At a time when church memberships are declining, St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Windham is expanding, growing and inviting the community to come celebrate with them. Starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 19, the family fun and activities start outside at the church on the corner of Windham Center Road and River Road.
“We want to celebrate all that God has done. It’s worthy of a party and a celebration,” said Rev. Tim Higgins.
St. Ann’s has been recognized by the prow window on the church, but in recent years it has been better known for the “ladybug playground” built in memory of one of the church’s youngest members.
“We have all new stuff going on,” said Higgins. New landscaping, courtesy of Grondin Construction, who has been working on River Road, provides a field for playing and additional space to expand the playground. “Mike has been a blessing to us,” said Higgins.
When Higgins became the rector for St. Ann’s the church began to grow. With the addition of a vibrant Sunday school program, more families joined and suddenly more space was needed.
The addition expanded the downstairs area of the church. There are two new classrooms, a new nursery and two new offices. There are also two handicap accessible bathrooms and the entire building was brought up to code with fire safety regulations.
“It was five years of planning. It’s been a long process,” said Higgins. In addition to the physical additions to the church, St. Ann’s is also revealing a new strategic plan, a new logo and a new website. There is also a new community program called “Living Compass” which is a program that addresses needs for a whole person.
“It’s in response to people craving more, Seeking, wholeness and wellness in all aspects of their lives,” said director of faith formation Emily Keniston. Keniston and two others spent three days in Chicago training to become “congregational wellness advocates.” “This will help people articulate where they’re doing well and where to pay attention. It’s beyond the scope of spirituality. It’s care for the body, vocational wellness, financial wellness and organizational planning,” Keniston said. The program is open to anyone in the community. There will be online academy classes, classroom setting classes and one time events. The classes are in six week sessions.
“All of the new stuff is about honoring who was are in a new and intentional way in our relationships with one another and with God,” Keniston said.
On Saturday, there will be a DJ, a bounce house, ice cream, face painting and a visit from Sparks’ Ark at 4 p.m. Visitors will also be invited to tour the new space and learn about the church community, if they wish.
“The kids will be excited about the fun and adults can come explore the space and talk with the ministers,” said Keniston.
“It’s not threatening,” said parishioner Robyn Dionne.
On Sunday, visitors are invited back to the church services at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. This will also be the opening of the Sunday school year and the beginning of the new youth group.
“We’re coming out of the need to know church differently. The old idea of church is stifling. That’s not what we are. We’re a vibrant, rich, deeply committed community,” said Keniston. “We had to reimagine a new way to be together to celebrate our God.”
St. Ann’s believes that churches have to compete with all of the other organizations and activities children are involved with. Society has changed, so St. Ann’s is changing to better meet the needs of the community. “We offer unique things kids can’t get in school,” Keniston said. The Sunday school program has 105 students registered as of the middle of August.
St. Ann’s is very kid friendly. From Vacation Bible School programs to playing on the playground, St. Ann’s has activities for the children so the mom’s and dad’s can enjoy church, according to Mike Dionne.
“You come as you are. We love you and we take you where you are,” said Keniston. The church is open. Some people dress up, some don’t. Children are never shushed and everyone bends over backwards to make people feel welcome, said Jamie Dickson.
“We want to be a resource center for people who worship here and beyond,” said Higgins.
“It’s the 21st century – Where do you put God in your life?” Dickson asked.
St. Ann’s can be found online at www.St.AnnsEpiscopalChurch.com, on Facebook, on Twitter @St.AnnsEpiscopal or call them at 892-8447.