A Letter from the Parish Administrator, Laura Noggle
When then-Wardens Kathryn Dunham and Heather Schaefer asked me to return to the business office at the Church of the Epiphany in the fall of 2017, I said yes. In the face of a building sale, and a building purchase, and a Rector become Bishop, they were looking for “institutional memory.” I understood and answered the call. In the past two years and some months, I have used my energy and creativity to help farewell the prior rector and orient the new one, help formulate budgets, run payrolls, protect property tax abatements, renew soup kitchen licenses, administer grants and, over the past year, take the business office fully remote, and write Covid protocols for cleaning and for the protection of our staff.
Looking forward to what the next year will bring, I know that my energy and creativity have been spent by the past two years and some months. It is time to bring on board another person to pick up the torch and to use their energy and creativity to physically move a parish, apply for religious utility rates, property tax abatements, and to administer grants. So, at the end of February, I will be stepping back from my role in the business office and returning to my role in the pews (on Zoom) as a parishioner.
Perhaps the question that I have been asked most office in my role in the business office – after What’s the balance on my pledge? – is Are we thinking about the church as a business? There are certainly a lot of business elements to running a church – budgets and pledges and third-party rents, payroll and property insurance. But a church is not a business. A church is its people.
Epiphany is the people who volunteer each week to feed the hungry, and the people who arrive to be fed. It is the children who are educated here, whether at the day school or at vacation bible school, and the teachers who educate them. It is the sexton staff who traveled from across the boroughs during the height of the shutdown this spring and summer to ensure that our 85-year-old building did not break down, spring leaks, or misbehave while no one was on site. Epiphany is the congregation who Zooms together at worship, at coffee hour, at bible study, at social check-ins. It is the parishioners who help each other navigate this new online way of coming together.
Also, a church is not a building. While I know that many of you will miss our current building when we move away, I confess that I will not. I have worked in my office in a hat and coat while the heat decides not to come to work for the day, or the week. I will not miss how the pipes occasionally pour out all of their water onto the floor, nor now much it costs to heat and cool the building. A church is its people. The building is merely where they come together to try and make real the kingdom of heaven on earth. And this particular patch of the kingdom has a temperamental boiler.
A church is its people, not just a single person. It is not a single leader or a single staffer or a single musician. It takes all of us coming together to make a church. The individuals in a specific role will change over time. But this Church of the Epiphany has been coming together since 1845, and it will continue long after any of us have put down our torch for another to lift high. As for institutional memory, we are ALL the institution. Collectively, we have attended every vestry meeting, every choir practice, every worship service, and every baptism, wedding and burial. Each one of us carries a piece of the institution. So, when you notice that your piece is coming to the fore, raise your hand and share your knowledge. Because you are a person of the church and the church is its people.
A church is its people. Each of us carries the memory of this institution as we move forward through time: to a new building, with a new leader, bringing new business opportunities. We are the people of this church, this piece of the kingdom of heaven on Earth.
Director of Parish Administration