St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church


St. Bart's Blog

Fr. Mark's Message from Annual Meeting

Posted by The Rev. Mark McKone-Sweet on

Good Morning people of St Bart’s.

Recently, I have been reading a book about the amazing transformation of the USS Benfold.

At one point, it was considered the most underperforming ship in the United States Navy. No fault could be assigned to the technology or weapons – all were state of the art. No fault could be assigned the training of the officers and 375 sailors. The truth, when Captain Michael Abrashoff took this command, his first, most every sailor was counting their days to go home or their next ship assignment.

No one thought it could be done – the complexity was overwhelming. In less than 18 months, the USS Benfold became a leader in USS. The Captain did not take the credit. No. He credited the sailors, who internalized the words “it’s your ship”.

St Bart’s is your ship … friends … St Bart’s is your Church. A church, we recall serves God and his son Jesus Christ. Everything we offer is to God’s Glory. Our happiness and joy come in this pursuit alone as we, the body of the church, enable each other respond to God’s urgent cry.

We are who we are today, for better or worse, because of those who came before us, those of us here today and those who yearn for St Bart’s tomorrow. Each and every person is layering of blessings, layering your love, prayers, sacrifices and good work upon those before you. Blessings that will overflow upon generations to come.

My friends, St Bart’s, is your ship. St Bart’s is your church.

I believe, you, all the people of St Bart’s, have done an amazing job of transforming our parish in the past three years. Let this annual meeting today be a celebration of you, the people of St Bart’s. A celebration of all that we failed at (yes) and succeed at – as we kept marching onward, responding to God’s voice calling us to go forth – making real and tangible God’s love to all people.

When I joined you all in ministry, October 2014, St Bart’s had voiced a passion to be the church of the future. That vision was motivated by the decline of the parish from its height 14 years ago. Motivated by a growing fear that St Bart’s would join thousands of churches shuttering their doors -parishes that stopped evolving and given up on daily transformation. Let’s be clear, state of the church was not due to a lack of faithful servanthood, sacrifice, sweat or generosity. No, in short, St Bart’s had fallen into a state of holding on tight to keep the ship from sinking. The USS Benfold was much in the same state before it’s transformation.

St Bart’s, before the words had formed on any of our lips, yearned to be in solidarity with the Jesus Movement. A movement of a diverse group of God’s people working together, to spread the Good News into the world. And faithful people willing to risk everything to follow Christ.

From a business perspective: St Bart’s has deep roots as an entrepreneurial community. We have since tapped into that same DNA once again. We are willing to fail, to get back up each time we fall, trying old, new and creative ways to move the church – the Jesus Movement forward.

The principle enemy of a spirit led and entrepreneurial community, is only fear. And fear did not abandon us, did it. Fear of failing, fear of personal transformation, fear of losing friends, fear of not protecting a legacy for future generations to enjoy – the list is long.

Many people remark to me, Mark, how have you turned the ship around? My only response is this. It has not been me – in fact, not any one single person. It has and continues to be the people of St Bart’s – because it’s their church. And, I remind them, we have a long way to go.

Today we stop to honor and celebrate our efforts in the pursuit of God’s Glory. As your pastor, shared with MaryLynn, Chris and Bill, our calling continues to give you permission to face your fears, our collective fears and stand tall with you, raising the light of Christ for all to see – shedding light to where God is calling us to go. And are we marching to the Light of God? You better believe it.

Two years ago, at the annual meeting, we invited you to dream. To share your dreams with each other. Your leadership team (Peter, Bill, Sandra, Luis, Judy, Mike, Diane, Brooke, Kate, Mary, Kirsten, Denny)…. They translated those dreams, God’s voice in your hearts, into tangible action steps – joining the Jesus Movement – right here, right now.

One year ago, having articulated what God’s was calling us to be and to do, we rolled out the strategic plan - a faithful response, after three years of listening, hundreds of surveys and follow up survey’s, countless small groups and good old fashion hard work. We invited you to “to get on board” with the Jesus Movement. And many of you did. And many have joined us since. Amen.

It’s your church. In the past two years, you all have rekindled the of Power of God working through ordinary people - to enable us to be worthy members of the Jesus Movement.

We have rebuilt the foundations of an entrepreneurial culture – a culture that when faced with fear – turns to Jesus. We have made many mistakes. We have experienced the pain of loss and doubt. We have seen fear and darkness try to invade our parish and relationships. God’s voice has been relentless – calling St Bart’s to be relentless in our own pursuit of spreading the Good News – to be a beacon of hope and love, like no other in North County.

Today, I stand here, proud to introduce to you, a cast of witnesses to shed a bright light on our work thus far and to shed light our path for the year ahead. A cast of shipmates that will testify to you, what we have accomplished in twelve short months for the glory of God.

It’s an age old story of faithful people proclaiming the light of Christ – a beacon of healing, reconciliation, and joy.

Our banner, All are Welcome, no Expectations: invites our ship – St Bart’s to be to relentless in our transformation and response.

So, let’s get out our score card, and see how we did in 2016 and our goals for 2017.



Rector’s Report – End of Annual Meeting

St. Bart’s is your church—you are the church.

I hope this truth is obvious after those testimonies?

It would be awesome to list every person by name who claims St Bart’s to be their home – every person who faithfully gives of themselves to the pursuit of spreading the Good News. Your photo directories – available on the patio are start to that end.

I hope the past hour was a good reminder, we are evolving and maturing as community of faith making the Gospel real and tangible to others.  

I looked back at my notes and questions – notes I put together for my interview process from February through July of 2014.

I found the following, and we might find that these are good questions to ask ourselves as we think about our hopes and dreams for the future:

  1. Have fun – Can the people of St Bart’s have fun?
  2. Prayer – Will the people of St Bart’s pray for each other?
  3. Transformation – Are you all fools in Christ, at St Paul advanced the early church – fools to join the Jesus Movement and see the world as Jesus teaches?
  4. Budget – Will we be able to stop funding deficits each year from the reserves. Can we balance the budget and invest in our response to God’s call?
  5. Serving others – will we be able to increase annual cash giving for outreach partners- to people in need from less than 1% value of our operating budget to 10%?
  6. Will we reach outward, are we willing to change to meet the growing needs in our local community - growing unchurched population?
  7. Will we be able to add Global Mission and grow in Local Mission?
  8. Will we be able to expand the Pre-School AND develop a pastoral relationship with the Pre-School families and staff?
  9. Will we be able to turn around the thrift shop?
  10. We will fulfill the promises of our baptism?
    1. Continue in Teaching, Worship and breaking of bread?
    2. Will we ask for forgiveness for ourselves and be able to forgive each other?
    3. Will we proclaim the Gospel in prayers, ministry, and with our hands and feet?
    4. Will we seek and serve Christ all people, in every walk of life – loving our neighbor as ourselves
    5. We will have the courage to stand up of justice and peace for all people, we will go out of our way to respect the dignity of every human being?
  11. Will we be able to hang a banner “All are Welcome, No exceptions”?

To each of the questions, almost three years later, We have stood up today to say that the answers to each is:  yes.

Can you believe it? For those who have been here for decades, perhaps you are not surprised – for those of us coming from other faith communities - That is so amazing.

As you have heard this morning, we have much work to do, and some will demand more attention, more forgiveness, more generosity of the spirit – but our pursuit is noble and worthy of God’s praise.

There was one more question on my list – it was scribbled in during my site visit in July 2014 … after walking through the parking lot, through the patio and into our buildings and then up to the columbarium and to the cross on the hill …

  1. Will our campus – our buildings sustain our current needs and our future ministry needs for next 50 years? Can our grounds ensure that “all are welcome, no exceptions” applies to all generations and abilities and sustain ministry growth?

My take away from today can be summed up as: We the people of St Bart’s are actively living into the Jesus Movement. We are deepening relationships, deepening our own commitments and serving others, all the while living into greater shared ministry.

We have extended our hands in increasingly beautiful ways – revealing the presence of Christ more fully. And we will face and prayerfully move through our fears – and not be held hostage by fear.

  • We will continue in the pursuit of loving God and neighbor, with God’s help. And we will –we will continue to challenge each other in Christ’s name – but we won’t be chasing our tails for happiness sake – we will experience greater joy by serving others more fully in Christ’s name. And happiness will follow us.

As the treasurer mentioned: We have bit more work to do for 2017 to fully support our two fulltime curates: Mary Lynn and Chris Harris … this is your church and these are priests that God sent and you called to be your pastors … Rest assured, You will be given the opportunity today and the weeks ahead to deepen your investments in our response to God’s call.

One former Rector of St Bart’s told me:

“Mark, you will be the “new sanctuary” Rector”

I reflected on this for well over a year, sharing it with the wardens and later with the staff and vestry.

It’s never felt right … never felt like who I am.

I have come to believe God’s called me here to be your cheerleader and pastor in the great pursuits of spreading the Good News and building sustainable ministry. At the end of the day, for me, Faith is an action verb.

And so I don’t claim an identity as a build building pastor– rather –

I hope history will note, we built community through active, foolish servanthood of others. That our tenure together continues to be a time in history when the people of St Bart’s expanded their identity as servants of God to the other, opened our hearts and minds our baptismal promises - on our campus, in our homes, locally, domestically, and globally – discovering a deep joy in our worship of God and only God. A joy that is experienced with the countless victories of Gospel becoming real – in real tangle ways to more and more people – in our own lives.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge some important people in our pursuit of these goals:

  1. Nathan Costa – has accepted the senior lay staff post: Director of Music and Liturgy. We will commission Nathan next Sunday!
  2. Can we thank you Bill Angus for his amazing leadership?
  3. I want to appoint Dan Crane as our 2017 Sr Warden
  4. I think Deacon Bill and I, the search committees deserve a high five shepherding Mary Lynn and Chris into the fold!
  5. I want to thank the finance committee and vestry who appointed Terry McCune our Assistant Treasurer for 2017 last week.
  6. I am proud that vestry established the “Fr Al Memorial Seminarian Scholarship” – Kelly Mahom will be its first recipient.
  7. And now the 2017 Rector Award’s: These are offered to people, who are often not seen or recognized behind the scenes – faithfully advancing our response to God’s Call:
    1. Ken and Laurie Baxter – selfless giving to children and youth of this parish – even from Orange County.
    2. Allyson Jones – Acolyte Parent for years
    3. June Scopinich and Lindy Emery – Art ministry – idea to a reality – ministry of love
    4. Luis Becerra – Thrift Shop and Strategic Plan advocate/coach
    5. Ilene Littlefield – video

It continues to be privilege and honor to serve as your pastor and as the rector of Bart’s - Your Church.