Focus Groups

Report to St. Augustine’s Vestry

Combined Comments from Focus Sessions held, 01/27/2019 and 02/03/2019 to discuss the following questions:

1.     What are the characteristics or attributes you would like our new rector to have?

2.     Do you think that one or more of the characteristics or attributes that have been identified are more important than others? Are there priorities? If so identify them.

3.     It is important to you that the new rector lives in southwest DC?

4.     Describe the type of worship service you would like the new rector to perform.  Formal high church, rather informal etc.

5.     What is your vision for St. Augustine's church: 

a.     approximate church size and composition of membership,

b.     relationship with other churches and other organizations in the SW community,

c.      relationship with other organizations in DC?


On Sunday, January 27, 2019, Tara Ramsey and Laura Hutson facilitated a discussion surrounding the attributes sought for the new Priest-in-Charge and the vision for St. Augustine’s. Thirteen (13) participants, members and non-members of St. Augustine’s, attended the session which took place in the Thurgood Marshall Gallery after the Sunday worship service. Two participants departed prior the conclusion of the one hour session. On February 3, 2019, a similar session was held with 12 attending (2 were vestry members, and 4 had been in attendance at the first focus group).


Characteristics or attributes you would like our new rector to have


The two groups identified the following attributes they would like to see in the new Priest-in-Charge (in no particular order or priority):

  • ·        Experience in team building and congregation building
  • ·        Creative
  • ·        Able to handle wide administrative matters to include developing the vision for the parish and a good financial plan for the parish
  • ·         Some ability to manage staff and have managerial capability in leadership and guiding staff.
  • ·        Financially savvy
  • ·        Embraces the Episcopal church, its foundation, and the word of God
  • ·        Familiarity with the Scripture
  • ·        Interested in Christian education
  • ·        Well-versed in Anglican history to keep proper traditions
  • ·        Good listener and communicator
  • ·        Available for counseling
  • ·        Can have honest open conversation
  • ·        Compelling speaker whose preaching is inspirational, has direction and connects to the Gospel, to our SW community and city
  • ·        People person
  • ·        God sent priest with characteristics of Jesus
  • ·        Loving, compassionate, patient
  • ·        Ease of working with disparate congregation
  • ·        Outreach – warm and compassionate
  • ·        High-energy, energetic
  • ·        Commitment to social justice who will help develop the Thurgood Marshall legacy, keeping social justice alive and developing programming
  • ·        Gives the congregations direction
  • ·        Youthful, energetic, old soul. Youthful, not necessarily young but youthful in heart.
  • ·        Creative preacher, creative sermons, like Martha with the paintbrush
  • ·        A pastor that has an ability to preach.
  • ·        A pastor who take interest in the community, can take a stand on issues in the community
  • ·        Pastoral care. Visit hospital.  A person who is really good with  talking to members when they are missing or what life situation they are in: death of spouse, hospital, retirement.
  • ·        A knowledge of contemplative Christianity.  Like people who may go look for it at the Buddhist temple down the street when they can do it in their own tradition.
  • ·        Flexible in style of worship, not just one style.  Flexibility in style of music with worship.
  • ·        Open mind about different style of music or say, dance.  Open to different things to make worship meaningful to all.  We are all different and need different things.
  • ·        Spiritual and able to connect well with diverse people. Progressive thinking and to reach out to diverse people, be “woke,” be aware but be able to speak to issues in the community
  • ·        Significant skills in preaching in scripture, but to today’s relevant challenges, in the city, the US and world.


Live in SWDC

For the first and second session, most participants (7 of 11, session one; 7 of 12, session two) felt it was important for the priest-in-charge to reside in SWDC; however, note that this count is duplicative and 3 that thought it was important for the pastor to live in SW were repeat votes.

In the first session, participants expressed that a priest-in-charge who resides in SW has a connectedness to the community and is a part of the daily life of SW. Participants described St. Augustine’s historic and civic-minded connection and involvement in the establishment of the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA). It was noted the importance of ensuring boundaries were in place should the priest-in-charge reside in SW so that the priest-in-charge was not essentially on call, working 24/7. Participants asked whether the priest-in-charge would be required to live in the rectory or whether they would have a choice regarding residence in SW. The facilitators noted the question on the table at this time was the importance of living in SW not the rectory. Others noted that one of the reasons the rectory was purchases was to have a meeting place that was less formal than the church.

In the second session, approximately 3 stated that they didn’t have a preference for the pastor to live in SW; however, they believed the pastor should live in the district. One person commented that it could be healthy and helpful for the pastor to live outside of SW, but still in the district. It could be important that they bring a broader perspective. Others who preferred the pastor live in SW, expressed their preference for the pastor to be in the community, associating with people—A preference for the convenience and frequency of running into people if he or she is here in the community. Some realized that a pastor living in the city could be just as good as one living in SW.  One pointed out that if someone is already local and they already have a house elsewhere then they could make the decision to move or not.




When discussing the type of worship service that participants enjoyed or preferred the following was noted in the first session:

·        St. Augustine’s has always had a participatory service and inclusiveness is important to the spiritual process. Initially, St. Augustine’s met at Hogates and members were part of the service.

·        There was a preference for the informal with no desire to go toward high tradition.

·        Some expressed a desire to have a service deeply grounded in liturgy and based on the Book of Common Prayer.

·        There were differing opinions on the communal circle during the Eucharist. Several prefer this but were aware that others didn’t so suggested varying the Eucharist was suggested.

·        It was noted that St. Augustine’s has struggled with music over the years so it would be good to figure out a way forward with music during the worship service.


When discussing the type of worship service that participants enjoyed or preferred the following was noted in the second session:

·        Possibly a later Service, maybe 10 am.

·        Liked when seminarian did yoga at beginning of service.

·        Suggested using overheads for music along with more contemporary music and being able to learn music.

·        Choir of children (either inviting one or creating one) to brings the parents and their friends.

·        Incorporating dance, and special musicians. But incorporating gospel but also episcopal.

·        Diverse service(s)

·        The circle for communion: the option to not have it every Sunday.

·        Classes in faith formation.



In the first session, regarding participants’ vision for St. Augustine’s, the following was discussed:

•        A desire to emphasize that St. A’s is Episcopalian and the Episcopalian outlet in SW, a desire to be a prayer book church;

•        St. A’s relationship with Thurgood Marshall and his family sets St. A’s apart from other churches in SW and should be a focal point to develop the legacy and social justice programs further;

•        A participant expressed learning more about the recent resolution at the National Convention to join with the Methodist church and how that could impact our relationship with Christ United Methodist;

•        Outreach has the potential to bring in members and begins with the Christian belief to care for others. St. Augustine’s should not be just a welcoming place but a place that serves people in the way of Christ;

•        Bread for Life invite people in for breakfast and incorporate into/not just serve and send away;

•        Demographics are changing in SW. St. A’s grew up in diverse social community but urban renewal is fracturing and polarizing. Soon Greenleaf and its residents will not be in SW. These types of issues go back to the importance of a priest living in community who has knowledge of the community and awareness of the neighborhood challenges;

•        Other ideas of outreach included a community fair and door-to-door outreach.


In the second session, regarding participants’ vision for St. Augustine’s, the following was discussed:

•        One said they wanted to participate in events/activites at St. A’s, but it is hard to get to them because most of them happen while at work.

•        Outreach in neighborhood.  SW is expanding but we are not.  Door-to-door

•        Some kind of active outreach to people who live here.   Build a neighborhood base.

•        People have moved beyond the neighborhood but they still come to the church. Those that grow into a family they can’t afford to live here but they bring their family back even if they have moved farther out.

•        Consider approaching old members who were congregants but who have left. May not pan out, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

•        Sharing the Thurgood Marshall legacy with people in talking about St. A’s increases interest.  

•        Increase membership to at least 80 in the seats on Sunday.

•        This church is a place to seek and receive spiritual refreshment. 

•        Use electronic media to reach unchurched. More modern mechanisms to reach out.  More people in their 20s and 30s.

•        Work with our other churches. Work with other churches in other ways to serve the community.

•        The regular service doesn’t help people feel closer to God.  Think of other ways, like meditation. 

•        More children in our Sunday school.  Children make a difference to the churches

•        Continuing and building our relationship with Arena stage.  The youth program—when they were in our building and when they did the plays they wrote at Art-n-Spirit.  Have them do a play once a season here.

•        Temple Micah when they were here—wondering if making some extra income, renting out our space Friday or Saturday—we are doing that now but more.

•        Weddings—more weddings.

•        Family fun day. Moon bounce.  Something fun for all families to enjoy.  Not whether we are an episcopal church just something fun.

•        We have the people with the breadth and depth of the history of sw and we have that more than any other church.  We should start tapping into the attributes we have as a church.  Who or what is/was SW.

•        Dedicated programs in other churchs known not only in DC but also in the country—ie  West minister’s jazz night.  A program like the history of SW that we can use like that.

•        Riverside and Westminster have programs regularly…we should do program sin joint.

•        A bus to go pick up people.  We think we have people that would attend, but need transportation.  Like when the apartments burned down we could have gotten them in a bus and bring them to breakfast.

•        Cooking classes—what we can be know for. 

•        We need mobility.

•        We have a large youth congregation.  1000 people coming a month—Mayor said.  The other well recognized group in SW is seniors.  AARP meets in Riverside.  And in the projects we have people who are there that were there when urban renewal was happening.

•        Announcement on radio about history TH, to help bring people in.

•        Some people don’t’ know that we have opened back up for church in the neightborh.

•        National congress of black women, has a radio show, efay Williams?  Andrea Rowan spoke here at St. A’s.  She couldn’t find the church the night of the meeting.  She was at Arena Stage.  She couldn’t find it. She was late. No indication that there was church.  She was annoyed by it.

•        In the design of the church, we put on the crosses and we were limited in what we could put on the outside.

•        Justin Dart, wrote the ADA used to come here. He has passed away.  It was an important person who what important to justice. 

•        Hidden issues but we won’t bring those issues to each.  We will talk to friends, we won’t bring it to the person that we have an issue with.   Noted that his name wasn’t on rota as much. One other noted that they weren’t on the rota as much.





Need to be fair, need to make rector aware that we are a growing community.  Tha there are two new brand new churches and there willb e four all together in some sense competing.  Fair for new pastor to know that there is keen competition.


We have to understand that the search is going nationwide and we have a community we can sell; and we have the rectory available if someone is form out of town.  We have to think in terms of the positives we have to offer someone coming here.