“As we look toward 2015, we face the same challenges that all churches face in these times, but we face them in the sure and certain confidence that we do not face them alone.”
On November 23 Trinity held its annual parish meeting. We had a wonderful time. You all contributed to a bounteous potluck lunch. Tommy Allison, Jerrie Greene, Bud Martin, and Chris Shoobridge were elected to the vestry. Slides of the past year’s activities scrolled while we shared fellowship and a meal. And we did all this in a beautifully renovated parish hall, seated in comfortable chairs around new round tables. Here are a few of my remarks from the annual meeting:
I work with a gifted staff and we should all be grateful for their ministry among us. Sam Holt is in his eighth year or so as our organist and choirmaster. Two of the most beautiful services we offered in 2014 were the Stations of the Cross in April and the Rally Day service with the Bishop. Music is such an enhancement to our worship, and we can offer great music.
Sherry George has a great thing going in the Trinity pre-school. The school is operating just about at capacity, and it’s a place where folks want their kids to be. She and the terrific teachers do a wonderful job with the young children in their care.
We are pleased to welcome our brand new parish administrator Sarah Wilkinson. Stepping into this position at probably the busiest time of the year, she is showing a graceful spirit and a willingness to learn. She will need both. During the interim and Sarah’s first week, many of you have jumped in to help. Thank you. And let me say we are grateful for Susie Medlin’s four-plus years of service with us, and for Mary Beth Leamon’s interim service.
I am sorry to report that the position of director of children’s and youth ministries remains unfilled. The person with that combination of a light touch with kids, the right life circumstance to deal with peculiar hours, and an appreciation of the Episcopal ethos has so far eluded us. And we are feeling the effects of this staffing deficit. Despite the heroic efforts of vestry rep Scott Rankin, Church School team leader Re Johnston, and all the teachers and leaders, there is no substitute for having a staff person who can devote the hours needed to guide and grow a program. The search continues and I am sure that in God’s time we will call the person God has for us. Your prayers cannot hurt in this.
We have several folk who are living out their ministries in the context of the wider church. First, Sallie Simpson, our former diocesan intern, was ordained last January as a vocational deacon and is now serving at St. Mark’s, Raleigh, where her son and grandchildren live. Second, our own Kim Dockery serves on the Diocesan Council, more or less the Bishop’s vestry. Third, Susan Cardwell is filling an unexpired term as Diocesan President of the Daughters of the King, and is in line to be elected to a full three-year term. Last, Jonathan York is serving an internship at St. Paul’s, Cary, as part of the ordination process for the priesthood. If all goes well, his next step will be seminary. Trinity, Statesville, is making its mark.
We made our mark on this community in 2014. The annual Oyster Roast raised a record $5000 to enable Habitat for Humanity to make desperately needed repairs on several homes. The Yard Sale raised nearly $2000 for Fifth Street Ministries.
And three weeks ago we delivered 1,945 pounds of food to Iredell Christian Ministries to feed the hungry and food insecure around and among us. In addition our housecallers group did yard work and home repair for several folk who couldn’t do that work themselves.
The Trinity Artist Series is making its mark as well. Attendance at the events is slowly growing, and folks are taking note. And the performances have been first rate. This is such a great way to reach out to the community. Similarly, the Community Garden flourishes. It grew by three beds this year and all were leased. A row of blueberry bushes has been planted as well. Through this we reach out to others and honor the God who created and sustains the earth.
We gathered for fellowship and learning. Nearly 50 of you gathered in Lenten groups, enjoying gracious hospitality and I hope some conversation that helped you grow. In May around 50 of us gathered in Go! Speak! Groups to share our faith stories over a meal. Our fifty were among 1000 folks in our diocese who gathered. I would love to see Trinity develop a network of small groups who gather regularly for fellowship and intentional spiritual discussion and learning. If that is of interest to you, please let me know.
Six of our youth and intrepid chaperones Scott Rankin and Ellyn Mullis took their urban adventure in Washington, D.C. in June. The UA is part of the Journey to Adulthood, one of the goals of which is to raise faithful Christians and competent adults. I hope the kids took steps of faith and toward competency on this trip.
I guess the highlight of 2014 came on September 7, when Bishop Curry was with us. He welcomed two new Christians through baptism, and confirmed and received eighteen, one of our biggest classes in years. It was a joyous day and beginning of the school year. Our challenge is, in the words of our convention speaker, that of turning membership into discipleship.
And if you look around you, you see one of the great accomplishments of 2014. We were able to renovate this parish hall and update it for future generations. We are blessed with a beautiful new floor, better light, and these wonderful round tables and nice chairs. And we have an audio/visual setup which will permit all kinds of things. Next Sunday evening, in fact, the youth will gather for a supper and movie night in here, and we’ll watch on this screen.
This refurbishment brings to a close the mighty upgrading of these facilities begun with discussions in 2006, continued with a campaign in 2008, then building in 2009, and a second campaign in 2012. Your generosity made it possible, but so did the generosity of three people I want to mention. Anne Eller, Katherine Dooley, and Wendy Dalehite. These three folks died since the campaign of 2008, but all remembered Trinity in their wills, and between them provided almost $170,000 so that this facility might be a tool for ministry decades to come. Please, I ask you to remember Trinity in your will. Think of the good you can do.
As we look toward 2015, we face the same challenges that all churches face in these times, but we face them in the sure and certain confidence that we do not face them alone. In his pastoral address to us at convention, Bishop Curry stated the truth that the church of the 1950s, 60s, and even early 70s, which formed many of us is not the church of the 21st century. Nor do the people we are called to serve have the same lives as did those of previous decades. More than ever we are called to be translators of the good news into new settings and to new generations. Being translators means being nimble, willing to change and experiment, and being willing to fail. For example, last year we changed our Christmas Eve schedule of services. A painful change for many I know. This year we will offer the children’s pageant on Advent 4, and have one Christmas Eve service at 6 pm. And, we offered a 5 pm Sunday service over the summer, hoping to provide the opportunity for folks who were returning from out of town to attend church. Virtually no one took advantage of that.
Being translators also means, in a phrase used at convention, “going deep.” Growing spiritually, in other words. Toward that, we need always to imagine ways of translating our setting for Christian education into settings that young families will respond to. Fewer and fewer families seem willing to make Sunday morning a consistent priority. I am concerned that our young children and their parents are not hearing the sacred story and not growing to know the God who cherishes them so. How can we take the story of Jesus and his love out to them? For that matter, how can we take church out into the world? Those at convention with me heard the bishop say that if we wait around for folks to come in our doors, we’re missing most folks. We need to be out there with them – in Galilee, if you will. Who is willing to go?
There is much about church that is changing. The trappings, the translation is changing. So hang on. But the God we worship has not changed. The good news will not change. God’s love for us and for all creation upholds us as we partner with God for the redemption of this world. As Bishop Curry said Friday, “when times seem tough, keep going.” We will keep going till we are “changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place. Till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love and praise.” Together we will serve God and God’s world. —The Rev. Brad Mullis