“St John’s Acts” : The Rector’s Message for December

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christmas_star_seattle_1060617_tnAm I alone in being taken aback by the impending end of the calendar year?  Where has the time gone?  For me and Marianne it has gone to the operation of the church from the Sunday School program, to worship and to hospitality. More recently, Vera’s deteriorating condition (a bad heart valve) and her entrance into home-based Hospice care have taken much of our time.

For all our hard work and those in ministry partnership with us here at St. John’s, much has been accomplished.  The Shepherding Program has been rejuvenated by Jayne Peterson with a reorganization of parishioners by affinity group and the determination of how individual volunteers can help those from the parish in need.  Our Sunday School program has focused on children and their parents being exposed to the important Bible narratives with which people should be acquainted to be considered educated in America because of the many literary references to them.

There have been some wonderful hospitality events with the special cakes that Marianne has created to honor our baptismands.  Our chili supper on the occasion of Bishop Roskam’s Episcopal visit was a huge success.  Our Stewardship Committee has done an excellent job designing and running this year’s annual giving campaign.  They have held a number of gatherings to explain the need which featured fellowship and food.  Bea Demers opened her home once again for a ‘Tea with Bea’ event, and I thank her for her selfless support of St. John’s.

This last half year has featured good-byes beginning with Kathleen Scott’s moving to Maine in the wake of Jeffrey’s retirement.  She had been with us for 81⁄2 years, 41⁄2 of my tenure here.  She is a gifted music director and did much for this parish.  In August we hired Ken Corneille who started in September and quit in October to take a better paying job with better benefits.  Sadly he was unable to bring himself to say good-bye.  A goodbye that will be particularly difficult for the parish, I believe, is the one we will offer Robin Beveridge, our wonderful deacon.  Deacon Robin fulfilled my every expectation regarding her ministry with us.  She put into place a wonderful health ministry which provided valuable resources to our parish family.  She leaves because she needs to be closer to her family and her home so that she can better balance family, work and ministry.  She starts at Christ Church, Stoneridge, 15 minutes from her home.  We will miss her.  She leaves big shoes to fill.

Our 9 am worship service is packing them in since its restart in September.  A refined worship service with a fresh take on music has proven to be a winning combination for families with young children and flows nicely into Sunday School after healthy snacks and an assembly run by Lois Hicks -Wozniak.  She also is the musician for the 9 am service through the Christmas holidays.

We have a great youth group, Faith, Works, and Fun (FWF). Lois Hicks-Wozniak, Tom Hubbard and I formed the steering group.  Cynthia Leghorn, Liz Harrell, and Marianne have been faithfully helping with adult leadership.

December is the month of Advent and Christmas.  It begins with preparing our hearts by reflection and ends with the sacred joy of the birth of the Christ Child, Jesus.  Right now is a time of instability.  Instability in world economic markets with its impact on jobs, personal retirement plans and endowments is coupled with a downturn in every facet of our commercial life together.  As I write this, Indian military and paramilitary forces are finally getting control of the terrorist situation in Mumbai.  It is a reminder that eternal vigilance is critical but sometimes not enough.  Pray for peace in the region and healing for those who have lost family or have been injured.  I am reminded of the terrible attack on the Russian school of a few years back which also brought grief into many homes.

What will the New Year bring to St. John’s?  Our Vestry will be going through major changes.  In addition to Jay Townsend’s stepping down as our Senior Warden and moving into the role of Capital Campaign Project Coordinator, four members of our Vestry are going off.  Paul Herbert and I will be working with a good team, trusting on the discerning work of the Holy Spirit and the support of the parish.

Major work on the Bell tower will be the focus of 2009 as we rejuvenate the clock faces, close up the screens which keep out the pigeons, and refurbish the roof.  We are hopeful that the Diocesan Property Support Committee will help us with this project although their support is contingent on how much income is available from the pertinent Diocesan endowments.

We will also be expanding our outreach by becoming a Carpenter’s Kids parish helping the parishes of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika care for and educate the many AIDS orphans in their villages and by returning to our association with Midnight Run which provides sandwiches, water, toiletries and certain clothing items to the homeless in New York City. Richard Timm who has stepped into the role of Outreach Coordinator may be asking for your help; please be supportive.

This Fall St. John’s was identified as one of five vital parishes in the Mid-Hudson area, and I began working with other Rectors to determine how we might use newly ordained Diocesan clergy as assistants to help with growth.  Sadly, I had to turn down this opportunity because our income based on this year’s apparent shortfall would not permit it.  I am hopeful that some of the work of an ordained assistant can be done well by committed laypersons.  It was a huge disappointment to me, for I believe that an assistant would be particularly valuable here, particularly as Robin takes up her new ministry closer to home.

Let me close with an uplifting note:  we have retained the services of Dr. Jonathan B. Hall as our interim music director through the Christmas season.  He is proving to be an excellent addition to our staff; our search group will be meeting with him in the future to determine if a permanent hiring decision should be made. With that I will close out the year.  We look forward to seeing one and all during this time of year.  Be well; stay safe; pray for peace and goodwill.

Fr. Tom