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From Pilgrim's Vestry - the Path Forward

Regarding the apostle’s questions about how he would set things in order after his resurrection, Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that God has set by God’s own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8).

In these last six months since Pastor Carol’s departure we have been on a journey together (at what feels like a sweltering pace), led and sustained by the Holy Spirit. The specifics of this journey’s destination are unknown to us but we are walking with boldness and faith. We are guided by the Spirit but not passively - our hearts and minds are open, the steps we take are deliberate, and we are fortunate to have travel planning support from Pastor Chris and the Synod who have walked many similar journeys with congregations going through the transition process.

One of our first formal mileposts along the way has been the completion of the CAT survey (the Congregational Assessment Tool), which a remarkable 86% of Pilgrims (based on average attendance) participated in! By the time this newsletter is distributed you will have received an invitation to participate in focus groups to discuss the full palate of the responses to the survey. These focus groups will be a time for processing and synthesizing how Pilgrims collectively envision the priorities for our church as we move forward into a time of new leadership, and will be critical to the development of our Ministry Site Profile (MSP) that the synod will use to match us with candidates in the call process.

A component of Pilgrim’s MSP development in the months ahead will be to articulate a staffing model that we can sustain into the future. As we all are aware from the Gratitude & Generosity campaigns of 2019 and 2020, the LIFT campaign is coming to an end. Pilgrim’s generous funding of LIFT concluded in April of this year, and the usable funds will be depleted in early 2022. We were not able to grow our general fund giving to sustain the LIFT staffing model over time. In addition, the use of Pilgrim’s endowment to support personnel costs continues to be above a sustainable threshold. Pastor Jen and the Pilgrim staff are fully aware of the potential implications of this process.

It is in this broad context — the expiration of LIFT funding, articulating Pilgrim’s identity and purpose in the world, and preparation to call a senior pastor — that a discussion is occurring this summer between the vestry, our shared ministry committees, and standing interest groups to determine a staffing model for Pilgrim that we can sustain into the future. These are challenging discussions from a fiscal standpoint as we look at our expenses and sources of revenue, but more importantly from an emotional perspective as we face the prospect of yet more changes in the spiritual and day-to-day leadership of our congregation. We are all weary of change and many of us yearn to nestle into the warm and familiar blankets of Pilgrim in January 2020. Among the weary are our indefatigable Pilgrim staff who, in the face of so much, are fully engaged and committed in this journey as Pilgrims.

Completion of the staffing discussion is targeted for the August 17th meeting of the vestry, who will consider all of the input from the summer’s conversations as they make a determination of our provisional future model. Finalizing by this date is important for three reasons: giving the finance committee a staffing picture for their planning of the 2022 budget, articulating a staff structure to communicate clearly to candidates during the call process, and giving Pastor Jen clarity about Pilgrim’s plans.

In the meantime you will hear from the vestry on a regular basis through this newsletter, mid-week emails, and the launch of the Vestry Minute which will provide more timely updates from vestry meetings than we have previously been able to offer. The vestry recognizes the critical importance of communication in these days when so much is undecided, unknown, and unfamiliar. As ever, please reach out to Pastor Chris, Pastor Jen, or anyone on the vestry if you would like to share ideas, ask questions, or simply want to share your concerns.

We move together through these turbulent waters as the congregation sets the sails, our leaders and staff hold the wheel, and we prayerfully respond to the winds of the Holy Spirit. When these three elements come together we’re sailing - they have, and we are (the CAT survey data say so)! We have been given the gift and responsibility of this time by grace through our faith in Jesus Christ, and together we will chart a beautiful course into the waters of the future before us.

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