Many people are wondering how our parishes might possibly be changed in the future by all that we’ve been going through these past six weeks. The fact that right now you’re reading a joint newsletter that primarily comes through email instead of getting a bulletin after Mass is a perfect example of this.
How will church life feel when we come out of the lockdown?
What changes that we’re experiencing now are likely to be our “new normal” going
There have even been some rumors that our two parishes might be merging, could that be based in any truth?
I’ll begin by telling you that the parishes are not merging. That rumor is false. A merger is not on the table at all. I’ll say more about that later in this Sharing Spot, but I wanted to say that upfront so you can be relaxed as you read this. 🙂
When we return to “business as usual” – whenever that is and however that looks – many things will not change. Once we get an all-clear from the State, from the Diocese and from medical experts, we plan to return to a full Mass schedule. We’ll continue to have Faith Formation and parish events and celebrate the seasons of the liturgical year. Just as Jesus gathered disciples in Israel 2,000 years ago, after COVID-19, God will again gather us.
However, you may have noticed that this has been a time of tremendous creativity and growth for our parishes in some ways. We didn’t see that coming when this all began in mid-March, but we can’t deny that there have been many unexpected blessings as a result of this challenge. Here are some of the ways life after this lockdown will be different for us.
SMALL PRAYER GROUPS are here to stay!
We have nearly 80 parishioners in small prayer groups now, gathering via Zoom and conference calls to share weekly prayer together. Those who have participated say that it is deepening their faith far more than they could have hoped or dreamed it could. That’s here to stay for sure! We are becoming a better, stronger, more mature group of disciples because of it!
E-GIVING AS THE PRIMARY COLLECTION METHOD is here to stay!
E-giving is the safest, easiest way for parishioners to support their parish. And it has been our lifeline through Coronavirus. Our personal relationship with the National Bank of Coxsackie, our business manager’s ability to contact parishioners with prompt, direct service, and the way it allows our parish finance councils to budget accurately for the income of the year ahead make it the way of the future for sure.
LIVESTREAM MASSES as a form of Evangelization are here to stay!
Look at just one of the notes we got this week from a viewer, along with a $100 donation…
We have been very happy with the services we’ve livestreamed since COVID-19.
Fr. Scott’s leadership… the homilies & music ministry have been a beautiful part of your services, and my husband and I look forward to Sunday Mass at home (something I never expected, since both of us are technically challenged).
We are from Lake Luzerne, NY and our parish does not livestream. While checking YouTube we came upon St. Patrick’s and I’m so glad we did.
Keep up the good work!!
Anne & Tom Reed
Before Coronavirus, we had about 70 people watching our Sunday Mass.
Now we have thousands… all over the country. That outreach is here to stay!
VIRTUAL MEETINGS as options for easier connection are here to stay!
While there is no substitute for the synergy of face-to-face communication, we have many groups and committees in our parish that could meet just as effectively – and far more easily – on Zoom or another meeting platform so that everyone can have as much time for rest and family interaction as possible. Many of us remember our busy pace of life in the time before lockdown caused us often not to have a free night available for weeks on end. While the amount of time we’ve had lately has maybe been a bit too much :-), we can also see the benefits it has in providing a healthier life balance for many of us. Incorporating these meetings
into our parish life is something we’ll be doing in the future.
MORE USE OF WEBSITES/E-MAILS/YOUTUBE FOR INFORMATION is here to stay!
It’s been so helpful for everyone to access e-giving, Small Prayer Groups, the Sunday livestream Mass, the music we sing, Fr. Scott’s YouTube channel, Facebook… everything from one homepage. St. Mary’s is now working on liberating ourselves from our clunky diocesan website to something more like what St. Patrick’s has – parishioner and professional web designer Michele Brown is working on that and hopes to have it launched soon!
And now we’ve streamlined our email lists so there is less duplication and no more “error” messages when we reach out to our parishioners. Getting this newsletter by email has been welcomed as a big improvement by many of our members.
ONE APP FOR TWO PARISHES TO FIND INFORMATION in one place will help us!
Because there is so much good content on My Parish App that applies to both St. Mary’s and St. Patrick’s, it just makes sense to have one place for logging in on your phone or tablet and then an array of buttons for you to choose from to get just the information you need from the parish you choose.
WHAT WON’T BE CHANGING – TWO PARISHES
There is no plan at all for our parishes to merge. If that rumor reached you, know it was born out of fear and has no basis in reality. There are several reasons why that is the case…
- Bishop Ed has gone on the record that he would like to avoid mergers of parishes.
- Our parishes are both vibrant and have no need to merge to stay viable.
- The things that could possibly cause a parish merger are, either:
- If Mass attendance at either parish slips below the full seating capacity of one Mass per weekend (both of our churches each comfortably seat in the ballpark of 300 people)
- If the parish finances go “in the red” more than one year in a row
Thanks to your generosity, our finances are in the black (and with our influx of e-givers and the faithfulness of envelope users mailing in their checks each week, we are praying that will remain the case, even despite this lockdown) and our weekend attendance at each parish hovers around 300 (around 600 when totaling the four Masses).
So, with this all in mind, two notes of caution are wise to be alert to when, after lockdown, we get back into our regular church schedule… if our weekly attendance slips below 300 on a regular basis at either church (fewer than 150 people at a Mass)… or if we face multiple quarters below our income budget, we’ll need to start paying close attention. Those are the indicators that a parish is not as healthy as it once was.
Neither of St. Mary’s Mass times are the most ideal (many consider 7:30 too early and 11:30 too late), but for nearly five years St. Mary’s has been successful with both attendance and collections, and the Mass times have, in some cases, attracted people to Mass from other parishes because they find the times a good alternative when their schedule makes Saturdays and Sunday mid-mornings difficult for them. (If you want to see what I mean, come see the 7:30 on a beautiful summer morning… or the 11:30 on the weekend of the clocks going forward.) So we have every indication that the health of the parishes is strong, and with your commitment to coming to Mass and giving what you can afford, they will remain that way.
Coronavirus is a tragedy. That’s clear. But it is also an opportunity.
We can allow God to take us by the hand and direct us to a new and better way of living, now that we’ve had a big splash of cold water, waking us up to what is most essential in life.
I’m excited to be led with you by God… and to see what miracles lie in store for us.