In the fall of 1979, the Wards accepted a call from Grace Church in Providence, Rhode Island, where David would be Rector and Connie would be Associate Rector. They left a St. Paul's that was indeed healed and reconciled, a congregation whose unity was found in its respect for inclusiveness and its celebration of diversity. The Reverend David Poist, who had joined the St. Paul's staff as Associate Rector in June, 1977, was asked to remain on while the parish went through the long and elaborate search process. According to The Parish Profile, produced as a part of that search process, St. Paul's in 1980 had 512 active communicants of whom 315 were in two-parent families, a Sunday School of 60 students and an average attendance at the Sunday 10:00 A.M. service of 276. About one third of the congregation reported taking part in at least one of the 23 organized activities-from singing in the choir to serving in the 1700 Society which kept the church buildings clean.
The anticipated 1980 income of $141,000 including $114,000 from pledges, allowed only $10,000 for outside giving, the rest being taken up by salaries and operating expenses. There had been deficit budgets for several years, and as a consequence, a "slow but perceptible deterioration of the property".
Describing the spirit of the parish, the Profile states "Perhaps the most notable quality of St. Paul's is our strong sense of fellowship or community, a gift for which we are truly thankful." The "primary and over-arching goal" was commitment to retaining the strengths of its ministry, shared by the clergy and the people, and the congregation wanted its next rector to "lead by constantly encouraging the ministry of others." They also wanted the rector to be a community builder, willing to organize a wide variety of services, respect the diversity within the congregation and recognize and utilize the skills and talents of others.
The vestry voted unanimously to call Mr. Poist as Rector in June, 1980, and the following June the clergy staff was completed by the addition of The Reverend David Lee and The Reverend Paula Kettlewell, each of whom would work part time to fill the Associate's position. The Reverend Samuel Lloyd, who had just joined the faculty at the University, became the Assistant Rector. Rapid growth was one of the most noticeable characteristics of the 1980's at St. Paul's. By 1981 the average Sunday attendance had increased to 350, and more than 1100 attended the four Easter services, a number which grew to 1400 by Easter 1984. In his 1986 annual report to the parish, David Poist said, "This year has seen more weddings, more baptisms and a growing church school. The challenge of how to welcome and integrate many new people into the life of the parish remains a major pastoral concern. We must all be constant in helping new people adjust to the eccentricities and glories of St. Paul's:' By the end of the decade, an average Sunday during the academic year, brought close to 500 people to St. Paul's, mostly for the 10:00 A.M. service, but the 8:00 A.M. and 5:30 P.M., newly instituted in January, 1988, also gained in numbers.
This dramatic increase in attendance was welcomed as a sign of a healthy congregation, but it also created its own problems and challenges. Each Sunday re-created the reality of too many cars and too few parking places. Access to a newly constructed public parking deck and to the Booker House lot brought some relief, but for the 10:00 A.M. congregation Sunday morning often meant traffic jams on Chancellor Street, a frantic search for an empty parking space, and sometimes a long walk.
As the congregation grew, so too did the danger of becoming a company of strangers. Newcomers' dinners, parish teas, neighborhood gatherings as a part of the annual stewardship campaign, and a first Sunday of the month coffee hour when parishioners were urged to "make a name tag and introduce yourself to someone you don't know", all helped to address this problem, as did the opportunity to join in the life of a small group. Throughout the decade people shared their lives and their spiritual growth with one another in small gatherings such as Cross of Nails Foyers, EFM, spiritual development classes, Adult Bible Study, the Theology Reading Group and the Faith for Skeptics study groups. The Wednesday Community Night service, supper and program continued to serve as a vehicle for people to get to know one another, and the parish summer weekend at Shrine Mont quickly became a popular and effective community builder.
Many of the newcomers were families with young children whose presence brought a new vitality to the Sunday service and a new focus to several parish activities. In 1982 the Church School adopted a Lectionary based curriculum, "Living the God News", and a new schedule. The children went to their classes as church began and then joined the adults in church at the offertory. Although not all the adults greeted the arrival of the more than 100 happy, excited children with equal enthusiasm, for the most part their entry during the offertory anthem, usually clutching or wearing some intriguing product of that morning's class, was welcomed as a visible symbol of St. Paul's life together as a family. Following the church service, the children returned to the Education Wing for an activities period.
After three years of ably shepherding the Church School through a major transition, Sallie Brown stepped down as Director in 1985. She was succeeded by Betsy Poist who continued the tradition of outstanding leadership for a Church School which by 1989 had grown to more than 200 students and a dedicated corps of 30 teachers.
The Christmas Pageant took on a completely new life. A notice in a December 1982 Newsletter inviting 3, 4 and 5 year olds who wished to be angels or "space-persons" to come to rehearsals was a sign of that transformation. Whether it was as birds or butterflies or space-people or angels or prophets, each year under Roselean Whalley's skillful and tireless direction, the children offered to the parish a fresh, new and unexpected interpretation of the Christmas story.
The children became an important part of the church's life in many ways. Bringing their pets to be blessed on St. Francis Day, processing down the aisle with the toy they had chosen to donate at Christmas time, closing their eyes in the confident expectation that St. Nicholas would work another miracle, watching with a mixture of pride and hope and anxiety as their Egg Drop entry landed, proudly being recognized at the spring Youth Festival, the children, to a very large degree, personified the spirit of the congregation.
Perhaps no change was more dramatic in the 1980's than the improvement in the church's financial situation. By 1983 the income from pledges had grown to $167,000. Two years later it had risen to $229,508, and by 1989 it had reached $344,385. While the growth in church membership was undoubtedly an important component of this change, an equally significant cause was a more mature understanding of stewardship and a commitment to proportionate giving. In its stewardship statement the vestry and clergy affirmed, ". . . we accept for ourselves and commend to this parish, the spiritual discipline of setting a goal for our giving and stretching ourselves toward it . . . then, God willing, we reach beyond this goal". That same discipline and commitment guided the vestry as it drew up the annual budget each year. In 1980 the $10,000 appropriated for undesignated outside giving was divided among fifteen agencies. Six years later, in 1986, $27,000 was spent in grants to twenty-eight organizations, and by 1989 $36,000 was budgeted and disbursed to thirty-two agencies. In 1989 the parish's budgeted total for outside giving amounted to $105,500, and its goal was 30 percent of its annual income.
In his 1987 annual report to the parish, Mr. Poist said, "How we worship, what we do to help the poor and lost in our community and the world, what witness we make to the University, all of these challenges will tell the story of this community of faith. . .". In striving to respond more and more generously to the rapidly escalating needs for shelter and food, for education and medical care, and for a humane end to life, the parish accepted its responsibility to give generously of time, talents, energy and money in response to Jesus' commandment to love God and our brothers and sisters.
As the parish finances improved, the vestry turned its attention to long overdue basic maintenance projects such as repair- ing roofs and gutters, painting the exterior and several interior tooms, and refinishing the sanctuary floor. At the same time some major improvements to the physical plant occupied a great deal of their time and thought.
The enthusiasm for Booker House as a part of the Church's ministry to the University was tempered by the rapidly increasing deterioration of the building itself. The roof leaks were well beyond the patching stage, at any moment the fixtures in the second floor bathroom could fall through to the room below, and these were but two of the long list of absolutely essential repairs. When it became clear these repairs would cost over $250,000 the vestry, with consent of the congregation, sadly accepted the fact that St. Paul's could not undertake such a major renovation, and that the Booker House Community would have to come to an end. After protracted negotiations a long-term lease was signed with the University, which completely renovated the building and devoted it to administrative offices.
Making the church facilities accessible to the handicapped was another project which occupied much of the vestry's attention. The overall design of the church and parish hall seemed to thwart all their efforts and made each proposed alteration far more costly than had been anticipated. However, the congregation was committed to having facilities as accessible and barrier free as possible and so the vestry refused to be defeated. By the end of the decade new handicapped accessible facilities included parking places in the alley, a ramp into the Chapel and a bathroom behind the Sacristy. Still in the planning stage was a folding lift to connect the Parish Hall with the Sanctuary.
Summer and the advent of hot weather always brought renewed calls for air-conditioning the church, especially since the defective finish on the pews left ugly brown stains (ruefully referred to as the "St. Paul's Stigmata") on the backs of unsuspecting worshippers. A 1989 parish-wide survey revealed a congregation almost evenly divided, with the "pro" voters often citing the health and comfort of elderly members of the congregation, and the "anti" voters emphasizing a concern for environmental issues and social responsibility in the use of church funds. In the absence of a clear mandate, the vestry decided to investigate intermediary solutions such as refinishing the pews, installing fans and insulating the attic above the church.
Other major improvements included a Memorial Garden by the west wall of the church, a new sound system which included individual components for the hearing impaired, and a handsome new floor in the Parish Hall. The aesthetics of the sanctuary were much improved by a magnificent new Holy Table and a larger, more graceful platform for it. The church entered the electronic age with the addition of two computers, a VCR, and an electronic, digital organ for the Chapel, to replace the original one which the senior warden described as, "old, evil sounding, and prohibitively expensive to repair".
Donald Loach, St. Paul's Organist and Choir Director, informed the vestry that the church's Skinner organ was in need of a major restoration. After two widely divergent bids for the project had been received, the vestry hired Mr. John Ogasapian in 1985 to act as consultant, and under the leadership of John and Sandy Snook began a fund drive to raise $75,000. The goal was met and exceeded, and Mr. Ogasapian recommended that Mr. Michie of Hartland, Maine, be awarded the contract. The re-dedication concert played by Yvaine Duisit on February 10, 1989, was a glorious observance of the successful completion of the restoration project.
Last Updated on Monday, 25 June 2012 13:23