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Dear Saints of St. Paul’s:
I recently had the opportunity to share the good news of St. Paul’s with clergy from across the country and Canada. The title of my keynote presentation was, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Wesley Chapel: Visioning, Dreaming and Becoming in Christ. Preparing the presentation blessed me with precious time to reflect on the life of this church from the very beginning to the present, pouring over the multitude of images that tell the inspiring story of how St. Paul’s came to be. From the early desire of Bishop Smith, and the Diocese of Southwest Florida, to have an Episcopal presence in Wesley Chapel, to the growing congregation which gathers weekly to worship God in our dedicated sanctuary, I remain in awe of what we are becoming in Christ. Those early sessions of visioning and dreaming, while meeting in the car dealerships, to a fully functioning faith community meeting in our own dedicated worship space is awe inspiring. There is no denying that out faith community is no longer a mere vision, but a manifestation of the body of Christ and God’s mission in the world. St. Paul’s, we have much for which to be thankful.
Looking at St. Paul’s from any angle, one might deduce that we are financially healthy and well on our way to parish status. At this critical time in the life of our church, it is imperative that we tell the truth about our reality. The 2023 annual giving invitation, entitled, Standing on Our Own Two Feet, aims to be transparent in communicating our financial situation, as well as our need for all to become actively involved in the life of this church as committed members. The truth is that we have come a long way, and there is still much work to be done.
In the beginning, the diocese funded this church plant 100%. When the church was granted mission status by the Diocesan Convention in 2020, the funding from the diocese began decreasing annually, while our rent increased annually. In addition, there are expenses necessary to ensure the operations of the church. All the while, God has led souls to our faith community, entrusting us with the spiritual care of our siblings in Christ. St. Paul’s has been given much, and much is required of us individually and corporately.
If we are to answer God’s call to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world, we must, with a sense of urgency, stand on our own two feet. We must not become complacent. We must straighten our legs, not when the diocesan funding runs out; let us straighten our legs today and put one foot in front of the other toward self-sufficiency. Only in a position of sustained financial independence will St. Paul’s become a spiritual home and spiritual resource for all now, and for generations to come.
The Bishop’s Committee of St. Paul’s, and I, invite you to carefully review the 2023 giving invitation as you discern how God might be calling jou to commit to ensuring that St. Paul’s will be able to stand on our own two feet. We invite your questions, your desires to serve, and especially your prayers as we continue to co-create with the Holy Spirit. May we never cease to vision, dream, and become in Christ Jesus.
The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes, Vicar