The Year Ahead
We are in an extraordinary period in the great story of Christianity. In the last few decades, our world has reached a tipping point away from the social anchor of religious identity. Gone are the days when social expectations compelled most people into church communities. Gone are the days when religious groups commanded respect and authority just by their very existence. Instead, we have entered a new reality where those who are truly active in church communities are the exception, not the rule. That presents a challenge that has never before confronted Christian Americans, and one that will take special attention.
In the coming years, we will be challenged to put that faithfulness and vision into practice, telling the story of Jesus in new ways and inviting countless un-churched and re-churched neighbors to join us on the way. We cannot do this on our own, but together, and with Christ, all things are possible. What has been the most inspiring part of the journey for me is the amazing and boundless energy I have seen from literally hundreds of Saint Michaelites who are ready to jump into new and renewed ministries!
At our Annual Parish Meeting, I discussed the work that has been done and the work that continues to be done by your leadership. I learned years ago that I can never repeat myself enough, so a summarized look at the year ahead here in the Archangel is a good idea. Over the past few months, the Saint Michael leadership has taken on some new initiatives focused on streamlining our efforts to maximize our ministry. I am committed to growth, and whenever I’ve talked about growth, the energy and support from our leadership has been apparent. Growth includes members and ministry. To grow in members, we must begin to invite our neighbors to join us, and when we bring them to church, help support their integration and connection to our community.
What will drive growth will be meeting people where they are and helping them grow beyond that. You’ve likely heard me say that God loves every person, no exceptions, but that God loves us enough not to leave us where we are. That challenge to grow in our own discipleship extends to multiple areas, including worship, formation, and ministry.
Formation is critical to our growth, and our formation ministries have plenty of room to grow, too. It is clear to me that we have a great opportunity to invest in our formation programs for all ages, but especially for our young people. In addition to our church formation programs for children and youth, we are also moving forward in our special relationship with the Saint Michael Episcopal School. We are so very blessed to have a fantastic partner in educating children in our community. Their passion and love for the youngest among us will continue to be a source of inspiration, as well as a way for us to invite new members into our church family. I am excited about the future growth of Saint Michael Episcopal School and know that their excellence in early childhood education will continue to be a model for other church schools around the country.
Of course we are always looking to help deepen the relationships of current members. In 2016, we began to lay the groundwork for exciting new ministries that focus on intimate and intentional relationship building. Some of those initiatives will pair individuals to develop what I like to call “holy friendships,” the people who help form us in our Christian discipleship. We have also begun the formation of an expanded integration ministry that will shepherd people into deeper connections through small groups of all kinds.
In the fall, we convened the leadership of all our ministry groups, including guilds and committees, as the new Parish Ministry Council. This body of leaders, numbering nearly 200, will gather semi-annually to discuss strategic initiatives so that the parish moves with more synchronicity. The new organizational structure of ministry groups will help reduce redundancy and identify opportunities for growth. The structure will also begin to mirror a new organizational structure on the church staff. This design with allow the work of our volunteer leadership to sync with the work of our staff to achieve more productivity and institutional memory over time.
Finally, and most importantly, the work we do is grounded in our relationship with God in Christ, and that relationship is renewed and strengthened through our worship. Worship is the root of our identity as Anglican Christians and remains absolutely integral to our Saint Michael community. In 2016, we evaluated ways in which we can increase our investment in worship and have already begun to execute those plans. During 2017, you will see those plans come to fruition in exciting ways. We have been a paragon of worship excellence, and I want to make sure we remain a leader in both tradition and creativity. The year ahead is full of excitement and I look forward to taking the journey with you!
The Reverend Chris Girata, Rector