January 4, 2015
979th Week as Priest
806th Week at St Dunstan’s
71st Week at Epiphany-Tallassee
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN.
Dear Friends in Christ,
This is a big day in the life of our church. We have come to the end of our 20th year, a time of celebration. Now we turn our attention to growing the Kingdom of God. Doing that involves the important work of outreach, stewardship, worship, education, evangelism, and pastoral care.
I’ve been the priest for four small churches over the past two decades–St. Michael’s in Fayette, Emmanuel in Opelika, St. Matthew’s in-the-Pines in Seale, and now (I am delighted to say) Epiphany in Tallassee. I know how difficult it is to grow a small church, and how hard it is to say goodbye to people when they move away. We’re going to have to do that with Dan and Kelli Kerr and their beautiful children (Xander and Elizabeth) all too soon.
I believe in clarity and speaking the truth in love. I see more clearly what Epiphany went through a few years ago, with the loss of members, income, and morale. I don’t see any point in dwelling on the past–but I do think that we are entering a time of restoration and rebuilding–and I’m not really talking about our wonderful church building.
I’m talking about the people of Epiphany. We need stability, constancy, and unity. We must be able to count on each other and communicate with each other. We must seek peace and pursue it. And we need to remember that salvation is always found in the present. There is forgiveness and reconciliation involved in Kingdom work, and we all have to do our part.
Take a good look at the report (attached). The first part, titled “Annual Parish Meeting,” shows a comparison of last year and this year, 2013 and 2014. We’ve improved in most categories, but only by slim margins. The one shining light over the past two years has been the growth and return on investment we’ve seen in our Investments at the Diocese of Alabama. It looks like we might just be able to build that Parish Hall before too many years! And we can thank Betty Weldon for her excellent work; Betty is the rock star of small church finance!
The second part is more detailed. It’s a longer view of Epiphany from the years of 2007 to 2014, and it’s based on Parochial Reports that are made each year-end to the Diocese of Alabama and the Episcopal Church USA. I’ll tell you a secret … I like looking at numbers! I think it’s absolutely vital to keep good records and to show people how to read them. It makes for a healthier, stronger church; and it builds commitment from our members.
I had mixed feelings about giving you a lot of information today. I don’t want to overwhelm anybody with dollars and cents, but I believe strongly that you deserve to know the hard work of your Vestry. They have been very good stewards of our resources, and they have made sound decisions and taken right actions on our behalf.
If we want people to accept responsibility for their stewardship–personally and as a church–then it seems good and right to lay all the cards on the table. We have a challenge before us, one that may take several years to meet:
•to rebuild our baptized members to a strong eighty
•to inspire our people to give reasonably and sensibly to the church
•to convince everybody to make an annual pledge
•to finish the excellent work of painting and repairing our beautiful building (a much smaller but quite necessary job on the eaves, railings, and etc.)
•to continue our Beans & Rice ministry with enthusiasm, and
•to become more visible in Tallassee, Lake Martin, and surrounding cities and towns as a church of Anglican worship, Bible study, and Christian community
I know we can do these things together, with God’s help. I am encouraged, filled with a sure and certain hope, and fully determined. And I hope that you are, too.
Peace, and God’s Strength be with us all, AMEN.