People come to and participate in church because it meets a need for relationship with one another and the divine in a way they find nowhere else. If they are not coming, it is because we are not meeting that need.
For decades, St. Philip met the needs of African-American Episcopalians. Now, African-Americans are more welcome in other Episcopal parishes, or, they simply do not want to be Episcopalians. Perhaps like many Portlanders, they simply do not attend church. If they do, it is “blacker” churches, or churches more in touch with African cultures. But for many reasons out of our control, they are not here, at St. Philip.
As a result, the size of our community is no longer viable. St. Philip has been supported by grant money from the Diocese of Oregon for over five years. We have two more years worth of money left. After that point, we will need to raise $200K a year. We currently raise $68K a year.
This makes the closing of this church almost inevitable.
If it is not inevitable, then we need to become a place that more people want to come, and we need to share that. We need to do that now. We need to decide who and how we want to love, and realize that may not reflect our historical membership. We need to be creative, be willing to do new things, and hand leadership over to those, if any, who want to take it in new directions.
The question before us is:
What can I do to joyfully build, share, and shelter love at St. Philip?
To help you explore and play with some ideas, ask yourself:
- When you think of participating in this community, what gives you joy?
- What might it look like to DO YOUR JOY at St. Philip? Is it a group? An event? A short project? A prayer circle? Dinner with someone new?
- Who else might find joy in this? Friends, family, neighbors? Other parishioners? Who else needs to experience love through this effort?
- Can I get this off the ground or do a trial run within 4-6 weeks?
- Can I pitch this idea to the congregation in 2-3 minutes?
Over the next few Sundays, you will be invited to share your thoughts and ideas over lunch after church. Grab a seat at a table, listen to others ideas, and share your own. When you come to the Annual Meeting on January 29th, you will be asked to make your financial commitment to St. Philip for 2023. More importantly, you will be asked to pledge yourself to participate in our life together in a new or deeper way. We will write these pledges down.
As we have done before with our financial pledges, we will place these on the altar with the gifts of bread and wine. These are your gifts given to you by God used by you for the people of God.
We all want this parish to survive, both because of who it was, but because it can still be a place that builds, shares, and shelters love.
If you make it so.