consoling the bereaved or providing home repairs or child/elder care). Our challenge lies with awareness and communication of need. Our weekly digital newsletter, Joys and Possibilities, shares news of births, marriages, deaths, and accomplishments, which often results in congratulatory calls, cards, or hugs shared in the hospitality of our coffee hour. Our approach to pastoral care is ad hoc and would certainly be enhanced by a formalized process. In each of our various smaller groups (vestry, EFM, choir, Seekers, etc.), members get deep spiritual and emotional support from their participation, form lasting friendships and are tolerant and respectful of differing opinions.
As a worshipping community, how do you care for your spiritual, emotional and physical well-being?
We believe “walking the talk” is the most effective way to draw others into ministry. There are no set procedures or preconditions for invitation to participate in any ministry. This is a refreshing aspect of our church life because it tends to eliminate cliquishness that often impedes participation by new folks. Rather, parishioners old and new are actively recruited for ministries based on their talents or interests. Many parishioners have stated that they were attracted to Emmanuel because they felt needed and included. Because we are a small parish, many parishioners support more than one ministry. Opportunities for participation are announced during church services and in the church’s publications (e.g., our weekly digital newsletter Joys and Possibilities) and are also discussed informally through personal conversations. There is significant participation parish-wide for major undertakings such as our annual Christmas Shop. Parishioners feel supported in their personal ministries, whose reach may extend well beyond our congregation and our church walls. All are welcome and invited (not pressured) to participate, as they are able, in whatever ministry calls them.
How do you engage in pastoral care for those beyond your worshipping community?
Since 1843, Emmanuel has served Middleburg and environs tending to the housing, education, nourishment and healthcare of neighbors in need. Early efforts included help with electrification of the town and desegregation of the town’s lunch counters and restaurants. We joke that Emmanuel has as many ministries as members. Our little town has more than 60 active non-profit organizations and our parishioners founded or are on the boards of many of them. One parishioner founded Windy Hill, a national model for low-income housing. Another founded FISH, an emergency medical service that is run from the parish house. Yet another organized local churches to form a food bank that for 40 years has provided sustenance to hundreds of families per week. Our parishioners are engaged in after-school tutoring, animal welfare, environmental conservation, grief counseling and other ministries. Unique to Emmanuel is the Piedmont Singers, a musical outreach ministry bringing joy to audiences here and in cathedrals abroad since 1999. In true Episcopal tradition, they, our EFM, Seekers, and Adult Forum programs are all open to the community and are places for exploration of spirituality and ideas.
Describe your worshipping community’s involvement in either the wider Church or geographical region.
Emmanuel members attend Diocesan events, such as a recent workshop on social media, and Diocesan council meetings. We also attend Region 13 meetings with sister churches. At one time, we were known for our generous annual financial donation to the Diocese of Virginia; budget pressures caused us to reduce this giving and in the last three years we have been restoring it. We have a tradition of sharing ecumenical services with our neighboring churches, including summer bible school, a Thanksgiving service, and our beloved “Free Church Homecoming” that celebrates a time when all Middleburg churches alternately worshipped in the same building. While most of our outreach is local, our parishioners are well traveled and share their commitment to the wider world with each other. One parishioner’s involvement in Compassion International has led to the sponsorship of many children in Africa and Latin America by Emmanuel families. Another parishioner supports an annual sale of jewelry made by African women. Several years ago, our youth raise funds to buy livestock through Heifer International and our music minister has engaged us in supporting orphans in India through Bethania Kids.
Tell about a ministry that your worshiping community has initiated in the past five years. Who can be contacted about this?
While outreach has been in our DNA for decades, we now embrace the realization that any thriving church MUST be involved in transformative community ministries. In recent years we have tried new ministries that did not achieve the interest essential for momentum. The Piedmont Singers, however, is the exception. This ministry has proven to be enormously successful both locally and internationally (as choir in residence at four cathedrals in the UK) and has drawn many new members to the congregation. We are currently exploring and testing new “age-friendly” ministries that show great promise for doing God’s work inside and outside our doors. Using lessons from our rector’s recent sabbatical, these ministries help address the spiritual, health, recreation and fellowship needs of seniors. The congregation is engaged in all phases, and we believe this effort will serve the Lord and help attract new members of all ages. To further engage our community, and grow our church, we are also launching a performing arts series that harnesses talent inside and outside our doors We seek a rector who will be excited to assist with these new efforts. Contact John Denegre for more details.
What is your practice of stewardship and how does it shape the life of your worshipping community?
Emmanuel is a physically, spiritually and financially healthy church. We are proud we have no debt and the beginning of an endowment fund. Physically, our historic buildings are in excellent condition with new roofs, windows and HVAC systems. That said, collecting enough revenue to cover our operating expenses is a continual struggle. Membership, church attendance and pledges have declined significantly in recent years due largely to deaths of older members. For each of the last 10 years, we began with a deficit budget, yet nine of those years ended with a surplus. Although we have limited funds for unexpected expenses, members have always come through to meet emergency needs. We believe our new emphasis on community ministries (Sections 6 & 7) will attract new members and help our income picture. Low-key best describes our typical pledge campaigns, though this year we have kicked it up with direct calls and personal visits. Using recent diocesan training, we are adopting a year-round calendar of stewardship messages and activities. We recognize that strong stewardship is a function of vital ministries and we look forward to our new rector’s support in realizing that goal.
What is your worshipping community’s experience of conflict? And how have you addressed it?
Perhaps because we place a high value on fostering a safe and welcoming space, many parishioners at Emmanuel prefer to avoid conflict and by so doing, prolong or complicate resolution of issues. Also, in our enthusiasm to launch new initiatives, we have sometimes failed to enroll parishioners in projects at an early stage. As an example, two years ago, the vestry and a group of committed parishioners proposed plans for a Christian preschool as an essential ministry of the church. Others, hearing the proposal for the first time at a parish meeting, thought the focus on youth was misplaced and the financial risks too great.. The meeting adjourned with misaligned expectations, hurt feelings and a few parishioners on both sides of the issue left Emmanuel. This division was very difficult for us because our overall culture is one of respectful listening when people disagree. Especially our small groups, e.g., Vestry, EFM, Choir, Seekers, Adult Forum, etc., are considered to be “safe” places for addressing contentious issues. We have paid far more attention to conflict resolution and introducing new initiatives since that time.
What is your experience leading/addressing change in the church? When has it gone well? When has it gone poorly? And what did you learn?
In general we handle change head on and reasonably well. Large changes taking place on the national or diocesan level (such as the development and approval of the liturgy for same-sex marriages) have generally been non-events for our parishioners. Most in the parish either embrace or are tolerant of such big shifts and we have seen little pushback or members leaving the parish/church for ideological reasons. The decision to renovate the parish house, and the resulting two-year disruption, was handled in stride, as were changes in rectors (even in one instance where we realized we called an individual not well suited to Emmanuel Church). Smaller changes that are under local control where people perceive they should have a say are sometimes a source of conflict. For instance, when a parishioner made a proposal to install railings in the sanctuary, there was a good deal of pushback. As described earlier, we’ve learned that frequent and constant communication and transparency are essential; most people will accept change when they feel their concerns have been heard even when they don’t necessary like it. We do best when we seek to understand before seeking to be understood._