As most of you are aware, I am a Downton Abbey fan. Alas, this is the sixth and final season of that venerable Masterpiece Theater costume drama. A few more episodes left and then, ces’t fini. Overall, despite some critics’ panning the past few seasons, Downton is a wonderful series. From the grand setting of Highclere Castle, to the drama between the upstairs landed-gentry and the downstairs servants, from the fabulous costumes and the amazing dinner parties, to loves un-requited and sometimes a bit too requited, Downton Abbey is a mesmerizing, entertaining glimpse into a world gone by; a perfect way to end a Sunday.
More than anything else, I will miss the droll and priceless witticisms of Maggie Smith’s character, the Dowager Countess and Lord Grantham’s mother. No one portrays the snooty British aristocracy better than Dame Smith. The good news is that I can engage in eternal reruns of the show, for I will soon own the entire DVD series!
Of all the plots and sub-plots Downton creator Julian Fellowes has presented in six seasons, the over-arching one has been how change impacts humans both on the macro and the micro levels. Of all the changes portrayed, the biggest and most disturbing one was that of the status of the British aristocracy, a venerable institution that ruled Great Britain for many centuries and which, in the period between the two World Wars, saw its decline from being
Of all the changes portrayed, the British aristocracy, a venerable institution that ruled Great Britain for centuries, saw its status decline from being all-powerful movers and shakers in government and society (as well as being obscenely wealthy) to being marginalized and on the fringes of a rapidly-changing society.
Downton has notably shown us how those from the pinnacles of power have fallen from forces beyond their control, compelled to share their power with commoners – and at times to relinquish it altogether. More importantly, Downton shows that to survive, the aristocracy were compelled to either reinvent themselves (and their role in society) or become extinct.
This change of role and status in society and the ability to adapt is what Downtown Abbey has portrayed so vividly. For some characters like Lady Mary, Lady Edith and Tom Branson, this seismic change has been met with pragmatism and even with relish. For other characters like Mr. Carson, Lord Grantham and Mr. Barrow, well… not so much. As the old ways change and slip away like grains of sand between their fingers, they meet the future with reluctance, trepidation and fear of the unknown.
Why am I describing Downton Abbey’s plot and details to you at this Annual Meeting’s State of the Parish address? The sea of change that impacted early 20th Century Britain and her institutional life distinctly parallels what is happening in the 21st Century Church. Downton Abbey is an object lesson for us, offering valuable information and compelling us to decide how we can engage the rapidly-changing culture and society we encounter daily in 2106.
As George Santanyana famously observed, “Those who cannot remember [or ignore] the past are condemned to repeat it.”
What can the Downton Abbey saga teach us? Like the enormous changes in the culture and society that toppled the established institutions of Britain from their vaunted positions of power and authority 100 years ago, the institutional church (and all other institutions as well) is being toppled from our position of authority, power and respect – a position we’ve held in this country for over 200 years.
The Episcopal Church no longer sits at the pinnacle of American society. It is no longer the church of the wealthy and powerful. It is no longer the Republican Party at Prayer.
Christ Church is no longer a parish of 2,000 members. Those disaffected by the church see participation in institutional religion as unimportant and not the least bit rewarding toward nurturing a spiritual, moral or ethical life in any meaningful way.
Just as in the beginning of the 20th Century, there are myriad forces at play that have caused this shift in our status and perceived decline. Go do a Google search of the word none. You will discover that a none is not a woman religious in a black habit; it is someone who is a result of the current sea of change in religion’s (and the church’s) status in our culture. A none, by the way, is someone who, when asked what their religious affiliation is, replies “none.” This doesn’t mean they are not spiritual or desire a relationship with God; they just don’t see doing that in an institution as necessary or of value.
While it is critical to clearly understand WHAT is happening in the culture that has caused (and will continue to cause) all this change, HOW we respond to these changes is truly critical. HOW we respond to the forces at work will determine HOW we will move into the future and become the new creation God is calling us to be. That’s the crux of the Downton Abbey object lesson: HOW.
Will we look backwards, ruing the swift and unsettling changes, hoping against all odds that our vaunted positions of power and authority will somehow be magically restored?
- That 1,500-plus people will suddenly be knocking on our doors to join this congregation?
- That all these new folks will make us flush with cash, erase the red ink in our budget and challenge us to find enough ministries to provide them?
If that’s the direction you’re looking at and the hopes you are holding, you may call yourself Mr. Carson.
We can be forward-looking, seeing future possibilities, even if we only dimly see what that is, relishing and embracing the future with a bit of fear (of the unknown). We might see that future as an opportunity for new life for us and for the Christian faith. If so, you may call yourself Lady Mary.
During these times of institutional decline and change – an era the recently-deceased theologian Phyllis Tickle calls “a once every 500-year rummage sale in the church,” I have this very important (but on the surface rather uninspired) comment to make about Christ Church, Shaker Heights: We are holding our own. This statement isn’t exactly a catchy slogan to inspire much of anything, never mind confidence in the future. This statement, in reality, is the envy of thousands of churches across the country that are not holding their own, rapidly losing ground in all areas critical to a healthy, sustainable parish life. Recent statistics show that approximately 5,000 churches close in the United States every year. Of that number, approximately 40 of them are Episcopal parishes. When I went to seminary in 1996, there were approximately 7,400 Episcopal parishes; today, there are about 6,700.
Christ Church is holding its own in three key areas, which all have plateaued:
- Church membership.
- Sunday church attendance.
- Pledge income.
I would say we are more than holding our own when we examine the markers of commitment level to the parish, sense of authentic community, welcoming all people, and our ethos of radical love rooted in on our understanding of the Gospel. In that light, holding our own becomes the lifeboat that gets us through the sea change from the shore of an old way of life to the shore of a new way of life.
Parishes struggling and failing because there are myriad of reasons. But I think they can best be explained by the fact that many church leaders and people in the pews refuse to acknowledge the changes around them, believing that by just holding tighter to their old way of life, they will somehow preserve it. This is not only sad – it is a falsehood. By doing so, these folks cling to something no longer viable (and clearly no longer useful) to how God is working on the world’s redemption.
These congregations stay hunkered inside the church, behind formidable doors and walls, as they deplete every last drop of their human and financial resources to keep the barricades up until they totally exhaust themselves, waving the white flag of defeat and closing the church down. In our Episcopal polity, it’s often not even the congregation’s leadership who face this hard truth, it’s some Diocesan official who makes the parish face the reality that it is finished.
My sisters and brothers, that’s not us and it’s not going to be us!
One of the reasons we hold our own is that we have not stuck our heads in the sand and entered the world of denial. We have been steadily turning from the past toward the future. We have identified our strengths and weaknesses, lifting up the former and mitigating the latter. We have reached out into the wider community.
We have been attentive to God’s call. When it hasn’t clear where God is calling us, we trust that God has more in store for us: more future, more music to sing, more prayers to pray, more people to minister to, more people to proclaim the Good News to, and more people to embrace with God’s love. As I stated at last year’s Annual Meeting, we continue listening to God because we have come to understand that with God the best is always yet to come – and we want the best!
Some of that “best is yet to come” is becoming reality now (a “not yet,” becoming a “now”). I am speaking of the Van Aken Redevelopment District and our ongoing discussions with RMS, the City, Shaker Heights Development Corporation (SHDC) and Cleveland Public Theatre to turn this building into a shared space between our church and a performing arts center.
In December, the two-year Van Aken-Warrensville-Chagrin intersection realignment project was finally completed and it is working beautifully! Can I get an Alleluia on that?
Last autumn, the developer, RMS, presented the penultimate plans for Phase I of the mixed-use redevelopment of residential, retail, entertainment and green space that will sit where the current Van Aken Plaza is. They announced a partial list of tenants for the new development, including Luna Bakery and Mitchell’s Ice Cream. How I am ever going to keep weight off with those two wonderful stores barely a three-minute walk from the office? This plaza is slated to be demolished this spring, with the first phase of construction completed by Fall 2017.
The derelict Qua Buick buildings to our north were recently demolished. The lot has been graded to prepare for the construction of a new, relocated Fresh Market and another smaller building on the Farnsleigh/Warrensville corner that will house a bank and D.O. Summers Cleaners. Construction on this lot should begin soon. A future Phase II construction on this lot will build more residential units on the Helen Road side.
The SHDC has engaged a consulting firm to conduct a feasibility study to see if a capital campaign in the city can raise money to repurpose our building for the performing arts. A business plan is part of this market study, and both are currently in the works. All our current vestry members and newly-elected vestry members’ names have been submitted to be a part of that study. Please make every effort to participate and add your voice.
I want to express my deep appreciation to the Christ Church Foundation for a $5,000 grant to help fund the SHDC’s feasibility study endeavor. That contribution is a testimonial to our having proverbial skin in the game, as we work with our potential partners to make this project become a reality.
If this study goes as hoped, this year will see us engaging in real nuts and bolts conversations about what all the parties involved desire and need architecturally and mechanically to provide for a performing arts center and the congregation to successfully share space in new and innovative ways. This will involve work with all the principals involved, including Cleveland Public Theatre, RMS Development, the City of Shaker Heights, and of course, ourselves. This core group design group will also include an architectural firm and various contractors.
I have included the Diocesan Chancellor, Bill Powell, in some of our past meetings so he may advise us on how we can successfully negotiate an arrangement with our potential partners and not violate Canon Law, which does not allow for any encumbrances on the property. The Diocese of Ohio is the exclusive owner of all church property and assets – and this needs to be legally protected in any final agreement we make. Bill has been supportive of our efforts and believes a lease arrangement will meet these needs, protecting our investors’ financial interests while adhering to the Canons. As the Bishop’s representative and our primary legal counsel, Bill will be a critical partner in our upcoming negotiations.
We have not sat idle as all this work swirls around us! Phase I repairs of our own much-deferred maintenance is nearing completion. This work is being funded by the initial payments of our successful Capital Campaign in 2014. We will do approximately $350,000 of work in Phase I. Some of this work is mundane but necessary:
- Re-grouting the brick exterior.
- Repairing our leaky patio.
- Installing flood doors on the south and northwest sides of the building.
- Removing water damage and mold in the lower atrium.
- Attending to poor drainage in our parking lots.
- Installing an expansion tank on the boilers.
- Repainting the cinder block wall on our west side, doing repairs on the portico are included in this project.
The sexiest thing we have done (or in more ecclesial terms, the item that stands out as iconic) is restoring the White Spire steeple. Using D. Nelson’s restricted bequest as our foundational funding (and adding an unexpected and generous bequest from Patricia McIlraith this past spring), we were finally able to complete the steeple renovation this year.
The White Spire had essential internal repairs to its main structure and surrounding roofs in 2008. In this second phase, external repairs roof and structural repairs were made and the steeple was then beautifully painted. New LED lighting was installed and the damaged ball and cross (removed in 2008) were restored and raised to their former pinnacle 120 feet above the ground in an exciting, impromptu ceremony in November. In December, an electronic carillon was installed that replicates the sound of a 37 bell English bronze carillon. Currently, it rings the Westminster chimes on the hour and plays ten minutes of season hymns at noon and 6:00 p.m.
In addition to the steeple, we also painted and repaired the portico and upgraded existing lighting, and then added LED lighting to the columns and in the piedmont. The column lights have been programmed to change color for Christian holidays, liturgical seasons and some secular holidays and events.
The overall result of the White Spire and portico work is nothing less than breathtaking. You can see the spire for hundreds of yards from the north, south and west. Together, the steeple and portico boldly proclaim the good news of Christ Church, and are beacons of light to all people, as we claim our role as the spiritual heart of the Van Aken district. If you have not been by the church after dark, make it a special point to drive by. You will not be disappointed.
This Phase I project did not happen by itself. The Property Committee accepted the Vestry’s invitation to oversee the bidding project and become our general contractors. This was no small task. Lynn Winkelman and Lisa Fletcher boldly dared go where no else would go and co-chaired Phase I. This involved hundreds of hours of labor, dealing with three various contractors whose performance ran the gamut from excellent to really awful. Lisa and Lynn are tenacious and faithful to their volunteer work for our parish in general and to this project in particular. They did and continue to do, an extraordinary job for us – and for free. We are all deeply indebted to them both and the Property Committee for all they do for this congregation.
How can we take all that we have done thus far (and will do this year) prayerfully – and grasp the abundant opportunity God has offered us in all of this? How we take these changes and turn them into a rich future for this congregation and our mission as followers of Jesus? This is the key question for us as we move into 2016. I have asked the staff and the Vestry leadership to pray and reflect on this very question. I ask you to do the same.
Which are the outmoded ways of being the church do we need to let go of? How can we proactively engage new ways of being the church, of letting the outside world know about what’s inside; of taking the inside, outside? How do we fully integrate ourselves into the Van Aken District and all that will unfold here? How can we capitalize on this opportunity God has given us to ensure our own viability into the future?
Think in terms of a revitalized Cookie Walk, a holiday fair, new additions to our music program like Christmas Lessons and Carols; a Handel’s Messiah sing-a-long; a children’s music and camp programming; opportunities for spiritual development that build on our current Christian formation; yoga offerings; and the twice-successful Beating the Bounds liturgy. How do we meet the needs of an increasingly spiritual, but not religious population of NONES? How do we honor people from other faiths and of no faith at all, reaching out to them with our programming, to enrich their spiritual lives?
What are your thoughts and ideas about these and other opportunities we should grasp? I would love to hear from you. I will ask Mary Lavigne-Butler to schedule an adult forum later this spring where we can gather and brainstorm these questions together.
Speaking of formation and spirituality. We of course are called to offer appropriate vehicles for others, but what about our own? How are we engaging in our own formation in the Christian faith? How are we nourishing our own spiritual lives?
We strive to offer a full spectrum of adult formation and spiritual growth formation at Christ Church. We work to make sure that we vary these offerings to meet the needs of very busy people and a wide diversity of interests. So while we continue to have the more traditional book study options, DVD presentations, and Sunday morning offerings, we also have moved toward more online and self-directed offerings.
This Lent, we are offering the highly traditional Wednesday evening book study with a soup and salad supper, using Rob Bell’s What We Talk About When We Talk About God. We are also offering Growing a Rule of Life, which is a daily online video meditation with a self-directed workbook and private Facebook page for participants to share reflections and ask questions.
We have two Bible Study groups. We have a new Christ Church book group. Under Mary Lavigne-Butler, our adult forum offerings have expanded our offerings on a myriad of social justice issues as well as spiritual and Christian theology topics. The Rev. Rachel Hackenberg offered an extraordinary series on various prayer forms last Lent, and next month we have a unique ½ day retreat at the Cleveland Museum of Art. These are just a few of the programs the parish offers.
Response to all these varied programs is often, at best, tepid. As your priest, teacher and pastor, this seriously concerns me. Out of a congregation of approximately 350 people, we have a core group of 25 -30 people who consistently take advantage and participate in these programs. That’s 7% – a pretty paltry number. Bravo for them, but what about the rest of the congregation?
I recently read an article printed in the first half of the last century titled “How to Help Your Parish Priest.” It comes out of a series of tracts written by the Church of England, which clearly addressed a situation of people falling away from church activity and their own spiritual life and health. One of the most relevant statements the article made was “when people lose interest in their religion, it is because they have not been doing enough work [on] it.”
Examining the role of the priest-teacher it states,
“Next, there is the priest's work as teacher. Here you can be of real help, especially in these days when there is so much talk about . . . religion, and with it so much ignorance, prejudice, and misunderstanding. In all probability you constantly meet people who have prejudice against the faith, and whom your priest cannot teach, because they would not dream of entering a . . . church. It is never any good arguing with them – argument does not convert people. However, a courteous, simple, good-tempered explanation of some difficulty or misunderstanding may be the means of doing a great deal of good. Outsiders are often much more impressed by what laymen says about their religion than by what a priest says.”
There is, however, one essential condition for this kind of service. You must know the Faith. You can never satisfactorily explain to other people what you do not thoroughly understand yourself.
These insightful words are as applicable today as they were decades ago when they were written. We live in a time when many are prejudiced about the Christian faith, people who would never dream of coming to Church and engaging me in conversation. You – the laity – are the first and foremost line of defense in offering a different perspective and understanding to others about who we are as Christians and as a parish. But in order to do so you must know the faith. If you do not understand it yourself, how can you explain it to others? How else can you present the fullness of the gift of grace we have experienced as followers of Jesus in this congregation? How else will we be able to truly embrace the future if we do not know and tell others the gift we have in our faith as it is lived at Christ Church, Shaker Heights?
Ongoing formation and spiritual growth are the only way to do this. They are critical to your health as a child of God and they are critical to the vibrancy and life of this church. My prayer is that each and every person in this congregation will make it a priority to grow in the knowledge of the faith and nourish their spiritual lives.
As Jim Walton mentioned, the Vestry, Finance Committee and I will make a concerted effort this year to address our stewardship, financial health and security this year – and into the future. Teaching, praying and engaging in self-examination about stewardship must be an ongoing process and not just something we address once each autumn during our pledge drive.
While pledge giving has gone up in small increments each year at Christ Church, as a whole we still do not have a deep understanding of what it takes to fund our operation and what our appropriate giving out of our resources to the parish means for our long-term financial health. Our persistent reliance on the White Spire Fund to balance our operating budget is a downward spiral. A formula for financial health cannot be based solely on the generosity of deceased people.
Frankly, I see no reason why a parish of this size, with a membership that is solidly in the middle-class, cannot bring its pledge income to at least $300,000 a year. The fact that we struggled to raise $270,000 in pledge income for 2016 tells me that many people (who are able to do so) are not making an appropriate commitment to this parish’s sustenance. We need to work on that through education, reflection and prayer so to change that. We can do better.
We will also examine how best to revitalize the Christ Church Heritage Society, forming a committee to teach people about the importance of planned giving and providing for the parish in their legacies. One of our highest goals over the next five years is to ensure we have a healthy endowment though planned giving, with the goal of working toward drawing only interest (and not principle) from that fund to support our operating budget.
One source of revenue that has grown this past year is rental income. In 2015, we acquired three new tenants who are visual artists and rent studio space from us. This past summer, the Heights Fellowship Church, an East African congregation, began offering Bible study and worships in our chapel each Sunday. Pastor Abel and his congregation are the loveliest people you will want to meet. Please make an effort to meet them and make them feel welcome. We’d like them to stay with us for a long time.
We are also in discussions with one or two other potential tenants and are in the process of re-negotiating Verb Ballet’s lease, whose five- year term is up February 29th. This increased rental income helps us considerably with our budget. Of course, if a capital campaign for the performing arts center is successful and we agree on a lease arrangement to share our facilities, this too will bring increased rental income to the parish.
Let’s dream here by creating a big hairy audacious goal – a B.H.A.G. with:
- More dedicated and appropriate stewardship giving.
- Growing the congregation by attracting people through the arts center.
- Evangelism through growing our confidence in speaking about our faith to others.
- Presenting an alternate vision of what the Christian faith is like in this place.
- Increasing rental income and building a proactive planned-giving program to generate a larger endowment to fully balance our budget in five years (2021).
That’s a worthy goal and will ensure our financial health well into the future, which in turn will ensure our ability to be a vibrant Episcopal congregation.
Let me turn to our out-going Vestry members of 2016. Valerie Channer, Kate Metyk and Brad Forward have served three years on Vestry and as parish leaders have seen this parish through some major changes. Also leaving the Vestry is Mischelle Lohr, our Senior Warden. Mischelle has served five years on Vestry with distinction. I want to thank all of them for their commitment and hope that after a brief respite they will continue to seek new ways of serving the church as we move into the future.
Callie Swaim-Fox is leaving the vestry after serving as the youth representative. Callie consistently brought a new and fresh perspective to our conversations and, while not a voting member, did through her thoughtful opinions, help clarify and guide the Vestry in its deliberations. Plus, being Callie, she was always upbeat and fun to have at the meetings. Thank you, Callie.
I want to acknowledge the incoming class of 2019: Kathleen Nitschke, Jack Shelley and Matt Wholey for three-year terms and filling the final year of Mischelle’s unexpired term for the class of 2017, Mary Lavigne-Butler. Kira Ruffin is coming on board as our new youth representative Ruffin. Kira has been a part of Christ Church for a long time and we have watched her grow into a lovely young woman. I know she will be a fine addition to the Vestry. This is a vibrant, talented and energetic group of people coming into lay leadership who will help lead us through the next three critical years. I look forward to working with all of you.
After a good long run, our treasurer Deb Schelling has stepped down from the position. She has been a wonderful shepherd of our finances, working with our excellent accountant, Shane Millette. They, along with the Finance Committee, have managed the parish finances with aplomb. Thank you Deb. Thank you Shane.
Jim Walton returns for a repeat performance as treasurer. Jim took over the reins from Deb in the past month. He knows the parish finances well, having served in this capacity about eight years ago. I look forward to working with him and his vast knowledge of our finances.
This parish could not operate and help build up God’s reign in the world without the dedication and generosity of so many people. As mentioned previously, the Property Committee continues to address this our aging facility. It can be overwhelming when many mechanical things go wrong at once. Recently, when our sexton, Harry Holliman, dealt with an extended illness, the Property Committee took on the on-going maintenance of our facility. They methodically handle each and every item with patience and grace. We are all indebted to this amazing group of people.
In the past few years, we have re-energized the Finance Committee, whom have become a critical part of our financial management. Among their tasks, they oversee the payment of our monthly Diocesan assessments; review monthly profit and loss statements; determine requested drawdowns from the White Spire Fund; arrange the annual audit; and develop our annual budget proposal. The members of this committee are Douglas Cates, Dana Biggerman, Frances Baker and Jim Walton. I can’t thank them enough for their commitment to the financial stability of this parish.
I would like to recognize our legal counsel, Mark Biggerman. Mark has been invaluable to me and the Vestry in offering legal advice on a host of issues. He has helped develop and review lease agreements with our tenants; reviewed legal documents relating to bequests; and helped me make good decisions on labor issues. He does all of this gratis, or I guess the appropriate term here is pro-bono. He is meticulous in his work, and generous and faithful to this parish.
I want to thank Martha and Ed Towns for their many loyal years as ushers at Christ Church. After a long run of greeting people, handing our bulletins, finding oblation bearers, collecting the alms and doing head counts, they are taking a well-deserved retirement.
I want to give a special shout-out to Nancy Morrow and her gifts to Christ Church. Nancy is one of those dedicated volunteers who flies under many people’s radar screens. She is co-chair of the Altar Guild (a big job unto itself) with Marge Stewart and a faithful 8 O’clocker. She also is an office volunteer who in many ways is Karen’s right hand. Nancy answers phones, assembles bulletins and is an all-round "Gal Friday." She also has a wonderful sense of humor and a lively spirit. We are blessed to have her and the gift of her many talents.
Speaking of the Altar Guild… Where would the rector and the liturgical life of the church be without them and their dedication to our worship life? They are a faithful and loving group of women AND men! Thank you!
Under the guidance of Anne McLain and Michelle Harris, Christ Church hosts continue to incarnate Christian hospitality for the congregation and all our events which include food. The hosts oversaw 19 events for in 2015, and they did so with grace. When we talk about how delicious life is at Christ Church, we understand that literally through the wonderful food and beverage they provide to enhance our common life.
In my experience, Christ Church has the best Outreach Committee of any parish I know. Ours is ably-led by the multi-talented Lynda Bernays. Lynda is a tireless advocate for the least among us and she witnesses to Christian compassion daily in her life. Our Outreach Committee puts the face of Christ on our mission and ministry, whether that be Beds4Kids, Family Promise, KIVA micro-loans, the Holy Coffee sale, or the Homeless Stand Down, I am grateful for their passion of the Gospel and all they do.
Lisa Fletcher and Christina Forward continue to oversee our successful St. Herman’s sandwich lunch ministry. Last year, we provided 2,600 brown-bagged lunches to this vital ministry, serving the hungry in greater Cleveland. I thank all the volunteers who faithfully give of their time and talent to make this possible. If you’re looking for a ministry, we are always looking for more folks to help. The sign-up sheet is on Great Hall table.
I want to thank the parish staff. They are a small but mighty group:
Leslie Swaim-Fox continues to serve as our amazing, talented Director of Religious Education. Leslie leads a loyal and dedicated group of catechists who are devoted to the Christian formation of our children and youth.
Harry Holliman our intrepid sexton. Harry does yeoman work as the solo staff person committed to our buildings maintenance. We are hopeful that Harry’s extended bout with shingles is coming to a healthy end.
Karen Rockwell, our parish administrator, has made a noteworthy improvement to our office and the smooth operation of this parish. I assure you, Karen’s knowledge and organizational skills have significantly brought down the rector’s stress levels this year. She has made the office a place of warmth and welcome, as well as a place of getting the parish’s work done. Plus, with Karen, we get a church mascot, her dog Hanna, a Whippet who is just a love.
Finally, I want to welcome our new Music Director, Jeanette Davis Ostrander. Jeanette has been with us a scant three weeks, but in that short time, has brought to bear her considerable talents as an organist, pianist, and choral conductor. The choir has reached a new level of singing under her direction, and our worship is enriched by her expertise with our Rieger Orgelbau organ. I know you all join me in welcoming her and her family to our parish family.
I want to thank our two adjunct clergy, Fr. Jim Greer and the Rev. Meghan Froehlich. They both bring their preaching, teaching and pastoral skills to our common life. I am grateful for all they do at Christ Church and for their companionship in priestly ministry.
As always, I can’t mention each and every person who contributes to the life of Christ Church. Please know that despite not being personally mentioned by name, that your gifts are appreciated and that you are loved. We could not do what we do without you!
After the recent Anglican Primates decision to discipline the Episcopal Church over our sanctioning same-sex marriage, I wrote you that this decision doesn’t matter where it really matters. The life of healing the sick, freeing the oppressed and proclaiming the year of God’s favor to all God’s children goes on here at Christ Church, regardless of what happened at Canterbury.
The real life of the Church happens here every day at the local level, and it will continue to unfold and thrive here in this congregation and this district. Our future is bright and hopeful because Christ is faithful, and we Christ Church Episcopalians are among Christ’s faithful followers in the unfolding Church of the future. In fact, we will help incarnate that Church for others. Never forget that God is with us in all we do, because as we are faithful to God, God is faithful to us in return.
I am privileged to serve as your rector and to walk this awe-inspiring journey of faith with you. God beckons us into a bright future. And as I stated last year, always remember: With God the best is always yet to come.