Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ!
Another year has come and gone and once again we are in preparations for our Annual Congregational Meeting.
At our Annual Meeting this year Council is bringing forward revised Mission and Vision statements for you to consider and so I have a request. As you read the reports imagine you have never set foot in this place before. What do these reports tell you about who we are as a community of faith? What is not said?
[Please note that I am not suggesting a that this is good way to introduce the congregation to a newcomer. It is more of a thought experiment.]
It is my belief that as you read through these reports, and as you look at our financial reports and budget, you gain a sense of who we think we are and how we have lived that out in 2015. It is my hope that we use that sense to determine what we do next. Do we keep on keeping on or is there something new we need to try?
As I sit to write this I have only seen actual text of a few reports. And so I don't really know what the total says about us. But here is what I hope we see.
I hope we see and recognize that this is a very generous congregation. In the midst of one of the strongest economic downturns in recent memory (I saw one prediction from the ATB that this may be the first time since 1982 that Alberta will be in recession for 2 consecutive years) we have almost come out with a balanced financial statement. And at the same time as we have (though givings and fundraisers) contributed $217 000 to fund our operations we have given almost $27 000 to the Mission and Service Fund and over $13 000 to the local community through our Local Outreach fund. That is $40 000 (or about an extra 18%) over and above local operations. This is indeed a very generous congregation. We need to recognize and celebrate this fact.
In addition to these financial realities our generosity is shown in the use of our building. Reporting on behalf of the Co-Chairs, Karen Scott has listed many of the ways this building is used by others in the community. While many of these users rent space, many others are not charged rent (though they do make donations as a measure of thanks). Our mere existence is an act of generosity.
What else might we see? I would hope our commitment to exploring what it means to be a follower of Christ shows up in these pages. Maybe we see that when we remember the various Youth programs that happen here. Maybe when we reflect on our worship services. Maybe in thinking about UCW meetings. Maybe in remembering that we have reconstituted the Pastoral Care Committee to expand our ability to care for each other. We explore by trial and error what it means to follow Christ.
What do you see? If someone asked you what St. Paul's was all about how would you answer?
If each Annual Report is a snapshot of our life together, what will next year's picture show? The world around us continues to be in economic turmoil. There are many people in our community who are feeling the pinch (I learnt last week that Grande Prairie has the 2nd highest unemployment rate in Alberta). As people who proclaim that God is active in our midst, as people who proclaim that the Kingdom of God is both here among us and growing to full flower how will we make those claims real as we live our our vision and mission and respond to the realities of the world in which we live?
I look forward to finding out.