St. Paul’s Episcopal Church welcomes all who seek a place at God’s table. This community of faith is a nearly 300-person congregation located in Walnut Creek, a suburb 25 miles east of San Francisco. We are a congregation of diverse viewpoints, bound by a common and unshakeable commitment to serving God through service to others.
There is longevity in our congregation: many parishioners have been part of St. Paul’s community for several generations, providing stability and strong appreciation for our community of fellowship. People value being known: well-loved and cared for by people who remember parents, know children and welcome grandchildren. This shared history is incredibly valuable in a world rife with tenuous connections, and also risky: because of our long memories, it is sometimes hard to envision and adapt to the future. And while many have been at St. Paul’s for a long time, quite a few are crossovers from other denominations, and we would like to fully embrace our diverse perspectives. Because change is hard, we do eventually adapt, but we don’t have a strong reference point for change or a solid framework for addressing conflict productively. We are hopeful for a rector to help us excavate our energy and engagement, and guide us to constructively co-exist with sensitive issues, such as diverse political opinions, the future of the direction of the Episcopal Church, our aging population, and the loss of many of our young families in the last decade and the accompanying financial challenges.
Writing this profile presented challenges: a committed core of approximately 100 people provided valuable feedback on what we love about St. Paul’s, our shared values, and our hope for the parish’s future, and the Search Committee grappled with teasing out the vision, goals and challenges faced by our current circumstances. St. Paul’s is quite typical in many ways, and there has been concern expressed that we will need the guidance of a uniquely qualified rector to successfully navigate the next phase of our journey.
What follows is a summary of the observations provided by the congregation with some vision interwoven. This profile is intended as an overview, and we have provided links to other content you might find helpful – if there is information you have questions about, please just ask. We hope you will find this useful as you explore the community of St. Paul’s, and consider whether you are called to join us.
What we love and find meaningful about St. Paul’s
Community outreach: St. Paul’s has a long and active history of outreach programs and events. We can be found feeding the hungry, providing shelter and aid for the homeless and working poor, and fundraising for outreach at events like the twice-yearly rummage sales and the much-loved Valentine’s Tea. Members of St. Paul’s give of their money and time, but parishioners tell us that actively working for those in need is what’s most important. Some of our more prominent ministries and work follow.
- Trinity Center is a day-use center for homeless and working poor adults, formerly housed in Fellowship House on the east side of our campus. Trinity Center provides essential links to housing advocacy and county behavioral and mental health services, as well as meals, showers, laundry, mail service, and a clothing closet and food pantry. St. Paul’s provides space, financial support, volunteers and leadership staff.
- St. Paul’s Commons St. Paul’s is leading the bold development of St. Paul’s Commons, an affordable housing facility with new community space, to be constructed on the east side of our campus. The project will provide 40+ studio and one-bedroom apartments for low-income adults, as well as ample space for Trinity Center and other community group activities. A dedicated committee of St. Paul’s members has been at work on the project with non-profit developer Resources for Community Development for several years. The City of Walnut Creek has committed over $5 million toward the project, and the project is expected to be completed in 2019. More importantly, St. Paul’s activism with Trinity Center and St. Paul’s Commons has resulted in a shift in the City’s policies and budget to more actively address the issues of homelessness.
- Winter Nights For two weeks in winter, St. Paul’s Parish Hall becomes a temporary home for multiple homeless families through the Winter Nights program, a seasonal temporary shelter that rotates through several faith communities. The program provides a safe, warm place during the cold, rainy winter, and St. Paul’s has participated since its inception. Parishioners cook and serve meals, tutor students, and lead fun activities for all.
- Rummage Sales Twice a year since the 1960s, St. Paul’s stages a grand “resale store,” raising approximately $15,000 annually to support our Outreach ministries. Volunteers work diligently to receive, sort, price and sell donated clothing and household goods. It’s a “high feast,” and well-known throughout the area. Proceeds are distributed to charities in alignment with the Millennium Development Goals.
- Honduras Mission Trip Since 2008, a contingent of St. Paul’s members has journeyed to Tegucigalpa, Honduras to support the Episcopal parish of San Juan Evangelista. St. Paul’s supplies financial, leadership and spiritual support, with a mission of fellowship and self-sufficiency. Though these mission trips began under the encouragement of our former rector, plans are underway to continue the mission trips in 2018.
- Members of St. Paul’s are active in many interfaith and community organizations: Contra Costa Interfaith Coalition, Contra Costa Interfaith Housing, Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County, Monument Crisis Center, Crop Walk, to name a few.
Buildings & Property: St. Paul’s garden-like campus comprises seven buildings: the main church and adjoining offices, the chapel, parish hall, classrooms, a preschool, youth center, and fellowship house. A large parking lot is situated on the opposite side of Trinity Avenue from the campus.
The historic redwood chapel, built in 1888, is the oldest church building in Walnut Creek, and is used regularly for services. The chapel was originally constructed on Locust Street, but was relocated when St. Paul’s purchased the property on Trinity Avenue in the 1950s.
St. Paul’s also owns two residential properties: a small single family home adjacent to the parish hall where our Associate Rector may live; and a three-bedroom condominium, about a mile from the campus, where our Rector now lives.
Worship and liturgy: Three regular Sunday services are held at St. Paul’s. The 7:30 a.m. service has a traditional flavor and is held in our historic redwood chapel and includes music. Joyful Noise is a short service tailored to families with very young children, at 8:45 a.m. in the Family Ministry Center, to provide an alternative to our main service with choir at 9:30 a.m.
Rite II forms the basis of our worship in both the chapel and the church. We have used other forms of the service with mixed appeal.
Music: In addition to directing music and playing organ and piano, our current Music Director produces the St. Paul’s Concert Series. The concerts include professional musicians from around the globe and the local community, and have gained popularity in the area. Our choir sings each Sunday morning and on special occasions such as Advent Lessons and Carols. Hymns are sung by the congregation at both the Sunday services.
The Community: many people surveyed this summer commented about the uncommon warmth and extensive community they have experienced here, describing the congregation as welcoming, friendly, inclusive, caring, and supportive. We would like to do more intergenerational ministry, similar in experience to our Family Camp. We see our community as a family, and it is what we love best about St. Paul’s.
St. Paul’s has approximately 300 members, with 125-150 in average Sunday attendance. While we are currently in a relatively strong financial position, pledge income has declined over the last decade. We have bridged the shortfall by leasing our facilities; usage fees represent a substantial part of our income. The present operating income is projected at $507,813 against projected expenses of $609,622. The projected operating deficit of $98,109 is partially offset by a one-time facility use payment of $58,361.
Our property usage could best be summed up as radical hospitality, originally driven by financial necessity. We lease space to a thriving Spanish immersion preschool and two other congregations: one non-denominational Christian and the other Palestinian Orthodox. Additionally, the parish hall and meeting rooms provide space for 31 community groups who meet throughout the week, most paying use fees. The main parking lot on the opposite side of Trinity Avenue also provides fee-based parking for commuters and local businesses. We aspire to improve our financial self-sufficiency, eliminate the operating deficit, grow endowment funds, and strengthen our pledge base.
Looking to the future
While much of St. Paul’s is stable, there are areas of our church life that can be refreshed and empowered.
- Parish Growth: Over the last 5-7 years St. Paul’s has been in a cycle of contraction with a regrettable loss of families and youth. Our Youth Group meets on an irregular basis and has been on the wane for the last few years. Fortunately, the youth are able to join deanery youth activities, but we seek to attract and nurture families with children to secure our long-term future, and enhance intergenerational worship and activities. We also look forward to offering a variety of liturgies to meet the needs and interests of newcomers.
- Recognizing our divergent perspectives: We are a parish of people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs. We are commonly united in love and outreach and, like many Episcopal congregations, we are challenged to incorporate and embrace our differences. We are Anglican-leaning traditionalists and also contemporary spiritualists – and everything in between. We are committed Republicans and adamant Democrats – and everything in between. We recognize the moral imperative of social justice, and yet we have very different perspectives on how to act it out. This is an area of further exploration for us, as there is opportunity to spark the power of our diversity through inclusiveness and belonging.
The Gifts We Seek
St. Paul’s has much to offer: a long history, robust and bold outreach ministries, a committed congregation, a beautiful facility, diverse religious and political backgrounds, and a desire to share the Good Word. We desire congregational growth (though there are some differing opinions about what growth represents), as well as a desire to adapt and envision the future of St. Paul’s. We seek a Rector who will help us in our endeavors.
- A collaborative leader, empowering, inspiring, and helping the people of St. Paul’s to identify how they can best use their gifts and talents
- A transparent administrative manager, willing to work with us to ensure the ongoing financial health and business stability of St. Paul’s
- A vibrant preacher, bringing the appointed scriptures to life and helping us understand their relevance in our current world and circumstances
- A caring liturgist, appreciating the importance of Episcopal liturgy in our congregational worship
- An effective and empathetic listener and facilitator, helping us recognize the unrealized opportunities of our diversity who will listen and respond flexibly to input from staff, vestry and parishioners
- An integral member of the parish family of St. Paul’s, participating in events and activities
Submitted by St. Paul’s Rector Search Committee Members
Laura Williams, co-chair
Lisa Bell Stewart, co-chair