On Sunday, March 26, we held a brief parish meeting after church. The primary reason for this meeting was to share two important updates:
The results of our mid-year budget review. In November, we reported to you that we had revised our budget to reflect a larger deficit, and that as part of this revision, we would review our budget performance at the 6-month mark (we operate on a September-August fiscal year, so the mid-year mark falls in February). You can read the mid-year review* shared at the parish meeting here. (*Note: this review has been revised from what was shared on Sunday following an adjustment from our bookkeeper this week.)
We will relocate this summer while Randolph Elementary undergoes renovations. The staff and vestry are exploring alternative worship locations for our summer worship. We have several good options before us, and are excited to share more as those details firm up in the coming weeks. More information on this news is available below, but I didn't want to bury the lede!
In addition to these updates, we also heard from staff and vestry about various aspects of our church life. A summary of those updates is below, along with more details and reflections about the summer move at the end.
Josie Ortega, our Lead Children's Catechist, shared a brief update on the spiritual formation of our children. There's a lot going on!
We are preparing three families for infant baptisms on Easter
We launched an optional nursery for children under 3 this Lent, as we continue to welcome these youngest members with us in the Nursery Nook in the sanctuary
Our 3-6 year olds continue to explore faith through our Good Shepherd Atrium (the bustling area on the right rear side of the gym), led by Megan Westmoreland
Our 7-10 year olds from the True Vine Atrium have been learning about baptism, communion, and reconciliation (confession) throughout Lent in our Sacramental Formation course led by Josie Ortega and David Griffin
Several older children (who already completed Sacramental Formation when we last offered it) have been stepping up to lead and serve in various ways throughout Lent. Perhaps you've noticed these special helpers quietly serving and welcoming others before and during the service!
Our middle and high school youth have begun monthly lunches with an amazing group of adult leaders, where they share a meal and midday prayer — a youth version of our small groups.
At Incarnation, we are always aiming for a balance between offering age-specific opportunities for children's spiritual formation, and developing a culture of multi-generational worship in which everyone participates together. If you're curious to learn more, you may want to check out this chart that describes how we think about children's formation, or this blog post about why we include children in worship.
Kaitlin Conway, vestry member and head of the hospitality team, helped us remember all the many ways we practice hospitality as a church — some led by the hospitality team, and some springing up organically. Incarnation is SUCH a hospitable community, caring for one another in tough times, rising to meet needs even before being asked, sharing regular meals at church and in small groups, and so much more. If you are interested in being part of the hospitality team, please email Kaitlin! Kaitlin.email@example.com
Emily Williams, our Operations Manager, also now heads up our outreach efforts — a wonderful way to tap into her experience with Restoration Immigration Legal Aid and World Vision. She shared an update on everything that has been going on in the past few months.
We've welcomed new members to our Outreach Team and are refining our processes for reviewing grant applications and connecting with partners, so that every step of the process has the opportunity to "refresh the workers" — easing their burdens and encouraging them in the work they do.
The Outreach Team advises vestry on how to steward the 15% of income that Incarnation sets aside for kingdom work. Our 4 outreach funding priorities are: Justice & Mercy; Refreshing the Workers; Creation Care & Beauty; Evangelism & Church Planting, which you can read about on our website. Guided by those priorities, our vestry just approved several outreach grants:
Abara, a group that works with migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border, with whom we hope to plan a border encounter trip sometime in the next year or two (stay tuned!). Abara was the recipient of our 2020 Lent offering for their work providing emergency relief to migrants at the border when immigrant halted during the COVID pandemic.
Corpus Christi Anglican, the church planted by one of our planting priests, Morgan Reed, in Springfield. Morgan is doing amazing work, and it's a privilege to support his plant.
Debriefing for Vera Fernandes, whose trauma-care work with Afghan refugees we already support. Vera was forced to leave Afghanistan suddenly when the Taliban took power in 2021, and has worked in similarly intense international settings for decades. Supporting a professional debriefing for her is a meaningful way we can "refresh the workers."
Finally, Emily talked about the ways we are trying to form deeper connections with our outreach partners. We have focused on one outreach partner each month, asking them for prayer requests that we pray during Prayers of the People, and inviting local partners to attend church, receive prayer, and join us for lunch on the Pike. This monthly focus is part of our broader strategy to move toward deeper, sustained engagement with a small number of partners. On Sunday, Steve Park of Little Lights (our Lent offering recipient) will join us, and we are delighted to have him — please join us for lunch after the service at Cafe Sazon!
Do you know an organization doing great work? Our outreach application, deadlines, and funding priorities are all available on our website.
Testimonies of giving
In the past, our parish meetings have often included a testimony or two from someone in our community. This time, however, Nancy shared something a little bit different: a compilation of anonymous quotes and reflections gathered from many of you on the topic of giving generously — one of our Lenten disciplines. I really enjoyed hearing the various perspectives and approaches to giving, and have asked Nancy to share her notes from this "testimony" with us. You can read that here! Thank you for being such a generous and thoughtful church.
Summer location update
As mentioned above, Randolph Elementary will be renovating the school this summer, so we won’t be able to worship there for a few months, starting in June. This is great news for the Randolph community, but it means we will once again be a church on the move (as we affectionately call ourselves, a "camping" church, as opposed to a "5 star hotel" church).
So . . . we're going to "summer camp"! We’ll pack up our bags and venture somewhere new for a few months, form some new friendships in a new part of South Arlington, and get a slightly broader view of the world from there.
Our staff and vestry have been working hard to find this temporary worship location. With every place we’ve looked, we’ve kept these values in mind:
Hospitable: approachable to people outside the church, accessible to people with disabilities, space for kids, space for meals together, visibility/easy to find/easy to put out signage, accessible to public transit, a place that helps us build connection with community, adequate parking
Size: we’ve been growing, so we want a spot that can accommodate us now without bursting at the seams, but keeping at 50-75% capacity so there’s always room for visitors
Sustainable: setup/teardown not too burdensome on staff and volunteers, easy ramp access, wide doors — the things one ponders while maneuvering a giant wooden atrium cart on wheels
Target area: in South Arlington, along the Columbia Pike corridor, embedded in the community in a meaningful way
COVID: we’re still paying attention to best practices, so we want a place with good ventilation and room to spread out
Cost: we want to stay below our current budget
With all those factors in mind, we have a couple of strong options that we've been exploring, and we are excited to share more as those details firm up in the coming weeks.
Trent told me (gently) on Sunday after the parish meeting, "I think people could probably tell you felt disappointed about moving." And, well, he's right — I am disappointed that we need to move again, even temporarily. We've gone through a lot of changes and uncertainty together over the past few years, and I'd really hoped for a pause.
But I also know that change and uncertainty have often been the place where God has most powerful moved and shaped us as a community. We are an incredibly adaptable church, and every move, every transition, every time we’ve needed to flex and flex again, God has been forming us into a community of incarnation — witnesses to the reality that "the Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood" (John 1:14, the Message). Whether in a Baptist church, a Methodist chapel with CONDEMNED! signs on the doors, on Zoom, in a parking lot between some dumpsters, or in an elementary school gym, the Word has always become flesh in our midst.
And so I can't help but believe that this summer move is once again God’s way of forming us. He is once again calling us toward a future that's a little uncertain, maybe even a little uncomfortable. He is once again inviting us to loosen our grip on familiarity and open our hands to whatever new thing he is doing. To connect more deeply to our Christian identity as exiles in this world. To enter more deeply into the life of our South Arlington community. And to experience in some small (tiny, minuscule, really!) way the kind of instability that our neighbors here live with all the time.
So we will head into this summer with our eyes open, listening and looking for God in whatever he has for us next. We will rely on our trusty church-on-wheels van and our incredible all-hands-on-deck ethos and set up for Sunday worship in a new spot. And when we get there, we'll ask: What can we learn here about loving and serving our neighbors? Where will God surprise us with his presence, provision and joy?
My husband was right; I am a little disappointed. And if you are too, that's okay. But I am also hopeful, expectant, and excited for what's ahead. Summer camp, here we come!