Rector’s Annual Report

Here’s an old chestnut: How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb? It’s old especially because I have this question before ; )

There are two well-worn answers: 1. “Well, two of course, my good fellow. One to call the electrician and another to mix the cocktails.”  And 2. “What is change?” G.K. Chesterton’s adage should also be noted: “It is a test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.”

As Episcopalians, we should be able to laugh at ourselves as a sign of maturity and self-confidence. In the first case, we can acknowledge with humor the cultural perceptions of the Episcopal Church. We are God’s “Frozen Chosen” and we practice all things in moderation, including moderation. In the second case, we know deep down that we dislike change, especially when it comes to church. As an expression of God’s timelessness and reliability, we expect the church to be equally unchanging. In all honesty, we are no different from any other Christians. The human race does not like change.

And yet, every generation of Christians has pursued change and lived to tell the tale. That’s not to say that they enjoyed every minute of it. They survived it, and they did so because the Church of Christ has a larger purpose than meeting our immediate needs. After all, we answer the call of Jesus to follow him as disciples (followers) first and foremost. We just happen to live that call as Episcopalians. And the purpose of the call AND the very of the Church is to gather more people into a relationship with God that Jesus made possible. Like Simon Peter and Andrew of old, we are likewise called to fish for people.

I am now beginning my ninth year as your priest, and I have been truly impressed at how resilient and adaptable St John’s has been. At the outset, I was very concerned to follow a rector with a 17-year tenure. All the text books basically warned of being eaten alive by those who would resist any and all change. Oh, there were some bumps along the way, but they were SO wrong about resisting change!

The Diocese has adopted the slogan ”Embracing Brave Change” for its new Mission Strategy. How brave and what change is yet to be seen, but St John’s can surely embrace the mindset. Your Vestry has bravely tackled its finances and embraced budgetary restraints for the long-term viability of the parish and its mission. In fact, we have finished another year in the black! But the call continues. We continue as wise stewards of our resources. We continue to fish for people. And as example of further embracing brave change, the Vestry has also expressed an openness to explore alternative structures with neighboring parishes as they enter their various transitions. No one knows what possible changes may emerge on tomorrow’s horizon, but the mere fact that we are positioned to see them and willing to explore them means that the call of Jesus continues to heard at St John’s, Winthrop.


           —Fr Walter Connelly, Rector