Grace and peace to you and happy New Year! 2014 was quite a year, filled with changes and things to celebrate. From our block party, community meals, bazaar and The Camden Promise to our children's program, growing Sunday school and confirmation classes and the incredible leadership of our youth program, it is clear that Gethsemane is moving strongly in the direction of reclaiming its place as a neighborhood and intergenerational church. Praise God for the way we are moving together in ministry and in relationship.
As I write you this year I am struck by three things:
Our congregation is growing and changing. Looking at the pews on any given Sunday it is easy to see how our congregation is changing. We look more diverse culturally and ethnically. As a result we are singing different songs, talking differently with one another, worshiping with an eye for hospitality. Our tables for coffee fellowship after the service have a different configuration of people. Some of us have even changed where we sit in the pews of the church! This has not always been easy for us because each of us comes from our own context where we like our own things done our own way. But 2014 will go down for me as the year where I heard our congregation saying that we could change how we do things for the sake of the people God is bringing us and still remain true to ourselves as disciples of Jesus.
Our neighborhood and church partnerships are developing. 2014 will be remembered by me as the year that I joined the Lind Bohannon Neighborhood Association. We now have a direct link to the decision-makers in our neighborhood and the ability to shape the policies for the community in which our church resides. Our partnership with Nu-way Missionary Baptist Church has moved well beyond pleasantries to doing hard work together in ministry and in mission. The Rev. Willie Macafee and his wife, Joan, have become dear friends and colleagues and I treasure our association and the work we are able to do together for the sake of God's world. I am grateful, as well, for Christ Presbyterian Church, Living Word, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, as well as, our own Minneapolis Synod office for the financial support and collegiality we have received. And on behalf of our entire congregation let me extend a hand of thanks to our bishop, and her tireless staff for their work in providing over $18,000 in mission support for Gethsemane in 2015!
The third thing that strikes me is that it is time to focus on discipleship and education. We have decided together to work to grow our congregation to over 100 in worship over the next three years. But now, as these people begin to trickle into our community life, the need for religious education and spiritual leadership has become more and more apparent. My hope in 2015 is to offer more Bible studies, small groups, retreats and other opportunities for spiritual growth and development.
Additionally, it is time for us as a congregation to take seriously our own leadership development. As new people come into the life of our congregation, we must own the responsibility to train, groom and support them as potential leaders. This responsibility falls to all of us....especially to those that have held multiple positions of leadership throughout the years.
In closing, let me say a special thanks to my colleagues in ministry, Roxi Mork, Pat Stiegler and John Boyd. Quite simply, our church would not be functioning today without their tireless support, energy and enthusiasm. May God bless them and all of us as we seek to serve the risen Lord in the New Year! Amen