Just past the middle of the year at St. John’s, we have very much for which to give thanks. Last fall, we named the following goals for the year ahead:
- Offer a Sabbatical to Fr. Scott
- Create a Youth and Children’s Ministry internship program
- Add to our Servant Ministries giving
- Recruit and retain a gifted staff; eliminate furloughs
We give thanks that God prospered our plans. Fr. Scott was blessed with ten weeks of sabbatical leave earlier this summer, time that included a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, study of the Gospel of Matthew, and time to read and pray without pastoral responsibility. He’ll be teaching the first few weeks of adult formation this fall, sharing from his trip and teaching from the Gospels as we all benefit from his experience. Our summer interns have made a great difference in our ministry this summer, particularly in helping Maggie Mallette lay foundations for the ministry year to come, in the midst of a busy summer of youth mission and community. They’ve also made a great difference in cleaning out corners of Heyward Hall, redesigning the music suite, and planning our book give-away. The Servant Ministries committee has more money to give to mission partners and is also sparking all kinds of new activity, including an all-parish Saturday of Service in October.
The last goal, concerning our staff, has been realized, though circuitously at times. It is wonderful that the 2019 budget includes no staff furlough and even funds for salary increases. We’ve needed that positive foundation for building our team. Since I joined you last July, we have hired a director of music, an organist, a finance administrator, and an administrative assistant. Yet the budget staff is smaller than in 2017, since we have replaced a full-time Parish Relations Coordinator with a part-time administrative assistant and lost some longer-serving employees. All told, our season of staff and clergy transitions has produced a smaller payroll, one that nonetheless gives St. John’s a highly committed and gifted group of staff partners for your ministry.
After my vacation in July, I spent some talking with parishioners who found Jill Zook-Jones’ July 14 sermon on the Lord’s parable of the injured Israelite and the good Samaritan unhelpful. They were good and kind conversations, with people who were both bothered by the sermon and understanding of Jill’s sincerity in offering it. I also heard from some in the congregation who found it an effective and meaningful proclamation. I appreciated that people wanted to talk and were honest about their faith convictions and political concerns. This was but one sermon, by a guest preacher, but the experience suggests that St. John’s is a parish that values honest relationships and that can handle some moments of dissonance. We can credit the Holy Spirit with promoting love and understanding at moments like these.
We’ve also had some great ministry moments despite the summer lull, including Vacation Bible School (“the best one I’ve ever seen,” a veteran parishioner remarked), a Scream-Free Parenting series, several youth events, two mission trips, and a Lord’s Prayer class. Two new events on the parish calendar are coming up soon, a Garden Goodness potluck and the stewardship kickoff dinner in September. We are also working to make sure that Welcome Back Sunday is an energizing event, that leads to a year of lively ministries of worship and formation.
That’s a pretty good look at what we’ve been doing at St. John’s so far in 2019. But what has God been up to at St. John’s in 2019? If we have eyes to see, we can find the presence of God in the ministry moments narrated above. God has called, as God does, bringing us together to worship him week by week, in beauty and power. God has built us up, as he does, adding 25 new members to the body so far this year. God has fed, as God does, in nurturing relationships, in parish meals, and at the altar. God has sent servants into the world, which is also his way, to repair homes in Columbia and John’s Island. God has been good to us, as is God’s nature, and we are called to carry on in his Spirit with joy and thanksgiving.
I hope you share my enthusiasm and thanksgiving for God’s work among us so far in 2019. Let us pray and work together to finish this year in the strength that comes from God.