In 1985 the parish celebrated its seventy-fifth year. Anniversary events included a talk by John Page Williams who had attended the Service of the Dedication of the church in September, 1927, a presentation of François Poulanc's Gloria, by the choir and a wonderful anniversary dinner attended by many past and present parishioners and clergy. In his message to the parish, Bishop Peter Lee said ". . . I greet you with thanksgiving to God for your ministry and with affection for the vitality and strength that you provide to the University, to the community of Charlottesville and to the diocese at large."
Ministry to the University took on a whole new look in the 80's, replacing the earlier model in which students were warmly welcomed but no specific programs for them were offered. In response to strong requests from students, a Canterbury Student Fellowship began to meet weekly, and monthly graduate student suppers were held. During the 1982-83 academic year, St. Paul's even provided free bus service from the dorms to the church on Sunday mornings. Although it was not begun with that intention, the Sunday evening service quickly attracted a predominantly student congregation.
During the middle years of the decade several changes took place within the staff. In 1985 Sam Lloyd accepted a position in Chicago and David Lee resigned as Associate Rector. David Poist and Paula Kettlewell continued as the clergy staff until 1987 when The Reverend Steven Keller Bonsey was hired, marking the first time that St. Paul's was able to support three full time priests without any diocesan help. Since his job description included one-half time for University ministry, Nick and Arlene Page, who had been on the staff part-time as Canterbury advisors, decided this was a good time for them to turn over the reins of Canterbury and retire from the staff. In that same year Elizabeth Courain, for eight years the parish secretary and then administrative assistant, left and that position was then filled by Pam Kelly, aided by the parish secretary, Betsy Kennan. Earlier in the decade, Mike Kavanaugh had been hired as the sexton.
A Mission Statement for 1986-1990 was prepared by the vestry in response to a request from the Bishop that each parish in the diocese do so. The six goals set for the parish included developing a program in mission education, raising awareness at the University of the parish's ministry, increasing the ministry with the area elderly and the Venable neighborhood children, and evaluating staff needs.
By 1989 the parish could feel a strong sense of accomplishment in addressing each of these goals. The addition of a third full-time priest and of a Sunday evening service followed by a supper for students had enhanced the parish's presence within the University community. A very active group of lay people visited regularly with the elderly and the homebound. Another group of volunteers served as tutors at Venable School and with the Trinity Day Care Program. Scholarships had enabled a number of neighborhood children to attend summer camps.
Visits by such distinguished preachers as Charles Perry, Provost of the National Cathedral, and Peter Gomes, Chaplain of Harvard University; a mini-concert by a Gospel Choir; the addition of a handbell choir, a folk choir and a speech choir; children's sermons with their unexpected questions and answers; all these helped to continue the parish tradition of worship that gave glory to God, celebrated life as a gift from God, and took seriously the church's ministry to the world.
Lay ministry continued to be the hallmark of the parish. A casserole ministry prepared food for families in crisis, and a Saturday morning service group gave parishioners opportunities for a direct hands-on ministry of scraping, painting, repairing and building. The Adult Education Committee called upon the congregation's deep well of talent for programs as diverse as World Hunger, the Soviet Union and World Peace, Biblical studies, and Stress within Families. Lay people volunteered as advisors to the Youth Groups, they delivered tapes of the service to shut-ins, they visited the sick at University of Virginia Hospital, and they contributed to the quality of worship as lectors, chalice bearers, acolytes, and members of the Flower Guild and Altar Guild. The African Development Project became an important form of international ministry.
The parish continued to be involved in crucial social issues. Through various church and community organizations members of the parish worked to promote world peace and to alleviate the sufferings of the poor, the hungry, the homeless, and the terminally ill. A survey conducted by the Race Relations Task Force in 1986 showed that the majority wanted substantial meaningful change but were uncertain how that could be achieved.
And finally, the congregation continued to enjoy one another as a family of faith. Dinner dances remained popular, as did the annual parish picnic. Although the 8 o'clock congregation continued to resist the notion of an after church coffee hour, a large proportion of the 10 o'clock congregation gathered in the Parish Hall each week. The Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper took on an increasingly festive Mardi Gras air, including, in 1987, live jazz music. A special showing of the movie "Babette's Feast" raised money for the African Development Project.
The cover of the 1988 Annual Report featured a drawing by parishioner Byrd Eastham. It captured the dynamism of the parish and poked gentle fun at its busyness. As the 1980's drew to a close, St. Paul's had become an active energetic parish. The highly valued diversity of liturgical styles, spiritual needs, life circumstances and visions for the church's mission created an environment of excitement, creativity and enthusiasm. Yet always at the center of its life, as it was at the center of Mr. Eastham's drawing, there was the Holy Table, a constant reminder of the One in whose name and for whose sake St. Paul's was originally established in 1910. As St. Paul's entered its eightieth year it could look back in thanksgiving for the countless gifts of opportunity and blessing bestowed upon it, and it could look forward by rephrasing the words of Mr. Tucker: May the enduring gift that St. Paul's has to render be to set us dreaming dreams and seeing visions which no practical achievement can ever exhaust nor any material world satisfy.
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