Wednesday, June 8, 2016

How is it going at Holy Cross?

If you are wondering how things are going at Holy Cross these days, here is my annual report to the congregation

Pastor’s Report to the Congregation 2015-16
I would like to give thanks to God for another exciting year of faithful ministry at Holy Cross. We have ministered in new ways and old to make known the promises of God.  We have faced joys and met challenges.   Being the church today is always a bit of a scramble as the pace of change in society flies forward, but we take hope in the fact that we have the promises of God, which remain constant no matter what.
This past year we have been saying the following phrase at every worship:  No matter how you classify yourself or the world classifies you, we would like to welcome you to find God with us.   A couple of people have asked, what do we mean by this?   May answer is simple; it is just the restatement of what the bible actually says.  For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him." (Acts 2:39 NRSV)  Our society is more fragmented than ever into interest groups, cliques, age groups, language groups, cultural groups etc.  God however, wants the promise to be for all his children no matter what the world thinks.   Holy Cross has worked to live out this reality of God in the past year so that we are able to change lives by introducing Christ to our neighbors.
We have had wonderful experiences of worship and outreach this year.   Some of the highlights have been outdoor worship at the Fall Festival in Springfield, which was a powerful witness to the community.  I have regularly heard about the impact of this when meeting with community leaders in town.  We then hosted the interfaith thanksgiving service in our sanctuary, which was a vibrant and well attended event which has helped to break down some barriers between us and the community.  Our live Nativity continued as an ongoing tradition.  We started leading worship monthly at the Market Street Mission in Morristown to support the good work they do.  
Our school is rebounding from lean attendance to reach some new families with compassionate care that introduces Jesus Christ.   Our food ministry continues to witness to our desire to bless our neighbors as best as possible.  We have partnered with other Lutheran congregations to try to reach the youth of our area.  Finally we had an amazing evening with Shane Claiborne where we worshiped, were inspired with a message to be the church God calls us to be, and fellowshipped with a diverse group of faithful people from many congregations and traditions.  
All of this is a faithful witness to what Scripture calls us to.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. (Ephesians 2:13-14 NRSV) Part of what we are called to do is break down walls constructed by society.  Most religions work to build walls between the pure and impure, faithful and unfaithful, chosen and rejected.  Jesus Christ came to do something different: to offer salvation to all.   I can in good conscience tell you that our congregation has tried to take this teaching in Christ to heart.
We have been blessed with relative financial stability this past year because of the fruitfulness of our Step by Step capital campaign which has greatly improved our financial outlook. We are by no means out of the woods, but has been a blessing not be in crisis mode for a while.  Although the coming year may be challenging, we will continue to be prudent in our finances and look for new sources of revenue that contribute to our mission without getting in its way.
Our effort to rebuild our congregation has done well in the areas of community outreach and financial stability.  Where we need to work on in the coming year is the building up of our life together.  We need to grow our congregation by any means possible that is in line with basic Christian teaching. We also need to have better methods to care for one another and build each other up in the faith. The vision is laid out in the book of Acts where the Holy Spirit called together the first church.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42, 46-47 NRSV)
We will need to be intentionally hospitable to anyone who visits us, we will need to put in place structures of mutual care and spiritual support, and we will need transition from a welcoming place into an inviting one. Our church is already quite welcoming; our growing edge will be to become more inviting, less passive, and one that invites others to a new life in Jesus Christ.   I am not as pastor able to do any of this without you. Just as we struggled with financial viability we are now struggling with spiritual viability and the only way forward is if we all work together.
I am confident we can do this, because this is the bread and butter of our congregation. We have committed people of prayer.  We have people who want to help and serve their community. We have leaders who care about what God’s word says.  We have people who hear the call of Jesus to love their neighbor.  We have people who yearn for the presence of God.  
So we are blessed as a church and I am hopeful that these blessing will continue.
Submitted Respectfully in Christ
Pastor Knecht