Our Discernment In the Spring of 2019, the Discernment Team ran Focus Groups with each ministry at St. James’ as well as ‘All Parish’ Focus Groups after the 8:00 and 10:00 AM services on Sunday, June 16, and following the 10:00 AM service on July 14. We spoke with the staff at St. James’, met one-on-one with several individual members who could not make planned Focus Groups, and interviewed approximately 30 shut-in and low-attending members by phone. We held a number of meetings where we prayed for guidance, answered questionnaires from the Diocese, and compiled all we learned from talking with the parishioners of St. James’ in the Focus Groups. There were many excellent and thoughtful responses to our questions, and the conversations that occurred in these Focus Groups were invaluable to this work.
For each question, we received dozens of responses. We condensed similar answers and recorded the frequency of responses. Below is a summary of these discussions, followed by a list of ideas and suggestions that deserve mentioning.
What do you like most about St. James’? The most popular response to this question was that the people are friendly and welcoming, connected spiritually and socially. The congregation likes that St. James’ is mission focused, contributing in positive ways both locally and globally. Many people expressed that the liturgy and music connect us to God and the wider church, as do the church building and the beautiful grounds. St. James’ feels like a sacred, God-focused place and people feel both awed and comforted here.
How is St. James’ doing in meeting your spiritual needs? This question elicited a number of interesting responses, as members each have their own definition of spirituality. Most members feel spiritual at St. James’ when they participate in the Sunday liturgy, and by the beauty of the buildings and grounds. It is hard not to feel like you are in a holy place when visiting St. James’. People also feel spiritual when engaging in mission work and various other roles, such as readers, greeters, ushers, and chalice bearers at church. Sunday sermons help center us, and there are Bible and book studies to help members delve further into their personal spiritual growth.
What are you looking for from St. James’? Most members want St. James’ to be a center of spiritual growth and Christian education. Our congregation is hungry to learn more about the Bible and Jesus’ teachings. We also want St. James’ to be a place where we can put this knowledge into action. We want to share our time and talents, we want to be challenged to learn and experience new things, and be a positive force in our community and the world.
What characteristics are you looking for in a new rector? St. James’ is searching for a priest with excellent communication skills. We desire someone who is a good listener, an educator who can help us understand, someone who is not afraid to be challenged, and is a consensus builder. The right candidate will be pastoral, and encourage parishioners to act pastorally. We are looking for a priest who can motivate our parish and is engaged in the Danbury community. Since approximately 30% of Danbury residents speak Spanish, being bilingual would be an asset. Does St. James’ need a full-time rector? A vast majority of respondents agree that yes, we want a full-time rector. However, it is undeniable that our finances are very tight, and the congregation needs to be cognizant of the cost of maintaining a 158 year old church building, staff, and a full-time priest.
Many parishioners feel that the vestry and congregation need clarity regarding the priest’s roles and goals, and we need to engage in mutual accountability. This all ties back to open communication and information. The congregation wants to know what is happening in and around the church.
It’s 2022 and our new rector has been with us for three years. Describe our parish’s three most exciting, energizing, significant accomplishments within those first few years of serving God together. Although our members came up with a large list of hopes and dreams for the St. James’ of the future, most people indicated that they would like to see our space utilized more fully, both as a potential revenue source and to raise the community’s awareness of what St. James’ has to offer. We have a wonderful building with too much unused space, and we would like to see good things happening within our doors. In order for this dream to be fully realized, we have to figure out how to increase our parking and work on making the entire building more accessible. From there, we have a multitude of ideas and dreams for St. James’.
Prayers, Hopes, Dreams The focus group question about what has been accomplished three years after the arrival of our new rector yielded dozens of great ideas. Utilizing our space more fully, finding ways for additional parking, and making our space fully accessible were the most popular answers. Below are listed some that did not make the top three, but the team felt should be recorded for further consideration.
St. James’ offers Spanish language classes
Saturday services are reinstituted
St. James’ does an annual service on the town Green
We organize a church retreat
We organize a mission trip to Honduras
A carpooling system is developed and implemented
St. James’ organizes a community picnic
St. James’ sponsors a Scouting troop
We have an open building with cameras for additional security
The library is renovated and utilized as an education center
We offer training/seminars to the parish and community, for example: How to talk civilly to each other; caretaker support; balance and gentle yoga; meditation; mindfulness – and so on.
What Can a New Rector Expect from Our Parish? A new rector can expect a warm and welcoming community with a core of dedicated members. St. James’ is open to change and new ideas, while still embracing Episcopal traditions, supportive of our clergy’s innovations and personal growth. We are eager to work together in an honest and candid manner. We celebrate life both inside and outside our church, and rise to the challenges that life presents us. We love God, St. James’, and our St. James’ community.