Rev. Alex has a lot to tell us in this fall letter!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I have a lot of very different things to communicate all at once. I guess that’s what long letters and short subheadings are for. Here we go!
As I write, we’re over halfway through our series from the book of Joel. A book that is so spectacularly unpopular that not one of us in the room last Sunday could remember ever having heard a sermon, let alone a series, from it (me included).
Perhaps we can see why. With page after page of lament, it’s been tough going at times. But I believe it’s important to enter difficult seasons as a church, because if we don’t learn how to express our feelings to God in front of one another, then our worship will lack depth, and our community will lack honesty too.
Sensing an increasing desire to be a community like this, Ben has been working on several new home groups (on our website, you’ll see that Bridget has created a new section where you can find out more about all our small groups and sign up). Between our new home groups, and the existing men’s and women’s groups, we now have over 100 members actively engaged in a small group of some kind, and in addition to that, our MOPS ministry is launching two new groups as well. As I write we’ve also just celebrated our annual Fall Festival, which again was entirely planned by volunteers and was a great success.
Advent & Christmas
This Advent is another great opportunity to grow in connection with the church.
On the first and fourth Sundays, our Advent choir will be leading worship. It’s amazing how many people have signed up already. On the second Sunday in Advent, we’ll be celebrating “Bacon Sunday”: an ancient tradition that dates all the way back to last week, when we installed a new commercial stove in the church kitchen. As well as the usual coffee, the men of the Vestry will be serving 150 breakfast muffins, so come to church hungry in both a spiritual and physical sense that day. On the third Sunday in Advent, we’ll be singing carols around the piano after each service and enjoying the enormous blessing of being this body in this beautiful space.
On Christmas Eve we’ll have two joyful, family friendly services at 4pm and 6 pm and on Christmas Day there will be one very short, simple, service of Holy Communion at 9am from the 1662 prayerbook.
Speaking of Communion, when the pandemic broke, we started serving in the safest way we could, using pre-sealed cups of “bread” and “wine”. They were brilliant in their time, but this was always a temporary measure and I think most of us no longer see the need.
In consultation with the Bishop, the Vestry has asked Ben and me to return to something much closer to what we used to do. That means in the coming weeks we’ll be returning to one cup of wine (it’s really port) and an open plate of bread. We won’t be allowed to drink from the cup, which might even be a relief to many reading this, but we can dip our bread into it, as most chose to do before the pandemic.
Our practices at the table are often a compromise of sort. Except for Maundy Thursday, nothing we do is really all that like the noisy, interactive, and intimate meal of the early church. I also know that many of you disliked the wafers that we used to use, and so the wardens and I have been experimenting with some other options. After a pretty extensive test, wafers remain by far the easiest choice, but we are going to try a couple of different things this week and solicit your views before a final decision. After that, we’ll choose the best type of bread we can find that will not fall to bits in the cup.
As always, if anyone requires a gluten free or alcohol free, or individual cup, all you’ll need to do is ask at the rail, just like you do right now, and if you’d like to take communion home to someone who was unable to be with us in person, please simply ask at the rail.
This time of year, we make a lot of announcements about the church budget, which Niki, Bridget, and the Vestry finalize over Christmas.
One of the exciting challenges of increased membership, attendance, involvement, and vulnerably is a corresponding desire for more pastoral ministry, discipleship, prayer, and opportunities to serve and we’d love to meet that need.
Things are going well, and we’re excited about the possibility of adding to our pastoral team and increasing our mission work to include something overseas next year. I’ll share more details about our hopes and vision for 2023 around Thanksgiving, and if you are able to plan your giving for the year ahead, responding to the messages Niki sends out at that time will be the most helpful thing you can do.
Your giving represents over 90% of our church income and we cannot care for the employees of the church or the operation of it, let alone plan to do more, without knowing what you hope to give.
Buildings & Grounds
Finally, this is a good time to let you know that the Vestry and staff team continue to look carefully at our facility and our needs for the future. In 2022 we’ve taken care of more deferred maintenance, largely using old, restricted reserves and surpluses from previous years. Next year we hope to repave all our roads and parking lots, again using existing reserves. We’ll also share a vision to renovate the Sanctuary and Parish Hall, improving accessibility, temperature control, lighting, sound, and technology in two key spaces, both of which are long overdue for some work.
As we’ll be raising funds for that, the Vestry thought you’d like to know now as you plan your giving for 2023 but they asked me to make it clear our priority remains the regular running of the church.
We are in good shape. With many things to celebrate, we’re seeing the green shoots of revival in a time of crisis because God is good and you are increasingly committed to this gospel community.
I cannot wait for our Annual Meeting in January when we’ll celebrate these things in much more detail, and doubtless consume even more bacon (vegetarian options will be available)!
With all my love in Christ,