The Lexington Episcopalian

Articles linked to the website of R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church

Discovery & Discernment focus groups

March 8 UPDATE. The Vestry held a special meeting Tuesday, March 7, to decide on a negotiated compromise on the final cost and timing of this consultant-guided process. The Vestry voted unanimously to support continuing work by the consultants, even though this will cost up to an additional $4,000 (for a total of $16,000 maximum).

Here’s the background. Some six weeks ago, the D&D committee completed its first phase, the “Discovery” part. The committee presented an eight-page report to the Vestry and to parishioners summarizing the feelings of all the church members who participated in 13 focus groups led by pairs of D&D members. Organized as themes or answers to eight questions, the report noted many good feelings and some serious problems.

On Feb. 20, a letter from the two consultants arrived just minutes before the Vestry meeting, and copies were circulated. Due to “unforeseen issues” that drove up their expenses and the time involved, they wrote, the $12,000 the Vestry had agreed on last April is not enough to complete the process. They said they expected it would take as much as $6,000 more than the original estimate to complete the job. It was supposed to be completed in March, but now they said it looks like it could go as late as May.

The Vestry was concerned. That seemed quite a cost overrun – 50 percent. Also, it was hard enough waiting for recommendations until March, and now it might take an additional two months? The Vestry discussed the matter and decided that Keith Gibson, the Vestry member serving on the D&D committee as liaison, should negotiate a less expensive conclusion.

He and Anne Hansen (a D&D member now also on the Vestry) arrived at a compromise with the consultants. There would be a work day with the consultants in March and a final recommendation for the Vestry by April 6. That additional charge for the consultants would be as much as $4,000, making the total maximum $16,000 — not $18,000.

Driving up the cost and the time was not the consultants’ doing, but the result of the seriousness that the D&D committee brought to this endeavor. Anne and Keith underscored that point at the Feb. 20 Vestry meeting.  The six D&D members, in addition to the focus group sessions they led, have met almost every other Thursday night for two hours since last June. Apparently, they were more serious and thoughtful than the consultants anticipated. They have held back nothing, but in a covenant of trust they have kept their work confidential and agreed to speak as a group, despite differences of opinion. Anne laughed to say she probably knows the others better than she knows anyone. Keith made a similar point.

The committee is to come up with “action items.” But more important may be the model they have pioneered – a bond of Christian love that transcends differing opinions. The consultants speak not of conflict “resolution” but conflict “transformation.”

Dec. 14 UPDATE. The information-gathering phase is over. The Discovery & Discernment team is now preparing an interim report to be shared with the Vestry at its annual retreat Jan. 13-14. Col. Keith Gibson, the Vestry’s liaison on the D&D committee, thanks parishioners for an excellent participation level of approximately 100 adults. The report will be shared with the congregation after the Vestry receives it. Work on recommendations will begin in January, he says, adding this: Please continue to be in prayer for the committee and the process.

“Assemble and hear, O sons of Jacob; listen to Israel your father.” – Gen. 49:2

By Doug Cumming

One evening last week, Libby and I escaped the rash noise of this very political October to spend a calming two hours in the new upper room of our Parish House. It was our turn to attend one of the twelve focus group sessions that our Discovery and Discernment Committee has been holding all month. I am on the Vestry that voted unanimously to hire the two consultants who got this ball rolling. I chaired the ad hoc committee that picked the members of the team that came to call itself the Discovery and Discernment Committee. I felt a lot was at stake for our church, and I hoped my expectations weren’t too high.focus-group-1

I was put at ease from the start of the session, but not just because I was among Christian friends. What accounted for the sweetness of this experience, I wondered. It was not just the setting, although that large new room that has been made over for college ministry has a contemporary simplicity that promises a whole new feeling for ministry at our old church. I think, finally, the secret of the evening’s peace was a little object that the D&D facilitator explained with an air of mischief, holding it high. It has magical powers, he said. The person who holds it becomes the only one in the room who can speak. All others are to listen. We laughed, but this was the serious business of the focus groups as described in the letter of Sept. 8 that went out to the whole parish – “open, respectful communication.”

I remember from the Vestry retreat last winter this game of passing around a Speaker’s talisman. The two consultants from Eastern Mennonite Church were there and introduced it to us. At that time, we went around the circle speaking from the heart and being listened to. The magic object then was a lovely slice of polished stone – with no particular meaning. This time it was of similar material, but it was a cross.

Having permission to be quiet and listen, and a chance to speak and be heard – what a powerful alternative that is to the uncivil discourse of our Election season, cable TV rants and the way we all talk and talk and talk. I am thankful to the members of the Discovery and Discernment Committee for spending many hours over the summer to bring this process to us now.

Members of the committee are Keith Gibson, Anne Hansen, Tammi Hellwig, Greg Lemmer, Ann Nay, and Steve Shultis. If you haven’t signed up for a focus group, it’s not too late.

Featured post

Senior Warden’s May Notes

The Christian Education and Worship Committees are both moving forward to address the issues and recommendations made by the Discovery and Discernment Committee. The Chairs and Vestry Liaisons of these committees as well as the History and Strategic/MMR committees are meeting with the Rector and the Wardens to chart a path forward along with identifying a timeline. The Vestry has asked for their plan by September. All committees are looking at ideas that will enrich existing programs and new approaches that will entice former and new parishioners to engage with our church.

A letter was sent to the Bishop asking for intervention help under Title III of the Church’s Canons to address the issues the D&D committee identified relating to church leadership. The Bishop met with the Vestry and the Personnel and Administrative Committee after the 10:30 service Sunday to determine how we move forward with these concerns. The Vestry was very forthcoming with their concerns about Tom’s leadership of the church. The Bishop took copious note and promised to get back to the Vestry.

The outside of the Parish Hall has been re-pointed and the rust spots removed the stone. Only one stone had deteriorated to the point that it had to be replaced. The flickering lights are still a concern, and they are being addressed. The problem is that in order to reach the lights and insure the safety of workers who will replace them, scaffolding will have to be installed. Arrangements have been made and you will see the flickering lights replaced very soon. I am sure you will notice, the boxwoods in front of the church have been drastically trimmed. They had gotten so big that they were covering the facade of the church. They may look a little bad now, but they are hardy and will recover.

The Capital Campaign continues to move forward. We have received pledges and cash to pay for the elevator and the college room. The next challenge will be the undercroft and the organ. The committee is looking at the undercroft from a functionality perspective. We have had our architect and two local contractors look at the space. The goal is to have a usable space which the parish and our outside community can use that is functional, appealing and maximizes the use of the space. Since the HVAC is functioning properly, the architect will be working around it instead of trying to move it, which could cause damage. Hopefully, all of these measures will result in a functional space with a lower construction cost. Ted has also been looking at ways to reduce the cost of a new organ. Non-essential parts which can be added later have been eliminated and a new cost estimate is being prepared. The committee is working hard to come up realistic goals for completing both projects.

The Vestry welcomes comments from the congregation. We have had a comments box for well over a year now. Comments that do not have a parishioners name on them will be answered through the church newsletter or “The Warden’s Notes.” Parishioners who wish to put their name on the comments will be contacted by phone. In both cases the Vestry wants you to know that your comments are welcome and are taken seriously.

Yours in Christ’s work,

Woody Sadler, Senior Warden

An organ crawl: Lexington to Georgetown

Ted Bickish, our choir director and organist, gave this report in church May 14:

“This past week, the Organ Committee helped put together a trip made up of several parishioners in which we had the chance to visit a new instrument in a parish of similar size to our own, built by the company we hope to have build for us, Casavant.

R E Lee Organ 3“We started the day here at R. E. Lee by hearing two pieces, singing a hymn, and then taking a trip inside of our instrument. We inspected the collapsing pipe work, not-up-to-code wiring, R E Lee Organ 1warping keyboards, and other various mechanical problems.

“We then headed to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown to see their new Casavant organ. St John's Georgetown 2We heard the same two pieces, sang the same hymn, and inspected the inside of the instrument. The difference was truly remarkable and I believe all those who attended were impressed with it.”

Pictures are all from that trip.

St. John's Georgetown 1.jpgSt. John's Georgetown 3

Final Report is available. Parish Meeting set for April 23.

After nine months of work in a “covenant” bond, the Discovery and Discernment Committee has issued its Final Report. The report is now available in the church office for members of the parish to read. Members of the Vestry last Thursday night read it in a 30-minute period of silence in the sanctuary, followed by an opportunity to ask questions of the D&D committee and the two consultants. The Vestry hopes that all church members will read the final report in its entirety and, after serious reflection and conversations, come to a parish-wide meeting on Sunday, April 23, at 9:15 a.m., in the Parish Hall. – DC


The Discovery and Discernment Committee (D&D) reported out to the Vestry as planned on Thursday evening, April 6. The Vestry received its recommendations and over the next three days reflected and prayed on the results. On Palm Sunday, April 9, at 12:15 p.m., the Vestry  met again to decide what if any actions would be taken on the recommendations. Copies of the D&D Final Report as well as the actions taken by the Vestry are available in the parish office.

The Vestry heartily applauds the work of the D&D Committee as exciting, challenging, and faithful. We recognize that the D&D’s work and final report represent a wholly fresh approach to the underlying issues that so distressed our congregation in 2015. The Vestry recognizes the importance of careful action on our part at this critical time. We are committed to improving the quality of leadership expected of a Vestry as described in the final report. This includes our authority over temporal life (finances and property) as well as good communications.  While we did not adopt all the report’s final recommendations, the D&D committee’s hard work will enable us to move forward as a more unified body in Christ to the betterment of our community and congregation.

The 15-page Final Report is organized around four themes: Spiritual Development, Leadership, Identity, and Healing. Each of these sections begins with discussion and concludes with recommendations. The Vestry took the following actions regarding these recommendations:

  1. The Vestry adopted the three recommendations under “Spiritual Development” in hopes that we can encourage individual spiritual development and unify the church as a single parish.
  2. Under “Leadership,” the Vestry approved the first recommendation regarding the rector and will be seeking the assistance of the Bishop to help strengthen the leadership in the church. Under Vestry, approval was given to coordinate documents within the parish and expand the MMR into a strategic plan. Action under Parish, in this theme, was tabled for future study.
  3. The significance of church “Identity” as a theme underlying our surface disagreements was affirmed. The two recommendations were replaced by a Vestry resolution: “The Vestry acknowledges that the name of the parish at some point may be restored to Grace Episcopal Church. With deep respect and appreciation for this congregation’s pride in General Lee, along with the deep respect for his leadership on behalf of this parish and his role as a reconciler following the war, the Vestry recommends that a sub-committee of the Vestry seeks ways to honor General Lee and the history of this parish in meaningful and significant ways.”
  4. Under “Healing,” the Vestry accepted both recommendations, which encourages the Rector and the Worship Committee to reach out to those who have left the church and encourage closer relationships among those in the congregation.

To implement these recommendations the Vestry will need your help! Much of the work we all need to do is inward searching and personal spiritual development, but there is work to be done in loving thy neighbor. We need to show God’s love and mercy throughout our congregation and our wider community. With God’s help our parish will grow and be strengthened.

Woody Sadler, Senior Warden

St Francis

Pipe organ

Our Time & Talent

Making a pledge or writing a check is the “treasure” part of Christian stewardship. What about the other two forms of Christ’s mission through us – our time (showing up for others) and talent (offering a specific gift or skill)?

Lacey and Steve, helping repair Martha’s house after the W.Va. flood of ’16.

The question has long floated around here: How much do parishioners give in unpaid service to the church, to neighbors, and to community agencies? The Outreach and Stewardship committees recently sought an answer by distributing a Time & Talent Survey to all 226 adults in the parish.

Just over half responded – 118. The survey asked parishioners to consider 60 different services, broken into 10 categories. One way of looking at the categories is to see two types – service inward to the church (Worship, Pastoral Care, Facilities, etc.)  and outward to the community (Community Outreach, Informal Outreach). For each of the various services (e.g. attend adult study or book group, caring for a family member, etc.), respondents were asked to check whether they have “served,” are “serving,” or are “interested.” The total number of boxes checked was 1,672.

That suggests we’re an active church, doing a lot of good in quiet ways. Of course the results are open to interpretation. But to venture some statistical inference, one notices that community and informal outreach have some of the largest numbers, in both “served” and “serving.” For instance, 25 are helping at RARA or the food pantry and another 24 checked the box for a number of other service organizations. Numbers were even higher for small ways of helping neighbors or other parishioners in need, such as serving on Active Caring Through Sharing (ACTS). The highest number, 41, was for participating in R.E. Lee Church outreach projects like Angel Tree or the Summer Backpack program.

On the other hand, some church activities have noticeably fewer “serving” than previously “served.” These lower numbers were in hosting a Lemonade Brigade Sunday, joining a Table Fellowship, preparing food for receptions, helping with general upkeep of the facilities and singing in the choir. Not a single respondent checked “interested” in helping in the nursery, or teaching/helping with Sunday school or Vacation Bible School.

These results, which can be seen on a large poster in the Parish Hall, raise (or beg) another question that has been heard in a number of discussion groups: What is a living church? Is it the sum total of many good acts performed by many good people? Or is there something else that a living church does as a body, as a corporate response to the Holy Spirit to hasten or at least glimpse the kingdom?

Thanks to those who created the Time & Talent Survey, and to those who responded. It is a big help in answering some questions, and raising others.

Stewardship Update

wreath-on-doorThe news on the Capital Campaign is good, so far. Initial pledges, along with some funding from the endowment, have nearly filled the $500,000 “thermometer” for the Elevator Fund.

But how are the pledges for our annual Stewardship Campaign, the support needed for regular operations in 2017?

As of Dec. 19, the amount pledged was $386,055. This is $5,000 short of the final figure from last year. The number of pledges is still a little below last year’s 167. If anyone needs a reminder to get his or her pledge in, let this be it. And thank you for your good stewardship.

In the beauty of holiness

Plans for the Undercroft

relee_finalconcepts_booklet7Before the Parish House was built in 1959, the all-week life of the church flourished in the undercroft. In the decades since then, and especially after Yellow Brick Road early childhood center moved out in 2007, it has been a lonely and bare place in decline. Only the Sacristy under the chancel has been regularly used.

The plans by Charlotteville’s BRW Architects would bring new life, light and beauty to this space.

The design primarily addresses the needs of our music ministry. In the heart of it, with plenty of natural light from the generous campus-facing windows, would be a large choir rehearsal space. Around that is office space, robing and instrument storage, smaller rehearsal spaces and the music library. There are also places for parish committee meetings, community meetings and other activities by the outside groups that rely on us currently.

New ADA restroom facilities are planned for space adjacent to the Sacristy, which would gain a washer and drier, improved counter space and a dumbwaiter for convenient transport to the Sanctuary above.

The plans call for new finishes, lighting, flooring and furnishings. Details might change subject to review by the state to qualify for historic preservation tax credits. The proposed renovation would cost an estimated $600,000.

This is one of the four major projects that donors to the Capital Campaign may specify for their pledge. Another option is simply making an unrestricted pledge, in which case the money will be used first to pay for work already underway or completed in the Parish Hall, for a new elevator and the college ministry room. Renovation of the undercroft will remain on the drawing board pending additional success of the campaign. relee_finalconcepts_booklet3

Our big new elevator

Dec. 18 Ribbon-Cutting.




Dec. 10. At last, the new elevator is in place and running smoothly. Colin Clark, a worker for the subcontractor Eastern Elevator in Winchester, tested it recently and said it works great. Soon it will get an official safety inspection.

elevator-with-colin-clarkOn Sunday, Dec. 18, we’re planning a celebration after the 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. services. Lemonade, snacks, fellowship, free elevator rides!

The thing is impressive, a commercial-size Canton Elevator out of Ohio. It moves gracefully at 40 feet per minute — slower than the 100 ft./min. in high-rises but a lot faster than our previous elevator. The outdoor entrance serves those coming from the parking lot in back through a new vestibule, no steps or ramp involved. Hundreds of tiny laser lights keep the doors from closing on the inattentive.

There are two opposing doors, of course. The rest of the inside cladding is wood panel and brushed stainless steel. Hidden inside the operating casing is the colorful spaghetti of high-elevator-wirestech wiring. We’ll need to put a legend beside the five buttons describing what is on each level.

This big, necessary improvement is the first item in our Capital Campaign being launched this month. The $500,000 cost has been covered in part by loans and from our endowment, and the Vestry would like to pay these back as soon as we can.



UPDATE: Nielsen, the contractor, began work on the exterior entrance on Nov. 7 and expected to put in masonry block around the frames by the following week. This means the remaining paint, flooring and ceilings should be completed on or around Dec. 1.

It took the Nielsen Builders crew longer than expected because, as they discovered drilling through the walls, the Parish Hall was built like a fortress. That shouldn’t be surprising because it was designed by the famous Virginia preservationist architect Milton L. Grigg. For us, this means we get to count this structure of the late-Eisenhower era as historical. Even though it was completed in 1959, being a Milton Grigg work helps it qualify for historic-preservation tax credits (if we can bundle the Parish House work with other planned projects such as upgrading the Undercroft). Historic-preservation tax credits can save us, possibly, more than $100,000 – if we raise many times that in a Capital milton-grigg-faiaCampaign (but that’s a subject for later).

For now, we have already committed to one big capital project that everybody seems to agree on – a new elevator. The contractor says it should be ready by the end of October.

This is a beautiful new symbol of our being a welcoming church. Long-time parishioners will remember how the old elevator was dedicated on Ascension Day (the Brits call it a “lift,” after all) – April 24, 1994, as the bronze plaque on the bridge says. The plaque on the bridge hails the old elevator as a “Universally Accessible Entryway. . . Dedicated to the Glory of A Beneficent God By The Rt. Rev. A. Heath Light, D.D., Bishop of Southwest Virginia.”

That old elevator died last year, and the Vestry was left with no choice but to replace it. The installation of a much larger, commercial-sized elevator that stops on five levels, with vestibules for entering, required extensive reworking of the Parish House. The contractor has closed up the outdoor entrance at the top steps and added a new outdoor entrance facing the parking lot. With so much reconfiguring of the Parish House, it made sense economically to do all of the renovation that had been planned for the building, with new office space and a beautiful new College Ministry room on the top floor. That new room is already in use.cadets-in-college-ministry-room

Altogether, this Parish House work costs about $600,000 (of which $100,000 is for office and college room renovation, the rest for the elevator). That’s an expense the Vestry is covering with the combination of a recent gift to the church and a loan from our endowment and from a bank. Until we pay back the loan, the gap in our endowment is costing us about $20,000 a year. The clock is ticking.

The Parish House renovation and elevator are two out of four major capital projects that will require a Capital Campaign. Since the work on the Parish House has begun – indeed, is almost complete – we are moving ahead on plans for this Capital Campaign. Stay tuned!



Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑