Dear Clarendon Presbyterian Church Community:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce….multiply there, and do not decrease.” (Jeremiah 29:4-5,6b)
This past Saturday, I had the joy in participating in last harvest of the season in our Plot Against Hunger Garden. Over the growing season, we have been able to donate 555 lbs of produce for those most in need in Arlington. Mark Schnarr led the effort as he has done all season. On this particular Saturday, he had help from Lisa, Andrew and Peter. My youngest child, Rose, and I came to help, but we were more of a cheering section. Literally at the same time, just steps away down North Jackson Street a bit, Marit, Lenka, Kate, and Don were running our monthly Food and Toiletry Drive for Residential Placement Center Shelter and for Bridges to Independence Family Shelter welcoming in a steady flow of donations from the community. Since we began these drives in June, we have collected hundreds of bags of supplies from our neighbors and the Arlington community at large.
Throughout 2020, we have had to transform the way that we are church together, but we have never closed. As a church body, we have accomplished so much in adapting the way we gather for worship, mission and fellowship. We have also made hard but necessary decisions about three building related projects that came due. As we look back on this period and our commitment to this community, we’ve reached the time of year when we must also look ahead and renew and enhance financial and other commitments for the church’s continued success next year. Read ahead for that call to help.
But first, in addition to the garden and food and toiletry drives, here are some of the ways Clarendon Presbyterian Church had been living out our faith and mission in 2020:
- We have worshipped 36 times together for live virtual worship! Throughout our time of gathering together on Zoom and YouTube Live, our church attendance and participation has remained steady and even at times slightly increased. We have been lead by our dependable Digital Deacons: Travis Reindl, Ahna Olson and Shelby Powers. In addition to hearing reflections from pastors, we have enjoyed sermons from many CPC members building up our internal faith leadership. We have enjoyed music from Brooklyn Anderson as well as many guest musicians, and in doing so, we have supported artists during these difficult times.
- We have purposely chosen to not worship in our sanctuary so that we can protect each others health. At the same time, the church body has shown up for two inspiring outdoor worship services. We have expanded our digital presence with major edits to the CPC website and have dramatically increased our presence on social media.
- We have provided care and support to each other on and off the screen through weekly Zoom gatherings, after-church breakout rooms, and through our own expressions of friendship. We continue to celebrate James Fisher’s scone ministry and the compassionate work of Deacons Clark Chesser and Kristine Schnarr.
- We have deeply engaged with our mission partners during a time of tremendous need.
- We provided Impacto LGBTQ members with $13,555 in needed support from the Deacons Fund. We have also started the discerning work in how they might become one of the PCUSA 1,001 new worshipping communities.
- We have been a top leader with VOICE amplifying the experience of renters throughout VA so that VA is one of the few states with eviction moratorium language stronger than the federal language. We have recently seen successes advocating for better rental conditions in the Serrano Apartments on the west side of Columbia Pike in Arlington.
- We have deepened our support of Bridges Family Shelter and the Residential Placement Shelter.
- We have have planted new seeds with Arlington for Justice and the NAACP.
- We have lifted the spirits of those in Culpepper Gardens Senior Living with dozens of homemade cards.
- We have sent out hundreds of postcards for Get Out the Vote.
- We have been attuned to our visible presence in our church neighborhood. We supported the creation and installation of the Youth Peace Pole and have installed the beautiful Pride and Black Lives Matter flags on the parking lot side of building. (Flags celebrating Transgender peoples and earth care are also on their way!)
- We have engaged in the needed work of seeking to become anti-racists with shared readings and media discussion, engaging in the work of our mission partners, and taking the risks to be in honest and loving conversation with one another.
- We welcomed Ahna Olson to serve on Session and celebrated her ordination on November 8. In 2020, we have also been lead by the steady leadership of our Session: Toni Bissessar, Tom Hull, Susan Keith, Carl Layno, Linda Moody, Marc Scarcella, and Lisa Boehley.
- We have been adaptive with our valuable tenants. We have expanded the space-use for the Clarendon Child Care Center, so that this essential business could operate safety for the teachers and families. We have changed the configuration in the sanctuary so that a small group from Aikido may safety use this space as well.
- We made financially difficult but necessary building related decisions in the fourth quarter of this year. Approved by the Session, and led by the Building Committee, the outdoor portion of the sewer line is currently begin replaced (at threat of having no water or sewage in the building) for a total cost at this point of 30K. The 17 year old boilers that are now leaking and falling apart will soon be replaced at a cost of 28K. The gutters that had been creating on-going water damage were replaced in early fall for $5,424.
- You supported the ordination of Rev. Blair Moorhead, our Director of Mission, expanding our ability to engage the community and supporting her call as a Minister of Word and Sacrament. You have supported her as she lead the church in the period between pastors. We give her our gratitude!
- You have supported the CPC staff, Brooklyn, Beth, Blair and myself through these COVID times. You have been flexible in changing our staffing model to best meet the needs of our staff and the church.
- You supported the Pastoral Working Group, the steady and efficient leaders in your midst, to discern the next pastoral model and person for CPC. You have fully supported me as I started at the end of March and have grown as your pastor in midst of COVID. You have given me most powerful gift you can give to any pastor, your trust.
- You have contributed $16,000 to the Deacons Fund compared to a budgeted amount of $1,833.
- You have continued to give generously to the our annual budget through your pledge contributions. As of November 15, 2020, you have given $93,380 out of your total combined pledge for the year of $97,167.
As we approach 2021, I am encouraged by our small but mighty progressive, inclusive and diverse community of faith (and of doubt!). You have provided me with a warm and welcome embrace (usually virtual). I look forward in the next year to meeting more of you in person, and I long for the day when we can have a big party in celebration of who we are together. Like you, I long to worship with you regularly in person, but also I thank you for being so adaptable in our virtual worship and meeting space. I highly respect you and appreciate your wise decisions to keep everyone as safe as possible while also continuing to seek to be a hub for community faith exploration and justice seeking.
Your stewardship giving for 2021 is so critical to the life of our church for this next year and looking long into Clarendon Presbyterian Church’s future. Our major expenses are personnel, building, and mission including congregational care and worship. In 2020, because of the needed replacement of the sewer line, boiler, and gutters, our building expenses increased by about 65K, the bulk taken from our endowment. We are thankful for those wise decisions that made the endowment possible. These repairs and investments into our staff (including myself) and mission are necessary as we continue to discern our particular calling as a church into the future.
As a church we are called to be a beacon of hope on our corner in Clarendon inviting others to know that they beloved in the eyes of our Creator. In order to shine most boldly, we do need your stewardship support:
- If you have not yet already and if your economic circumstances in this year still allow it, please do finish your 2020 pledged commitment. We are on mostly on track, but need you.
- Please consider increasing your pledged amount for 2021 through the form we’ll send you. Pledging is an act of faith and an act of boldness seeking after God’s kin-dom alive and active.
- Finally, I invite you to be in discernment and prayer about where God is calling you to engage your faith in 2021. I encourage you to be in conversation with myself, Rev. Blair or a member of the Session or Deacons about how you might best use your gifts and talents to grow your faith, your spirit, and our community. I also encourage you to be in conversation with us about how as a church together, we may best support you in the year and years ahead. We are in partnership together.
Thank you for your faith, courage, imagination and love for the Clarendon Presbyterian Church Community.