“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you…”Jeremiah 29:11-12
Five minutes listening to the news provides subject matter for a thousand prayers…from world-wide war-mongering and the call for climate justice action, to the corona virus epidemic and sex slave trafficking, to First Nations anguish, a provincial educational crisis and the reality of homelessness in Ottawa. And then there are our own personal concerns and agendas. Often our prayers includes a petition for change, for without the will to entertain change there can be no resolution to the circumstances which prompt the prayer. There has to be a turning point, a time when something happens that causes a shift or a change in direction. We see that illustrated as we study history, read scripture and reflect on our own life journey. Sometimes those turning points are dramatic…events that revolutionize the world or transform our lives. Some are gentler. Some are positive, some terrible. Some are planned, others unexpected.
The Diocese of Ottawa is at a turning point. With the retirement of our present Bishop, John Chapman, and the upcoming Episcopal Election, change will be the norm, and even in churchland, where opposition to change is legendary, adaptation will be required. That the church as an institution is in decline is a painful truth. While we at St. Helen’s enjoy the arrival of new members on a regular basis, other places are not experiencing the same. Money is tight. Expectations are high. Within the college of clergy, several have left for more lucrative, less demanding employment, others are on long-term stress related disability leave, others just pack it in. Laity across the board face job uncertainties, lives overburdened with activities, higher prices for groceries and nearly everything else, broken relationships and major health and wholeness issues. And yet, in faith we embrace hope: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, for your welfare…” Please pray for those who have been nominated for Bishop. Whoever takes office will need deep faith, good health, phenomenal energy and patience and a servant’s heart. God bless them.
St. Helen’s has never been traditional, static or in survival mode. Reflecting on our short history, we can confirm that change and growth are key characteristics of this faith community. Certainly some things have been maintained, from generation to generation, but we also embrace discernment and vision, innovation and strategic planning, firm in the confession that God’s Holy Spirit is our Guide. Our Strategic Plan continues to call us into advanced ministry, that is, to the new, challenging work God wills for us to tackle in this parish.
We journey with our Saviour Jesus and that bond grounds us and gives meaning to our lives. We are called into that relationship, and into Christ’s Body the Church, for a purpose; that which is not just for our own support, nurture and comfort but in order to be equipped for ministry, to be witnesses to the power and the love of God.
In our Worship, the gathering of the community which defines us, we have introduced technology that enriches our experience and offers creative opportunities, while at the same time decreases our environmental footprint as we consume much less paper. I know not everyone likes it, having to move forward to see the screens more clearly and so on. And it doesn’t just happen…Terry, Derek and others have worked diligently to incorporate it. And someone has to manage the ‘remote clicker’ each week, as we move from slide to slide. This is a ministry needing dedicated, trained volunteers. Our music ministries have evolved over the past year and a half, with the additions of new musicians and vocalists, adding further depth to our praise. Other worship ministries continue to be in need of additional people prepared to serve the Lord: Altar Guild members, servers, in fact all of the worship ministries we enjoy. Creative new works from our resident artists will be revealed at the Episcopal Visit and you can view the ceramic feather, the symbol of Truth and Reconciliation with First Nations peoples, now installed next to the Prayer Net. I am also happy to announce that the Bishop has given me permission to designate The Rev. Kay Richardson officially as an Honourary Assistant in our parish. I expect that you will be able to enjoy her considerable gifts in a variety of ways in future months. We encourage all members of the parish to discern how you will exercise your ministry within the Body of Christ, the Church!
As Christians, life-long learning, faith education and theological reflection are givens. We are always on the journey to a more intimate relationship with Jesus, to a deeper understanding of our mission and ministry. Last year we moved into a first Sunday of the month Children’s Ministry format, led by Eileen Leversedge. We know that church attendance patterns have changed, and many of us lived through the “How do I get the kids to church without losing my mind, or temper?” syndrome. So the week before this ministry is offered in our parish, an e-mail is send to families with young children to remind them that the event is coming up. Thankfully, Eileen has had some help with this ministry but this important facet of parish life needs a team of committed laity to serve our youngest disciples. Our Youth group is well served by such a team of five leaders. A different format and approach for this ministry is just now emerging.
Bible Study and Faith Forum are offered from term to term and, since the autumn, Peter+ has prepared the candidates for Confirmation and Reception into the Anglican Communion which will be the focus of our Episcopal Visit next month(March 15). Beginning in September we offered the Sanctuary Course for the first time, an 8 week course on mental health and mental Illness, facilitated by the clergy, with the support of the Pastoral Care Team. The Ottawa School for Parish Development, initiated in this Diocese by Peter+, has had one member of St. Helen’s participate to date and five more with that intention for the June Course. Their learning experiences will undoubtedly result in change and growth here in the parish. And I am pleased to announce that Jeff McCrae will be joining Wanetta Cheung as Co-Chair of Discipleship, with an assessment and Strategic planning role within this Pillar.
Stewardship, that multifaceted ministry within parish life, encompasses everything to do with the property as well our whole financial ministry. Expenses under this Pillar continue to rise and we have little recourse. The water bill, for example, is to go up by 300%. Volunteers are invaluable… cleaners, grass cutters, the POG team, handy-men, and women, and our Quiet Gardeners. There is always something that needs attention, fixing, a touch up, cleaning…and our family is not always good about treating the facility well! We did have a contract for a monthly professional cleaner last year but unfortunately the cost was too high and the work was less than stellar.
We continue to learn about what is involved with offering rental space, on a limited basis. Just so you know, we do not offer space for weekly rental and Saturday rentals are strongly discouraged, because Sunday’s coming! We now know that staffing is one of the big issues, cleaning up after a rental is another. We are still learning what works and what does not. We are five years post expansion and, not surprisingly, we have begun to see where the construction promises haven’t been sustained. There are issues with the servery cupboards and the Grace Room and foyer floors, for example, and there remain further plans to improve the building and grounds.
Concerning finances, during Vestry you will be asked to approve a pared down budget, reflecting present parish givings. This will impact all ministries, perhaps most visibly, Outreach, as we have eliminated most of that budget. We will still be supporting Outreach Ministry, through Parish Fair Share, response to campaigns, special appeals and donations ‘in kind’, but not in a separate budget. Our part time employees will not receive an increase this spring but we are going to explore changing our remuneration system, potentially for September. Our mortgage is due for renewal this year and negotiations on that matter have already begun.
Although we do not, as many churches do, run a pledge campaign every year, we do encourage you to give generously to the church. We try to limit our ‘fund raising’ so that it’s not always about an ‘ask’ but we do not shy away from calling you to a more mature faith and substantial monetary commitment to enable the Kingdom work that is ours to exercise! We have made it easy for you to give financially. PAR, envelopes, special offering envelopes, Canada Helps, The United Way, and now the new card reader for debits or credit card donations, all facilitate your financial support.
St. Helen’s members are deeply involved in what we call, within the faith community, Outreach. We are exceedingly generous, supporting the Community Ministries of the Diocese, the Food Bank and a multitude of other social agencies and ministries, both those championed by members of the parish and all of the charitable causes to which we make donations as individuals. Our monthly collections are becoming legendary in some circles, with delighted awe being expressed by Centre 454 and the Mission for the car load of socks recently delivered! We respond creatively with innovative ventures, such as the End the Cycle project which supplied a new washing machine to Centre 105 in Cornwall and providing 25 new swim suits so that the residents of Cornerstone on Princeton could go swimming at Dovercourt.
But, in my opinion, giving styles have changed. Whereas the Community Ministries of the Diocese were initially supported by government funding and our Parish Fair Share, both of which are still major components, every ministry now runs their own campaigns and the Diocese promotes Today for Tomorrow, ‘Building a Community of Hope’, the centralized giving annual campaign, getting underway again this month. If your particular interest is to support other areas of Diocesan work, such as YIP, or the Inuit Ministry at St. Margaret’s or the All My Relations group, among others, please consider making a donation to T4T. You are welcome to give directly to other agencies, and not process it through St. Helen’s, as many of you do with your support of Hope for the Future Ministries, managed by Ron Harder. We commit to compiling a list of resources and addresses so that you can do just that.
One of the benefits of having a Hall is the ease with which we can gather in Community. Our regular events, from weekly coffee hour, to the Valentines’ Breakfast, to the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper this week, to the Seniors’ lunches, the Bazaar and the Gala in December are welcome opportunities to meet informally and to introduce others to the fellowship we share. New ideas are always being suggested and are welcomed but be prepared to offer your services. The Youth and their leaders introduced a Family Games Night last year, to be repeated this year on March 7. Please plan to attend our Bishop’s Visit on March 15, with a celebratory Reception to follow our worship. We are also excited about our first Fine Arts Fair, scheduled for May 30 and on Saturday, June 13 we will hold a Spring Fete at the church, with further planning to take place later in Lent.
This parish is graced with abundant blessings. Committed lay leaders and volunteers, working with the priests, keep it authentic and healthy. Council Members, all of whom engage in other ministries as well, our part-time paid Administrative Assistant, our three part-time paid music ministry leaders, our Discipleship facilitators, those who actively engage in the good Stewardship and beautification of our property, volunteers on our Financial Ministries team, Pastoral Care, Outreach and Community, are all deeply valued.
St. Helen’s is a complicated place. There is more than enough work for two full time priests, even if we can boast 74 years of experience between us! We don’t get everything done, ever! Please read the Annual Report in full, and regularly explore our web site, so that you will be knowledgeable about the breadth of ministry with which our parish is engaged. Most of you only have a narrow understanding of the range of challenges each day presents but three people, besides the clergy, do. Terry Leversedge, my Administrative Assistant, Kathy Pearce, Rector’s Warden and Glen McIntyre, People’s Warden are not only involved in every aspect of parish life but they are also key supports to the clergy. We could not maintain our high level of work, or our sanity, without their amazing wisdom, patience and steadfast faith. I commend them to the parish and thank God for their gifts and ministries.
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” With confidence and love, I Charge you, the members of the Body of Christ at St. Helen’s, to embrace God’s call, indeed with hope and excitement and joy, in this year of our Lord 2020.
Presented by the Incumbent,
The Venerable Susan Churchill-Lackey
February 23, 2020