The Rev. James F. Perra

 

A little background

Hi! I'm Jim, let's get acquainted...

1106 Woodheights Ave, Baltimore MD 21211

443.799.6723

mail@jamesperra.com

       

Ministry Portfolio

A little more about my experience and skills

Congregational Development

Church Growth

Every church is unique and the 21st century has brought many challenges to our traditional notions of what it means to be a church. Effective congregations will listen for the needs of the surrounding community and then discern how to reach out with love, courage, and authenticity. To do this, we need an ongoing process of building parish culture that can clearly articulate a vibrant mission, while remaining ready to welcome newcomers and adjust to the new gifts and needs they will bring.

Since my first seminary internship when I hosted a “bowl-a-thon” to raise funds to repair a broken furnace, I have been problem solving and learning ways that churches can use entrepreneurship and creativity to grow and sustain both resources and a robust, outward-looking, mission. I have practiced this in my own call and continue learning through programs like the Diocese of Olympia’s College for Congregational Development.

Slides:

  1. Celebrating Major Rogation day with a “Beating the Boundaries” 5k fun-run
  2. Partnering with a local animal rescue for a basket-bingo fundraiser
  3. More furry fun, bringing the “Blessing of the Animals” back to the park
  4. Journalist Kimberly Dozier leads an adult formation session in fall of 2014
  5. Bringing Maundy Thursday out into the community with “Foot-washing To Go”

Ministry with Young People

Youth

While something that has often been crowded out by my responsibilities as Rector, ministry with young people has been a passion and place of great learning for me. Much of my administrative and community systems training came through organizations and ministries focused on serving youth, and supporting them as they serve.

Since early adulthood I have worked with young people,  helping them to build their own  relationships with God, and to experience God in community with others. Outside of the church I have produced a theater program connecting high school age artists with emerging professionals, supervised student-run organizations for a residential arts program at Michigan State University, led alternative spring trips in the United States and Canada, and provided health services and special needs counseling at a YMCA camp. Within the church I have mentored youth delegates at diocesan conventions, been on staff for various camps, led a contingent at Episcopal Youth Event, been Chaplain for the Episcopal Service Corps, and worked several years on staff as a youth minister at a large urban parish.

Slides

  1. Delivering a Children’s Sermon
  2. Working at the Diocese of Western Michigan’s Episcopal Youth Camp
  3. “The Blessing of the Backpacks” at the Church of the Redemption
  4. Hosting Archbishop Desmond Tutu at an event at St. Paul’s Baltimore

Solidarity, Social Justice, and Service Learning

Outreach

We live in turbulent times, the world that we live in is both closer together than ever through new technologies and media, and further apart through racial and economic fracture. The Episcopal Church has a unique voice to offer into this wilderness. One that is first and foremost a voice of compassionate love, but also unafraid to articulate that love demands justice, sacrifice of privilege, and unflinching clarity about how systems of power support inequity.

My family, and my parish family growing up, gifted me with a strong desire to be an agent of change, connection, and justice. In my roles as an educator and as a pastor I have sought to provide people with opportunities to take healthy risks and have “close encounters” with those very different and differently privileged than themselves. I have attempted to use my own privilege to advocate for those with marginalized voices, to build bridges, and to help those with power take responsibility for how it is used.

Slides:

  1. At a direct-action campaign by Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD)
  2. Chaplain for the Maryland chapter of the Episcopal Service Corps
  3. “Ashes-to-Go” beginning Lent with commuters to Washington D.C.
  4. On a Habitat for Humanity mission trip with Episcopal Ministries at MSU
  5. Neighborhood clean-up with the Sixth Branch’s Operation Oliver
  6. Visiting a women’s AIDS clinic in Nicaragua during a study abroad learning about solidarity programs with developing countries

Creative and Performing Arts

Arts

My background in the arts has given me a deep understanding of how people relate to stories as they are presented through words, music, and all the senses. This has enabled me to create liturgy that is creative, cohesive, and meaningful, and to gently train participants to bring their best to worship, taking pride in our “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.”

I deploy this diverse skill set in everything from simple skits with youth groups, to creating public outreach events, and even using improv games based on the work of Viola Spolin to build connections between people of all ages, and to maintain a creative and playful environment in leadership meetings.

I began working behind the scenes in theatrical production when I was nine years old and have since carried a passion for the performing and creative arts that has added to my ministry in countless ways. While my call to ordained ministry came from many sources in my life, one of the most informative was the satisfaction I received from building a safe, supportive, loving, and creative community as the producer of a small theatre company. Over the years I have acted, run pyrotechnics, designed and implemented lighting, sung with a Capella groups, and directed; but the majority of my adult work has been in stage management and producing.

Slides:

  1. Lighting the new fire to begin the Great Vigil of Easter at the Church of the Redemption
  2. Acting in a production of “MacBeth” with the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre
  3. At the Locust Point festival, paling around with the local chapter of the 501st legion
  4. Producing Gull Lake Sumer Theatre’s “All in the Timing” for Gull Lake Community Schools

Formation for Leadership

Leadership

My priesthood has been in congregations facing existential challenges that have required bold changes to be sustainable. Leading communities to take a clear-eyed view of their resources, identities, and missions, and to respond with innovation and creative solutions has required constant intervention in family and community systems. Building the capacity for change, providing pastoral care to stakeholders, naming and celebrating the gifts and passions of a community, and communicating an inspiring vision are all parts of the process needed to keep many congregations vibrant in the 21st century. To do all of this while successfully living into the role of pastor, teacher, and sacramental leader requires clergy who can equip, empower, and trust the laity to build up their parishes and model healthy culture.

Before ordination my greatest growth as a leader was my five years serving as a paramedic with the Baltimore County Fire Department, leading small teams responding to medical emergencies, teaching students in the Emergency Medical Services, and acting as part of a large team with a common mission. Through lessons easy and hard I have learned that leaders must be authentic and invested in those they lead, while maintaining strong boundaries, follow through on commitments, and always remember that while a mission may come first, it is always built upon the healthy relationships of those involved.

Slides:

  1. Leading the Churches of Arbutus, Maryland on a Good Friday “Crosswalk for Social Justice”
  2. Attending the Diocese of Olympia’s College for Congregational Development
  3. Baltimore County Fire Department Station 11, Delta Shift group photo
  4. With some classmates in the Trinity College Chapel, the morning of graduation