State of the Parish Address – November 18, 2012
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. It is my distinct privilege to preside over this annual meeting and share my thoughts on where we are at this point in time in this, my first, “State of the Parish” address.
When I am asked to describe an Episcopalian, my response is rather simple: If anyone wants to know what an Episcopalian looks like or what we believe, simply look at the people around you. We are a diverse community of Christians of all age groups and backgrounds; rich, poor, young and not so young, white and persons of color; and each of us has traveled unique journeys of faith in Jesus Christ that have led us to The Episcopal tradition that offers a challenging means of walking in the Way of Christ.
Both Pan and I are so very grateful that you called us to this glorious place with its beautiful valley and mountainside community, and to this parish of glorious and beautiful people who understand so very deeply our Lord Jesus Christ’s words that as we have done “to the least of these my brothers and sisters, so you have done to me:” that faith without works is no faith all. I continue to be amazed at your tenacity, as well as your dedication in seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving your neighbors as yourselves. I pray God that such devotion will continue in every heart.
This has been quite a year of continuing mission and ministry in the midst of change for this parish. You bid farewell to John and Kay Shields who had served you faithfully as your interim Rector. Then Pan and I arrived here on May 28 th to begin ministry with you at the start of the summer while at summer’s end, we bid farewell to Jim and Muriel Moore who had also served so faithfully here. And in the midst of these changes, mission and ministry continued in your midst: from the teams who worked tirelessly in advance of, and throughout, the week of our towel ministry; to the weekly ministry of the Altar Guild, flower arrangers, ushers, greeters, oblationers, lectors, Sunday School teachers and Adult Education presenters. From the daily administrative tasks capably handled by Kathy Williams, to those who helped with mailings or compiling our weekly service leaflets; to our housekeepers Dale and Debbie who work so hard to ensure our facility is clean and ready for use each week; to the ECW that once again, planned and executed a mind boggling Annual Rummage Sale in the midst of a record heat wave; from our choir and music ministry led by the seemingly tireless Elaine Kallestad to the unique musical styles and offerings of so many at St. John’s, not to mention Lynn Thompson’s excellent work with the summer concert series; from the daily prayers of our Daughters of the King and the daily ministry of the Mission and Outreach Committee to our weekly gatherings of the recently reformed Cub Scout troop; to our Vestry that faithfully lived into their responsibilities led so well by our Senior Warden, Francis Pressly. And in the midst of these events and activities, regular gatherings for potluck suppers, welcome and farewell receptions, seemed to come together with ease. And let’s not forget the Conference Center. We are grateful that they are such an important part of this community and an abiding presence here in mutual ministry. This congregation is incredible! The Valley Country Fair blew me away : it is difficult to find the words to describe my wonder at how so much could be done by such a small congregation and with such a huge community impact. All I can say is, “Well done.” (And be sure to place your orders now for Father’s Fudge!)
This was also a year of farewells some by the deaths of beloved members of this parish and others who simply moved away. Our grief on these occasions was and continues to be very real and yet, we are encouraged by new people who are coming each week and coming back; some of whom we will welcome as new members in January, just as we have also welcomed new Christians through the rites of Baptism and Confirmation. Change always seems to be around us and yet, as life unfolds – both the sad and the thrilling changes of life – we have held firmly to our faith. I thank you for your commitment to Christ and your commitment to make a difference in the lives of each other and in our communities. I am honored to be a part of this family and community of faith.
Change is always something that requires adjustment. To that end, if there is anything about our ministries, worship services, or education programs that trouble you or about which you might have some ideas for improvement or just want to change, please, please speak to me directly. “Mind reading” is not one of my gifts! And so, especially in this first year together when new things are being tried out (and I’ll be the first to admit that some just haven’t worked out or need to be re-thought), it is important that we not triangulate, but rather, as our Lord commanded, we speak directly to one another. As many of you have discovered, I will pretty much try anything or do anything (including riding on a July 4 th parade float) that will draw people to this parish and to enrich their experience of Christ in our midst. I welcome your suggestions, ideas, and feedback.
As we move forward into 2013, I hope that we will find ways to grow in ministry together. I believe that parishes flourish through (1) spiritually uplifting worship, (2) sermons that challenge us to live into what it means to be called a Christian, (3) mind stimulating Christian Education classes, (4) opportunities for meaningful fellowship especially among our new comers and younger families, and (5) opportunities for practical service that reflects a commitment to mutual ministry.
Therefore, it is my hope that we will explore opportunities to worship in ways similar that which we experienced on election night when we gathered for quiet prayer and will gather again this Wednesday night in thanksgiving: Simple, spoken services immersed in prayer and quietness that draw us closer together in union with God in Christ and will help us to discern our future paths. We will look to expand our Adult Christian Education offerings, just as we will continue to explore opportunities to partner and share activities for our youth and children with St. Mary’s of the Hills and St. Luke’s parishes.
I look forward to working with you to explore your own spiritual gifts and discern together how your gifts might be used more fully in mutual ministry, meaningful fellowship and service within this parish. I am so pleased that so many have expressed interest in serving as Eucharistic Visitors and we are exploring the feasibility of establishing in this next a Community of Hope program or Stephen’s Ministry here that brings communion to the shut ins and offers pastoral support to those in need. The reality is that the opportunities to make an impact on the quality of life for our neighbors and each other are endless. I invite you – I urge you – to prayer asking what God might be directing you to do in this coming year.
I began this address by describing an Episcopalian. I would like to conclude by describing my perception of the members of Holy Cross. Again, my answer is simple: look around you; see the diversity of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, financial means, age, and political ideas. What you see is the transforming power of the Holy Spirit that can and continues to work within us and change each one of us reshaping us into the image of Christ whom we are called to follow and represent at all times. Last week’s gospel lesson told the story of a poor widow who exemplified the Christian mandate to live, love, and give sacrificially. She is a fitting image for who we are because that is how I have experience you. You live; you love; and you give not only sacrificially, but intentionally because you believe, as I believe, that is what following Jesus Christ is all about.
As we begin this new year together with all its plans and, no doubt, all its surprises for which cannot plan, let us remember that our faith and witness, and all that we do, is never about us, but to the glory of God whom we know as our Father through Jesus Christ who has redeemed us and marked us as his own forever and whose cross we wear on our hearts.
Thank you and May the Peace of the Lord be always with you.
Let us pray: Gracious Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth and with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it. Father, it is your will that all should come to you through your Son Jesus Christ. Inspire our witness to him, that through our words and actions, everyone we encounter may know the power of your forgiveness and the hope we share in Christ’s resurrection. We ask all this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Now, go in peace to love and serve the Lord!