Imagining the Zion Parish for the Future.
Regular attendance at Sunday services has been dropping since the 1950’s. Back in the 19th century, there were so many Episcopalians attending services in the Butternut Valley, that Zion supported 4 mission churches. In 1869, there were 19 confirmands.
Today, on a normal winter Sunday in the 21st century, there may be as few as 12 people in the congregation, excluding the choir. Christmas and Easter see a spike of up to 50 communicants. When the “snow birds” return to the Butternut Valley in the summer months, congregants reach upwards to 30.
Covid-19, gives us a glimpse into the future. We now know:
- Community is fundamental to the presence of God as in “when one or two are gathered together, there will I be also.”
- Social isolation can feel like the isolation from the love of God.
- There are alternatives to in-person Sunday services and coffee hours.
- The “parish” extends beyond the congregants at Sunday services and beyond the Butternut Valley.
- We can actively welcome simply everyone to God’s community.
In spite of social distancing, members of the parish have found ways to reach out to the community: the 2nd Saturday Soup has come back as Take Out; the Magic Closet re-opened, and during the summer a parishioner used the Parish House kitchen to bake bread which was distributed “free” to everyone. The summer before Covid-19, 80 people came to the All Saints Chapel service. On Wednesdays at 7:00, there is Evening Prayer followed by a lively discussion of the readings.
The Zion Parish is imagining a Church for the 21st Century. How do we bring the Good News of the Gospel to those who for whatever reason will not attend the Sunday service regularly? Some have been reading Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger.
As we navigate Zion into the future, we will post our activities and thoughts on this page.
The name “Whatever” was taken from Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. RSV – 4:8