Annual Report to the Congregation 2014
January 20, 2014
Dear Friends in Christ,
Another year has come and gone, and this one has been a particularly eventful one. Not only have we celebrated our 50th Anniversary as a parish, but we have been able to address some long overdue maintenance projects around our physical plant. I’ve heard nothing but positive reactions to the new parking lot outside. And I can tell you from a personal perspective, when I switched from driving a Ford Ranger to a Toyota Prius I was very happy to have a smooth, flat parking lot. Earlier in the year we received a large donation enabling us to replace the flat roof over the commons with state-of-the-art materials. Again this has been a huge blessing as we no longer have major leaks in the ceiling, and people no longer have to climb up on the roof to clean off the water. Another issue we faced was a sinking floor in our educational wing. Thankfully the building was structurally sound but the floors did need to be addressed. We were able to jack them up fairly nicely, evening out some sections and stabilizing the rest. As things typically go as you address one project another starts begging for attention, and once the floors were stabilized an anonymous donor came forward and paid to have the hallways professionally painted. This year we can turn our attention to two outstanding projects: retiling the floors now that they’re level, and giving our kitchen a good face-lift. The good news is that we have the funds available for these projects, so it just becomes an issue of timing and elbow grease.
But I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, that a Church is not made up of only a building. As a matter of fact, a Church’s most important asset is not something that appears on the balance sheet. A Church’s most important asset is the people – that’s you. Our biggest potential for growth exists within the community that gathers here each week for worship, fellowship, formation, and serving others.
One of the things the vestry and I have noticed over the past few years is that this community is going through a period of change. If you are to look at purely numbers, you would notice a downward trend – both in donations and attendance. In researching this trend I found that a large contributing factor is the life cycle of the parish. All communities ebb and flow like the tides and this is what we’re experiencing. Since I arrived over three years ago, we’ve lost about 15 households – mostly because of deaths or job relocations. Many of these households were old, established families of St. Francis, some of which go back almost to the beginning. On the plus side we’ve gained eleven households, stemming most of the downward trend, but not all of it. However, I do feel like we’ve turned a corner, and I’m looking forward to the years ahead of us, hoping, praying and planning for growth ahead of us.
With the major building issues addressed, I feel like I can turn my attention to one the things that priests really should be doing – and that’s developing our most precious asset – our people. As the community changes, as new people come in and join our fellowship, as other people step up to fill the void of those who have left, it’s imperative that we develop our people so they can grow in their faith, worship the Lord passionately, love one another deeply, serve joyfully, and share with others. Over the past several months, a committee commissioned by the vestry has been hard at work on a strategic plan for St. Francis for the next five years. And if I could sum up this strategic plan it would be addressing the issues I just mentioned, or to put it in a positive sense – it’s about people developing people – disciples of Jesus Christ creating more disciples of Jesus Christ. We looked at each of the five areas of Church health: worship, fellowship, formation, service, and evangelism – and imagined how our Church would look in each of those areas in five years if we knew we couldn’t fail. And I can tell you this future looks very exciting – St. Francis is a bustle of productive activity that provides an example to other Churches in our area. Just yesterday this vision was presented to the vestry at its annual retreat and we had some honest, wonderful conversations on the topic. There may be a few tweaks to the final document but very soon all of the details will be ready for release to the whole congregation. At that point, we anticipate having a town hall meeting in March to give each and every one of you a chance to digest the vision, and to provide your feedback and insights. But again the vision can be summed up in this simple concept – people are developing other people – disciples of Jesus Christ making disciples of Jesus Christ.
A vision like this, one that challenges St. Francis to grow over the next several years, is only possible to the extent that you embrace it. In all of Church ministry, the success largely rises and falls on the extent that the lay ministers of the Church make it happen. We purposely set an ambitious vision in order to stretch each member of St. Francis to do what god is calling us to do – and that’s to spread the Gospel, stay connected through the Holy Spirit, and love one another as Christ loved us.
The future does look exciting, and I look forward to being a part of it. However I would be remiss if I did not thank each and every one of you for the privilege of being your pastor. It’s such an honor to be part of St. Francis Church and my excitement can only exist along with a deep appreciation.
Thank you all, and God Bless.
The Rev’d Conor Alexander, Rector