Part of the story of our relational parish is our enthusiasm for mutual ministry. Several years ago we added a dimension to our parish organization that is a valued enhancement to our “bottom-up” structure. A few times a year, interested members of the parish gather and make a plan for the next season of the church year. The meeting is run in a town-hall style, with the senior warden leading the often laughter-filled discussion. The rector serves as a resource and active participant. We take the calendar month by month and discuss what has happened in the past, what has worked, what hasn’t, and what ideas individuals may have for the future.
“Let’s have a wine-tasting dinner!” “I loved the Seder we had last Maundy Thursday.” “We need a leader for the plant sale.” “Not enough people volunteered to clean up after the spaghetti supper!”
Great things have come from this process. Newcomers have an automatic and easy opportunity to get oriented and incorporated into the life of the church. We break out of the mindset of “This is how we’ve always done it.”
New leaders are given the opportunity to lead with, or instead of, the veterans—a process that helps diminish burnout. It is an opportunity to publicize different ministries and to coordinate with complementary ministries. People are held accountable for their suggestions. Our motto is “I will” rather than “We should.”
We have a member of our parish who regularly reminds us, “How we are with others is how we are with God.” At Annunciation, we connect often and well with one another. Whether we’re swapping stories at coffee hour, grappling with muddy moral issues at adult forum, or raising up leaders for ordained ministry, conversation is central to our identity as a people of faith.
We are a community that yearns to be and to grow in our relationship with God — and the God in and among us. Last year, our women’s retreat filled up so quickly that we added extra space to accommodate the demand. Our parish retreat one year earlier brought out nearly 40 percent of our members for a weekend spiritual getaway in the backwoods of Wisconsin. And the annual Lenten program consistently feeds and deepens our hunger — for good food, engaging conversation, and spiritual community.
These events and others reflect our desire to grow as a spiritual people. Last year’s “Holy Conversations” revealed that most of our parishioners yearn for more opportunities for spiritual growth. We hope that, if you have this same desire for "something more," that you will come join us as we journey together.
With our bottom-up approach, caring can express itself in outreach in as many forms as members feel inspired to create. Each of these endeavors is only limited by the commitment of the member and how well he or she can convince the rest of us to help with the work. But when it comes to ministry for each other—our "in-reach"—it is relationships that form the conduits that allow us to "take care of our own." In each case, "in-reach" or outreach, we see opportunities to develop a more focused and intentional approach while maintaining authentic care for those we seek to help.
Fun is a key element in our parish’s story. We love a good party! Our fun, however, is not limited to our social events. It is important at Annunciation to have fun during work projects, at Adult Forum and even at Vestry meetings. We choose to find fun in our work together and we love to laugh.
A former warden likes to say, “Fun is what it feels like when you are accomplishing your mission.” Maybe that’s part of why we have fun …we feel we’re accomplishing the mission of our church.
If you understand one thing about Annunciation, know that relationships are at the heart of who we are and all we do. We could use a lot of fancy theological language here, but truthfully we are people who simply care for and genuinely enjoy being in each other’s company. The value we place on relationships shapes our approach to how we “do church”—whether it is in the welcome we show to newcomers, the care with which we maintain our buildings and grounds, or the way we govern and make decisions as a parish. Our relationships enliven our most mundane tasks and inspire us to deeper spiritual experience; they provide the sacred space where real learning, change, and healing happen. We believe this simple reality at Annunciation is no small thing. In a world that is focused on using people to generate profits, genuine human connection is rare. Relationships are our treasure.
From its earliest days as a mission on a busy Waukegan thoroughfare, Annunciation (then called All Souls Chapel) has embraced a culture of welcome and hospitality. Most parishioners can tell the story of who first spoke to them, how they were received, or whom they have welcomed into the community themselves. You’re always welcome here!
Open-minded. Tolerant. Inclusive. These values are central to Annunciation’s identity and are reflected in the warm, friendly relationships parishioners enjoy with one another. Our community of approximately 125 households includes cradle Episcopalians as well as former Roman Catholics and Protestants of every denominational stripe. We welcome to our table all who are made in the image and likeness of God. At Annunciation, our house rule is a simple one:
All are accepted here!
Our parish takes corporate discernment seriously. In 2007 we undertook a process of discernment to create a 5-year strategic plan. This took the form of vestry research, a parish survey and, in keeping with our relational nature, small group discussions we named “Holy Conversations.” Through these spirited conversations and in-depth study a plan emerged. In truth, however, it was our discerning and wrestling together about who we are and what we most wanted to do that proved most valuable.
Since then, we have organized Holy Conversations almost yearly. In them, we focus on big questions to help us discern where God is leading us. What are we looking for spiritually? What kind of church could we be if we had more financial resources? What dreams do we have for our parish? We ask and we talk and we listen for answers from each other and from God.
Our story as a church is an alive and unfolding one. Like Mary in the story for which we are named, we try to be a faithful people who say, “Yes, Lord, let it be with us according to your word.” Over the years, as we have listened to the stories of who we are as individuals and as a community of faith, we have come to better understand our unique gifts as a parish. These gifts and characteristics are listed below, with links to more information about how they come alive in our particular church. We hope that as you learn more about us, you’ll tap into the larger story of who we are and maybe come to see Annunciation as a place where you could feel at home.
After some consideration here's what we've discovered that the congregation at Annunciation values: