January 2, 2017
Dear Loved Ones,
I don’t know about you, but time certainly does fly for me. I find it hard to believe that I have been at SMA for ten months now, and just celebrated my first Christmas here!
One of the big rules for a new priest, is not to make too many big changes in the first year. New priests are advised to get a “feel” for the congregation, learn about traditions, and witness what works and maybe what doesn’t, and then proceed with caution.
Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it can be unsettling for some of us who take comfort in traditions. A church like SMA, with its rich history, is steeped in traditions. Parishioners who cherish its traditions may find changes to be particularly difficult; with this concern in mind, I want to explain two changes that will occur the first Sunday in February. These changes were proposed by me, and approved by our Vestry during our December Vestry meeting. Surprisingly, the following changes appear to be a “return” to the way things were a generation ago at SMA:
Starting in February, Sunday school will be held during the first half of the later service.
Children will be in the classrooms during the readings, sermon, and Prayers of the People. They will join their parents and/or grandparents at the Peace—and remain seated with them until the conclusion. In this way, the children will receive age appropriate Christian education during this time, and parents and grandparents will have devoted time to concentrate on the lessons. In addition:
- Once a month a Children’s Service will occur during the later service time, and the children will be present—and participate—during the entire service. I envision them helping as ushers, readers, and acolytes.
- As before, parents who do not want their children to participate in Sunday school, may continue to have their children quietly worship with them in their pew.
This is a popular Episcopal youth education model that was used in the past at SMA; and is one that I am comfortable with as well. I have discussed this change with all parents who currently have children in Sunday school. There is a consensus that this model is both appealing and workable for our families.
Starting the first Sunday in February, we will change our later service time from 10:30AM to 10:00AM.
Numerous parishioners have recalled that in years past, a 10AM service time was quite popular for both young families and parishioners of all ages. Recently, a few families (both new to SMA and some returning) with young children have mentioned that hectic Sunday schedules due to sports activities, work schedules, etc., often conflict with our late church service. By starting the service a half-hour earlier, with included Sunday school instruction, we can assure not only our young families but all parishioners, that they can be on their way to Sunday afternoon activities well before noontime.
Obviously, this change will affect the entire parish but primarily those who are accustomed to attending the later service. We will continue to maintain both coffee hours after each service. Adult Education, held during the earlier coffee hour, will be shorter in length to accommodate this new change.
Please mark your calendars for these changes to begin on Sunday, February 5th. I encourage all worship ministry leaders (Altar Guild, Lectors, Ushers, Acolytes, Worship), coffee ministers, and Sunday school teachers, to take note of these changes and adjust their schedules accordingly.
If you normally attend the 10:30 service, I am hopeful that this 30-minute time adjustment meets with your approval and will not negatively impact your personal schedule. It is our belief that these two changes will positively affect both our worship and children’s Christian education—and at the same time, encourage more families to make SMA part of their weekly Sunday worship experience.
Together, let us pray that this New Year, and these changes, will encourage a renewed commitment for our parish mission:
We gather in the name of Jesus Christ to worship God; to invite all into a community of friendship, love, and respect; and to nurture and strengthen our faith. We go out to share God’s Spirit and to live God’s love; to be faithful stewards of God’s creation; and to help those in need.
If you have any questions, please feel welcome to contact me.
Blessings for a Happy and Healthy New Year,
Fr. John Schaeffer