Sunday, February 05, 2006

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

Ephesians 1: 15-16

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

What can we do in a year?

Considering Christ had only three years in his entire public life… with God’s help… together we can do quite a lot.

First let’s celebrate!

I rejoice in you. From the day I walked in that door, I have been knocked out and lifted back up by the living Christ at St. John’s. He lives in the love you show each other – seeking and serving Christ in your neighbors. He lives in the kindness you’ve shown to Jane, Robert and me. He lives in your faithfulness and stewardship, and in the vigor and sanctity of your worship.

Permit me a small tale out of school. I was at an informal clergy convocation recently and for some reason the tone was turning a bit negative. I wanted to blurt out: Come back with me to St. John’s. It’s not the Promised Land. But we’re getting there.

I mean that from the bottom of my heart. The setting of our worship is as blessed and inspirational as one could want to confidently meet the Savior and be wrapped in His love.

Then let us give thanks.

Thanks for our salvation in the Risen Christ. Thanks for the beauty and dynamism of our Episcopal tradition. Thanks for the sacrifices of parishioners gone before, who gave us this magnificent legacy to enhance and pass on to successive generations of the faithful.

Closer to home: let us thank the vigilant Wardens and the faithful Vestry. Thanks to the guilds who bring such dignity and beauty to our worship: The Altar Guild, the Usher Corps, the Lectors, Lay Readers and Acolytes. Thanks especially to our glorious Choir and to the inspired leadership of our Organist and Choirmaster. You touch our hearts week in and week out.

In this time of transition, the entire cemetery staff has stepped up to every challenge. Nancy, our Parish Administrator, and Bobbe, our Financial Administrator, and the team have been more than professional. They have been a vital, caring arm of our ministry and I am grateful for their never failing support.

A personal note of thanks to the whole congregation: It’s fun to be here. In show business parlance: St, John’s would be called a “hip room.” By which they mean the audience is intelligent. They are with you, but you better be on top of your game, because their expectations are high. That very much sums up ministering at St. John’s. It’s a very “hip room.” Thank you for your energetic feedback and your high expectations. It’s challenging. And it helps me want to do my best.

Thank you Lord, for all the faithful communicants of St. John’s who’ve been joined by returning parishioners along with the new, interested and just curious who have been coming through our doors in encouraging numbers. Added opportunities for worship, study and hospitality have provided a steady increase in our attendance.

In our celebration and our thanksgiving, let us also remember to repent.

For oversights. For insensitivity. For misunderstanding. For pride. For being too busy, too distracted or too self-centered to listen and to help. For anger. For grudges. For all our sins of commission and omission. Past, present and future. Lord have mercy on us.

For the work ahead, let us pray for God’s guidance and sustaining strength.

This year there is so much good work for us to do together. Worship. Education. Youth ministry. Outreach. Maintenance and refurbishment. Our Wardens, Treasurer and Vestry are very ably on the job --- planning, problem solving, getting it done.

But very frankly, at this point, parish funds are inadequate to meet our anticipated responsibilities, much less extending our ministry in Cold Spring Harbor and the wider area. Yet I have sublime faith in God’s providence, your generosity and the inspiration of the miracle of the loaves and fishes to stretch what we have to serve the Lord.

Productivity is a concept that is rarely applied to ministry. But it is one that I became very comfortable with in the private sector. And in the year ahead, I hope to make it a very familiar concept in the management of St. John’s. You have my pledge for the most rigorous stewardship in response to the financial sacrifices you make to support our parish.

So let us go forward together to do His good work in the confidence and comfort that only Christ’s love can bring to the greatest challenges and gravest fears. A year of changes. Yes! A year of growth. God willing. But surely, another year closer to Him.

With much joy, gratitude, prayers and blessings for you,

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