Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reflections on the Conference on the Past

Thank you to all the Sunnysiders who were able to participate in the Conference on the Past this Sunday. It was a wonderful time of celebrating the rich traditions of our congregation, naming the ways the world has changed around us, and glimpsing the future that we are being called to embrace. Here are some reflections and appreciations from the Stepping Stones Team. We would love to hear your comments and reflections on the Conference as well!

From Ken Baierl...

The Stepping Stones team did not know how the congregation would react to the Conference on the Past. Sunnyside Church hadn’t ever done this before. We shortened the worship service and lengthened adult education. We asked you to spend two hours with us on a beautiful Sunday morning talking about the past. Who would show up? Would the discussion be productive? Would the next step on our journey be a stumble? Well, about 130 people attended, the discussion was wonderful and the Stepping Stones team is energized by the response. The congregation stepped up to the plate. From the table captains, to the youth, to the multi-generational participants, everyone came ready to join in the journey to discern God’s call for Sunnyside Church. We collected valuable information and gained important insights. The Spirit is at work in this process. A successful summer bible study, followed by a successful Conference on the Past is giving momentum to our journey. Both are the result of a congregation that is ready to take a bold step into the future. Thank you. There are more good things to come.

From Mary Cory...

I have enjoyed the Stepping Stones process leading up to the Conference on the Past. Our family joined Sunnyside in 1993 and over the past few months I have learned so much about our church history and our congregation.

The Conference on Sunday was wonderful. I loved the conversation at my table (the 90's) but I really loved hearing the summation of all the tables and the comments made by all the generations present. We heard some wonderful stories about our past and heard ideas for our future. It was exciting to hear everyone talking and laughing as they remembered stories about the church building or members present or past.

We have so much to look forward to and we have a wonderful church family. With God's help we will discern our path to the future.

From Bill Lamie...

I was overjoyed by the number of members who took the time to reflect on our church’s collective past and who actively participated in the Conference on the Past. I think that our Stepping Stones Committee got exactly what we were planning and praying for, and even more.

All Table Captains did a fine job of initiating feedback that was relevant and well presented. My thanks to all who participated and shared in this important process of learning what God is calling Sunnyside to be and do. We are very blessed.

From Abbe Golden...

Without any preconceptions of how the Conference on the Past would play out, I found the conversation at the tables fascinating. Coming together to talk about our shared values and experiences formed a bond between those who have attended Sunnyside for years and those who have attended for a short time. It was fun to talk about previous events and milestones of the church. But more importantly, the information shared from table to table gave us a solid foundation to build on for discerning God’s will for Sunnyside’s future.

From Amy Gardine...

Well, the Conference on the Past is now.... well... past! And it was fantastic. Over 130 eager congregants, 18 active tables, 2 hours of amazing discussion, and countless discoveries about our shared history made the morning fly by. I must admit, as one of the Stepping Stones members, the journey to get to October 10 seemed like a walk into a dark cave! But Sunday's leap of faith helped dissipate some of the darkness and reveal just how our church has worked through the decades. As a newer member of Sunnyside, the chance to share in the common history of our church was a true pleasure. Not only did I feel more aware of our strengths, but I also felt we understood the patterns of what works and does not work for our particular church as a whole. God truly was present in our past and continues to guide our discoveries today.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ten Year Trends by Pastor Rebecca

The Conference on the Past is almost upon us, and we have been spending quite a bit of time focusing on our distant past, things that happened in this place 100 years ago or even 50 years ago. Part of our conversations on Sunday will also be about what has happened in our most recent past.

One of the great resources that we have at our disposal as a congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA) are the statistical reports available on the denomination's website, specifically ten years of stats on every PC(USA) congregation.

Sunnyside's numbers in many ways reflect trends within the larger church, but also speak volumes to the strengths of our congregation.

All of our numbers: our membership, our worship attendance, our Sunday School enrollment, our giving have been higher than average for all PC(USA) congregations. While other congregations are in gradual or deep decline, Sunnyside's ten year trends show that we are somewhat static in our numbers our membership in 2009 of 610 is relatively the same as our membership in 1999 of 605. If you dig deeper into the numbers provided though, you will find that in 1999 we has 68 children in 8th grade and below (non-confirmed members of the congregation) and in 2009 we had close to double at 128. What does that say about our recent history and values as a congregation?

One of the most interesting numbers to me is reflected in the graph that is pictured above. This bar graph breaks down our annual giving averaging it over both the membership and the number of people in worship. It is heartening to see how much giving has grown over our recent past, especially relative to those who are in active membership within the worshiping life of our congregation. To me this indicates a willingness, evening in difficult economic times, for Sunnysiders to invest themselves in the ministries of our congregation.

Before this Sunday's Conference on the Past, I would encourage you to take a closer look at all of the data provided in our Ten Year Trends to gain your own insights into our recent past, the growth we have seen, and ways that Sunnyside fits into the larger picture of the Presbyterian Church (USA).