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Sharing the Vision

1/23/2012

Sharing the Vision

People sometimes have a hard time grasping the nature of a church congregation. We are like many other entities one might be a member of. We are like a non-profit corporation, we are like a civic group, like Kiwanis or rotary, we are like a social club, (not one of my favorite analogies.) We are like a movement. We are like any group or community of people. I wish I could say we take the very best of those and that is us, but sometimes some of the worst of those analogies also make it in. So let me try to distill for you a bit of my understanding of who we are and what we are about.

 

We are about people in need. We are about our members who are in need; pastoral, financial or other. And we are about the stranger who is in need. We may not be able to fully solve a problem, but we can help, we can care and we can walk with you.

 

We are about trying to understand the teachings of Jesus and to apply them to our lives. So we read mark and inwardly digest the Gospels and other books of the Bible. We help one another to interpret the events of our lives and events in the world in light of those teachings.

 

We are about helping people live into the fullness of their potential. We do this by celebrating life and by helping people discover and live into their passions.

 

We do all this by strengthening or relationship with God through Christ and by strengthening our relationship with one another.

 

We believe church should be fun and relevant. Relevant is very important. I see Jesus in the gospels asking people, “What do you want from me?” Our church is not defined by some preconceived notion of church but church is defined by the people who are here now. We want to know what you are seeking? What you are needing? What are you hoping for?

 

A pillar of our identity is our commitment to be a welcoming congregation, welcoming of all people. I am thankful for people who point out when we fall short and I am thankful for those who help us excel at this. Our church has built a culture of welcoming. People ask me how we did that and I have pondered it some. I think over the years the vestry gets the credit for making this a welcoming place. At some point the vestry began to see their vestry person of the day duties less as a duty and more as a ministry, a ministry of hospitality and it spread from there. We did it also by paying attention to details. Being careful about the wording of signs and announcements, doors being propped open, wearing stick on nametags rather than permanent ones that make clear who is old and who is new. For this to be a really welcoming place is for each of us to be ready to greet the stranger as well as our friends. And we need to be ready to forgive those who forget our names.

 

I’m very excited about some of the things that are coming this year and I just want to highlight a few. Kevin has been doing a great job in our music ministry and has empowered a whole host of people who share their gifts and who help lead our worship. New this year will be a piano recital featuring our young people. I keep thinking Dianne has brought our Sunday school to the absolute peak of its potential but every year it gets better. The team approach of trying to have four teachers for every grade fell just short of being fully staffed. This spring Dianne and Jennifer are collaborating to organize a children’s consignment sale. Parents will be able to sell and buy good used clothes for their kids. Jennifer has done a fine job with our youth and with developing leadership for our youth ministry. The youth of this church are a great group of people. This year we have nominated Malcolm who is a sophomore for the vestry and Stephen DelSordo who is a senior is one of our delegates to Diocesan council and will also be a delegate to the special session of council to elect our new suffragan bishop. This summer we will again have our middle school youth mission week, Making it Better. And a Senior youth mission trip. The youth are also focused on a 2013 mission trip to Belize.

 

This coming year I want to focus on some building upgrades on the first floor. New carpet, the kitchen and the back hallway Bathrooms. There will be no changes made to the heater in the women’s room. Depending on how much we do in the kitchen the total cost will probably be $20 to $30,000. Where will the money come from? (I’m not sure.)

 

Also in the coming year I am looking forward to my sabbatical. Actually my contract calls for a six month sabbatical every 6 years. My only previous sabbatical was in 1996 for three months and we were not sufficiently organized or staffed to totally free me from parish responsibilities. There are a number of reasons I have not fully taken my sabbatical time. One of the major ones is that it is, in my view, an almost excessive perk. And I very much understand some of the sentiment I heard, when last year we started talking about sabbatical time and when Vinnie took her sabbatical last summer. Some of what I heard was along the lines of why do the clergy get that. It sure would be nice if I got that. I sight all this not to say that I carry a burden of guilt about taking a sabbatical no I sight it in order to say I carry an extreme gratitude. We received a very generous Lily grant that will make some travel and other things possible. The Lily foundation is very clear that the grant is made to the parish. It is because the parish is meant to benefit from my time away. (I don’t know if I like how that sounds.) The parish is meant to benefit by my coming back renewed and refreshed. And the parish is meant to engage intentionally in some processes while I am gone. You will be hearing more about that in the future. Again thank you.

 

Let me just close by stealing a little of the treasurers message. In 2011 we fell only $18,000 short of funding our budget from contributions. That is probably the best we have done in 25 years. That short fall was made up with $10,000 of cash on hand at the end of 2010 and $8,000 drawn from our assets. We need a 10% growth spurt in members and in giving and we are at a balanced budget.  I want you to know I will not take it personally nor be offended if that growth happens in a year when I am gone for a third of the year.

 

I thank you each and every one for all you do. 2011 was a great year and 2012 is off to a great start. 

 

Stuart+


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