"I am the vine; you are the branches." — John 15:5

Incumbent’s Charge for 2017

St. Helen’s Anglican Church, Orleans, Ontario

Incumbent’s Charge for 2017

St. Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, chapter 12, speaks of the church being one body, with many members, each one God-endowed with a multitude of gifts.   Spirit activated, these varieties of gifts are given for the purpose of the ‘common good’, the building up the Body of Christ.  At the end of that chapter Paul says, “And I will show you a still more excellent way…” and then, in chapter 13,  we hear those familiar verses describing Christian love,  beginning “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love…”  well, we might as well go home.  My charge to you this year reflects on the advanced ministry with which we are engaged here at St. Helen’s and the call to excellence required for it to flourish as God so wills.

Gathering for worship, and being motivated to action by our faith in Christ Jesus, is what sets us apart from any number of worthy groups and service clubs designed to make this world a better place.  But if worship is the source of nourishment from which we receive our health and vigor, then why is attendance less than regular?  I don’t really need to know the reasons…go ahead, tell them to God! What you experience on Sunday morning doesn’t just happen, preparations include work by our music directors and their ministry teams, the worship ministries scheduling and preparation, the Altar Guild, bulletin drafting and publication and the clergy’s work to craft inspired prayers, homilies and spiritual encouragement, for every service. For various reasons several of our worship ministries require ‘refurbishment’…Please note, that as of today, Peter+ and I will be assertive in inviting you to offer yourself as a Server at the Altar, a reader, an intercessor, a sides person, a counter, a Communion Administrator…for all three services.  I pray that you will respond generously with willingness to serve.  Our music ministries and Altar Guild also welcome your participation.  Speaking of refurbishment, one project this year will be to paint and restore the sacristy and review what new paraments and holy hardware we might commission, to the glory of God. On another topic, most Sundays we have visitors or newcomers come to worship; they most frequently find us through our web site.  Do you introduce yourself and chat for a few minutes.  If not…do they come back?

A number of our discipleship ministries have enjoyed inspired growth over the past year.  The Branches, averaging 12 members (many in the Confirmation class), is well staffed by four leaders; the Tuesday Bible Study, is not only maintaining good participation but is writing their own original studies; Faith Forum and Anglicanism 101, welcoming large numbers of people, long time members and new ones, offer less structured discussions about the intricacies and challenges of our faith and how we live it day to day.  We do need, however, to revisit how we provide Church School.  Not only does irregular attendance make planning difficult, the four primary teachers need more support. We will explore, focused on the theme ‘called to excellence’,  what Church School can provide in terms of Christian education and experience and how that might be expressed, in perhaps a different form from a week-to-week 45 minute time slot.   Our parish library, as yet in boxes, will be culled and redesigned, beginning this winter.

Stewardship is an inclusive pillar of our church operations.  From property maintenance, inside and out, to security and safety, to financial matters and volunteer management.  It has been a busy year and efforts continue to complete the expansion work, especially concerning deficiencies and exterior landscaping, and the creation of a maintenance reference catalogue for ongoing use. This will be a project for the coming year.

With thanks to God, and to all parishioners, including our Financial Ministries team, we have been able to meet operational requirements as well as mission  and outreach donations.  We often run a deficit for budgeted revenue but we respond by being frugal where possible and putting off projects when the money is not there.  I feel that I need to remind you all that we do not start with almost $470,000. in the bank and then dole it out for various purposes…we have to raise it first, primarily through our financial offerings.   You can, of course, increase your givings, make memorial or thank offerings, or use the Canada Helps button on the website.   The Quiet Garden, about which you will hear more at Vestry, will warrant an appeal for memorial donations, as well as green-thumb enthusiasts to be involved.  We still want and need ‘stuff’ to outfit our space for ministry.  Thanks to the money raised with the St. Andrew’s Day Dinner, as well as a substantial amount from the budget, the sound system for Trinity Hall will be installed in March.  This will be of benefit both for parish events and for rentals.  We do not yet have the funds to proceed with the Video component of our technology needs for both the Nave and the hall nor will there yet be sound in the Grace Room or the foyer…so there’s still work to be done.

We do have higher costs associated with a physical plant that is twice the size of the original; we do have hefty mortgage payments; and we do need to consider what staffing needs we have, which ones can be volunteer and which require compensation. A new Administrative Assistant will begin part-time work in the office in March; staffing to assist with rentals will be required; the employment of a professional cleaning service for periodic large scale cleaning is needed; additions to the ministry team are not out of the picture.  When I first came to St. Helen’s a wise priest said ‘a big ship turns slowly’…well an even bigger ship requires personnel to keep it not only afloat but shipshape and on the right course.   Ecops , or cost of priestly services, and our Diocesan ‘fair share’ are a substantial part of the budget.  These figures are determined by the Diocese and are not, unlike in many denominations, negotiable.  The biannual mortgage payment also adds up. Generally speaking, we enjoy a culture of generosity, here at St. Helen’s,  but some of you are financially able to offer a little more than you have been doing, especially those who have not raised their yearly offering for a number of years.   Every few years we publish and speak to the issue of legacy giving, or remembering the church in your will.  Later this year we will provide information on this manner of ensuring that your church can continue in ministry long after you are gone!

St. Helen’s  Outreach ministry is expressed in three significant ways, education, hands-on and monetary donation. Continuing projects such as the monthly collections, ‘muffins made with love’ and the women’s challenge, as well as seasonal efforts in support of the Diocesan Community Ministries and the Bales for the North, for example, only are effective because of your participation, as shoppers, bakers, delivery staff and so on.  This spring a group will offer to assist at a lunch at the Shepherds of Good Hope mission, a new endeavour for our parish.  Our Diocesan ‘Fair Share’ includes a good percentage  designated for Community Ministries and our own budget supports local, national and international concerns.  What else is on the horizon?

At the Diocesan level  affordable housing, with a new Cornerstone type home being built in Westboro, is a major project. Other items include the likelihood of significant changes in the delivery of ministry around the Diocese; the new Parish Ministries Institute, to which Peter+ was appointed non-stipendiary Director; the constantly shifting and growing needs experienced in our Community Ministries;  the ongoing work of Embracing  God’s Future and the first rendition of the Diocesan Annual Appeal, now entitled Today 4 Tomorrow. If you are in the Diocesan data base, in other words if you have given to Gift or other appeals, you will receive a personal invitation through the mail.  Please respond as you are able.  The ongoing plight of refugees, not helped by the new President of the United States policies, continues to claim Diocesan attention.  Are we ready to sponsor a family, as there is an opportunity to do so?  But we don’t just need ‘helpers’, to proceed; a strong team is required, with a highly committed leader, ready to give time and energy, and to engage in significant fundraising,  for a minimum three year period.  Please, if you feel that this is your calling, speak with me.

Whether you are a member of a group which regularly meets at St. Helen’s, participant in programmes or simply enjoy the multitude of wonderful special events planned throughout the year, you know that being part of this ‘family’ is life-giving; and that is true even though some family members can be a challenge on occasion.  Part of being called to excellence, therefore called to love, is not just to put up each other but to ensure that we do not participate in  words or behavior that puts others down…you all know what I mean.  And don’t just walk away from that kind of toxic negativity, speak against it.  Healthy relationships are what we strive for in this community,  healthy, holy relationships.  All of our events, from Senior’s Lunches, to the upcoming Shrove Tuesday Supper, to the Bazaar, the Gala and so on require teams of people to share the load.  One of the, perhaps unexpected, outcomes is that you may find that you enjoy yourself and more importantly make friends with others engaged in the same work.

Each year many in our Christian family face difficult pastoral realities. The deaths of loved ones, difficult relationships, physical and mental health concerns, and other issues,  may be a part of life but still aren’t easy. We rejoice that we know that God will walk with us through the journey and that we have ‘brothers and sisters in Christ’ who care for us, and pray for us, through these times. The power of prayer is surely felt within our parish life!  A common refrain includes thanksgivings for being  part of this Spirit-filled community….some have found a spiritual home, others have discovered the joy of a deeper relationship with God, and for others, just having somewhere to go, and someone to talk to has made a difference in their lives.  This ministry of ‘being community’ is one we all share.

Early in January of this year, our Parish Council met with facilitator Terry Leversedge to review the Strategic Plan and to dream and plan for the future.  The exercise was affirming, as we reviewed what has been accomplished but also challenging as we look ahead, ready to respond faithfully to God’s call. Our future will embrace change…the growth of some ministries and perhaps some will be replaced by  the establishment of new  projects or events and with further connections with the wider community.

We pray to be a Christian family, called by God, to excellence; to be a community known by its love, its inclusiveness, by the light and the peace, the hope and the grace of Christ,  shared freely.   The harvest is plentiful and so are the workers!  It’s time for those of you who have been nudged by the Spirit to risk deeper involvement in the parish and for others to do the work of discernment to determine how they might serve the Lord in new ways.  By this we will see the Spirit move ever more powerfully in this place.  I charge you, the members of the parish of St. Helen’s,  in the year of our Lord 2017, as we celebrate Canada’s 150th Anniversary of Confederation, to respond to God’s call to excellence, to ministry, as this community of the  Body of Christ in Orleans.