October 31, 2023

From the Rector…

 Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to gain greater knowledge of who we are and how we are in the world. We get blinders—so focused on something we are doing or think we need to be that we lose focus of the greater picture. A “not able to see the forest for the trees” kind of thing. In a lot of ways, we are so committed to our work we don’t realize where we might improve or even how to bring others on board with us. Churches can find themselves in the same place at times. 

Over the past few months, your vestry and clergy have been working hard to call a consultant to help us in healing past hurts, identifying issues of governance that have limited our growth in mission and ministry, and explore what opportunities we might take advantage of for the growth of the church and our own spirituality. That work has culminated in calling The Rev. Scott Holcombe to consult with us for the next six months. Scott is a retired Canon to the Ordinary from Central Florida and has a great deal of experience in working with churches as systems to improve mission, ministry and governance as well as deal with any conflicts that might arise.

Ascension has dealt with a significant number of traumatic events throughout her history—a fire in the 1980s and a church split in the early 2000s. Since that time, she has seen a parade of rectors, associate rectors, and clergy as interims, each with a vision for the church and a dream they have invited the parish into. Some of those have been positive experiences, some have not been as positive, all of them have continued to churn a turbulent sea. It is telling that in all that time, CoA has not worked with someone to find healing and rediscover her identity. What is even more telling is the spirit of joy and loving openness to welcome the other that she has expressed. 

One would expect to find a faltering church, dying on the vine, knowing what Ascension experienced in her past. Instead, she is a loving and vibrant church who takes care of one another and reaches out to help the stranger. She is growing—in the past two and a half years, we have confirmed 55 new members to the church; we have seen pledges hit the $1,000,000 mark; we have opened our doors to hundreds of people in the community who regularly use our facilities to promote values like scouting and AA; we are in the midst of a $2.3 million capital campaign that has renovated and vastly improved our existing campus; and we are beginning to connect in deeper ways with our neighbors. Ascension exceeds expectation in so many ways. This may sound surprising, but we know we can do even more to build up the kingdom and live into God’s call for us at CoA. That is why we called a consultant.

Scott, our consultant, is with us this week getting an initial understanding of how we function and beginning a conversation on best practices in the church. He has already been inundated with a significant amount of paperwork to help him in his review of who we are. He is meeting with various groups like the staff, Vestry, Finance Committee, and Outreach, as well as individuals during his time here to understand what and why we operate the way that we do. He will take all of that information and bring us an initial report of his observations in December when he will return for a second round of meetings with the congregation at large.

Personally, I am excited about this opportunity as I believe it can only make us stronger in spirit and in our relationship with one another, with the world, and, most importantly, with the Lord. I am grateful for everyone who has agreed to be a part of this conversation and work and those who will be. It is only in doing this together that we can live into the transformative life that Christ offers us. If you see the Rev. Scott Holcombe around this week, please welcome him as you welcome everyone who passes through these sacred halls—with joy and peace. 

I am grateful for you, for our vestry who is supportive of this work, and for our staff who works tirelessly for this place that they love. I ask you to hold this work in prayer over the next six months as we move forward in reshaping who we are and why Ascension matters. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to talk. I would love to hear from you and what might excite you about this work we get to do together.

Light and Life,