Imagine Incarnation: Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is Imagine Incarnation?
A. Imagine Incarnation is a congregation-driven conversation about the future of Incarnation’s campus in which areas of our church’s greatest enthusiasm and calling will be identified and used to develop options for use of the church property. Our goal in beginning this process is to begin creating a vision of how our campus can best support our ministries for current and future generations.
Q. Why are we having a conversation about our campus?
A. We are blessed with a beautiful church building on a green, spacious campus in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa. Past generations have stewarded these buildings and grounds through many changes over 150 years.
We currently have no overall plan for the future of our campus. Our vestry believes it’s time to begin a conversation to help us move toward generating a vision for our campus in the years and decades to come. The campus is an incredible resource, both physically and spiritually, that deserves intentional stewardship going forward.
There are some specific needs that make this a good time for this conversation. For one, the two buildings we own on Mendocino Avenue north of the church (Mackey Picture Frame Co. and Heavenly Treasures) are aging and nearing the end of their useful life. So if nothing else, we need to make some decisions about what to do there. For another, our vestry has for several years been discussing how better to use Jerusalem Courtyard, the large paved plaza south of the church, which tends to attract litter and vandalism while being underused by our parish community. Some of our parish leaders have wondered whether there might be opportunities to make more effective use of other underused spaces on our campus to serve our mission. We want to harness the collective wisdom and creativity of our congregation to start discerning how God is calling us to ministry on this campus in the years ahead.
Q. What is the background of Imagine Incarnation and how did we get here?
A. Back in late 2019, after recurring discussions about the future of various parts of our campus, our vestry decided to establish a Property Development Task Force to begin working toward a vision for the Church’s properties. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed things down, but during 2020 and 2021 the task force did considerable background research, including successfully advocating with the city of Santa Rosa for a more flexible zoning designation for our campus in the city’s Downtown Station Area Specific Plan. Now that we are able to meet in person again, the task force and vestry believe it’s time to invite the congregation into a broad conversation about the future of our campus.
Q. What are the goals of Imagine Incarnation?
A. The goals of Imagine Incarnation are to:
- Open up a conversation with the congregation about those elements of our mission and values that garner the most enthusiasm from our congregation
- Explore the intersection of those areas of enthusiasm with the role our campus can play in furthering our mission
- Develop ideas for the church campus that best support our mission of loving God and neighbor
Q. Is there a predetermined outcome in mind here?
A. No—that’s why we want to have a broad-based congregational process. Various members of the vestry and the Property Development Task Force have lots of different ideas about what our campus could be, and we assume that same diversity exists among our congregation. We are clear that we want our campus in the future to continue to have ample space for our internally oriented ministries such as worship, fellowship, and formation, and to be a place of beauty and contemplation with our jewel of a church building at its spiritual center, while also serving our neighbors and God’s world. We believe the shared wisdom of all our members can lead to a vision for our campus that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
We are starting this process at the beginning–not jumping into planning the campus, but starting with a conversation designed to help us describe our core values and mission, so that ideas we will have for the campus can be evaluated according to our shared sense of who we are and who God calls us to be.
Q. Is this about using our downtown property to get revenue for the church?
A. Not really. Our vestry and Pastor Stephen are committed to maintaining a parish operating budget based primarily on our own members’ giving. We believe our church should be self-sustaining rather than relying on outside money for our operations. We do currently receive income from Heavenly Treasures and rent from Mackey Picture Frame Co. that supports our outreach funds as well as a portion (about 6%) of our operating budget, and any changes we make to our campus will need to keep that in mind. Otherwise, if we did at some point decide to do something that generates revenue, such as housing, retail, etc. on any portion of our property, it would be because we believe it serves God’s mission for our neighborhood, and our goal would be to use any revenue toward mission-driven purposes.
Q. How do I prepare for Imagine Incarnation?
A. Campus tours, both in person and online, will be provided between now and the launch of Imagine Incarnation to help you familiarize yourself with the entirety of our 2-acre campus. Some of it may be new even to longtime members! While there will be multiple tours, you need to attend only one tour. Forty-minute long in-person tours will be conducted after both the 8:00 am and 10:00 am services on the following days:
- Sunday, August 21
- Sunday, August 28
- Sunday, September 4
- Sunday, September 11
Q. How will the Congregation Conversations happen?
A. The “main event” of Imagine Incarnation will be three congregational meetings, held on Sundays in Farlander Hall, with lunch provided. We highly recommend that you attend all three meetings because each discussion will build upon the preceding ones. But if that is not possible for you, please do attend any that fit your schedule.
The meetings will be held on the following dates, with lunch at 11:45 and the meeting following from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.:
- Sunday, September 18
- Sunday, October 2
- Sunday, October 16
Q. How will the Congregation Conversations be run?
A. Congregation Conversations will be led by professional facilitators and volunteer members of the congregation using a Community Conversations model that puts participants into small facilitated groups to discuss specific questions. Individuals in each group share their views, which are then recorded and combined with other groups. Themes are distilled out for presentation back to all in attendance for reflection and potential prioritization. This discussion format allows for every participant to feel heard and to see their ideas combined with those of other congregation members in real time.
Q. Who will be the Conversation Facilitators and Planners?
A. Sarah Lightfoot and Barrie McClune of Key Ring Consulting, both with a master’s degree in Organization Development from Sonoma State University, will be facilitating the conversations. Sarah and Barrie are working with the Incarnation Property Development Task Force.
Q. Who is on the Property Development Task Force?
A. The Rev. Stephen Shaver is the chair. Kathleen Kane served as chair until fall 2021 and continues to serve as a member. Other members are Allan Bolchazy, David Jasper, Pamela Layton, Mark Neumann, Diane Schoenrock, Judy Velasquez, and Elizabeth Wright.
Q. What if I can’t attend the Congregation Conversations in person?
A. We are planning for ways to help those who are not able to attend in person participate. While we're still working on the details, our current plan is to record the meetings, make them available online, and invite additional feedback between meetings from those who watch. We are also planning to use a survey in conjunction with the three meetings which will be open to everyone in the congregation.
Q. What happens after the Imagine Incarnation Conversations?
A. Once the conversations have concluded, Sarah and Barrie will help us distill our consensus of vision, values, and future for Incarnation’s campus into a written ‘wish list’ or program we can carry forward as the basis for a campus planning process. The step after this one would be a more tangible design phase in which we would engage a planner to help us develop the congregation’s vision into one or more alternatives for a buildable plan. This would continue to be a participatory process with members of the congregation invited to offer input along the way.
Q. How can I join the conversation and stay involved?
A. There are a number of ways to be part of Imagine Incarnation:
1. Attend one of the in-person campus tours (register below) and/or watch the online campus tours here.
2. Attend the Congregation Conversations (register below).