January 27, 2013
The Rev. Kate Ekrem
In my last parish, the rector’s address at annual meeting was called “The State of the Parish Address” as parallel, of course, to the president’s State of the Union address that he delivers about this time of year when he’s not getting inaugurated. The president always says, “the state of the union is strong” and I can definitely say, the state of the parish is strong!
In fact, Frank our treasurer was saying at vestry last week, there’s never been a better time to invest your time and energy in Redeemer. Although come to think of it I think Frank was talking about investing money, he is the treasurer after all. But whatever it is you have to invest, Frank was making the point that we are in a good position, now to give many returns on whatever investment you make. Because of the strength and energy and love in this community, whatever you put in, you are going to get out many times over. And whatever we put in this year, we are going to get back twentyfold and a hundredfold.
You’ve probably heard many times by now that our vestry goals for this year were around building up thechurch: building up new leaders, building community, and working on our building. All that happened in spades. As George will detail when we go downstairs, we had many new leaders step up and get involved. We’ve got five new faces and voices in the choir. We had a few new groups form with the purpose of fellowship and fun, notably the Redeeming Knitters who did an amazing job knitting hats for the Grow Clinic and the Dinner for Eight social event which has helped people get to know each other better. Our Tuesday night EfM group is has also grown and we’ll probably have two groups in September, because we have so many people who are willing to give up one night each week to further their Christian study and journey. We also have a new group, the church community team, which is seeking to makes sure each and every member of Redeemer feels connected to our parish life and no one “falls through the cracks.” I’m amazed and impressed by the number of folks who have volunteered to be part of this team because making everyone feel a part of things is very important to them. On top of all that we have many new families, and our pledges, one measure of church health and growth, have gone from 94 to 101, an impressive increase. I want to really thank the 16 families and individuals who pledged for the first time, that is a really significant and important commitment to this community.
I can say the state of this parish is strong, because I hear every week, every day, people talking about how they are living out their faith and how they are sharing their faith, and how their faith makes them want to reach out to others. I look out at you, and think, what an amazing group of people. You really are. I notice people from different generations, who would seem to have little in common, being friends who give each other hugs and support. I hear about how when someone is sick, others show up at their doorstep with food and care, and I see the kindness and love with which you reach out to strangers. Lives are being changed here.
I think a lot about the future of the church, not just this church, but our wider church. This is a time of death and resurrection for mainline churches. The old is falling away, many churches are failing and closing. But we are growing. The seeds of what’s next for the church, the seeds of new life and resurrection, are here at Redeemer. I think we may have something to share.
That new life, those seeds might be things like:
· * Worship that engages all ages and is truly the work of the people (which is what the word liturgy means). Our Liturgy teams are in my opinion the best thing since sliced bread, and really engage all ages and help us do worship together, not just watch a performance which is what makes worship sort of dead.
· * An awareness that everything we do is about relationships and community, not necessarily the task at hand. You don’t join a committee just because you like fixing fire alarm systems or cleaning coffee pots, you join because you want to meet people and make friends, and be part of a community that’s doing something useful and important. Every committee in this church, even the ones that might seem to be purely functional, is really about community, is a church in miniature where people pray and learn and care for others.
· * A third seed is real acknowledgment and commitment to the ministry of the laity. I’m defining ministry here in the EFM way, which is “anything a Christian does in relation to other persons”, that’s ministry. You know you are the ministers of the church; you are God’s hands and heart in the world. Church then becomes a place where you get support and coaching and resources for your ministry in the world.
· * And these things feed into the fourth seed, which is living our faith beyond these walls. Being part of a Christianity that’s not just about believing certain things but living in a certain way, being on the Jesus Way. And that means real mission that changes us, that leads us on a spiritual journey where we meet the other and meet God, that opens our eyes and our hearts to what’s going on outside our own sphere, and that changes our world and really makes a difference in the life of another human being.
None of this is new to Redeemer. You’ve been doing it and growing it for decades.
What does the new year hold? Your newly elected vestry will be working on next steps and priorities when they meet for a retreat two weeks from today. But I imagine they’ll continue the good works that are already going on:
· *That you’ll see amazing changes in the Great Hall this fall. The Great Hall team is going full speed ahead.
· That we’ll continue the conversation about how we want to update our building to keep up with our growing ministry and mission and vision for the future
· * That you’ll continue to see growth in our atriums and classrooms, meaning we need more space and more adult mentors and leaders. This year we added one new Atrium for a total of three, we actually could use four for the number of kids we have now and we’re still growing.
· * That we’ll do an even better job of making every individual member of our congregation feel connected, cared about, and engaged in ministry as our church community team continues its work.
· * We plan to have a workshop in the spring to support lay ministry, with orientation for newer members and training in leadership and ministry for everyone. April 28 is the date to mark on your calendar, more news to come on that.
· * That we’ll see more fun and fellowship in more small groups like Dinner for 8, redeeming knitters, and EFM.
· *There is a need to train more people in pastoral care and outreach so we can keep taking care of each other.
· *And I know that all of this will continue to feed into our serving the least of these in the world, and we’ll continue to deepen and grow as we get to know our mission partners from Honduras to Boston to Waltham to Laurence better and form new partnerships in places like Columbia or elsewhere
So, the state of our parish is strong. In fact, I think I’m saying I think this Redeemer community is pretty amazing. Do you agree? Ok, then, I have one thing to ask of you this year. If you think this group of people is pretty amazing, bring a friend to meet them. Bring a friend to church this year. It doesn't have to be on a Sunday morning, maybe bringing them to help with Habitat or on a youth group outing, or to help with the Patriot’s Day breakfast, or to one of Bill Fortier’s presentations would be better. But bring someone, just one person. You probably know someone who needs a community like this, who maybe needs some of God’s love in their life. If everyone here does that, with just one person, imagine how many lives we could change, how many people we could help. Our community doesn't exist just for us. It exists for everyone, for those out there, too.
Our collect for the day today I think sums this all up pretty well, in its old fashioned words. Let’s pray together.
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ, and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and all the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.