When we listen to the people in our congregation at St. Timothy Episcopal Church Danville, California tell us why they belong to this congregation there is a common theme that is often spoken emotionally and from the heart. It has been a hallmark of this faith community since its founding.
What is this secret sauce that has exerting so much flavor and depth to our parish growth?
The Virginia Woy Effect. Those who have been around for a while might call it the ‘Virginia Woy Effect’ named for the woman who more than another other person has been responsible for welcoming people at our front door the first day they visit and make sure that they feel at home in this place of worship no matter what their faith tradition, and that they feel as welcome in our faith family as the prodigal son was lost and then found by a father who never stopped loving him. Today this ministry involves many other people at St. Timothy’s but Virginia Woy’s influence and example of how to make people feel “at home” in a new place has been multiplied a score of times in their care of our visitors.
Because so many of our congregation have experienced this sense of welcome and feel at home the broad consensus of the parish in our 20/20 survey and discernment process is clear—keep that welcoming tradition alive!
Our Clergy is There for Us When we Need them Most. Pastoral care is an important part of every priest’s job. That is true here at St. Timothy’s as elsewhere. In Steven Strane and now Kathy Trapani as our Interim Rector we know they would be there when we needed it most just a phone call away, or often even without a phone call being needed. This sense of pastoral care and a parish community willing and able to rally around us in times of need reinforce the sense of “home” at St. Timothy’s we seek to retain and nurture.
Inclusive—-and we REALLY mean it! When we say at St. Timothy’s that everyone who loves God and seeks Christ is welcome at our table we want everyone to know we really mean it, live it, practice it consistently. As the Episcopal Church has grown and evolved and confronted the ghosts surrounding inclusiveness, St. Timothy’s has faced those same challenges. Our commitment to being a welcoming parish open to all meant to us just that—all means all. So we struggled through the challenges of accepting women as priests and then gay and lesbian faithful as priests, and then the election of bishops and the struggles with the Anglican Communion. Through it all we didn’t find it necessary to march in protests because as a congregation we felt the Holy Spirit was guiding us and protecting us with His simple message ‘do unto others as you would do unto me’ and so we did—and so we are one congregation with open arms to all who love God and seek Christ in their lives and we gather around one table where we all find renewal, sustenance and hope.
How you can get involved in the 20/20 Vision Next Steps?
Beyond preserving our welcoming and inclusive traditions, St. Timothy’s is embarked on a 20/20 Vision Goal set by the Vestry to investigate ways to open our doors to the unchurched and underserved in our parish community service area. Beyond waiting for people to come to us, we seek to develop mission and ministry programs to reach out and welcome others to join us.
The Vestry goal is to double the congregation pledge base by 2020.
Meeting this goal means offering a wide range of worship experiences to meet the needs of a growing and diverse congregation from traditional to ‘edgy’. It means taking the church out into the community to introduce ourselves and inform others about our mission and ministry programs. And it means when we are successful in getting new people to ‘try us out’ we must make them feel welcome the first time, every time.
This is our big challenge: Risk the unknown of reaching out to others. We believe God is with us and so we feel confident that our message of renewal, sustenance and hope will be well received but it requires going to ‘galaxies far away’ from our comfort zone as well as meeting the changing needs of our own congregational family to define the mission and ministry work of the church in ways that satisfy the hunger in us all to know Christ more dearly in our daily lives and be part of a welcoming, inclusive, loving and sustaining faith family where every time we cross the threshold we are greeted the same way: