January 14, 2010

Minister's Annual REport

Yes I know it will be printed for distribution soon. But for those who just can't wait...


They say that time flies when you’re having fun. Well that must be true because all of a sudden I find myself writing my Annual Report for the 9th year. Yes, my 9th year. It was 8.5 years ago that I arrived in town (incidentally that means that you have now been in ministry with me longer than any other minister since John Freeman). 8.5 years of births and deaths, joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams. And now here we are at Annual Report time again.

As I look back over the last year I see a mixture of anxiety and hope (of course one could say that for almost any year couldn’t one?). We had worries about money. We had a Board that was short two people. We were living and ministering within a community that continues to worry about its own survival. Anxiety could easily overtake us if we let it.

But there was hope too. There are continuing and strengthening rumours of new economic life coming to Atikokan. There were always hands available to prepare funeral lunches, or make pies, or serve the Harvest and Ham suppers. And high on my list of signs of hope is the reality that in the fall of 2009 we doubled our Sunday School! I challenge you to find many churches who can make that claim.

And now I turn my eyes from the past year to the year (and years) to come. Annual Report and Annual Meeting time calls us to both look back and to look ahead. And as I look ahead these hymn words come to my mind…

Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of faith and dreams of visions, rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where prophets speak, and words are strong and true,
where all God’s children dare to seek to dream God’s reign anew.
Here the cross shall stand as witness and as symbol of God’s grace;
here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where hand will reach beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach, and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.
(verses 1,2, & 4 of #1 in More Voices “Let us Build a House (All are Welcome)” ©1994 Marty Haugen)

Over the years past we have built and maintained a house here. How do we continue to build it? One of my fears is that we have fallen into the trap of focussing on the maintenance of what there is and not dreaming of what there could be. What are our dreams?

One of the challenges of a longer term ministry is avoiding the comfort trap. When ministers change congregations and congregations change ministers every 5-6 years there is a constant infusion of new energy and changes. That can be disruptive but I believe that disruption can often be a very healthy thing. When we minister together for a longer term we need to find other ways to bring the disruption and newness that causes creativity and growth.

There have been times over the years when various members of this congregation have worried about its future. There have been times (this September was one of them) when the financial viability of this congregation was called into question. After 8.5 years I can tell you that I still see signs of life and promise here. We just need to find the way to bring it to bloom. I also want to share my firm belief that if we develop and share a clear sense of why we are here then people will respond. Any writer in the field of stewardship and fundraising will tell you that people share of themselves (time, talent and treasure) in response to a sense of vision and mission. If we want to flourish as a part of the Body of Christ then we will need a clear vision of what God is calling us to do and be in this place and time.

I call all of us to ask ourselves where God is calling us. I encourage all of us to ask how best to be God’s people; live in God’s Way; and share God’s love, hope and promise in the Atikokan of the 21st Century. And we have to be open to answers that may be disruptive. We may hear God call us to be different than we have ever been before. But in disruption there is room for growth. And, on a more sombre note, if we can openly and honestly engage these questions then we will not only fail to grow. If we focus on maintaining what we have and wish for what we once had we may well lose it. If we embrace our dreams then we may not only keep the memories but gain a whole new world.

May God help it to be so.

No comments:

Post a Comment