The National Church collects and distributes data that provide interesting snapshots of the church as a whole and its constituent dioceses. While these data certainly do not speak for themselves, they give us points for reflection and may be helpful for planning purposes. From the 2014 data, we see that the average age for all Episcopal clergy was 58 years old, while for our diocese was 61. Of the clergy in our diocese, 21 percent are 54 years old or younger. As I now have two daughters in college, I appreciate that in some ways I can still be considered among the younger. Solo priests lead 34 percent of all Episcopal churches while just 20 percent have more than one priest. The rest are led by part-time, supply clergy, or a lay person. Of all churches, only 13 percent of all parishes have three weekend services. We are one of those few. The largest proportion (45 percent) hold a single weekend service. The average Episcopal church seats 192 people while ours seats a bit less than that when we use extra chairs and seating in the chapel. In our current parish membership, 60 percent of us are 65 years and older. We have 58 parishioners who are 80 years and older while 108 of us are 75 and older. For the Episcopal Church, 27 percent of parishes have half their membership above 65 years of age.
When I reflect on these data I see both gifts and opportunities for Good Shepherd. On the gifts side, I see a church that is blessed with a great abundance of age-tested wisdom and skills honed over a lifetime. Many of us are very active in our retirement, some perhaps even more so now than when we were working, and others perhaps now slowing down a bit from earlier retirement years. We are using that wisdom and those skills to benefit the church and serving others in the community. I am grateful to lead a church with such a high level of participation and where we have such riches of wisdom and talent. True to the Gospel, we are using those as we are able to build up the body of Christ and to bring good repute upon the Church.
The opportunity for us is that of continuing to care for each other as we age. Our pastoral care system offers a broad range of services including prayer services, wellness services, crisis services, community life services that keep those in a pastoral care situation connected to the church community, and end of life services. We currently offer about 25 different services that in some way offer spiritual, relational, or material support to those in need of pastoral care and especially our more senior members. With so many services, we of course need many volunteers and the generous sharing of our wisdom and skills, and a staff person to equip our volunteers and coordinate their efforts. This parish distinguishes itself in sharing generously with those outside our church. That is a good and holy thing. We must have no less a concern for caring for those who are members of this church. It was the care of others that distinguished the early Christian church and it will be the care of others that continues to be a distinguishing feature of this community. I invite your inquires about how you can help.
Grace and peace,