Stories of St. Timothy’s 2020 Parish Future


August 12, 1953

Dear Rev. Hodgkin:

We are tremendously interested in the possibilities of the development of a mission in the region of Danville.  Through our previous conversations I have been gratified to know of the prospects for the church in this area.  It will be a great satisfaction to the Bishops and the Diocese if you will kindly undertake not only to explore the situation further but to begin the kind of work which will lead, we trust, in a few months to an organized mission of the Diocese. If you and your vestry and people of St. Paul’s would be good enough to give this enterprise all encouragement and direction it needs, we shall be most grateful.

The possibilities of work in the Diocese at the present time are so gratifying and encouraging and yet quite sobering when we realize how little financial backing we can give at this time to these new ventures.  Anything you can do as the rector of St. Paul’s, and as a vestry, in this area will be of untold value in our missionary task in the Diocese.

Faithfully yours,

Rt. Rev. Henry H Shires

Suffragan Bishop

In few words, that is the beginning of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church.  No environmental impact studies, no church commissions, no fanfare or fund raisers, just a determined Bishop telling one of his priests to go out and ‘do God’s work down the road in Danville’ and make it snappy!  With help of seminary students, Rev Hodgkin began worship services in the homes of residents welcoming all who loved God and sought Christ in their lives to respond to that call.  By September 1953, St. Timothy’s Mission was organized and the Rev. William Goodall was named its first Vicar—one month after Bishop Shires’ letter to the Rector of St. Paul’s Walnut Creek.

This is the story of an unbroken chain of faith that began in 1953 and continues today in the work of this congregation, and in our work in San Ramon Valley, in the Diocese of California and in the broader mission of the church around the world.  The question is how do we keep the chain of faith unbroken?

We can tell the story of the first fifty-seven years of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, Danville, California. But what is God calling St. Timothy’s to be for the next ten years to 2020? That is the question being asked in the parish Vision2020 process.

In 2020, St. Timothy’s will be 67 years old, but what is God calling us to be and to do?

While we can tell the story of the parish history, we must imagine the parish future as we listen for what God is calling us to be:

  • Will we retire and age gracefully or keep that unbroken chain of faith alive by recruiting new members with fresh ideas and lots of kids in a strategy to grow St. Timothy’s?
  • Will we feel the call to outreach and spreading the Good News or plant a new mission just like St. Paul’s Walnut Creek did for us?  Where will it be?  Whom will it serve?
  • Or will we join forces with other parishes to reinvigorate the Diocese of California where attendance has been flat for more than 20 years and the economy has ravaged its parishes and ministry programs?

Our job in the Vision 2020 process is to write the script for that parish future—and then live it.

St. Timothy was a Follower of Paul

St. Timothy’s first regular meeting place was a community center on the site of the old movie theater on Front Street.  An organ and everything needed for worship was carried each Sunday from parishioners’ homes for church.  Later, the congregation moved to the Veteran’s Hall on Hartz Avenue. The name of the new mission, St. Timothy’s, was a fitting reminder that the New Testament ministry of St. Timothy of Ephesus sprang from his work with St. Paul the Apostle.

So from God’s call to the Bishop of California to the Rector of St. Paul’s Walnut Creek to spread the Good News “down the road” there is an unbroken chain of faith in this holy place we call St. Timothy’s.  And on each festival day, we still celebrate outside on the patio around the stone altar given to St. Timothy’s by St. Paul’s Walnut Creek.

Since 1953, we have worshipped under the heritage oaks on this campus as a living reminder of God’s unconditional love for us and our connection to His creation and Bishop Shires’ instruction to discern what “possibilities” God is calling us to do and “make it happen” across the generations.  And much has happened in the last 57 years:

  • Lucy Ketcham taught Sunday School in the backseat of her station wagon. The bell rung each Sunday morning calling the founders to a circle of prayer more than 50 years ago came from Southern Pacific and now has an honored place in the Museum of the San Ramon Valley in Danville.  It was replaced by a bell donated by our first Vicar, Rev. William Goodall which was once used at the priory near his home in England which will soon ring again in a bell tower being planned for the campus.
  • In 1958, the Parish Hall was built and served as sanctuary for 18 years.  The Rev. Robert Tsu became the second vicar of the mission and the Education Wing was built in 1963.
  • The Rev. James McLeod became St. Timothy’s third vicar in 1967 and the Rev. George (Ted) Ridgway its fourth in 1970.  Under Father Ted the mission became a self-supporting parish in 1975, and the church building in which we now worship was completed in 1976.
  • St. Timothy’s called The Rev. Steven Strane to be Rector in 1988 and in that time the parish has grown to become one of the largest congregations in the Diocese of California.
  • By 1993 St. Timothy’s was outgrowing the space and added the 9am worship service to meet the need.  Aslan, the parish rock group head by Rev Mark Spaulding began a Touring Group spreading the Good News through their rock music.
  • In 1996 St. Timothy’s opened Noah’s Ark Preschool, built Grace House and its youth center and dedicated the St. Timothy’s Columbarium.
  • In 2003 a Meditation Garden began by building a labyrinth and Stations of the Cross were added in 2007 with landscaping and water features to complete the garden.
  • In 2003, the parish collected old silver to turn into new chalices for the Lucy project named for founder Lucy Ketcham. Identical chalices were produced from that silver one for St. Timothy’s and one as a 50th anniversary gift to St. Paul’s Walnut Creek.

But the true measure of St. Timothy’s is not what we have built; it is how we live into our unbroken chain of faith as followers of Paul. God has called and St. Timothy’s has raised-up, prayed for and seen ordained almost a dozen priests or deacons from among congregants and seminarians as followers of Paul to keep spreading the Good News. While the congregation has grown and the campus built out to accommodate its ministry needs, St. Timothy’s thrives today just as it did in the founders’ circle of prayer in those living rooms almost sixty years ago—an unbroken chain of faith summed up with these simple words of welcome:

At St. Timothy’s, anyone and everyone seeking God’s love, mercy and power to heal is welcome, and all who love God and seek Christ are invited to share at the Lord’s Table where we celebrate our unity and find sustenance, consolation, and hope.

Listening to the Holy Spirit about St. Timothy’s 2020 Future

St. Timothy’s is involved in a process of listening to the Holy Spirit hoping to discern what God is calling us to be for the future.  We surveyed parish members and engaged in countless small group discussions to gather information and insight about where the parish is today, the challenges we face, and what we should be doing for tomorrow.  It is obvious that there is no shortage of possibilities.

This Pentecost of many voices is leading us to write the story of St. Timothy’s future by imagining the possibilities. These stories enable us to rehearse alternative futures, debate our parish goals, and test drive parish ministry goals, corporate worship needs, outreach efforts and financial resources to live into the unbroken chain of faith God is calling us to pursue.

Our goal is to look ‘down the road’ to a Vision 2020 strategy and to ‘make it snappy’ so we can consider this Vision 2020 path at our annual meeting in January 2011.

Time is short, the needs are great and our resources are limited in an economy full of volatility.  This is the same circumstance that faced Rev. Hodgkin in 1953 and yet, in God’s economy, the Holy Spirit made God’s vision known and called St. Paul’s to make it happen. In 2010, we are also being called to be followers of Paul to live into our 2020 future, but what future?

Imagining the Stories of St. Timothy’s 2020 Future

One way to encourage discussion and wider parish participation is to use the feedback data we have received so far to frame alternative stories for St. Timothy’s 2020 future to stimulate our discussion. These alternative stories are called scenarios.  Scenario planning is a powerful way to manage uncertainty and imagine the future by challenging our conventional wisdom—“we’ve always done it that way” and instead ask—“what if” to imagine a different calling.

Preparing scenario stories creates a common language across the parish to consider new ideas and consider risks both known and unknown.  These scenario stories enable the clergy and Vestry to plug St. Timothy’s vision 2020 results into the work of the Diocese of California and collaborate with other parishes in our Deanery and across the diocese.

What follows are four completely alternative stories of St. Timothy’s future.  These scenarios are NOT predictions of the future.  They are designed to facilitate discussion by imagining four completely different ways the Holy Spirit could call St. Timothy’s to live into our unbroken chain of faith by 2020.

These scenario stories were prepared using the survey and small groups input received plus an inventory of the economic and demographic driving forces going on around us, major players, key events in the Church and elsewhere that predetermine some outcomes, key uncertainties we know are on the horizon and surprises we are yet to discover.  In short, we are trying to imagine all the things that could happen to our lives and the work of St. Timothy’s over the next ten years asking ourselves one simple question:

What is the Holy Spirit Calling St. Timothy’s to be in 2020?

Here are four equally plausible alternative stories of St. Timothy’s 2020 future to start imagining ‘what if’:

Doubling Down for Growth Scenario

Parish focus is growing membership and the revenue base to double membership by 2020 and make the parish a hub for community activity.  Active evangelism and marketing outreach to both the unchurched and underserved in the service area brings more people to first try out and then join the church.  With a focus on youth ministry, music and young family services the parish is a constant buzz of activity.  Strong outreach and pastoral care programs and staff based on targeted services to population segments from seniors to singles supported by a large intergeneration volunteer corps and growing use of seminarians and deacons assigned by the Bishop to support shared Diocesan programs.  Capital program focus is on new parish hall/education space with gym and kid-attracting programs.  The Youth floor in Grace House becomes an adult programs space and new kitchen, dining and meeting space expands campus use and pledges soar.

Aging Gracefully Scenario

Parish focus is serving the needs of current members. While we welcome all newcomers there is no marketing for growth. Membership size stays about the same but ages over time reflecting service area demographics. Young families are attracted to Noah’s Ark preschool but often do not join the parish or pledge.  Youth programs remain but churn is high as kids out grow the limited programs or get involved in sports or other non church activities. In 2020 St Timothy’s looks about the same but parish hall/education wing have been replaced with addition to Grace House catering mostly to adult programs.  Pledge levels remain relatively flat but the steady loss of major pledges as members age challenge the parish financially.  Turnover of members increases especially young families but the parish muddles through with flat budget and little growth.

Following Paul Scenario

St. Timothy’s takes on a new mission challenge but instead of planting a new church in Dougherty Valley it chooses instead a social outreach ministry targeted on the underserved in the Monument Corridor.  Working with other groups a property is leased and multi-service program is developed to serve client needs.  Parish participation is expansive at first then settles into a smaller but dedicated outreach group. By 2020 St. Timothy’s is providing more than 50% of the total cost of the mission program as a combination of budgeted outreach, leveraged grants and fundraising projects. The parish focus shifts from youth ministry to outreach as a result and membership stays about the same but ages along with the demographics.  Youth ministry is built around confirmation and work in the outreach programs with more participation by high school ages.

Transformation Mission Scenario

Financial pressures on the Diocese of California worsen.  Average Diocese daily attendance flat for years declines with revenue stagnating. The mission of the church is weakened by financial problems and half the parishes are not self-sustaining. To avoid conflicts and restore Diocesan finance a transformation mission strategy emerges from dialogue of clergy and lay leaders.  The bold plan consolidates 79 parishes to 35 in five years.  Using an area ministry strategy, larger parishes absorb small ones, manage transitions, serve multi-site congregation needs and end Diocesan subsidies and cutting costs to balance budgets. Executive Council uses surplus property sales to create a Diocesan Mission Growth fund for endowment income for shared program ministry costs by parishes.  The transformation mission strategy restores a sustainable Diocesan finance base, builds its endowment and focuses its mission to double average attendance in five years with stronger programs, shared staff and collaboration.

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