Saturday, December 27, 2014

Volunteers: the Church’s True Treasure

Every year when we celebrate Christmas I am newly reminded of the enormous amount of quiet ministry offered by volunteers at the church. Our staff work hard, but they cannot do everything that needs to be done here. I relish the opportunity publicly to thank those who make special efforts for our major feasts: the choristers of all ages, the Altar Guild, the ushers, acolytes, vergers, and lectors, all of whom offer their time week after week and then find extra time to offer for Easter and Christmas preparations. Until you stop by to help out, you may never realize just how much goes on behind the scenes. This week, for example, seven generous people spent a long afternoon stuffing some 1500 Christmas bulletins with the announcements and flower donation lists. Without their help (which amounted to about 30 donated hours), the staff would have been frantically working down to the wire on Christmas Eve.

While I hesitate to name members of the various groups, for fear of leaving someone out, I have to single out those who are about to retire from leadership roles. Guin Kerstetter is stepping down December 31 as our Cathedral Treasurer, a position she has held for a decade. Guin attends finance committee and Chapter meetings; she serves as an officer of the Cathedral Corporation; she signs checks and consults with our finance department and helps guide our financial stewardship. I am deeply grateful to her as she passes the baton to Betsey Monsell. Bob Reed has served as Chapter Clerk for as long as anyone around here can remember. He has attended countless Chapter meetings and retreats, faithfully taking minutes, making sense of garbled resolutions, raising wise questions when needed, and providing the essential historical record of our legal and ecclesiastical acts. Bob too will step down as the year turns and he too is deserving of our deepest appreciation. Chapter members Roger Haenke, Vicki Hoppenrath, Susan Hulbert and People’s Warden Judy Moore will complete their terms in January, and Sub-Dean Emerita the Rev. Canon Lee Teed will also retire as a diocesan representative to Chapter. Our videographer Jim Langston has ensured worldwide fame for our preachers by ensuring that every Sunday sermon is captured for the web site; he too is retiring in this season.

Every Wednesday morning a small group of dedicated parishioners gathers to count and record the financial contributions of the previous week. This is detailed and sometimes tedious work, as they decipher notes on checks and envelopes and do their best to make sure contributions are correctly attributed. Was that gift for the organ maintenance fund or the organ scholar fund? Do these two people want to be acknowledged individually or as a couple?

And, going back to those bulletins, every Friday afternoon a faithful trio gathers to stuff the Sunday bulletins with the announcements so that the ushers don’t have to juggle as they welcome the congregation. I am also appreciative of those who file the sheet music after the choir is finished with a piece, those who straighten up the pews, those who organize our Women Together events, those who bring donuts every Sunday morning, those who serve as docents or sacristans during the week or lead Morning and Evening Prayer each day, our retired clergy who volunteer to preside and preach at our weekday Eucharist services, the volunteer gardener who spruces up the courtyard landscaping, the parishioner who provides “the Voice of St. Paul’s” on our recorded messages, those who staff all the tables at coffee hour, our Sunday School teachers and Bible study facilitators, the outreach committee, the parishioner who photographs all our major events and curates this blog … The list goes on and on.

The beautiful thing about a large and lively church like St. Paul’s is that, however many people serve, there is always room for more. If you are seeking an opportunity to serve this community, we will find the right ministry for you, because it is your church, and the more engaged you become, the more joy you will receive from being part of it. Whether your interests lie in creating beauty (visible or audible), or imposing order on chaos, or helping people grow in their faith, or offering a hospitable space, or keeping us accountable for the resources in our care, there is ministry to share here.

I am sure I have left out whole groups of people who offer ministry at St. Paul’s. If you notice an omission, forgive me, and please add a comment to thank that group; and be sure to thank volunteers – and staff! - in person when you have the opportunity. Sometimes the only reward a volunteer receives is a thank-you, which makes it all the more precious. Thank you all for the ministry you offer, whether it’s in word, deed, prayer, or simple presence. You make St. Paul’s a place of love, welcome, and service, a place where there is “room at the inn” for everyone.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We have a warm and welcoming/inclusive community that encourages all of us to volunteer our time, treasure, and talent to enable us to live our mission and serve the our city and the world. Among our volunteers, we have the Cathedral Chapter, our "Board of Directors", the members of which give generously of their time and talent to steer us on our path of life as a community. It is an honor and a serious responsibility to serve the Cathedral in this capacity. I give thanks to all that give of themselves to our Cathedral Family and know how blessed I am to be a part of this family.
Don Pellioni, the Dean's Warden, St. Paul's Cathedral Chapter