Episcopal Church USA Questionnaire
Dear Fellow Parishioners,
In its wisdom, the Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUS) asks parishes searching for new clerical leaders to respond to a series of questions with short, one-paragraph answers. With your help, rendered in many meetings and surveys, we have composed our answers to the Church’s questions, and we share them with you below.
- Your Vestry
ECUS asks: 1. Describe a moment in your worshipping community’s recent ministry that you recognize as one of success and fulfillment.
St. James’ responds: We’re are pleased to list three such moments, one led by clergy, one a lay/clergy combined effort, and one led by laity. The lay-inspired effort, a response to the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in this and other communities, led to an Interfaith Coalition that linked local Christian, Muslim, and Jewish congregations in actions more fully described in the Ministries section of the parish portfolio. The lay/clergy effort led to the creation of a new Korean choir, which sings during Korean-language liturgies three Sundays a month and sings at the 10:30 service on the one Sunday on which no Korean-language service is held; this choir not only includes several homeless Korean-speakers but brings a new musical and spiritual element to our worship. The clergy-led ministry is the creation of a new family service on the second Sunday of each month, featuring the St. James’ School choir and child-friendly lectionary and preaching.
ECUS asks: Describe your liturgical style and practice for all types of worship in your community.
St. James’ responds: St. James’ liturgies might be described as Eucharistically centered, broad church (with occasional Anglo-Catholic tidbits). We use Rite 1 with hymns but without a choir at the early Sunday service and Rite II at later ones, occasionally drawing on prayers from other, related traditions. We incorporate lay roles whenever appropriate and enjoy a liturgy set in a rich musical setting for the principal Sunday services. Standing outside this pattern are: a very well-received specially adapted children’s liturgy and preaching for our second Sunday family services; and the monthly St. James’ School chapel services with its own chapel service pamphlet (with separate K-3 and 4-6 sections); an informal style for the lay-led Friday soup kitchen chapel. For a more complete description see the Worship section of the Ministries section of the parish portfolio.
ECUS asks: How do you practice incorporating others in ministry?
St. James’ responds: We employ several strategies. Ushers and greeters try to incorporate newcomers in our community, and we have designed a tear-off pew card with basic information about the parish’s ministries to facilitate early contact by clergy. An annual Ministries Fair in the early fall describes the parish’s many ministries (see Ministries section of the Parish Profile) and recruits new members for all of these. But perhaps the most effective strategy is one captured in a composite conversations with two youngish recent members of the parish, both of whom now travel many miles to attend worship: “Out of curiosity I wandered in one Sunday, and the warmth and diversity of the congregation blew me away. Even though I now live a good distance away, I’ve been coming ever since. There’s nothing I’ve ever found like St. James.” One of the speakers was a graduate student in Physics at one of the UC campuses, the other an Iranian immigrant who was raised in an Islamic household. We also host an active Education for Ministry program that draws not only from other Episcopal parishes but from those belonging to other Christian faith traditions.
ECUS asks: As a worshipping community, how do you care for your spiritual, emotional and physical well-being?
St. James’ responds: In addition to Sunday and weekday worship we care for each other’s spiritual well-being: through powerful preaching oriented around personal and communal response to the gospel that encourages the spiritual growth of the congregation; through lay Eucharistic visitors to those who cannot come to church; through intercessory prayer, through Education for Ministry, Sunday School, and a Young Adults’ Prayer and Bible Study Group; and through annual men’s and women’s retreats. We care for each other’s emotional well-being through African Fellowship, Korean-language services and fellowship, through services offered by St. James’ Manor to its residents, and through the pre-school’s and School’s many student- and parent-focused workshops and newsletters. We care for each other’s physical well-being through our recently strengthened liaisons with municipal services combatting hunger and homelessness, through the Korean men’s residence operated by Fr. John Kim, and through our two feeding programs—the Food Pantry and the Soup Kitchen.
ECUS asks: Describe your worshipping community’s involvement in either the wider Church or geographical community.
St. James’ responds: These efforts take several forms. We have historically had a number of parishioners involved in diocesan service, who continue to serve in several capacities. More locally, the parish has maintained ties with the religious congregations that line Wilshire Blvd in central L.A. One offshoot of this is an interfaith effort—HopeNet, a nonprofit that coordinates feeding programs at eight such congregations, including St. James, which was one of its founding members. The parish has recently strengthened its ties with the many city and county service providers combatting homelessness; these providers now view St. James as a partner in their efforts and welcome referrals coming from St. James. Another recent initiative is the Interfaith Coalition, described above and at more length in the Ministries overview. St. James’ Manor, an independent non-profit corporation organized by St. James, serves low-income senior citizens in the region. Finally, the parish has long sponsored Alcoholics’ Anonymous and and Al-Anon chapters that meet weekly on church premises, as does the longest continually sponsored Boy Scout troop in the nation.
ECUS asks: How do you engage in pastoral care for those beyond your worshipping community?
St. James’ responds: St James preserves a very Anglican sense of parish, including in its pastoral care all those who come to us from our surrounds, whether for our homeless programs or for the St. James School and Pre-school, who may not attend our services because they are “unchurched” or because they attend another house of worship. We are pastorally available to all who come to us to mark the milestones of life whether in sorrow or in joy or for worship and fellowship during ordinary times. We also connect with families through our monthly All School Chapel and with the homeless through our weekly Soup Kitchen Chapel Service
ECUS asks: Tell about a ministry that your worshipping community has initiated in the past 5 years. Who can be contacted about this project?
St. James’ responds: We can celebrate three: a residence for homeless Korean-speaking men operated (through a separate non-profit corporation) by Fr. John Kim and supported by the Korean community both at and beyond St. James; a new monthly Family service created by the Rev. Jenifer Chatfield and specially adapted to the sensibility of children, both at St. James’ School and otherwise; and an Interfaith Coalition that links St. James with other local congregations. All are more fully described in the Ministries section of this portfolio.
ECUS asks: How are you preparing yourself for the Church of the future?
St. James’ responds: In some ways we think that future has arrived: knowledgeable observers tell us we are likely the most diverse Episcopal congregation in the U.S.. But we need to do at least four things to move into the future: 1) help our wonderfully different communities and ministries better communicate with each other and with the parish as a whole (a work in progress); 2) establish a new, broader base of financial support as an older generation of well-to-do, mostly white parishioners moves into the next world; 3) master new forms of communication and fellowship that will allow a congregation spread over a hundred miles of congested roads to practice community at times other than Sunday mornings; and 4) better empower inspired laity to pursue ministries to which the Spirit leads them.
ECUS asks: What is your practice of stewardship and how does it shape the life of your worshipping community?
St. James’ responds: We have recently begun to see stewardship in a new light (see Stewardship section of Ministries description), as involving not just an annual fall pledge drive but a year-round effort to engage time and talent as well as treasure. In this we are blessed with some remarkable, inspired parishioners, who regularly share the stories of their journeys to St. James in inspiring ways.
ECUS asks: What is your worshipping community’s experience of conflict? And how have you addressed it?
St. James’ responds: Like many parishes, St. James’ historically dealt with conflict by denying it except in whispered conversations in the parking lot—not a healthy process. During the discernment process accompanying this search, guided by Canon Eric Law, we uncovered and faced a number of past conflicts (both recent and not-so-recent), understood how they had shaped our collective life, and began to feel our way toward a much healthier stance: candidly but without accusation speaking our feelings, including hurt feelings and unexpressed anger, and understanding that we are all broken people who nevertheless can come together around a shared love both of each other and of God. We believe that we have begun to walk that healthier road together.
ECUS asks: 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?
St. James’ responds: During the discernment process preceding this search, we have seen that for more than a century St. James’ has been both blessed and burdened by rectors with very strong visions, where the laity’s job was to fall in behind these leaders. On some occasions this stance had led to lovely results, in which we still take pride; on a few it has led to disasters that have nearly sunk the parish. We think that we are entering an era in which the parish can go forward only with a partnership in which a rector collaborates with—but does not dictate to—the parish as it discerns its path forward and where the rector empowers lay leadership, drawn from the amazing variety of experiences and styles in our community to coalesce around changing needs and missions. We are pretty sure this will work, given the right leader and the help of the Spirit.
ECUS asks: Please provide words describing the gifts and skills essential to the future leaders of your worshipping community. Enter no more than four descriptions made up of one or two-words each. For example: administration, asset management, preaching, pastoral care.
St. James’ responds:
Interculturally competent builder of bridges among parish communities
Administrative skills: competence in understanding finances and organizing, managing, and sensitively appreciating major “adjacent” programs: Great Music, School, and Manor