L. Our Small Group Conversations

By: Valerie Roseberry

In preparing this Profile, we conducted four small group conversations over one week last April. About 35 people, including some of our children, participated. We asked them to give candid answers to a list of questions designed to give us feedback about what they love best about St. Stephen’s, what they would like to see done better and what their hopes are for the future of our parish. Here are the questions with a sampling of the answers.

 

What attracted you to St. Stephen’s and what keeps you here?

“Everyone is welcome!”

“We were worried we wouldn’t find a church that was a good fit, but this felt good from the start.”

“We’ve lived all over the world and often felt like outsiders in church, but not here. We’re not invisible.”

“Diversity, inclusiveness, kindness, kid-friendly, freedom to question and doubt.”

“Everyone feels an ownership of this parish but not in a guilt-trip way. I feel needed here.”

From a child: “Our church is beautiful and it has ladybugs in the sanctuary.”

 

 

What are some things we could do better? What are our challenges in the future? What should we do less of?

“We need to find a better way to invite people to participate.”

“Shorter worship service – maybe one less hymn.”

“Be more intentional about putting out opportunities for ministry, make it easier.”

“More hands-on approaches to outreach, not just giving money.”

“Improve the music on Sunday, it’s weak without a choir and some hymns are hard to sing.”

“Newcomers can find it hard to follow the liturgy, need folks to show them how to use the BCP.”

“Avoid the flashy stuff, keep the focus on our liturgy.”

From a child: “45 minutes isn’t enough for Godly Play, we need more time.”

 

 

 

Sometimes we describe Oak Harbor as a conservative military town and St. Stephen’s as a progressive church. How does this affect us?

“Labels and generalizations are usually inaccurate and misleading; let’s not use them. Let’s talk about being an open, inclusive church.”

“We’re a progressive organization wrapped around a traditional liturgy and the liturgy is our core.”

“The politics of Oak Harbor shouldn’t matter to us as a church.”

“It’s about being open versus being closed. That’s our reality.”

“It’s time we rebranded ourselves; the split (with the breakaway Anglicans) is over. Let’s keep moving forward.”

 

 

What are your hopes and dreams for the future of St. Stephens? What do you think God is calling us to do and be in the future?

“More people attending and participating, which will mean better music and more outreach.”

“Find ways to attract and support more Navy families, especially those with someone deployed.”

“Find the grains of sand to serve a need that isn’t being met.”

“Would love to see more diversity in race and background.”

 

 

How are we/can we make a difference in the wider community around us?

“We could let more groups use our buildings.”

“Let's host workshops for artists, writers and musicians with an emphasis on families.”

“Have a neighborhood picnic or carnival and invite everybody.”

“More organized hands-on work by parishioners at Ryan’s House, Spin Café, etc.”

“Provide evening childcare once a month for military families so parents can have a date night by themselves.”

 

 

 

What would you like our new rector’s priorities to be?

“Leadership that empowers the congregation.”

“Maintaining our Episcopal identity and traditional liturgy.” “

Continue to welcome and make use of our retired clergy.”

“Encourage searching and honest questioning; we aren’t looking for easy answers.”

“Make connections with other local faith communities.”

“St. Stephen’s is a parish that know what it believes, especially on social issues. This is more important than becoming a large church.”

“Continue building programs for families and children.”

“Find more ways to welcome and incorporate newcomers.”

“Find a good balance between pastoral care and vision-focus, with perhaps a bit more vision right now to help us crystallize our thinking.” “Promote unity among us through the Book of Common Prayer.”

From our children: “Let the children take part in everything.”

“Our church is a family where the priest leads but many people work together to make things happen.”