2000 – Present
An Uncertain Future
In the early years of the new millennium, St. Michael’s was at a crossroads. For more than a decade, the Vestry had been exploring various building options that could sustain the steadily growing parish congregation. Up until 2002, the only options involved the development of the present church property. But in May, Fr. Moquin and the Vestry began considering a proposal of exchanging St. Michael’s present property for a location east of the freeway on Carlsbad Village Drive, across from the Cole Library. Additional income from the exchange could partly cover construction of a new, larger church campus.
At a special Vestry meeting on December 16, 2002, the Vestry had approved the proposal by a two-thirds majority, subject to a vote of church members. According to California State Law and consistent with Church Canon Law, the membership of the parish was required to play a role in the discernment process. Support among the congregation was mixed, and many members struggled to embrace such a move. There was considerable debate and emotion in the lead up to the vote in January 2003.
A San Diego Union-Tribune article describes how dissenting parishioners were “reluctant to be identified in print. But their passion spills out on the phone and in e-mails. These dissidents strongly believe the traditional location is more practical in terms of traffic while infinitely more beautiful. They wince at the desire for “bigger and better” that’s driving the decision to move. […] The tense church vote, pitting romantics against progressives, will be counted toward the end of the month.”
Following the ballot, the congregation was informed that the voters had decided not to sell, and would remain part of the cultural zone at the city’s northern gateway. St. Michael’s would remain “by the Sea.”
In the years following the vote, the church continued to develop plans for the construction of a larger church complex on the current property. The Property Development Commission completed all required architectural planning after presentations on the concepts were made to the parish in late 2007. However, this too would not come to fruition. After the economic instability of the Great Recession hit in 2008, all plans for a new church were put on hold indefinitely.
A Home by the Sea
Fr. Doran Stambaugh and Fr. Ivor Kraft both arrived at St. Michael’s in 2005. Fr. Doran was just beginning his priestly ministry. Fr. Kraft was just retiring from thirty years of parish ministry in San Diego.
Fr. Doran was called to be rector in 2013. Under his leadership and with Fr. Kraft putting aside the comforts of retirement, the congregation set out to advance the mission of the church once again. After many years of looking toward a future in other facilities, renewed attention was given to the current property. How could the historic inheritance of St. Michael’s be nurtured in a fresh way for a new generation?
In 2011, the Senior Warden Tony Vanaria presented some new vision goals in a St. Michael’s Resolution, that placed “a higher priority on the development of spiritually healthy and expanding congregation” over “the replacement of facilities.” Maintenance on the current campus, which had been deferred for many years, could no longer wait. Ginny Unanue and the Garden Guild removed overgrown trees and plants and re-beautified the campus. Holly Ordway led a makeover and expansion of the Library. The bookstore was reimagined and rebuilt as Village Books. The St. Michael’s Archives were formally established. In 2014, Becky Gleason was hired as Children’s Minister.
The Shine Steering Commission in 2013 led to the completion of three major remaining projects: the bell tower, church bathrooms, and the new church narthex. After years of planning and praying, the back wall of St. Michael’s church came down in October 2015. Lance O’Donnell from o2 Architecture in Palm Springs designed a new narthex, with a combination of pocketed sliding glass doors, and a movable screen to allow for a variety of configurations to accommodate security, airflow, light mitigation, and perhaps most significantly, open-air access and egress. This new narthex is an outward and visible sign of the spiritual mission of the community: to shine the light of Christ into the world. In a further effort to embrace the treasure of the Desert-Modern style church building, all communications and logos were rebranded with a nod toward modernism. Wendy Belt designed a new church logo, stylized after the iconic Canterbury cross, a distinguishing mark of Anglican identity.
Reinvesting at home also meant greater investment in the local Carlsbad neighborhood. St. Michael’s successfully applied for a grant from the Carlsbad Charitable Foundation to build Pickleball courts on the property. This new community resource made its debut in 2016.
In 2014, St. Michael’s began supporting the efforts of the Carlsbad Music Festival, first by sponsoring stages, and eventually serving as the festival hub and venue host of this inspiring local event. Founded in 2004 by composer Matt McBane, CMF strives to enhance Carlsbad as a cultural center and to program fresh and compelling music from established and emerging performers.
The last decade was also marked by a deepening relationship with Carlsbad By The Sea. This is partly thanks to the Rev. Chris Craig-Jones, whose recent diaconal ordination and upcoming ordination to the priesthood, is also a source of great joy to the parish.
As the 125th Anniversary Celebrations and this 2019 History Series have made clear, the story of the church is bound together in a common life with the people of Carlsbad.
St. Michael’s prays that it will endure long into the future.
Almighty God, whose loving hand hath given us all that we possess: Grant us grace that we may honor you with our substance, and, remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.