2015 Annual meeting and the rector’s report

The Rector’s Annual Report 2015 (for calendar year 2014)

Gospel reading is Mark 1:14-20

Today you are invited …
Into the story of life of Jesus Christ
Into the story and life of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church

Jesus, in the gospel of Mark, gives us the invitation:
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news…. Follow me. Follow me.”

The message to us is clear. The kingdom of God has come near. It is near you and I at the time of Jesus walking the earth in his humanity, and it is near us now. Our response to the presence of the kingdom is to repent, to believe in the good news – that is the gospel message of Jesus Christ, and to follow that Christ.

How do we follow Jesus?
You have in your hands one piece and one version of how we follow Jesus at St. Peter’s, or how we did so in 2014. Many of our committees and commissions have shared a bit of their story: who they are, what they have done, and what their hopes and goals are for 2015. Please take this home, read through it, ask questions, join in. What speaks to your faith, your heart, your gifts? What looks like it needs you to “straighten it out” or strengthen the effort? Good, good, then do that. What might challenge you in a new way? Well, do that. Consider how you are called to be part of the church and in the form of discipleship in which Jesus said, “Follow me.”

Maybe you have a need or desire to find some quiet time and pray. You don’t have to do that alone if you do not choose to. We have people who uphold this community in prayer, from those living and with us and all the saints who have gone before us. We are invited into that great cloud of witnesses. You can pray with a weekly prayer group, with the Daughters of the King, at the beginning of meetings, in worship, in these pews at almost any time.

I encourage you not only to look over these reports, written, gathered, formatted, and put together by many hands, but to pray with them, and then enter in wherever you are called.

No year is perfect, and 2014 was no exception. I am sure that my leadership has disappointed some; even the best relationships face challenges. We ask almost weekly for those things which we have done and those things which we have left undone, turning our humanity over to God. If there are concerns that you are holding within, please come see me so that we might work together in discernment, prayer, wisdom, and forgiveness. These are conversations that take place in healthy communities. We have had such conversations at St. Peter’s, and for those I am thankful. The mutual support that has developed is helping us move forward in many, many positive ways. The vestry has worked together and matured in a powerful way. We spent some time celebrating one another, and are looking forward to the new members who will join the conversation. In all things, I give thanks.

We face deep financial concerns. I am working very hard to follow Bishop’s Singh’s advice in that area: delegate the worry. Delegate the worry to the capable hands of the Finance Committee, who provide us with ongoing analysis and council. Pray. Pray fiercely to the Holy Spirit to show us our call and to be with us in adversity. Pray with me, please, daily, for our church. Here are some of the questions that we face:

Are we called to be a congregation in this building? Then we need to care for the building, from covering the insurance to having heat, water, electricity, and a safe building, top to bottom, inside and out. We may need to make the building work for us through rental income if that is the way that we choose to sustain life here. Or we need to continue – that’s right, continue – growth in the number of parishioners we need who together can sustain a building, a rector, and a small staff. We do have new families at St. Peter’s. Teens. Kids. Older folks. We need to get to know one another, to open our arms to embrace our growing family. We pray together. Let’s talk and share meals, hikes, movies, and the movement of the Spirit in our lives. We have so much to offer, and at the center, always at the center is Jesus saying “follow me.”

There are challenges other than financial, of course. I am honored to walk with people through many crises, including those of faith. We have lost friends to distance, illness, misunderstandings, and death. Even positive changes might throw us off balance. The addition of a new baby, a child growing up way too quickly, moving back home or leaving for school. There’s the new job, the wedding, the puppy, music lessons, and life gets a little – or a lot – off kilter.

We might ask ourselves on a regular basis: what now will we do?

There is great news at our very core. We are not just another gathering, just another group. In saying that Jesus is at our center is THE claim that sets us apart from any other group or community to which we belong. This is Jesus, who surprised us and came in a manger, who calls us away from “the same old thing,” who turns over the tables at the temple when we have fallen way off track. This is Jesus who offers us healing, acceptance, transformation and resurrection. New life.

What now will we do? What is the next chapter of our story?
We strive to strengthen the faith of all people as we share the good news of Christ’s unconditional love through prayer, study, worship and service—responding courageously and compassionately to the needs and hopes of the world around us.
That is St. Peter’s mission statement. It is right on track when we need to answer the “what now will we do” question.

We can strengthen one another’s faith: by showing up and worshiping together. In a very real way, we say the prayers with and for each other. Some days I find it hard to pray. At those times, I know that you will pray the words for me. Let us, let me, do the same for you. That’s how we build a faith community. When your neighbor is sick, take them soup. Walk their dog; bring in the mail. Call them and say hello. When you haven’t seen someone in church? Yep. Reach out. Call them … because a funny thing happens when that first call is from the priest. Someone who was sick now thinks that they’re dying; someone whom we’ve missed is covered in guilt. No – we missed you! Let each other know how important we are to one another.

Prayer, study, worship, and service … being courageous and compassionate. That is what we’ve said that we’ll do; that is how we have defined ourselves. What a wonderful mission to follow in the name of Jesus Christ.

I made a vow over six years ago, to be pastor, priest, and teacher in Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. Pastor, priest, and teacher. I promise to continue in the fulfillment of that vow; it is a lifetime’s work. The book of Ephesians further defines a priest’s role, and that is to equip the saints for ministry. The saints? That’s all of us. The ministry? That’s ours, too, so we are in this together – thanks be to God.

I will prayerfully continue to learn and to teach that stewardship is something that we do all the time with all of ourselves, and that we give in order to turn over those “temple tables” in our lives. We give in order to put ourselves in a place in which Jesus Christ might transform us. We give not just money, but of all of ourselves. What did Jesus say? Watch me? No. Observe and analyze? No. Stop by sometime? No. Follow me. Now.

St. Peter’s is a Spirit-filled, welcoming, and holy place. Let’s not be distracted by the challenges that we face; rather, let’s be inspired and transformed in Christ who said then and says today,

Repent, believe in the good news; follow Jesus. It is a story in which we have a part. It is a story of love, of new life, and without end.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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