In preparing this Profile, we conducted four small group conversations in August 2021; two were done in person and two were done via Zoom, each with a leader and a note taker. About 40 of our estimated 60 active members participated. We asked all groups the same five questions to gather their candid answers about how we are doing right now as a parish and what we should concentrate on in the future, including the priorities of our new Rector. Here are the questions with a sampling of the answers.
1. What do you think about how St. Stephen’s made it through Covid? What went well and what could we have done better?
a) We proved to be very resilient. We held ourselves together and continued as a community of faith. We have a real sense of pride about that, especially the partnership we began with SPiN Café at the height of the pandemic. We had strong lay leadership and we had wonderful, retired clergy to lead our worship when we lost our Rector.
b) We suffered a double gut punch, but we survived. We used technology really well, especially Zoom and Facebook, to stay connected. The telephone trees worked well, as did the Zoom coffee hours.
c) We are strong people with lots of experience and skills. So many people stepped forward and even helped without being asked.
d) We did not do enough to acknowledge and deal with the anxiety everyone was feeling and the grief over loss of Rector and his wife.
e) Communication by computer limited the number of people who could stay connected. Zoom proved difficult for some people. More personal interaction with phone calls should have been done.
f) Not meeting in person has cost us some members who may never return.
g) We did not do a good job of keeping our children involved. We should have done more to check in and offer them some faith-based guidance during a difficult time for them.
2. After Covid and our Rector’s retirement, what are our most immediate concerns and opportunities?
a) Our survival as a parish may be at stake in terms of leadership, financial stability and attracting new members.
b) Rebuilding a sense of connection is a top priority. We need to examine and reinvent all our means of communication. Loss of our printed monthly newsletter really hurt; we need to find a way to replace what it gave us.
c) We should find ways to be together other than in church on Sunday morning. A real opportunity is there for us to build and reinforce our community.
d) After Covid, we have an opportunity to build our parish by attracting more young military families that live all around us.
e) Fellowship needs to be rebuilt in-person coffee hours in our parish hall need to happen again.
f) Find new ways to involve our children in the liturgy and church events. Oak Harbor has lots of kids; this is a big opportunity for us.
3. What does it mean for us be a welcoming community and to make a difference in the community around us?
a) We must be recognized for being non-judgmental; we are known as a safe place where you can be who you really are. That’s more important now than ever because of the isolation we have endured plus the lack of connection and social contact.
b) We say we welcome all, but do we welcome people who might change us? Are we open to hearing what we might do differently in our worship and church events?
c) Welcome is not just about who comes to church. It’s about those in the community around us. We need to find ways to ask our community how we are perceived.
d) Opening our doors to SPiN Café and hosting a Gratitude Dinner (in February 2020) for all those organizations that help the vulnerable in our community are ways we have proved that we do really welcome all.
4. What is God calling us to do in the future?
a) Stay close to our Episcopal and Anglican traditions. Experiment with a few things but our Episcopal faith traditions are what attract most people to our church.
b) Reach out to the broader community in new and meaningful ways, not just “come to church with us.”
c) In five years, be known as a healthy, stable, and sustainable parish.
d) Redo our parish hall with a commercial kitchen so we can host more community dinners.
e) Have more events, such as speakers, movie nights, etc., so the community knows who we are.
f) Find a purpose for our lower grassy area: Community garden? Affordable housing?
5. What would you like our new Rector’s priorities to be?
a) Join with us in building the future. We are a strong congregation full of educated, successful and independent people who respond to encouragement but not dogmatic leadership.
b) Help us maintain the financial stability of the parish.
c) Support our continued outreach to the community.
d) Help us worship. Join. Nurture. Stimulate.
e) Demonstrate these three things: Joy, grace, and positive energy.
f) Listen and teach.
g) Help us grow our membership, especially with young people.
h) Make effective use of all the creativity in the parish.
i) Create more children’s activities.