Senior Warden Notes
Those of us who live in Key West year round definitely miss our sisters and brothers who summer elsewhere. We know from experience, though, that some will return as early as mid October and that the flow will grow in November (culminating in January after the holidays).
As exciting as it is to greet friends again, the change in congregation size will present logistical challenges. We will have to add services, since we can only socially distance with a maximum of about 48 at a time inside. (Historically our January attendance often approached 150 and the church has always been completely full for multiple Christmas services.)
Fr. Haughton has been an excellent resource and has agreed to work with us. But we may need additional supply clergy and/or we may have some services of Morning Prayer (which does not require a clergy person.)
For the next few weeks we will hold capacity on Sunday at 24 people, plus the priest, cantor and organist. Eventually we will be able to expand to 48, if all goes well - hopefully in tandem with the increase in seasonal members. Then we'll work toward adding a service. Stay tuned.
I am a believer in proper order and working within systems. But in fairness to our members, your vestry and the search committee I must express our frustration with the process for selecting a new rector.
Fr. Larry Hooper left us for a well earned retirement on March 6 of 2019. Fr. Steve Carlsen, after leading us for over a year, completed his term as interim in July of 2020. Since then lay leaders (and our dedicated church staff) stepped up to keep things on track. But the lack of a full time rector has real consequences.
St. Paul's has done all that has been required to move the process forward. Your vestry took drastic and painful action over a year ago to put our financial situation in order. We've gone from three full time employees to one full time and one part time employee. We are a fiscally healthy congregation and a reliable financial partner with the diocese.
Our Search Committee, after being reconstituted in the early spring due to resignations and other issues, quickly produced a timely draft of the parish profile. Fr. Steve conveyed the profile to the diocesan office on June 18th. We cannot proceed without diocesan approval but we still have no word on the draft profile's fate.
We are an Episcopal parish. Our polity and procedures do not provide for unilateral action. But there is growing sentiment on the vestry, a sentiment which I fully understand, to be more assertive in seeking answers. In this, I hope you will support your leaders and pray for them.
There are no bad guys in this situation. Our Bishop and his staff are dealing with tremendous challenges relating to the continuing pandemic. But St. Paul's was founded by Key West citizens, not planted here by a diocese.
We are sui generis and older than both the state of Florida and the diocese of Florida (much less the newer diocese of Southeast Florida.) We are ready to move forward as a beacon and haven to the community. We simply need permission to do so.