As the saying goes: 2020 has been a year like no other! It sure wasn’t for St. Patrick’s!!
January and February saw us worshiping together in the church and enjoying each other in face-to-face conversation during Coffee Hours with tasty treats and hot coffee! Father Rick went on his usual vacation to Florida. We were planning more sessions of A Seat at The Table (SATT), deciding what fundraisers we wanted to work on during the year, and the Vestry members became liaisons for the various Committees in the parish. We designated where the funds in the special envelopes in our pledge envelope boxes would be disbursed. We had pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. We untangled who does what support activity and streamlined email addresses for the parish (with one person on Vestry holding the passwords) and the communication flow snarls.
We had a Little Library Box made and filled in the Shamrock Room, ready to put out in the spring. I began to serve on the Diocesan Presiding Bishop’s Bicentennial Celebration Planning Committee for May 2, 2020. We began the process of changing St. Pat’s Constitution and Bylaws to accommodate the possibility of having co-wardens. We continued to meet to talk about a Main Street Church with the Brewer Methodists and Congregationalists. We also continued to work with FLIA, and our Holyoke Street Neighborhood Garden Committee had begun to plan for the spring planting of the beds down back. Outreach served meals at Columbia Street.
Then, as March began, an uninvited and nearly invisible guest came to the world to wreak havoc and change how the world interacts on all levels. We adhered to Governor Mills’ Stay Safe at Home orders, shuttering the doors of the church. We very rapidly learned how to worship using technology, tapping into the technology talents of Jamie and Mike Beck, as well as David Blethen, and Lev Sherman. We were gifted a Zoom account with two hosts as we began to hold all meetings online. We began pre-recording pieces of the Sunday liturgies and Jamie would skillfully weave them together to broadcast them on our Facebook page and YouTube channel. Coffee Hour was moved to Zoom. We also began doing Compline/Evening Prayer daily mid-April until mid-May when we decided weekly Wednesday evening prayers worked better.
As our need to use technology grew, we changed internet and phone providers to Spectrum and have had a decrease in cost with an increase in speed and quality of our internet. Beginning in March the Vestry minutes included a one-page summary. Our fundraisers changed as the Governor, CDC, and Bishop Brown limited our activities to decrease the spread of COVID. The Vestry developed a phone tree to check on members of the parish. We developed protocols and logs to track building use and gathered the materials to keep us all clean and sanitized when at church. We decided not to rent the Shamrock Room because of inability to ventilate it adequately. We worshipped online with St. John’s and St. James’ for Holy Week, the National Cathedral for Easter, and one Sunday a month with the Diocese. We also had two physically distanced Eucharist liturgies in our parking lot with the Methodists joining us.
We have continued to celebrate Eucharist with them monthly. We added a line in the budget for Tech Support and investigated using an online giving option. We learned later the Diocese was getting a Vanco account and each parish would have a link to 13 collect pledges. This account would not allow breaking out donations for funds other than pledges. In May, we were able to participate in the federal Paycheck Protection Program through the Diocese to help us financially through the early summer.
In July, the Vestry began holding Discussion Meetings on the first Thursday of the month to allow deeper discussion of topics outside the regular meetings. We have discussed adult formation, worship in a pandemic, racism, the budget, among other topics, some with guests and some we will continue to revisit. We raised flags of inclusivity on the building and our sign and included “Equal Justice for All” on our big sign. We added an FM transmitter to our sound system to be able to transmit our audio to radios tuned to 87.7 FM close to the church parking lots. We now have photo release forms for inclusion of children and opt out for adults. We began live-streaming services from the worship space in August. We held one physically distanced in-person liturgy in the church on October 25 before the number of COVID-19 cases prevented any more.
We began to plan the beginning of a Mutual Study of Ministry with Cannon Michael Ambler leading a retreat on December 5, for the Vestry and other parish leaders, and another retreat January 23, 2021. During the time in between, parishioners are participating in small group discernment with questions to guide their conversations. We worked during the weeks before the election to promote parishioners voting and prayed for fair and safe elections.
Our Stewardship Committee once again gathered our pledges and will be more active over the next year in all areas of stewardship. Our Bylaws changes were preliminarily approved by the Chancellor and Vestry and you will be voting on them today so they can go to the Standing Committee and Bishop Brown for their final approval. We applied for and received a $2000 Digital Grant from the Diocese specifically for technology initiatives, including website assistance. We purchased a high-tech camera for livestreaming with most of the money. We had to rapidly pivot to using Zoom for 4 Advent’s Eucharist Liturgy because of a sharp spike in community-spread COVID-19 cases throughout our state and will not resume livestreaming until these numbers come down.
As I wrap up my report, I thank you all for the opportunity to serve as your Senior Warden. We have survived as a living parish, working to do God’s will in our homes and neighborhoods.
I want to pass on a BIG Thank You to several people who have made this job easier. Tom Copeland has continued to keep our building in good repair as well as working hard to keep us safe providing us with the supplies and protocols to keep us safe in accordance with the CDC. He is truly a “Man of all trades!” Thank you, Tom for your patient care of us! Penny Baker has worked to keep the financial books in order and understandable in a time when we were getting funding from very different sources and having to keep it all straight! Penny, thank you for your patient persistence in a time of very fluctuating expectations! Rita Poirier has been our quiet voice of other points of view and excellent listener when my head was exploding with thoughts going in all directions! Thank you, Rita, for saving my scrambled brains more than once! Larry Puls has been so helpful with the internet and helping Tom and being responsible for getting the counting done and deposited! Thank you, Larry, for handling those necessary tasks!
Respectfully submitted, Peg Olson, Senior Warden