A Letter to Our New Rector
On behalf of all Calvary parishioners, warm greetings. We hope that you have heard the Holy Spirit and feel called to join us as we embark on a new chapter; that you will embrace our fellowship and faith in action; that you will inspire us with your sermons and leadership to guide us in ways that deepen our relationship with God, our connection with each other and the wider church community.
Through our efforts during this interim period, we have prayerfully listened to the hopes and concerns of our parishioners and deeply examined our core values, strengths, and challenges. We cherish classical, sacred music; faith in action, care and service to others; hospitality, our history and quaint surroundings. Our strengths lie in our lessons learned and our challenges lie in our willingness to take risks to grow and embrace change. Calvary’s parishioners find comfort in tradition, but are willing to find a balance to explore new ways to grow and strengthen our conviction to serve Christ. Our collective vision for this parish’s future includes cultivating our lay leadership and further strengthening our financial stability.
We pray God will select an engaging, forward-thinking, pragmatic, spiritual leader who will compassionately remind us to be still and listen to God; to inspire us into action and stretch us spiritually. We want you to partner with our energy and passion and to listen to and walk with us as we continue to work through this exciting, yet unsettling time of transition.
We invite you to learn more about us and we hope that you are intrigued by who we are. Just as you are discerning whether God is calling you to be Calvary’s next rector, we, too, are considering the best ways to move forward with enthusiasm and joy to be more faithful servants of God. The Calvary Church parish family is very excited to meet you and eager to learn how God may be at work among us.
Yours in Christ,
The Discernment Committee
Prayer For Our Next Rector
Almighty God, giver of every good gift, look graciously on your church in our time of transition.
Teach us to be still and listen to you knowing that you are always with us.
Prepare the person of your choice for his or her ministry among us and prepare us to receive your servant with joyful hearts.
Grant us grace to be faithful companions to each other during this time.
All this we ask in Christ’s name. Amen.
Explore Our Town
Calvary House is a 4 bedroom Victorian home, renovated in 2018, on the grounds of the church with a beautiful water view. This home is available to the rector and family.
Calvary Parish Profile
The following 12 questions and responses make up the narrative and profile of our church community:
Describe a moment in your worshipping community’s recent ministry which you recognize as one of success and fulfillment.
Our annual appeal for school backpacks begins with a long list of names and grade levels provided by Covenant to Care’s Lynn Taylor. One wonders what a seventh-grade girl’s life is like living in a foster home and welcomes a chance to bring her a little joy. A parishioner chooses a pack with a fun design hoping she’ll feel proud when she heads back to school. Pens, erasers, 3-ring binders and paperclips fill the pack, as well as a brightly-colored lunch box and water bottle, ear buds, pre-teen books and a flash drive. The extras make the pack heavy with the hope that they lighten her life a little. On the Sunday when the packs arrive to be blessed, two dozen or so lie in a huge pile. Seeing so many is exciting because so many children will know that they matter, and someone cares about them. This ministry is repeated annually. The children who receive the backpacks have been through the breaking up of their families which had to involve many painful experiences. Backpacks stuffed with goodies can’t undo all they’ve been through, but we hope the children receive encouragement to succeed in school and feel hope for a future that’s better than their past.
Describe your liturgical style and practice for all types of worship services provided by your community.
Firmly rooted in tradition, we are a caring community of faith seeking to share the love of God in our life together, and with the world at large. Calvary has had a long history in the community dating back to 1847 as a place where all are welcome to come and worship. We open our doors to the community in offering a variety of Rite I and Rite II services complemented with prayer and care events for all who seek to serve Christ. Our Rite II worship is grounded in the best of the Anglican liturgical music tradition and is now enriched for generations by the recently dedicated “Chandler McIvor Tracker Organ”. We embrace the opportunity to experience variety in our services whether that is from lay leaders, visiting clergy, youth services, or inspiring guest speakers. Choral Evensong, Baptisms, Weddings, and Funerals are other important services, which enrich our spirit and confirm our faith. Our community is eager to grow spiritually and prayerfully embracing new traditions. As an Episcopal Church, worship of God in Christ is the center from which everything flows embracing a Eucharist open to all and complemented with great classical music and hospitality.
How do you practice incorporating others in ministry?
Calvary has a strong history of incorporating others in ministry, whether it's members of the parish, or people in our local community and beyond. We are an open church, where ideas can take root and gain support to develop and flourish. Our worship services include lay members as acolytes, lectors, ushers, and choir members, and we have church school, confirmation classes and a youth group; all providing Christian formation. Once a year we have a "Harvest of Opportunities" to showcase all the opportunities to serve our neighbors. This is a wonderful way to encourage church members and guests to take part in the ministry with our neighbors near and far. Our vestry members provide leadership and consistency, with a vestry member serving on most of the outreach committees. We also have a Youth Sunday to involve our young people directly in our worship, and our pastor's weekly newsletter and the updated website keep us aware of new ministries. We are led and inspired by each other as we follow Christ's teachings to clothe and feed those in need, to give hope and love with donations of toys and backpacks, and to always welcome the stranger in our midst.
As a worshipping community, how do you care for your spiritual, emotional and physical well-being?
Calvary’s care is multifaceted. The prayer team gathers weekly at the altar and has a steady, widespread process whereby names are submitted via email and redistributed to the team. Church groups organize meals for parishioners unable to cook, support several prison ministries, send encouraging cards with prayers to the sick or grieving; knit and deliver prayer shawls, and bring therapy dogs to people in hospitals and nursing homes. Eucharistic visitors give the holy sacrament to parishioners who are unable to attend services. We are all spiritually uplifted by the generosity evidenced by the huge pile of frozen turkeys being blessed at the Altar, and the number of back packs filled for area foster children. Most recently, a Spiritual Formation group formed to study the book, Cultivating the Fruits of the Spirit. For many, faith is something personal and customarily private. Being asked to lead a group in prayer or talking about one's love for God or their failings as a Christian can be uncomfortable. The Spiritual Formation group provides a safe place to explore one’s spirituality and relationship with God while deepening the connection with the caring community at Calvary.
Describe your worshipping community’s involvement in either the wider Church or geographical community.
Our community connections begin within, but extend well beyond, our home in Stonington Borough. Calvary’s Nursery and Music Schools serve our nearest neighbors. We support shelters and food centers in surrounding Southeastern CT and Southwestern RI through food and cash donations and participation in Meals on Wheels, C.R.O.P. and Walk & Support for Coogan Farm, a source of fresh produce for local food pantries. We provide blankets for the homeless and backpacks and Christmas gifts for foster children. We’ve helped build a Habitat house and engage in prison ministries and the Start Fresh program, which supports immigrant families. We’re well represented at the ecumenical Easter sunrise service on Stonington Point and host film series, concerts, yard and bake sales, Lenten Luncheons and a chicken BBQ open to all. The latter is a fundraising event for our most far reaching and exciting mission. Through the Anglican Communion, Calvary partners with Ugandan Canon Kasamba to provide various scholarships to the Chain Foundation Orphanage and Primary School for the Blind, and donations for salaries, vital supplies, and to help blind students develop marketable musical talents.
How do you engage in pastoral care for those beyond your worshipping community?
The way we engage in pastoral care reflects the depth and genuineness of our spiritual life together. Put simply, we're a giving church. When we learn of a need, we step up and share. Take our two therapy dogs, Rudy and Ethel, as an example. Jean and Deb--their handlers and members of our church--visit the local hospital every week. One day, there was an elderly man in the near bed in a room they were visiting. They thought he was asleep, so didn't disturb him. But as they were about to leave the room, he woke up and said in a loud voice: "Dogs!" His face glowed as he patted Rudy and Ethel. He told them he loved them. Then he explained that he didn't have much time. "You're going home soon?" asked Jean. "No," he replied. "I'm dying." Jean and Deb stood there, speechless. And then he added, "You brought me dogs," and a huge smile spread across his face. One of many ministries that serve those beyond our community, we believe that to live out our faith in God, we need to care for others. Our meals for the homebound, prayer shawl ministry, help with a local soup kitchen and warm shelter, prison ministry and Uganda mission all speak to this commitment.
Tell about a ministry that your worshipping community has initiated in the past five years. Who can be contacted about this?
Calvary Film Festival’s screening of “Human Flow,” a documentary about refugees, launched a community-wide discussion on how people can help refugees resettle in New London County. With food from Afghani refugee Amal Kihlo and support from parishioner Peggy Vermilya, the event drew attendees from Calvary, St. David’s in Gales Ferry, and Start Fresh, New London’s refugee resettlement organization. Start Fresh helps refugees resettle with various support services. Peggy has undergone training to help orient refugees and become independent as soon as possible. She and others from Calvary drive refugees to orientation, care for their children so that they can attend obligatory resettlement meetings, and tutor them in English. Peggy reports that while Calvary, other collaborating churches, and Start Fresh have worked out the “rough spots” on the best ways to resettle people here, the network is in limbo because federal policies have sharply curtailed numbers of refugees. Peggy continues to recruit anyone willing to tutor refugees in their new homes. In trying on this new way of putting our faith in action, we have endeavored to follow Jesus’ great commandment to love our neighbor.
How are you preparing yourself for the Church of the future?
As we look to the future, we are just beginning to wrap our heads around where the Church is headed. Our collective faith is a powerful instrument that cares for people within the parish community, and well beyond. While we may grieve over the loss of the 20th century church, we are excited about the future, recognizing that we must be open to new ideas. In many ways, Christianity needs to return to a grassroots movement. The way we're preparing is through our careful discernment in our search for a new rector, and in listening carefully to the needs of the community. Some long for what they have had; others want something new. We are grounded in our faith and how that leads us to care for the people within our parish and beyond. We understand that our differences make us a vibrant and real place of worship, and that prayer and openness are the best ways to prepare for God's plan for our future. For the past 171 years our “church by the sea” has weathered many storms, both literally and figuratively. We pray it will continue to be a place from which we can serve Christ and connect us to the greater community, including its children. We aim to not just survive but to thrive!
What is your practice of stewardship and how does it shape the life of your worshipping community?
Stewardship is a year-round process at Calvary, focusing on time, talent and treasure. We've mentioned many of the ways we help our neighbors near and far in our answers to other questions. So, let's focus on the activities in which we engage to facilitate education about our stewardship and the collection of pledges. The Annual Campaign include a parish-wide brunch, parishioner reflections on the importance of Calvary, ongoing updates on allocation of pledge dollars, and concludes with the blessing of the pledges on Dedication Sunday. Stewardship also includes those who oversee and use our buildings and grounds. We approach our overall church business with an eye toward preserving what has been built over the past 170 years and what God is calling us to next. We depend more heavily than we would like on a few major contributors and hope to move into a different model in the future. Calvary is located on the waterfront in an affluent coastal town midway between NY and Boston. We incorporate stewardship into all we do, and our church is a place where generosity flourishes.
What is your worshipping community’s experience of conflict? And how have you addressed it?
One of the most cherished hallmarks of Calvary is excellent sacred music. In the past year our Rector retired and the Music Director and Assistant Rector left soon thereafter for new calls. Our programs have suffered through these unexpected departures, negatively impacting the choirs and the music school. In the land of steady habits, the inevitability of change can quickly trigger crisis and even conflict. Some parishioners have responded to these changes by leaving the church. Others seem unaware. We are working closely with our interim to discern what God is calling Calvary to in this critical time of upheaval. We listen carefully to each other and seek to communicate in honest and transparent ways. We may not always agree on the next steps, but our faith in Jesus and the lessons we have learned in our life together in Christ unite us. A recent all-parish meeting reinforced our ability to find respectful, faithful common ground. Calvary is excited to see what God now has in store for us.
What is your experience leading/addressing change in the church? When has it gone well? When has it gone poorly? And what did you learn?
At Calvary, we've often handled change well, but we've also experienced poor communication and conflict. An example of a time when change went well was when our sexton decided to retire. He transitioned to part time status and was supplemented with a cleaning service. When he fully retired, we found a replacement without any disruption to the maintenance of our buildings and grounds. A more difficult transition we faced is sustaining funds for support clergy. Through the generosity of multi-year gifts outside the budget, we have twice enjoyed the benefits of assistant priests. However, our stewardship efforts were never able to raise the funds after the gift period ended. We recognize this was an unsustainable model and have ended the practice. What we learned from this is that we must work harder to communicate our financial status in a totally transparent manner, putting all revenue and expenses in the budget so that all parishioners understand what we can and cannot afford. During our interim, Calvary has been flourishing with one priest and lay assistance. We're confident that with God’s help, we will continue to meet our challenges, as we live out our baptismal covenant.
Please provide four words or phrases describing the gifts and skills essential to the future leaders of your worshipping community.
Attentive listener: We are looking for a rector with excellent listening skills. We understand that there is a delicate balance between talking and listening. We know that we are spiritually fed by the gift of being heard, and by prayer and worship.
Not conflict adverse: All close-knit communities experience conflict. We want our new rector to face the challenges with us to create ever more loving fellowship. We know that our differences make us stronger in serving Christ.
Embracer and leader of change: We love our history and we know the world is changing. We want to embrace the changes that help us fully live God’s mission. Our new rector will be central in helping us grow and adapt.
People person who will invest in Calvary: We seek a new a rector who is energized by interpersonal interaction; who will live among and beside us; who is engaging, approachable, compassionate and able to joyfully communicate the love of God; a rector with a good sense of humor tempered by a keen sense of the suffering and divisiveness in the world. The new rector will clearly communicate the relevance of Jesus’ Gospel in our world and inspire us to vibrantly live our faith.
Calvary Church Annual Report
The Transition Process
A Parish Wide discernment event held November 3rd 2018 kicked off the formal transition process essentially putting into motion the calling of our new Rector. The stories of faith and the testimonials of the presence of Jesus in the life of this parish resonated with all and created an abundance of energy that will carry us through this difficult period.
Four unique sub teams along with the Vestry make up the Transition Team each with different responsibilities. Three of the teams (Discernment, Recruitment and Hospitality) work intensely together for relatively short periods of time. Calvary’s Vestry sets the approximate timeline for the work and has oversight responsibilities of the various committees. This entire process is an opportunity for the Body of Christ at Calvary to practice being faithful and listening with great care and intention to what God is calling the community to.
THE PRAYER TEAM
The Prayer Team prays and works throughout the process, committing to daily prayer for the parish and the process. They work with the Interim Rector on liturgy and prayers for this time of transition, on a commissioning service for all the Team members, and on creating the parish transition prayer defined above to be used for the duration of the process. This team requires of its members great commitment, intentionality, and a very well developed spiritual and prayer life.
THE DISCERNMENT TEAM
The Discernment Team is responsible for gathering and interpreting all the ideas, thoughts, and vision shared at the All Parish Discernment Meeting and any focus groups that are held. This is the team that developed the Transition Ministry Profile listed above. The Discernment Committee is also responsible for managing the website and web content. This team’s work is a very labor-intensive set of tasks in the process and will require a fair amount of writing and story sharing, word crafting and editing, careful listening, and very deliberate and decisive discussion.
THE RECRUITMENT TEAM
The Recruitment Team reviews the candidates’ background and creates the questions that will be asked throughout the interview process. They will schedule and conduct the initial remote interviews as well as select on-site, day-long visits. The first time conducting video (Skype or FaceTime) interviews over no more than seven days and then coordinating a second set of interviews with the short listed candidates who are invited to make an on-site visit. The Team then recommends two to three names to the Vestry. The Recruitment Team’s work is done when they hand their list of final candidates to the Vestry. The Vestry's work will complete the process by discerning who is the best fit and making the call.
THE HOSPITALITY TEAM
The Hospitality Team manages the planning and coordination for everything from the All Parish Discernment Meeting, to the focus groups, to interview evenings with meals needed, to the on-site visits by both rounds of candidates. This team needs to be highly organized, very detail oriented, friendly, flexible and able to respond in a tight time frame. The Hospitality Committee plans the welcome of the new Rector and with that celebration; a new phase in your life together in Christ is begun!