To the Christ Church family:
As we prepare for the holiday it is important for me to give thanks for all of you. I can’t explain how blessed I feel to have such a beautiful, faithful, and loving family at Christ Church and how honored I am that you have entrusted some of the leadership of our church to me.
When we embarked on this experiment I think it’s safe to say we assumed it would work. We’re all pretty positive people, we knew each other and we had confidence we could work together. That being said, it being such a new and innovative way to operate, I know we also had some concerns about the whole thing. What exactly is this we are doing, we probably all said at one time or another.
Some in the church, were hesitant…wait, let’s say it…some in the church didn’t like the idea at all. Now? I think the church is rooting for us. In fact, maybe the church is beginning to look at us as the future of the church. Small, lay and clergy leadership shared, loving and caring community of faith, just might be the only way the church can survive. I think, in some ways, we are on the front lines of that survival. In my second meeting with Bishop Susan Goff before she approved our ‘little experiment’ she said to me: ‘you know Kurt, the church has to change.’ We are that change…we are blessed to have a Bishop that sees that change as necessary.
I know I have pushed us a little. We’re doing some things no other church is doing, in the Episcopal Church and without. And frankly some have expressed a concern or two about our non-traditional way within the Episcopal Church. But all in all we are stronger now than we were this time last year by almost every measure. Our Sunday attendance is up and has stabilized so we don’t have those up and down weeks in the pews. We’re financially stable as well, with your support, coupled with good management of our money, making it so we cover our ongoing expenses. These two categories are what are considered good measuring sticks, by those who measure such things, for the health of a church. Steady attendance and financial stability. We are measuring up. Truth is, almost every small church our size is struggling in both of those categories. We are defying the common trends in church life today.
Why is this? Why is Christ Church bucking the trend and staying strong when we aren’t supposed to be strong, based on our size and the fact that we don’t have a regular priest?
The answer hit me this past Sunday when I had time to look around the room: I realized everybody is playing a role at Christ Church. Every single person in our pews has done or is doing something more than just attending on Sunday morning. And with our new participation forms received we have learned that new people and many long-time members are asking for more of a role, they want to try new things from healing ministry to helping with buildings and grounds. Do you know those forms said we have long time members who want to be received into the Episcopal Church and that we might have some six confirmations next year, and a baptism! Christ Church is alive and well, my friends.
One part of the answer to why we are healthy is we are a church full of people who not only love going to church but also work to see that church flourish and grow and are willing to put the time and effort in to see the church they love be the beloved community we all seek to be part of.
See to me numbers are nice. But there is another measure that is more important. We are proud members of the Jesus Movement bringing his life-giving message to as many people as we can, as often as we can, in as many ways as we can. This, to me, is the real measure of church health. I guess the numbers matter. But what matters more in my mind is not average Sunday attendance. It’s average number of lives changed. How many people are experiencing the all encompassing love of Jesus by being part of Christ Church? That’s what I think is important.
We’re measuring up in that category too. I believe Christ Church is changing lives.
I am the one who gets to say he is the Lay Pastoral Leader. I do have that title, but we all know, even when we joke about it, ‘ain’t one person in charge at CCL.’ That joke, about nobody being in charge is no joke. It’s true. We are all in charge. And that’s what makes us work and that’s what makes us special.
I love you all and hope you will accept these Thanksgiving wishes for you and your family with all the love, respect and gratitude I can muster. We work because WE work…we are special and I feel as if God has bestowed on me the most special gift of all: every single one of you.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving. And then return to Christ Church ready for our very busy Advent and Christmas seasons. Another season where I know every single person in this congregation will play a role in bringing Jesus’ love to all that we encounter, in the church and outside the church.
Peace and all good,