January 15, 2009

Minister's Annual Report

It is Annual report season. Expand the post to see Gord's submission

Here we are again at Annual Report time. As I sit down to write this year I find two words on my mind: sustainability and viability. Often over the past year I have had occasion to wonder what in our world has both of those qualities. It is my opinion that we need to highlight and build on those things we do that are sustainable and let go of the things that are not. We also need to find ways to increase our viability both by encouraging our strengths or opportunities and by counteracting our threats or weaknesses.

As I look at it this congregation has many strengths. We have a committed core group of people who are willing to help us live out our mission in the community. We have a building that allows us to host groups large and small. We have people who are passionate about our life together. A source of pride this year in particular was our hosting of the Community Kids Christmas Party in December. These are things that show our viability.

Then there are things we need to sustain. We provide not only a place but a supportive family with which we can celebrate life’s joys and sorrows. And so we join with our friends and neighbours to say farewell in memorial services, and to celebrate births and marriages. As individuals we provide a supportive presence in the community at large. In 2008 we marked 55 years worshipping and living together as a congregation. 55 years of ministry in Atikokan. This is a great gift.

And what about the future? After all that is really what discussions about sustainability and viability tend to focus on. What will keep us thriving? What can we keep doing and what do we need to give up? These are the hard questions we need to face.

And let us be totally honest. They are questions which easily could leave us wanting. As mentioned in a letter from the Board earlier this year our financial sustainability is highly questionable. From a strict financial perspective we are simply either spending too much or not taking in enough. At the same time a ministry perspective makes me wonder if we are spending enough. Would one of the signs of a viable, sustainable congregation be that our spending actually increased? (I have a dream that someday we would be doing so well that we as a congregation could offer half our Christmas Eve offering to another charity in town as our Christmas gift to the town.)

But that lies solely in our future. Right now the only quick fix to our financial situation would be if your clergy person decided to work for free (and no that is not an offer). And so we have to seriously search what our options are both in terms of money and in terms of how we do ministry.

The other question about our sustainability/viability lies in our people. Many of us are tired. As wonderful as our volunteers are it seems that we recycle the same ones all the time. If we are to be viable in the long term we need to infect other people with a passion for the work of the church. (As it happens that same infection would help with our financial viability too.)

A new year is beginning. With a new year comes new possibilities. As we move forward we celebrate the past and wonder about the future. What choices will we make to highlight our strengths and build on our opportunities? How will we counter our weaknesses and threats?

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