Fit and Faith: Taking the Next Faithful Steps Toward Renewal at Trinity Mission

Fit and Faith: Taking the Next Faithful Steps Toward Renewal at Trinity Mission

In early 2021, the congregation of Trinity, Upper Marlboro faced a painful truth: that their beloved parish could not survive much longer given the circumstances they faced. Rather than ignore the signs, Trinity’s leaders proactively requested to undergo a Canon 54 Diocesan Stewardship and Parish Viability assessment, becoming the first congregation in the diocese to go through the process after the canon’s approval at a special diocesan convention in the spring of 2021. They hoped to receive guidance around determining next steps for tending to finances and developing strategies for new ministries that would appeal to the people in the surrounding community.

The initial recommendation from the assessment committee, based on the state of Trinity’s finances and the leadership available, was to close. But during the period of the assessment, new life began to blossom in the parish. New leaders stepped forward, the church’s spaces were beautified, and a new ministry for children was planned. With this hard work of the members, Diocesan Council, rather than closing the parish, decided to change the parish to an organized mission status and to explore shared ministry with nearby St. Thomas’, Croom.

Under this new mission status, the Rev. Dr. Peter Antoci, rector of St. Thomas’, would be appointed as part-time Vicar of Trinity for one year with the Rev. Thomas Bauer serving as Sunday Chaplain. The twelve months would serve as a testing period for leadership and for the viability of Trinity, with the main goals being 1) to develop a plan for financial sustainability, 2) to engage the leadership of St. Thomas’, Croom regarding opportunities for coordination and collaboration in ministry, and 3) to commit to a renewal plan for Congregational Vitality. Trinity’s first service as a mission took place on July 31, 2022.

The Rev. Anne-Marie Jeffery, Canon for Congregational Vitality has been working with Trinity leaders on their renewal plans, and says from the first time she met with them, “The people of Trinity were energized and already had a sense of new ministries they wanted to try. They had created the Claggett Cafe, a space to have coffee hour that was near where worship happened, so people could easily be greeted and have a place to connect. A grant had been applied for and received to offer a program for children in the evenings to give parents a break.”

With some teaching about congregational renewal best practices, the Seven Vital Signs of Parish Health, and a study of the demographics of the surrounding area, the congregation’s commitment to the necessary renewal and vitality work deepened. During the fall of 2022, the new mission prepared to host a community event – the dedication of the monument celebrating the 100 year anniversary of Crain Highway. Volunteers at the mission also planned to walk the neighborhood so they could see with new eyes how they might be a blessing to the wider community.

The main focus of their renewal plan is the creation of Fit and Faith, a Friday evening program for children ages pre-K to sixth grade that draws on the strengths of the mission’s many educators and leaders in the surrounding community. The program will include arts and crafts, indoor and outdoor play, cooking, career awareness, and music awareness, with the particular hope that, through their participation in Fit and Faith, both children and parents will experience the gift of being in community – an experience important in the life of Trinity, Upper Marlboro and one its members are eager to share.

After a recent check-in, Canon Anne-Marie is pleased to report that Fit and Faith is well underway and the first informational meeting for parents will take place on February 17th. To get the word out, organizers have been advertising the program with the local school as well as with a large after school program. They are also reaching out to the area churches and have made arrangements with Prince George’s County Board of Education for this program to be a site for junior and high school students to get their service hours. By the end of May, organizers anticipate they will have held at least six sessions.

The Fit and Faith program is an example of what’s possible when a faith community focuses on one of the vital signs of parish health – in this case, blessing our community – with the intention of serving the needs of the people of that community. The members of Trinity Mission are finding hope and sowing the seeds of renewal in their good work.

Trinity has also made progress in their long-term financial planning, another key part of their renewal efforts. They are on track to end 2023 with a balanced budget.

On January 17th 2023, Trinity Mission held its Inaugural Eucharist & Formal Organizing Meeting, followed by a reception. St. Thomas’, Croom was well-represented at this celebration as the two congregations continue to collaborate and share life together.