Annual Meeting 2022 - February 20
Rector’s Address - Bishop Peter F. Hansen
Video of Address below
THE COVID YEARS of 2020 and 2021 are over, with the mists clearing and overreach regulations lifting from our lives, leaving us… where? Our certainty has been shaken, our lives conditioned to be fear-driven with suspicious attitudes, and our whole society – not just our church, or even churches in general – seems decimated, dispirited, disrupted, and many entities destroyed. The wreckage is everywhere. We continue our lives, trying to normalize this ‘new normal’, but you can’t deny the fact that we aren’t living in the same world we had a couple of years ago. Even the Fire had less far-reaching effects.
I may comfort myself by seeing other churches having it as bad or worse than we, but that’s cold comfort when our combined Sunday’s attendance comes up to half of what 10:30 used to bring. Even with the zoom-people counted in. Finding a little relief that our total attendance in 2021 was better than 2020, I must remember we weren’t so much shut down last year as we were for most of 2020. I do ask myself about this, and look around for something broken to fix. We’re in a different world, and it would be good for us to notice and describe its features in order to understand, and meet, what we see.
There are Trends we can cite that are Troubling, common to all churches, but that Anglicans may be particularly hard-pressed to remedy.
1. The Old model doesn’t draw people anymore. We started the APCK with the motto “1928 Traditional Anglican Worship” and could expect, 40 years ago, that some in our city would know what we meant by that and even appreciate its value. Now, if you don’t already come here, you have no idea that the Prayer Book matters, or even if it’s a good thing.
2. Sunday-only services limit participation. I’ve known for years that a church with only one or two hours of open doors a week can’t be a viable model – like a MacDonald’s only open two hours a week. But what does it mean to say we’re open? Our office hours are posted, but we’re behind a locked door with a bell. And there is no way to change that. Like Tiffany’s Jewelers.
3. Vision that is currently dim will become clearer, but when? I feel blunted by a lack of direction to move, something effective to do, a battle plan, a task force to organize. I know there will be a battle to wage, a stand to take, but what and where? I pray to know. And I feel assured it will be clear in the future, that the fog will lift with my role finally defined. It’s just not clear yet.
4. Attendance is down from three years ago and longer, but it has flattened out – will it rise? The challenges of filling the pews hits us less critically than other style churches, because their attendance figures are life and death to them. But we can’t ignore the fact less people know about Anglican worship in Chico today than a decade ago.
5. Hybrid zoom & in person realities may be permanent. We accommodated Covid by bringing people to church virtually. It was a creative move, and in many ways the zoom platform makes meetings far more possible. Our bishops meet monthly now, from across the nation, something unheard of two years ago. But it’s still awkward for the church, our church, with me as my own engineer, my laptop on the altar. I am relieved sometimes to be able to go back to in-person-only worship. I wonder if that’s never to return.
6. In-Person worship may need to change character. People’s expectations are different. We don’t flex so well with the Gen X and Z younger people, who are nationally about 30% church-prone today, and less so in Chico. Far less.
7. We are constrained from changing our services by our identity. I mean, how are we going to update our worship? It would be untrue to ourselves. And probably unfaithful to God. But our unchanged character reads to this new world as being stuck in the mud. It’s our ID. And our it’s our limitation.
8. The Means of Access to the public in the last decade has become totally renovated. Newspapers are dead, print ads useless, yellow pages not worth printing. It’s an online world… and we are there, but how do people join us there and take notice of our existence? I post videos of our Sunday Sung masses and from 2 to 14 people view them on YouTube. But I don’t know who. Online and social media have problems of credibility with people who just lived through the last 5 years. Who do you believe anymore? Are you on Facebook or are you in resistance to Google, TikTok, Instagram? Will your Christians-only browser reach the lost? Reach anyone? One person receives only voicemail, another only email, another wants text messages, and you want Facebook Messenger?
9. Membership of our out of area viewers need to be served, but how? We now have frequent attendees from Washington, Oklahoma, and Los Banos – potentially many other places. Are we to keep these or direct them locally to other churches for in-person services? Covid is essentially over. Go to church! I have been asked, and refused, to send consecrated wafers by US mail.
10. The hybrid style of ministry could define new roles for a minister, such as zoom teacher, on-screen personality, pod-cast author and YouTube star. Am I comfortable putting out web-based teachings on the faith? Are you committed to watch them, even if I did? We are constantly entertained – just look at the kids walking the sidewalks, faces glued to iPhones. Entertainment is the expectation, and DieHard movies are more entertaining than I am.
11. A Great number of formerly churched, but now unchurched people are getting used to staying home. I know many fine Christians, some have worshiped here, who were key members of churches and now sit home. They got offended, or disconnected, and are being Christians at home. It’s become a normal mode, but I really want some of these to come here! They love us, but from afar.
12. Thank God, the Money has held steady, but with such low attendance, that can’t continue. You saw our budget for the year. That should work. But we have to catch our chances and use strategies from a new place to add life to this congregation, or the money will not last. Online giving is very much up. Looking at options there too.
13. In light of the terrible surprises that Covid brought upon us, there is No way to predict the next wave of issues. Is it back to life as it was? I doubt it. Look at Canada.
In all this, I still do believe. St. James says that’s great, but let me see your works too. You show your faith by your works – your actions, your deeds, your manner of life, how you meet the things that are coming. It obliges me to cast a vision, therefore, and yet I don’t see exactly where to go or what to tackle.
So, let’s take an assessment. What’s going right for us? And seeing what’s in our bag of tricks, even if we don’t know where we get to next, we can be ready and know how much we have to work with.
It’s time to Cast a Vision
1. I live sacrificially – so I am available to you, one on one, or one on twenty, or 120.
2. I love to teach – so I will field any reasonable subject for a group to learn.
3. I am always growing – so the things I bring are as good or better than they ever have been.
4. We belong to a great God – so whatever we can’t do, He is greater than anything we do and can do the miraculous.
5. You are committed to this – and show it by being here, giving to this, loving it. For such people, nothing will be denied.
6. You want truth – so when the truth is given, you receive it. You aren’t resistant to light, so let the light shine!
7. You are friendly – so your friends may respond to your invitation to come here. Remember 75% of church growth come
s from invitation by laity to their friends. I haven’t seen your friends yet.
8. You think creatively – so you may come up with a new venue, event, activity that will include others into our family.
9. God is all – and He loves His church, and will be here with us as long as we are here with Him.
So, we’re still here and we still love God and each other. Be encouraged.
By the numbers, last year we had 120 communion services, attended in person or online, by 2,508 souls, 200 more than in 2020. And 50% more communions. Two funerals.
My outside work as a bishop was changed last April from suffragan to coadjutor, meaning if Bishop Ashman leaves office, I will be automatically Bishop Ordinary, the head guy for the Diocese of the Western States. I also have served two years as Episcopal Visitor to the Southwestern States, taking me to Phoenix, Tulsa, and Las Vegas a few times a year. It’s a blessed duty. Your bishops just rescued a church in Portland from the takeover by another jurisdiction. There is work to do there too.
I feel very fortunate to have St. Augustine’s as my home base in professional life. I know you all well, and consider your friendship vital to my life in this fair city. I thank you all for another year for Giti and me to serve you and lead this parish to God’s face and to His righteousness. And keep praying for rain!
Find your place and take your stand. That’s what I must do. God sees, and God believes in us still.