February 23, 2020: Holy Cow Survey News Part III

This is the final in a series of three weekly messages sharing initial, high-level insights from our recent all-parish assessment. All three are posted with supplemental materials at AllSoulsDC.org/governance.

Given our enriched understanding of who belongs to our parish and what drives them, and their priorities... how are we performing against our own measures of engagement?

Our responses to the Holy Cow assessment suggest that we are currently in a Recovery period of lower satisfaction and energy, compared to other churches. Interventions, changes, and healing in our common life and culture are needed to resolve past and present conflicts and address those relatively low levels of energy and satisfaction. This is necessary to be a church family marked by vitality and health that can achieve our priorities of attracting and retaining new members and offerings of time, talent, and treasure.

(Interestingly, energy levels for our 8:30 am service attendees are higher than our 11:00 am attendees, and we are seeing growing attendance at this service. This is something we will also explore further moving forward.)

While the Holy Cow assessment does not prescribe specific solutions, it clearly points to areas of our parish life where meaningful numbers of us desire change or attention. Across services, survey participants expressed a desire for improvement or change in our worship, clergy leadership, friendly atmosphere, and spirit of lay involvement. Our feelings about these areas are also undoubtedly related to our clergy-focused culture, as discussed in last week’s message. All of this is interconnected.

Yet, another aspect of how Holy Cow would describe our parish may complicate our path forward. Benchmarked against their cohort, we are both more progressive in our theological perspective and less flexible to changing how we live out our ministry. Holy Cow defines this dynamic as a Paraclete culture: intellectually open and reflective, while also placing a high value on structure and ritual.

At their best, Paracletes build warm and compassionate communities that are a haven for those in need of healing or recovery. (Holy Cow directly linked this trait to our higher-than-average priority around ministering at the margins of society.) They also tend to be less demanding of a particular understanding of faith, but clearer on the benefits of their preferred liturgical tradition.

Paracletes have a shadow side, too. Especially for recovery-mode churches like ours, being resistant to change may impede progress and fuel conflict. And, when overcommitted to meeting the needs and desires of others, Paraclete churches and their leadership can also downplay taking care of their own needs and risk burning out. Finally, admirable instincts to meet people where they are or to avoid conflict may hinder the culture of accountability and evolution that’s equally essential to wholeness and undermine the possibility of shared ministry under a unified vision.

A detailed look at the scores addressed above and a fuller explanation of Paraclete cultures can be found at AllSoulsDC.org/governance.

Given these findings, what is our path forward? Our Rector, Wardens, and Vestry are incorporating our Holy Cow results into a review process that will conclude with a report to the parish prior to our annual parish meeting at the end of May. We continue to engage with Holy Cow as part of this process. We are also working with a member of the diocesan staff, The Reverend Dr. Robert Phillips, Director of Leadership Development and Congregational Care. The report of this candid, in-depth review will be shared with the entire parish. We will then discern a 3-5 year strategic plan that addresses the review’s findings.

Parishioner participation is essential throughout this process. Please plan to attend a presentation in the undercroft on Sunday, March 29 at 12:30 PM, during which Holy Cow’s President, Emily Swanson, will share an in-depth look at our assessment results and answer questions.

This concludes our initial exploration of Holy Cow’s assessment, but it is only the beginning of how it will inform our next steps as a parish family. With that in mind, let’s recall what Paul once wrote to the faithful of another global capital: “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Last Published: February 18, 2020 1:05 PM
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