November 8, 2012
Dear St. Stephen’s family,
Five years ago, the membership of St. Stephen’s was 55 members. The Average Sunday Attendance at that time was 24.
How things have changed! Our current membership is 121. This past Sunday, as we celebrated the Baptism of our own Leah Elliott, there were over 50 people in church. At no point during this past year (even during the summer) did our attendance slip below 30. And almost every Sunday brings new visitors.
This not just good news; this is incredible news! Whenever I share information like this with colleagues and others in the wider Church, they are as shocked and amazed as I am often am. In the wider Church, numbers reflect growth and vitality.
But, for us, it is more than a matter of numbers. It is a matter of a congregation that has come together and is doing wonderful and transformative things in the name of God. As we look around us, we see a congregation of changing faces, of a church building that is being updated, of ministry that is reaching beyond these walls to the farthest stretches of the world.
Of course, a common question I am asked is: what’s the secret of our success? My first answer is always, of course, the Holy Spirit. This Spirit is most definitely at work in our congregation. God’s Spirit, as we all know, is a Spirit of renewal and life. And it is this Spirit feel in our midst when we gather together and it is this Spirit that empowers us when we go out and do ministry in the world.
My second answer is this: we are simply living out the Gospel. This is a congregation that has been committed to following Jesus’ message of loving God and loving one another, and, in doing so, being radically welcoming to every single person that comes through our doors. This is what makes the difference, and this is what makes us who we are.
We have so much to be thankful for at St. Stephen’s. It is an exciting time for us. New people are finding a home and a family at St. Stephen’s. Those of us who have been here for years are finding ourselves renewed and recharged, as well as confronted with all the changes and challenges of a growing congregation. And all of us, together, are doing ministry in whatever ways we can.
All that is happening here at St. Stephen’s is something to celebrate. This is a time in which we should be giving thanks to God for this church home, this church family and these opportunities to do the ministry of loving God and one another in worship and service.
On Sunday, November 18, we will all have an opportunity to celebrate these blessings God has granted to us. On November 18, we celebrate Pledge Sunday. Pledge time is the time in which we take a good, long look at our selves as a congregation and what we are doing in our own lives to help St. Stephen’s live even further into this growth and life we are celebrating.
That Sunday, the Vestry of St. Stephen’s will host a dinner after the 11:00 am celebration of Holy Eucharist. That dinner is a way for your Priest-in-Charge and your Vestry to thank you for all you have done for St. Stephen’s this year. At that meal, you will be given a packet that will contain your pledge card and your Time and Talent sheet. Your pledge card is an opportunity for your consider what kind of monetary pledge you would like to make to St. Stephen’s. As you know, ministry and the practical upkeep of our physical building is not done without finances.
The Time and Talent sheet is a way for you to consider pledging from your time and talent. What ways can you pledge from the gifts God has granted you in areas such as personal expertise? Are you an artist? Are you good at social care? Are you mechanically inclined? These are ways in which you have been blessed by God and, recognizing them as blessings, they are ways in which you can give back.
More than anything, know how grateful and humbled I am to be serving you. I am truly blessed by God to be serving a congregation that is excited about what it is doing, that is renewed by its energy and committed to its following of Jesus. Thank you for all you have given to me.