Annual Meeting Thoughts

On January 18, 2009 by saintlukesgresham

by Reverend Jennifer Creswell

St. Luke's Episcopal ChurchBelow is the outline of Reverend Jennifer’s comments at the annual meeting today, for those of you who weren’t there or those of you who may want to revisit them.

•We’ve come this far by faith. Like the hymn. By faith, we’ve asked what needs doing. By faith, we’ve done what needs doing. Thank you for trusting me.

•Our journey this past year makes me think of the labyrinth. We are asking the hard questions with an open mind and heart. We are walking a path together. Like the labyrinth, we don’t know when we’ll come to a turn or a straight place. We don’t know when we’ll reach the center. We can’t compare ourselves to others on the path because we don’t have any idea where they are in relation to us. We know what we’re after—what’s in the center—Christ. We don’t know how we’ll get there. We don’t try to force anything into the experience, we just go. It’s not a blind walk, but it’s a faith walk because we trust that we’ll make it where we’re bound. Along the path we’ve had our stumbles and falls. We’ve lost friends who were on the path with us. There has been hurt, there has been conflict. We’ve lost our way sometimes and gotten sidetracked by other things. But God is good. The path stretches before us with God at the center and Christ by our side. Along the way we’ve found new friends, resurrected old relationships, healed, reconciled, learned new things about ourselves, seen a new face of God. We are growing in God and in each other.

•Don’t want to talk a lot about numbers, but they are looking good. Realistically, churches need numbers to grow in ministry and outreach. We are looking at growth not as a goal and necessity, but as a side effect of our commitment to follow Christ in all we do. We trust that, by asking what God wants us to do, and by doing it as well as we can, we create—with God—the relational community that people are seeking.

•Part of our following God into this unknown territory is listening to God’s call for radical welcome and hospitality. We know we live in a world full of spiritual hunger. We believe God is in relationship with all people (vision statement), and for some, that relationship is in the hunger and seeking phase. We are following God’s call to be God’s love in the world. We are following God’s call to make available the resources for people to nurture their relationship with God. For people who have never had a religious experience, and for some people who have hadbad religious experiences, church isn’t necessarily a place they want to go. But they still have spirits that long for God. I see part of our mission as offering tools for people to connect with God—not necessarily in the ways we do and the ways we always have, but in ways that are real and meaningful for them. The labyrinth and its programs and literature are part of this effort. The labyrinth is an outreach tool that offers a peaceful, quiet place where people can let go of burdens and connect with God in nature. Many of the things we do in our Sunday services are part of this effort. Elements of the service are aimed at making church more accessible to those who are unfamiliar with church worship. I welcome everyone to communion. I try to explain what we’re doing in the service as we go along. We are working on a bulletin that explains more of what we do, and why. We greet folks at the door to welcome them and answer questions. Our outreach is part of this effort. When we send food or money outside the walls of St. Luke’s, or go out to visit someone who is sick, we are taking our mission on the road, going into the world to share what God means to us. I believe that if it is God’s will, and if we continue to nurture our community in relationship with God, each other, and our neighbors, and we continue our efforts at radical welcome, we will continue to see growth at St. Luke’s. We’ve seen good growth this year. Growth in spiritual health and vitality. New lectionary groups, Sunday school classes—doubled. New music and liturgical resources used and embraced. Loving care for our facilities as resources for ministry. Far from crumbling, we have top-notch building and grounds in great working condition. We look to use our facilities more as a resource for ministry in future. Family worship services. New vestry members. New healing team members. New convention delegates. New music director. New people joining. Old people coming back. These are the hopeful signs I see. And when I look into the future, I see more.

•My wish for lectionary groups is that they continue and grow so more of us are reading scripture in community, more of us are a reading the living Word in each other’s lives. My wish for Sunday school is that we find new ways to nourish and support our teachers. Also, that we find the resources for a Godly Play program. My wish for liturgical and musical resources is that we try some new kinds of worship—new prayers, new ways of reading scripture, new ways of singing, resources from Iona, Taize. That we try new kinds of worship services. That we build into our communal repertoire music that is lively, simple, and God-filled. My wish for our building and grounds? Make them look welcoming. They are beautiful and functional, but I see potential for inspirational beauty in plantings around the church—this is already happening, I see iris bulbs appearing; in new paint in the sanctuary, in the use of our sacred space as the background for sacred art—banners, paintings, photographs, sculpture, art from nature. My wish for family worship is that we start to have these services more often, eventually every Sunday. Coupled with adult ed. and children’s Christian ed, this is what communal worship is about.

•We are seeing growth, and there is so much potential for further growth at St. Luke’s. As we grow, each new face in congregation expands our vision in new ways. God speaks to us as a whole in each new individual who is part of this community. Our ministry goals grow and change as we do. We read a Living Word, we worship a living God, and our relationship with God is living and changing. I thank you all, personally, for walking the path with me, for working with me in ministry and trusting me to lead St. Luke’s. You all enrich and bless me tremendously. Now we open the floor for discussion.

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