Report of the Bishop Suffragan
The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff
It is a great joy and privilege to deliver to this council my first report as Bishop Suffragan. It has been a full year in the life of the Diocese, for me, and for all of us together. Thank you for calling me to be a partner in ministry with you and for giving me the honor, challenge and pleasure of serving you as your Bishop Suffragan.
I want to share briefly with you stories from the two areas of ministry that command most fully my time and energy. These are Dayspring and mission congregations.
Dayspring is a Diocese-wide initiative that was created at this time last year, after the judge’s decision returned disputed propertied, including consecrated church buildings, to the Bishop of Virginia. Henry Burt will report tomorrow on litigation – where we’ve been, where we are now, where we’re going.
The great news that I share is that Episcopal congregations are now worshipping in five of these churches. They have returned to their church homes or are building new congregations in old, returned buildings. These five we call Dayspring congregations. Four of them are continuing congregations that returned to their church property last spring. These are St. Stephen’s, Heathsville; St. Margaret’s, Woodbridge; the Falls Church Episcopal in Falls Church; and Epiphany, Herndon. The fifth congregation, St. Paul’s, Haymarket, is newly formed. Also under the purview of Dayspring is Truro Church, which we are currently renting to Truro while a Dayspring Truro Team works to develop a vision and plan for Episcopal mission and ministry in downtown Fairfax when the lease ends. Dayspring also oversees two church buildings in Woodbridge and is exploring possibilities there.
I ask the clergy, delegates and anyone else who is here from our Dayspring congregations to stand so that we can recognize and applaud you.
I also ask the Dayspring team members who are working with these congregations to stand so that we can recognize and applaud you.
Each of our five Dayspring congregations is faithfully struggling with unique issues of identity, growth and financial sustainability. Each congregation is working in partnership with a Dayspring team and with others in the Diocese. And each, while perhaps tempted to close fists and hold onto resources tightly to meet their own needs, is giving back.
St. Stephen’s, Heathsville, is giving back in compassionate care for congregations that have been displaced from their church homes in the Diocese of South Carolina. The Rev. Lucia Lloyd, and members of the congregation have developed relationships with a number of Continuing Episcopalians in South Carolina, supporting them with e-mails and phone calls, and also by sending liturgical items to them. Among other things, they sent prayer books that parishioners inscribed with messages of encouragement and with prayers. The people of St. Stephen’s also invited all of us to join with them in care and outreach to our brothers and sisters to the south by bringing prayer books, hymnals, vestments, paraments and other items to this Council. Next weekend, Lucia and the Rev. Kate Chipps, retired priest-in-charge of St. Margaret’s, Woodbridge, another Dayspring church, will go to South Carolina to serve as supply clergy for two congregations and personally to deliver the items that this diocese has given. Having suffered a time of exile themselves, St. Stephen’s and other Dayspring congregations have a strong heart for those who are now in exile, and they are responding with concrete action.
Our Dayspring congregations both give and receive in ways that have the potential to give new energy to the whole of our Diocese, and beyond.
In addition to these five congregations whose new life in old facilities began this year, we have some 35 mission congregations. These include our mountain missions, our Korean congregations and the bulk of our Latino congregations. Nearly 20 percent of the congregations in the Diocese of Virginia are missions, and the great majority of those receive financial support from the Diocese. That means from all of us. The majority of congregations that receive monetary support would not survive without it. Yet they, like the Dayspring congregations, also give back. Even though they receive from the Diocese, they make pledges to the Diocese. And they give in other ways.
I ask those clergy and delegates from our mission congregations to stand so that we can recognize and celebrate you.
I also ask the members of the Committee on Congregational Missions, the area priests and the liaisons who work with these missions to stand so that we can recognize you and give you thanks.
Varina Church in Varina is one of our congregations that is giving back. Like the majority of the congregations in this Diocese, Varina has a food ministry. (I will say much more about food ministries in the Diocese in the Council sermon this afternoon). Through the food pantry, the people of Varina established relationships with people in the community. Based on those relationships, they took a next step in ministry when they created the Varina Elf Shop so that children who received from the food pantry could experience the joy of giving. One magical evening in December, the classrooms were transformed into shops where children could select gifts for their parents and siblings, wrap those gifts, meet Santa and hear the Christmas story directly from costumed shepherds at the manger. Children and youth of the congregation dressed as elves and escorted guest children through the evening activities. Hundreds of gifts had been donated, hundreds were selected and wrapped and taken home to give on Christmas day. The Rev. April Greenwood, vicar of Varina, said “When the night ended, all of us knew that we had had a front row seat to watch God in action.”
Our mission churches, which receive from us, also share in the joy of giving and remind us all of how giving changes lives.
Our ethnic missions that worship in languages other than English are a particularly exciting and compelling group among our missions. Many of our Spanish speaking services are bursting at the seams. Sometimes visitors to Santa Maria, for example, can’t join in the worship because there is no place for them to park or no place for them to stand in the packed church. The mission field among Spanish speaking people is huge and is ripe. The mission field among Korean speaking people is huge and is ripe. There is such need that we could plant a new ethnic congregation each month for a year and only scratch the surface. Why don’t we? Because we have not yet articulated a compelling vision for growth among populations that speak languages other than English, and we have not yet identified and released the financial resources that it will take to develop and support these ministries. We as a Diocese were part of developing the five mission priority areas that Bishop Shannon unveiled at Council three years ago. Multicultural and ethnic ministries is one of these priority areas. It is time for us now to figure out together how to put our money and other resources where our mouth is in this area and truly support mission in this ripe field.
I ask all clergy and lay delegates of all congregations that worship in languages other than English to stand so that we may recognize and honor you.
The vital ministries of our Dayspring congregations, our mission congregations and our congregations that worship in languages other than English remind us of what it means to be a Diocese. They remind us that we are bound together in mutual responsibility, that giving and receiving are intimately interconnected, that although we worship in different congregations, we are one church family. Dayspring and Mission Congregations also remind us of why our giving to the Diocese is so important, for they are changing lives with our help and support.
It is a joy beyond anything I ever imagined to be in relationship with these faithful congregations – and with all of the congregations of this imperfect, striving, struggling, loving, faithful Diocese of Virginia.