To the future Rector of St. John’s,
If we had written this letter at the beginning of our transition, in December 2019, we would have told you that St. John’s is a mid-sized parish at the middle of Main Street in a green and pleasant river town in Connecticut. We would have told you we are a Christian community that deeply cares for one another. In the words of one of our younger members: “St. John’s is like a second family”. We would have told you that we have been blessed by a series of excellent priests, who were and are outstanding preachers & educators, and who have established a culture of exceptional pastoral care. Despite our size, we have a music program that greatly enriches our worship and have entered into a series of outreach partnerships which stretch from Essex to Haiti to Mozambique. Yes, we also face the same challenges experienced by many Episcopal churches: an aging congregation and lay leadership, finances that rely heavily on a small number of people, and a need to better engage young people.
All this is still true, of course, in June 2020, but the world has radically changed, seemingly overnight.
For the past three months, the Pandemic has exiled us from our sanctuary, forcing us to hold worship services by YouTube and meetings by Zoom. Some of our members are unemployed or furloughed, others are over-employed essential workers, still others are locked down in their homes with little contact. Local food pantries are struggling to meet the need. The current situation has amplified a conclusion of our discernment process: that the future of St. John’s lies outside our walls, serving God and our community in partnership with other faith communities and charitable organizations. Our future also needs to be less Sunday morning centric, offering flexible options for worship, education, and outreach throughout the week, both in-person and digitally.
If COVID-19 has disrupted our routines (and Episcopalians love routine!) and exposed disparities of wealth and health, the murder of George Floyd and subsequent protests for racial justice have underscored the need for us to have uncomfortable discussions. As one congregant put it, we need to “learn to put aside our indifferences”. How is the Holy Spirit calling us to respond? We are seeking a Rector who has the courage to walk the Way of Love and to work with us to fully live into our Baptismal Covenant: to seek and serve Christ in all persons, and to strive for justice and peace among all people.
With God’s help, we will find you.
Brian Fresher, Warden Karen Kaestle, Warden
Wardens, on behalf of the Vestry, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Essex.
Although the church is located in downtown Essex, we are a much larger community, comprised primarily of lower Connecticut River Valley and shoreline towns. We are blessed and strengthened to have membership, and meaningful impact, on towns such as Old Saybrook, Lyme and Old Lyme, Westbrook, Clinton, Deep River, Ivoryton and Centerbrook, Chester, Haddam and East Haddam, all the way up to Middletown.