In the world of congregational development, a church can plateau, and if left in that space for too long, it can begin to decline. A community always needs to ask itself in what ways can it grow, increase its effectiveness in the world, and more clearly reflect the presence of Jesus Christ. So, during our vestry and staff retreat, held each year in early February, I challenged the participants to articulate goals for our faith community. We came up with five goals, some of which will take time to manifest. Recently, revisited these goals to see how we’ve done.
Maintain and Increase Outreach Opportunities
There will always be places to reach out towards, so this work is never done. However, in the past year, St. James’ has made a significant impact in our community. We continue to assist in rehousing families and veterans through Abode Services. In partnership with the deanery, we supported the home building program in Mexico through Corazon. We continue to worship and share lunch with our sister congregation in Hayward through Sacred Space. We donated funds to pay off school lunch bills for four grammar schools. We also donated to SAVE, an organization helping battered women. We’ve collected many items to help those in need: socks, school supplies, backpacks, batteries, toiletries, and pet supplies. We’ve also had a hands-on impact through our Abode Kidz program, Sunrise Village Shelter meals, and co-hosting with Abode Services a Candlelight Vigil for those who died on the street. I am sure there have been other ways that the angels of St. James’ have made a difference.
Increase Membership and Strive for Every-Sunday Attendance
The mark of vitality is the participation in our common worship. While we continue to meet the first part of this goal and have grown in membership each year (already, we’ve welcomed more than 15 new friends), our Sunday attendance remains flat and for the first time in ten years, declined in 2016. It is our hope that worship will continue to inspire and heal, and be a source of renewal and comfort for all of our parishioners. If this is the case for you, consider making a commitment to coming to church each week. We understand church to be a communal effort where every member of the Body is needed.
Our finances increased in 2017 and pledging remains strong. It is our hope to increase our income again in 2018 so that we might continue to grow and continue to do the amazing work of being Church in the world.
Hire an Associate Rector
Directly tied to strengthened finances was the goal to hire an Associate Rector. With God’s grace and Anna’s willingness, we hired Anna Horen to serve our congregation 15 hours a week. This is a wonderful start, and Anna is making a significant impact with our adult faith formation and pastoral care. Ideally, this position would grow to be more than just 15 hours a week. We hope to be able to realize this goal moving forward.
Be a More Visible Part of the Community
We have done much in this area. In August, we hosted our first National Night Out, and over 60 people, both parishioners and neighbors, attended. We were joined by the fire and police departments as well as city officials. It was a wonderful way to extend a warm welcome to others. We received proclamations from the City of Fremont, Alameda County, and the State of California recognizing our 150 years in the Fremont area. We proudly marched in the 4th of July parade and we have become a presence at the monthly Tri-City Interfaith Council vigils held on the corner of Paseo Padre and Walnut. In the upcoming year, we hope to participate in a Habitat for Humanity build and we will be exploring how we, St. James’, can be of use to our city in the case of a disaster. We continue to seek ways to let the Tri-City area know who we are. If you have ideas, please pass them on!
So, we’ve done a lot to live into our call to be Christians here at church and in the world. We continue to be a place of vitality and joy, a place where all ages can come and be fed. Our children’s program is thriving, evidenced by close to 40 adults and children gathering for a campus campout in September and by the consistent participation of our families. Our spiritual health is strong. At our 150th celebration, nine people will be confirmed or received into the Episcopal Church, and two will reaffirm their commitment to Christ. Despite all of the chaos and craziness of these times, 2017 is shaping up to be a good year for St. James’ Episcopal Church in Fremont, California.
Pray for those preparing for Confirmation, Reception, Reaffirmation, and Baptism
Please hold in prayer the following people who will celebrate these sacramental rites on November 5, the Feast of All Saints: Letty Rodarte, Griselda Prather, Evelyn Martinez, Kimberly Patton, Peter Maina, Esther Maina, George Siegmann, Keith Westra, Sally Morgan, and Grace Zarovy (to be baptized).