We all experience the beautiful music and liturgy at services and worship – but what happens behind the scenes to make this happen so seamless, and what about the day to day running of a place like St Mary’s ? My immediate impression was that it is run like any other small company and, like any other company, it has to promote itself, sell a product, and keep afloat keep financially.
St Mary’s promotes itself in its own unique way, through the style and quality of its music and preaching, and its commitment to being welcoming, open, and inclusive. St Mary’s promotes itself in other ways too, making full use of twenty-first century technologal advances. It has its own website, which is constantly updated and kept ‘fresh’, and also uses social media and networking. Doors Open days allow individuals to pop in and see the building, ask questions and, hopefully, become more interested in the ‘company’ and its product.
The St Mary’s company, like any other, has to be innovative and diverse. As well as selling its main product, it has to make full use of its premises in other ways such as hiring out the building for concerts and exhibitions. Like any other company, accounts and reports have to be prepared and produced so that ‘shareholders’ know what is happening, know how St Mary’s is performing, and are aware of plans for future developments.
Observing the workings of the ‘company’ was both interesting and informative. I saw how Jo the administrator prepares the liturgical pew sheets containing the order of service, the praise, and music. I became aware of the seasonal changes to the kyrie, eucharistic prayer, and blessing, and that settings for the Propers change once every six weeks, and the Collect changes every week. These sheets are prepared some weeks in advance and involve a lot of hard work and time.
Then there is the logistics of producing the Sunday services, something which again is no mean feat, and entails a lot of organisation. There is what is called the ‘Cast’, a list of all the participants in the performance and every member has to tick his or her name on arrival. Some of the ‘performers’ are the celebrant, the deacon, the sub-deacon, the preacher, the MC, the crucifer, the acolytes, the thurifer, the lesson reader, the intercessor, the eucharistic assistants, and the welcomers.
Beyond the Sunday services there are other numerous other activities and groups going on such as the study groups, choir practice, visiting the sick, pastoral visiting, and Faith in older people (FIOP), where an elderly person who cannot come to church regularly is visited by a member of St Mary’s. There is also the Contact Group, which organise visits to individuals with particular needs, such as hospital visits and the like.
I was allowed to sit in on meetings with Kelvin, Cedric, and Jo, where everyday issues where discussed and plans for future developments were brain -stormed. What came across was that the ‘company’ of St Mary’s realises it cannot ‘rest on its laurels’ and has to be insightful and innovative to remain successful. It also came across that everybody has his or her own interests and remit and that, although it is their responsibility to carry out that duty, there appears to be flexibility. Importantly, there is a good sense of humour, which helps the working environment and light relief when needed.
Successful companies have, among other things a good and committed ‘workforce’, and St Mary’s has an abundance of this. There are approximately one hundred and fifty volunteers helping to make this company work. The obvious ones are the choir, the stewards, the open church volunteers, the hospitality volunteers, the bell-ringers, the young church volunteers, the welcomers, the servers, and probably others whom I have missed out. I spoke to a number of individuals who volunteer at St Mary’s and have done so for many years, and the success of the company is very much due to their energy and commitment, and to the efficient way their work is managed.
Then there are the working groups of St Mary’s such as the Compliance Group dealing with health and safety; the Property Group dealing with the fabric of the building; the Finance Group dealing with money, and the Core Group dealing with future development. Like any company, St Mary’s needs money to survive, and every year there is a Stewardship campaign asking individuals to review their giving and to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the building and its salaried personnel.
Further entrepreneurial spirit is also revealed in the rental of the parking bays at the front of the building to local businesses, and of space in the spire to a telecommunications firm where they have installed their aerial.
You have probably noticed the main product this company sells has not been mentioned so far, and this is its CEO – God! Yes, St Mary’s is like many other small companies and has to run in a business like way, but the big difference between St Mary’s and other companies is that it is not in the business of making financial profit, but in the special business of promoting and worshipping God.