Warden End of 2013 Letter to Parish

A Letter from the St. Dunstan’s Senior Warden on Sunday, December 08, 2013:

Thank you for participating in the discussion this morning, December 8th.  Frank Hung and I will share your suggestions, thoughts and concerns with the Vestry and with the Diocesan leadership.  We had planned to share, in the form of a Christmas letter, the major achievements for this last year.  It is likely an excellent time to do so right now.  So, here goes …

It has been a very busy year at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Succasunna, New Jersey!  After the shock of Superstorm Sandy, our community pulled together and entered winter knowing that we had one another to rely on in the event nature delivered another such event.  It became clear to all of us that a strong faith community would be one element that would enable us to endure hardships, both those delivered by weather, but also those we have to endure because of ill health and the vagaries of the economy.  My own  adverse experiences during 2013 made me appreciate this community so much more, especially the wisdom and guidance of our Priest-in-Charge, Ginny.  I know that this likely applies to others in our community; I am so thankful for Ginny’s leadership during a difficult year of deep personal losses and difficult work circumstances.

St. Dunstan’s enjoyed a busy and productive Lenten series and we collaborated with the sisters from St. John’s in Mendham on a couple of practical activities that provided time for our hands to guide our hearts and our prayers.  These “hands-on” activities provide fabulous ways in which we can break out of the very busy lives we all lead to reflect on what is most important in our lives:  A relationship with God and our neighbors.  We shared the warmth of soup and bread, stories and fellowship.  During the winter and spring this year we also had successful women’s and men’s bible study meetings during weekday evenings.  Some of the women participated in “field trips” to destinations such as the labyrinth at St. Johns, Mendham, ending with dinner at a local eatery.  The Knitting Ministry and the Parish Life groups continued to meet on a monthly basis and Ginny worked with a group of parishioners who affirmed their faith or were blessed to be confirmed as Episcopalians in early summer.  Many of us celebrated this event at the Newark Cathedral, followed by a dinner hosted by the Stoddards.

In early spring, Ginny, with the support of the St. Dunstan’s Vestry, began a part-time position as the Coordinator of Missional Strategy at Episcopal House.  At that time clearer boundaries were created between that of the priest, the administrator and the leaders of different committees.  Each Vestry member now provides monthly reports and updates for a specific committee.  A new job description was created for the parish administrator.  Dana, our current parish administrator, increased her level of responsibility, assuming responsibility for the revised email system that was instituted.  A new communications committee worked under the direction of Nina Nicholson from the Diocese of Newark to create a new Web site that is integrated with our email system.  In addition, the computer systems and network routers were upgraded in the summer.  Our email listing service is now used to share news twice (or more) a week so that members are aware of what is happening.  Additionally, regular updates are posted to the church facebook pages, including for special events.  Photographs are posted to the St. Dunstan’s Web site as these are taken at special events at church.  Prior to this, our facebook page and a Wordpress site (created by Ginny) served as our Web site.  These were not easy to update and there was no system to reflect all of the work that was taking place at St. Dunstan’s.  St. Dunstan’s was one of a select few to participate in the Diocesan Web project and we are proud and pleased at the progress we have made in just over ten months.  Dana, Justin and Ethné share responsibility for the work of updating and communications.  For those who do not like email or do not find they wish to have their information about church shared this way, please speak with us about what we can do to communicate with you.  Those who wish to have updates by mail can certainly do so and should ask Dana to please send updates using regular mail.  Note that this can become expensive as it requires a stamp each week.  However, quarterly mailings and mailings for specific events still can be done through regular mail.

Many other activities dot the summer and fall landscape – our yard sale was a great success, and so was our annual picnic.  The silent auction was again a financial and social success – Michele Doremus and Susan Rawlinson are amazing at what they do for our community.  We cherish their contributions and the patience of their families during the times when they toil hard on our behalf.  Thank you!  Letters will be sent out to all businesses for donations we received.  The St. Dunstan’s families who participated will also receive a note of thanks.  Similarly, the work of our Outreach committee continues to be extremely valued and valuable.  Their collections of food and delivery to Roxbury Social Services make a huge difference by feeding those who need nourishment during tough times.  The Knitting Ministry continues to tangibly provide warm gloves, hats and scarves to the Seamen’s Institute and to those in our local community who need such help. 

The highlight of this year was undoubtedly the successful 50th anniversary celebration in early fall.  We were delighted at the response from parishioners who live out of state and many visited with us that evening.  Ginny found some amazing letters and other written materials that she shared via the St. Dunstan’s facebook site.  Please see her updates on:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/St-Dunstans-Episcopal-Church/195507840519520.

During the summer the Vestry commenced a Mutual Ministry Review (MMR) and goal setting for St. Dunstan’s as part of the annual renewal of the work that we do.  This work is guided by a facilitator who has conducted some training with vestry members and, through dialogue with the membership, we were able to include wishes that we all have for our work as a church.  As guided by Michael, our facilitator, the MMR is a time to review the ways in which the Vestry, clergy and congregation define their joint ministry.  This work is continuing at present as we seek to define our work and goals.  We will report on this at the annual meeting on February 2nd, 2014.  Many of our accomplishments of the past year were celebrated when we met in September to discuss goals, including the following:

·         Silent auction

·         Bible study groups

·         New Organist, live music in service, and an annual Christmas Concert

·         Greater participation by many in organizing services through the worship teams

·         Meditation garden improvement and many Stewardship activities organized

Many challenges remain for St. Dunstan’s.  The Vestry needs to continue to communicate early and often.  This is a two-way process and we have to find a means of making such communication easier.  The St. Dunstan’s Vestry members continue to search for ways to make St. Dunstan’s better and stronger for our children and our families.  The group this year has worked particularly hard to ensure that we are good stewards of all the resources that the community entrusts to us:  people, finances, the church building and, most of all, our spiritual resources.  Despite these challenges we have so much to celebrate and, for those who have not seen the press release that Ginny, Sandy and I wrote for the local press, here is a link to the Web site that allows you to download the full article:  http://stdunstansuccasunna.org/articles.  You will note that our church, small though it might be, is grounded in integrity, fellowship and endowed with a “can-do” spirit!  Our history is one that is enviable and now that Ginny has helped us to heal and renew, we MUST look forward to building a bigger community.  Please help us do that. 

For those who asked this morning what they could do to help us, please distribute and share the information we have on our site and volunteer to write for our weekly bulletins.  Dana and I would welcome more help!

Thank you for all you do for St. Dunstan’s and our community.



Ethné Swartz