Annual Parish Meeting
January 26, 2020
My Annual Parish Report is going to focus on a few words from each of our readings and our Opening Collect. May the Holy Spirit open our hearts to hear and our minds to imagine.
“Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News….”
Did you hear that word “readily?”
We are to respond NOW… readily… Not someday when we have more people… Not someday when we have more money…. Not some day when we have time… NOW… readily…
Today I want to take a few minutes to reflect on the way St. Luke’s has “answered readily the call of Christ” in the past year and look forward to how we might have grace to answer God’s call in 2020.
Now I don’t think this is a parish that has ever “walked in darkness” or “lived in a land of deep darkness,” but you are a parish that has “seen a great light” and upon whom “light has shined.”
Yes, there have been glory days in the past when this place was packed to standing room only, when there was a thriving Day School that was the livelihood of the parish and an important center of the neighborhood. But even with the changes in numbers of people and fewer activities, the DARKNESS did NOT overcome you. You kept the faith and remained hopeful.
When you hear God’s call, you respond whole-heartedly. This past year, your Vestry sensed God’s call to VISIBILITY for the parish. Visibility was the lens through which decisions were made. Now some of these visibility opportunities were in place before 2019 and continue on with the purpose of letting our community know we are here.
The list of Outreach and Visibility Missions included:
Your presence in our community has undoubtedly increased its JOY and God’s! And hopefully your joy as well!
From Isaiah 9, the people rejoice before God “AS WITH JOY AT THE HARVEST”.
he harvest was a crucial time for the Jews, as it is for farmers around the world today. We hear about the devastating seasons where the harvest is lean or decimated by weather or government procedures. And we hear about great parties and celebrations when the harvest is plentiful. In some places the entire town shuts down to participate in the harvest, hosting celebrations, offering worship services, even having parades - all in rejoicing for the harvest!
I sense this is where God is calling us for 2020 –
“Rejoicing in and Sharing the Harvest”!
You already do this in so many ways, but I believe God is calling us still to “respond readily to the call of Jesus” in new and intentional ways.
I want to share a few definitions with you and see if you can guess the word. (If you have been in staff meetings or vestry meetings and know this already, you can’t answer!)
STEWARDSHIP is going to be our focus for 2020.
PLEASE DO NOT TUNE OUT just because of that word!
You are excellent stewards in many, many ways – you take great pride in this place and have taken care of it and managed it well. It is not inexpensive to have a building and property like the one for which we are stewards. In the past few years you have
Stewardship can be applied to our environment, nature, economics, health, property, information and theology.
The theological and spiritual aspects of STEWARDSHIP are where I hope we can grow in 2020. I have been remiss in addressing stewardship as a spiritual discipline and theological tenet. What I know is that when a need arises, you all have always dug deep and found a way to meet and even exceed the need. I have failed to be dutiful in keeping you informed about the day-to-day needs and budget balances or deficits. You will begin to see monthly updates of where we are financially.
The spiritual discipline of stewardship requires not only the giving of financial resources – money – but also of answering the hard questions: “Who are we as a parish?”
“Who is God calling us to be?”
“How are we being invited to grow?”
“What is our mission in the next year or three or five?”
How can we be good stewards of our property and resources “to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ”?
To say that our focus for 2020 is STEWARDSHIP is NOT to say that I am going to ask you for money every time we get together. Our focus is going to be on good stewardship of all our resources – goods, property, time, talent and yes, treasure.
According to Wayward Journey, Characteristics of Good Stewardship include:
So as you can see, we are good stewards. Are there ways we can be better stewards?
Yes, of course!
And how do we do that? Paul, in 1 Corinthians instructs, “be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”
Now, does that mean we all have to agree on everything?
Absolutely not! Any good Episcopalian knows that there is room for a variety of thoughts and beliefs around the Table. But if we are clear about our call and our purpose, we stand a better chance of being good stewards of all our resources.
This is why we are beginning a DISCERNMENT PROCESS that will help us be clear about our call and purpose. Each and every one of you will have an opportunity to participate in this process, rooted in prayer and guided by your fellow parishioners to help us discover “the call of Jesus for St. Luke’s now” and respond readily to opportunities to be the Good News. I sincerely hope all of you will say “yes” when the invitation to participate comes your way.
Those who followed Jesus – his first disciples – responded “immediately” to his call… the call “follow me”. The first two immediately dropped their nets and followed. The second two immediately got out of their boat and followed. There is a sense of urgency about responding to the call.
I sense that urgency for us -- that we, as a parish, are on the cusp of great things. I can’t explain it, but I believe as we deepen our spiritual stewardship and respond to Jesus’ ongoing invitation to follow him, we are going to experience the movement of the Holy Spirit in and through our lives. It is an exciting time!
I want to leave you with a challenge. We are not known for our scripture memorization or quoting chapter and verse, but I want to challenge us to memorize and pray as a faith family, Psalm 27:11b:
“Your face, Lord, will* I seek.” (some version say “do I seek”)
“Your face, O God, will I seek.”
“Your face, Jesus, will I seek.”
“Your face, Holy Spirit, I seek.”
Choose the Name for the Divine that works best for you. Use it each morning as you greet the day, knowing your siblings in Christ here at St. Luke’s are praying the same: “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
Thank you for your time and attention! God bless you all! Amen.
Karen A. Calafat+