by Carol Brown
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
So, how do we get there?
Two year ago, the long-range planning committee reported that St. John’s had lost members in a pattern similar to most Episcopal and mainstream Protestant churches. St. John’s rallied with a record-breaking stewardship campaign last year, new programs and renewed vitality. But our membership hasn’t grown. We might have an idea about where our “deep gladnesses” are. But do we know them all? And what about the “world’s deep hunger,” especially in our immediate neighborhood?” We know there are a lot of needs outside our mediate community.
But what about the needs nearby? How do these two ideas of expanding our membership and meeting the world’s deep hunger mesh? What things that we feel moved to do at St. John’s are meaningful and interesting to our local community? To help us get a better sense of our immediate community, Rev. Jon Owens put together a meeting on Monday, October 19, between the Vestry, the Ministry Catalysts and Abbott Bailey, Canon to the Ordinary for the Diocese of California.
The goal was to get a better view of strategic planning and the work we have been doing, and to see how the work the Diocese has done might assist us. Canon Bailey’s particular focus is congregational vitality. To this end, the Diocese has collected data about who lives in our immediate neighborhood. As she pointed out, the data doesn’t drive mission. The mission drives the data. It allows us to complement the mission, to ask better questions about what it is we are doing and why we are doing it.
Here is a summary of the meeting.
After prayer, Abbott Bailey asked us to introduce ourselves and answer the question, in one word, “Why St. John’s?” Here’s what people said: St. John’s is inclusive, an active community, friendly, innovative, committed to action, involved, community, connection, reflection, welcoming, family, adventurous, open to new things.
Then we delved into some of the data about who lives in our neighborhood, including a surrounding circle with a radius around the church of 3.5 miles. This essentially includes Montclair, Piedmont, Rockridge, Oakmore, Glenview and Redwood Heights. Questions were asked by Canon Bailey, and we were invited to answer them. We thought we had the
answers – turns out many times we did not! Here is some of
the data we discussed:
1. What percentage of the people volunteered for a charity in last 12 months? National average is 16%. In our area it is 27%.
2. Diversity index. What is the statistical likelihood that two people selected randomly will be of a different race? Nationally, it is 65%. Here in our area it is 53%.
3. What percentage of the population is 36-64? 41%
4. What percentage of the households live in poverty? Nationally the average is 13%. Our area it is 3%.
5. What is the unemployment rate? The national average is 13%. (This is probably post-Covid). 10.8% in our area.
6. What percentage of people exercise at a club 2 or more times/week? The national average 14%. It is 23% in our area.
7. Percentage of our housing is owner occupied. National average 64%. Here it is 85%.
8. Population in each age group: under 18: 23%. 18-35: 13%. 36-64: 41%. (predominantly families) over age 65: 22%.
Ian commented, “Everyone moving into the neighborhood are couples with school-aged children or a child on the way.”
9. Overwhelming: “upscale avenues and affluent estates.” 98% of the population.
This information raised questions and comments from members in the group about how we are insulated from and don’t live near people who are struggling. Questions were raised about whether there is a ministry that can break down some of these divisions.
Canon Bailey then shared slides showing redlining on a map of Oakland in 1940. These were areas where lenders refused to lend money to homebuyers at that time. She suggested that this
history was how our catchment area got the statistics it has. It was pointed out that many of the areas redlined at that time large parts of Alameda, downtown Oakland, Fruitvale, the area around Lake Merritt, parts of Rockridge, Temescal, West Oakland, NOBE, around Mills College are now gentrified, suggesting that the statistics in those areas have changed significantly.
Another group member talked about putting affordable housing in our immediate neighborhood as a way to counteract this legacy. To mitigate the legacies of redlining that have benefited
us. How much push back would there be?
Canon Abbott then talked about the “why” of our different ministries. We have worked to develop North Oakland village. Why? We have talked about programs with Thornhill School.
How does that work with our faith? “If you have a strong ‘why,’ data can help. You can then think about the how to’s,” she said.
Canon Abbot said that the Diocese wants to make this data much more available to parishes. She pointed out some other St. John’s statistics: St. John’s “generational predominance” is
baby boomers, generation Z and 3 to 20-year-olds. Our congregational vitality is moderate, but attendance is low.
Rev. Jon Owens then remarked that our community needs assessment. What do we see in the neighborhood? Is after school care full? Do we need to open another one? What are the actual, immediate needs within the radius of our church? How can we get people to plug into our church?
The Mouse is the long-running news source for St. John's. With decades of history, our blog now features the same great news about what's happening at St. John's with a more frequent publication cycle.