“Jesus, … gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” –Matthew 28:18-20 (The Message)
As I write it is nearly one year to the day exactly that the dreaded “Polar Vortex” immobilized much of the Midwest and plunged our community into some of the coldest weather on record. This Polar Vortex will be especially memorable for our congregation as it caused pipes to freeze and burst in our narthex ceiling, necessitating a restoration of our narthex and sanctuary pews and flooring.
This was not our only challenge during that time. As you will remember, just a week or so prior to this flood we said goodbye to our long-time Secretary Penny. We had just had our annual meeting and our Council made a significant shift and change in leadership. And we had also recently buried a member of the congregation and would say goodbye to two more in quick succession.
It was a difficult time for our congregation to say the least. But it is interesting to reflect and take the long view one year later.
As I stated in my annual report, Saint Stephen has had a year filled with both challenge and blessing. It was not the 2019 we had expected and planned for. But when life takes turns and challenges God is faithful to show up. This is a promise. One Jesus gave to the very first disciples as he commissioned them after his death and resurrection to share the good news of his new life with the world and inviting others into faith. “I will be with you always.”
We managed the stress of the challenges we faced with grace and faith and did some powerful things in ministry. What we did not do was turn in on ourselves, or fight with each other, or wring our hands with pity. We learned about forgiveness. We were flexible and worshipped in our beautiful Fellowship Hall. We hired a new Office Administrator, Marley, who is helping our congregation’s mission as we grow! We declared God’s peace and love in this place and committed ourselves to sharing it in intentional ways. We attacked our mortgage debt. We welcomed people into our community, inviting them to be a part of the ways God is working in us and many of them will be joining our congregation early this year!
This is amazing! But not surprising at all. This is God’s Spirit at work in us here. By looking to God’s Spirit to guide and lead us we are becoming people who are not anxious and worried about the future of this particular congregation, but people who are leaning on God, trusting God and each other, looking to move outward in mission and welcome others to join us along the journey. We are trusting what God can do in us and through us and reflecting the light of Christ to the world. This is good news, indeed, people of God! I give thanks to God for you, for your faith, for your trust, and for the ways God will continue to walk with us as we listen for God’s Spirit in this new year—a new decade—our 55th anniversary year.
Thanks be to God!