Introduction – who we are, including a brief history of the parish
Welcome to our church! Thank you for taking time to learn about our community. We are searching for our new rector, and encourage you to explore our website to learn more about us. In this time of prayer and discernment, we have worked to present ourselves -- our history, our faith, our commitments and values -- to help you decide if God is calling you to serve here with us.
In this moment, so many churches are wondering about worship after the pandemic. Some are doubtful that there will even be a future for their congregations.
Christ Episcopal Church of Martinsville is not one of these churches. We have an engaged and devoted congregation, built on a foundation of almost two hundred years’ worth of prayers and service. We live in a community where we are proven partners in interfaith dialogue, where we offer ourselves up as servants to the needy, where our hearts are searching for further instruction in the Christian faith. We are in search of the right companion as we grow in Christ.
The very first members of Christ Episcopal Church met in a local doctor’s house, spurred by the passion of George Washington Dame, a local circuit rider. Dr. Dame rode tirelessly through four different counties, spreading the word of God along backroads that were hardly even dirt traces. That glimmer of Christ’s light has sustained itself through the Civil War, the industrial revolution of the New South, postwar prosperity, and economic uncertainty. It is a delight to be able to say that our congregation feels newly awakened, newly enlivened.
Our church is much like the building where we meet. First consecrated in 1903, our church has had its share of triumph and troubles. We have hallowed our most precious and painful moments within its walls. Our time and treasure have been poured out in its care and renovation. We do not want to tear it down, or to start over with a new foundation. We want to bury our dead and hear our familiar prayers, but also to baptize new believers, and to experiment with new ways to delight in the will of God. We want a shepherd who will tend to us in our moments of greatest weakness and pain, and who will marshal our passion and devotion into the cause of our faith.
Where we are located – a brief geographical and demographic overview of the community in which the church is located
Our church is located in Martinsville, Virginia, a small incorporated town of about 14,000, located in Henry County which has a population of 51,000. Martinsville is about fifty minutes from Roanoke, population 320,000, and Greensboro, North Carolina, population 724,000, poised between the North Carolina border and the Appalachian mountains. Our area boasts a surprising variety in its landscape; in equal parts the rolling hills and easy-flowing rivers of the Piedmont, but also the fog-shrouded mountains and plunging valleys that delighted early settlers like Patrick Henry. The idle fields and young forests lining every road used to host wheat, barley, hemp, and most of all, tobacco; an aimless drive through the countryside has been enough to convince many people of our area’s natural beauty. For more information on our local area, visit our website at www.christchurchmvl.org.
In the twentieth century, our community was sustained by a bevy of mills, principally textiles and furniture. Those factories and businesses left. We suffered severe economic contraction at the beginning of the 21st century, which devastated our community; many simply moved away, but many found themselves without direction or hope. Hard work and dedication by our civil servants, churches, and local nonprofit organizations has made a world of difference, but there is no avoiding the fact that our area has suffered.
People who choose to live in Martinsville now are making an investment. They see signs of growth -- a burgeoning housing market with rising property values, declining unemployment, and stable earnings -- which suggest that Martinsville has found a way to steady prosperity. Educationally, Patrick Henry Community College is one of the strongest in the Virginia system, and the New College Institute offers connections to university programs through distanced learning.
For recreation, Martinsville offers a unique blend of small-town life with access to more urban amenities. We boast an excellent slate of outdoor activities: trails for hiking, walking, and biking, and plenty of rivers for kayaking and paddling. Wineries and area music festivals entertain locals and many people from out of town. Larger cities like Roanoke and Greensboro are a short drive away, and people in Martinsville will often make a drive to Charlottesville or Raleigh to watch a game or have a day’s excursion.
Culturally, Martinsville does not entirely fit the stereotype about Southern small towns. A diverse community with a nonwhite population of about 45%, Martinsville’s connections to international business have meant a long history of toleration and acceptance for different religions and cultures. Like most places on the East Coast, and particularly in the South, the traces of slavery and segregation are readily apparent in Martinsville. However, racial reconciliation has progressed considerably, and our church has made concerted efforts to be more inclusive. Additionally, we have forged many connections with the congregation of the former historically-black church, St. Paul’s. Our church honors our faith by recognizing God in every person who comes to our doors; everyone should feel welcome when they decide to visit us.
Our mission and ministry- An overview of the church’s mission goals, visions, and dreams
Our church has a duty to the poor, to the suffering, to those without direction or promise in their life, and we have served them in many ways. We want to help our congregation who seek more spiritual guidance through worship and bible study and to be inspired by the traditional music of the Episcopal Church through our talented musicians.
Financial Information – a statement of current financial and budget information about the congregation
Our church is blessed to have a solid financial foundation, with a greater deal of stability and security than many churches in our position possess. Primarily, we receive donations from congregants, but we also receive rent from the local Boys and Girls Club chapter.
We have set a precedent of generous giving to local nonprofits and aid groups. We have eight existing trust funds that are to provide help with property, missions and education.
Our liabilities include the compensation of our rector, an office administrator, a sextant, our Organist/Choirmaster and our three historic buildings. Our Parish House, a historic mansion listed on the National Register of Historic places, provides rooms for fellowship and Christian education, as well as hosting our church offices. Additionally, our local Boys and Girls Club chapter rents portions of the building for their offices and activities.
On the other side of our church is our rectory, a four-bedroom brick colonial-style house. This home has been renovated very recently, and offers an updated and welcoming home to our future priest.
Gifts and Ministry of the Clergy – Finally a statement about the kind of clergy the parish is search for to be a companion with them on their journey toward fulfilling their mission and vision, including leadership style, clergy gifts for ministry sought by the parish, and other expectations and challenges for the new rector.
Many churches will call out to you. Let us say something about what we hope to find.
Every rector will bring the gift of their calling and training. But some rectors will bring a particular charge that enlivens them in their duties.
Our congregation has asked for a rector with a passion for Christian education. Partly, that means fulfillment and engagement in activities like Sunday School and traditional youth engagement. Young believers are a small but potentially growing segment of our congregation. But our adult members are also looking for someone who will connect them to the material and meaning of the Bible. We have had priests who have made worship itself seem relatable and engaging. We would like to have a rector who could illuminate theology for us; someone who would feel comfortable unfolding the lessons of the Pentateuch or the Epistles, the Prophets or the Acts of the Apostles, and bring to bear the full weight of their experience and education. We do not expect that you will have only the most traditionally orthodox opinions, or that you will be on the cutting edge of theology. But we would like someone who could at least help the curious further along the road.
Our congregation has also asked for someone with a passion for evangelism. In survey responses, people would often write that they wanted someone with “energy,” or “passion.” In the past ten years, we have found ourselves more and more drawn to reaching out to the larger community. Of course we love fellowship among ourselves. But it has been deeply rewarding to participate in interfaith dialogues, diocesan activities, and other collaborative projects that allow us to explore alongside other people of faith. Additionally, we have found fulfillment in activities that have drawn new worshippers to our church, whether social engagements or service commitments. Episcopal churches are somewhat infamous for being distant and uninviting; our congregation has never been more inviting or more open to new people. We would like to honor that aspect of our spiritual life, and to continue our outreach.
Our congregation’s interest in outreach and activity has been somewhat stymied by the pandemic. However, our parishioners’ eagerness cries out for another quality in a priest: organization and collaboration. We would like someone who knows how to give people with gifts the room to pursue their charges. We want someone who can help us in selecting the right new people for the committees that guide the various activities of our church: worship, bereavement, missions and giving, and so on. That does not mean we want someone who expects the church to run itself. We have run ourselves with a great degree of autonomy before. Instead, we would like someone who enjoys collaboration with a seasoned group of Christian leaders: people who have been around the block, but who are also willing to try something new. Collaboration will take clear communication and patience. Most of all, it will take the ability to manage and organize.
Finally, we are a church that wants to celebrate and incorporate the individual believer. We do not want to shape you to our mold, or to make you trim the gifts and quirks that make you into the soul that God has called. We would rather have you honor those qualities in yourself, and find ways that we might complement you. We are eternally wedded to the good news of the Bible, but for a time, we will be lucky enough to walk in the way of God with you.
10:30 AM: Holy Eucharist, Rite II
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