From the Rector

From time to time it is appropriate for the rector to write a letter to the congregation, especially considering where we have been, where we are, and where we hope to go. It’s hard to believe that ten months have passed since you called me to be your rector! The call of a rector marks a significant change and adjustment for the life of any church, but it also brings all sorts of challenges and opportunities for a church as young as St. John’s. What’s important is how we respond to challenges and opportunities. These became apparent in our most recent parish survey where the Vestry prayerfully reflected and discussed every input provided.

It is hard not to have your own expectations when given a survey. Some might think, is there something wrong in the church? Are there problems I don’t know about that need to be fixed? Our assumptions start to come out of the woodwork. I think it is important to first say that your leadership, myself included, desires to be as transparent and open with you as we can. We appreciate all that you shared in the survey, and like the Vision Charette, we hope these are simply the beginning of other conversations to help us move forward. I think it would be helpful to provide the categories we discussed from the survey, some of the action steps we hope to take, and where I hope to lead us towards.

First, let me remind you of the question that was asked in the parish survey: “What could or should be done in the short-term, medium-term, and long-term to make St. John’s better?”
The first category I want to highlight are people’s concerns over a capital campaign. The concern is a combination of the appropriate timing of the campaign in the life of the parish, and the financial concern that people are already giving as much as they can. Some of these concerns were voiced by Vestry members, but there was a consensus that most of us do not know what a capital campaign could look like. We realized that perhaps we have our own expectations of a campaign, which was ultimately driving some of our concerns. We agreed that it would be helpful to be educated on what it could look like. Let me be clear, we are not presently starting a capital campaign. At our next Vestry meeting, we are going to receive educated advice on what it could like look for our future. We are also eligible to receive free consulting advice from an ACNA grant to developing congregations like our own.

However, what was clear from the responses is our need for a new space. Our current space, with how much we spend a month, does not meet the needs of what we seek to do. This is especially important in relation to the needs of our children and families. Your survey results also pointed to a need for an adequate nursery space, and as our children grow older, the need for age-appropriate catechetical formation/discipleship.

One of the things we are exploring is a different space to help suit our present needs, and even open doors for us to do things we couldn’t do before. This may look like moving into a church building and using their facilities. If this move takes place, we will keep you informed with its developments. It is important that we stand prayerfully united through any changes or transitions. We give thanks to God for where He placed us for a season, and we should never forget where we have been, but it is important to open ourselves to where God is taking us. It was also agreed that we desire to stay in North Canton. We believe this is God’s calling of place and mission.

The next category was also heavily expressed in the survey and stressed among the Vestry was the importance of fellowship among God’s people. Many of us realized how much we do not know each other. It is difficult because many of us live further away, and Sunday becomes a highly important day for connection. But we agreed that the more we fellowship, the more we can build trust with one another in our life together and in making decisions. However, this kind of commitment needs to be reciprocated. Relationships are always a two-way street. St. John’s can offer many opportunities, but it is the people who must take the risk and enter in. I am greatly encouraged by many of the women of the church who are stepping up and creating opportunities for increased fellowship through the ministry of hospitality.
One of the areas I would like to expand upon for us would be called Rule of Life Groups. Rule of Life Groups would be designed to bring a core group of people together and commit to specific practices of formation and mission. It can be as simple or expansive as the group seeks to be. It can also be creative with how they connect with each other. Again, a rule of life is a pattern of spiritual and missional practices within a community of people.
Currently, one of these small groups (an amazing small group I might add), is Eagle and Child. If I could summarize their rule of life (although not officially defined and more so the rector’s observations), is a common conviction towards rich reflection of classical/thoughtful books that connect us to the Christian faith, alongside richer fellowship shared among each other. Daniel and Chad can certainly correct me.

Rule of Life Groups would obviously need leadership. I would love to invest in people desiring to be a part of these kinds of groups with the goal that they would take ownership. These groups can accomplish two goals from the survey results. First, the major desire for us to know one another, building trust, and inspiring each other towards living the Christian faith. Second, these groups can draw us to think missionally in our service within the church and outside the church. Many of you are already serving in a variety of capacities at the church. For your time, talent, and treasure, I am incredibly thankful. Some have yet to find their place to serve, and I pray the Spirit would open yourself to the opportunities presented. But the inspiration towards mission is more of a shifting perspective within us. If the Gospel is what we profess it to be, then it carries the significant power to use us wherever we are inviting people into our lives to behold Christ for them.

Finally, I realize much of what I am presenting are some big areas of development. And people also expressed concern to make sure some of the little things in the church are handled and not forgotten. I am happy to report that there is progress in some of the little things such as cleaning supplies, toiletries, and basic supplies for hospitality. Other significant suggestions such as bringing back the common cup, sharing the peace longer, and increased seating have all been implemented. In our worship, we would love to expand with musical instrumentation and even singable, theologically consistent contemporary music. These things obviously need the people who can contribute, and we are not there yet. But I want you to know that I am open to those developments.

As you prayerfully read through these areas, please know that you can contact me and discuss any of these areas or even areas not detailed in this letter. Again, it is a continuous conversation not to re-invent the wheel of ministry, but to inspire each other towards our common calling at St. John’s.

In conclusion, as your rector and priest, it is my task to equip and lead you to proclaim tirelessly the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This comes directly from my ordination vows. In all that we received from the survey results, with every area we seek to better ourselves and in whatever timeline, these things must flow through the consistent message of the Gospel.
When faced with a decision, we must ask ourselves, which path sets us towards the Gospel and advances the message towards all people? The consistency and clarity of the Gospel communicated to us in our worship, catechesis, fellowship, and mission will develop our overall health as a congregation. One of the clearest convictions at St. John’s is our desire to pass down the Gospel to all generations. This is a noble and wondrous conviction. It is a sign of health among us, and I believe leaning towards the reliability of the Gospel for all generations will surprise us and flourish our life together for the sake of Christ in the world.

What an incredible time for the life of St. John’s. What a season to be a part of a local church. You get to be a part of St. John’s story and history for future generations because you are St. John’s. I want to close with a prayer for the local congregation and where you see St. John’s, place your name there too.

O God the Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of the faithful: Sanctify St. John’s Anglican Church by your abiding presence. Bless those who minister in holy things. Enlighten the minds of your people more and more with the light of the everlasting Gospel. Bring erring souls to the knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ; and those who are walking in the way of life, keep steadfast to the end. Give patience to the sick and afflicted, and renew them in body and soul. Guard those who are strong and prosperous from forgetting you. Increase in us your many gifts of grace, and make us all fruitful in good works. This we ask, O blessed Spirit, whom with the Father and the Son we worship and glorify, one God, world without end.  Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria,
The Rev. Joe Gasbarre
Rector of St. John’s Anglican Church

Connect with Us on Social Media

facebook youtube twitter 
Unsubscribe | Manage your subscription
Sunday Worship at 10:30 a.m.
1115 South Main Street
North Canton, Ohio 44720
Email Marketing Powered by MailPoet