Grace and Peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ!
As I sit to write this annual report today, I am mindful to how good God is and how God turns even the craziest and difficult moments around into joy and celebration. I believe that we will remember 2011 as God's "turn around year" at Gethsemane.
Giving in 2011 was amazing. As many will call, in December of 2010 the council sent out a letter saying that if our giving did not increase, we would be forced to close our doors. But for the grace of God, in January Gethsemane received $11,000.00 in matching funds from parishioners for the 2011 budget and $10,281.00 in increased pledges! While many of our sister churches struggled to pay bills and to stay open, Gethsemane ended the year in the black. And as many will recall recently, our 2012 stewardship program netted an additional 24% in giving over 2011. We are a growing church with a $210,000.00 budget....Praise God for such abundance and generous discipleship!
In January, our facility suffered water damage due to an ice dam on the roof. There was damage to the downstairs kitchen and youth room as well as the stairwell to the food shelf. But after a long conversation with our insurance company and an even longer wait to begin construction, the youth room get a new cement floor and the kitchen new shelving and a redesign. And since most of the work was done by parishioners and volunteers, the remaining insurance funds were applied to the purchase and installation of an air conditioning/furnace unit. We now have air conditioning in the summer! We also now have heat in the colder months of fall and spring without turning the boiler on, saving us an anticipated $5,000.00 per year.
In February, Roxi's role as Parish administrator was changed to that of Parish Minister. Many of the clerical responsibilities were shifted to Joyce Turner, who now does our bulletins, newsletters and annual reports. Now Roxi's primary role is to function as a connector of people to their gifts. And she did just that this year, connecting people from the various Camden Promise ministries into the life of our congregation, connecting partner congregations with our ministries and coordinating many volunteers through many of the events and circumstances of this year with the food shelf, BBQ's, youth and after school programs. If you have occasion to catch her between the many things she facilitates in our church, be sure to thank her for God's ministry through her! And thanks and praise to God for Joyce's ministry to Gethsemane, managing the many scheduling details that go into our publications!
In February, the council committed to a goal of 20 new members. We decided together to take seriously the recipe for church growth found in Acts 2:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Teaching, fellowship, eating together, prayer, sharing resources, meeting and talking and enjoying the favor of our neighborhood. These were the things that we would do together as a church to be disciples of Jesus in our neighborhood. We met our neighbors at the food shelf, BBQ's, after school programs, coffees, block parties, breakfast and a bag event and of course, in church. On October 23, our new member class graduated 37 new members and 22 baptisms! Since then, we have been approached by more folks who wish to be members of God's ministry in this neighborhood and who do not want to wait until spring for a new member class to start.....
In March Gethsemane, along with Evangelist Temple organized and held our first fundraiser for The Camden Promise, the non-profit we formed to help secure resources not normally available to churches. After 10 weeks of organizing and racing, the even netted $31,000.00 for our fledgling non-profit, an almost unheard of amount for a start-up 501 (C) 3! This money is used to pay for labor and overhead costs to manage the ministries (food shelf, breakfast and a bag, after school program, summer lunch program) that bring so many of our neighborhood into the doors of our church. In 2012, The Spirit Moves 2 will be held at the Hotel Sofitel, with expected guests to exceed 250 and a goal to net in excess of $44,000.00. Got your ticket yet?
Over the summer, our Wednesday evening barbecue and produce give-away was a huge hit, with over 90 people most every Wednesday in attendance eating hot dogs, chips and fruit and getting to know one another while watching the kids play basketball. The produce was provided by Second Harvest Heartland, who collected it from area grocers who wanted to get the leftover produce into the hands of people who need it before the expiration date. Our Block party on the last Wednesday of August was an amazing event, with over 300 people in attendance. Great music, games, food and fellowship made this event memorable. I can't wait to see what it will be like in 2012!
In September saw the addition of David Horton as our musician. He is an accomplished musician with a master's degree in music and composition. He has many gifts and is very steadily sharing them with our congregation. It has been a wonderful thing to see him connect with the musical talent in our congregation and to see so many of our members playing alongside! I am sure I speak for many in the congregation when I say how excited we all are for the music and worship of Gethsemane in 2012...
October saw the one year anniversary of the food shelf. I am not sure how that time flew by so quickly! We started with 16 families. Now we are over 160 families. Our most recent food shelf day had over 88 families and we gave away over 3500 pounds of food. Praise God for this vital ministry, for the re-dedication of the old sanctuary to a new use in the neighborhood and for the good will it has engendered in our community.
In the fall of this year Louie Larson passed away, leaving a gift of $25,000.00 in his will to Gethsemane. The council decided that, considering the size of the gift, to save the money and bring a proposal to the congregation's annual meeting. Options to consider are a capital campaign for the deferred maintenance in the church, start an endowment fund or use as a cash cushion. The council will bring this matter for conversation to the annual meeting in 2012.
In December, the Synod office profiled our congregation in its Synod-wide newsletter "Interacts." Pictures of our congregation in action as well as stories of God's impact in our neighborhood through Gethsemane were showcased for all the churches in our synod to see. Please look to the next page to see this amazing story of God's love. And how wonderful to have the growth of God's ministry and the sacrificing love of Jesus Christ in the Camden neighborhood shown as a witness to the larger church!
In the week before Christmas, 1500 pounds of food that was donated to be delivered to the food shelf was stolen by one of the volunteers in the neighborhood. The police were called and a report was filed. Mark Albert of Channel 5 saw the police report and followed up with a report of his own on the news. Channels 9 and 11 and WCCO then followed with reports too. Later that week, Roxi's picture was front page of the Star Tribune. As a result of all the publicity, food drives were held by the Minneapolis Water Department, churches, Thrivent, businesses and families. And by Christmas Eve, over 30,000 pounds of food and over $18,000 in cash donations were given to The Camden Promise. On Christmas Eve, we had over two hundred people in the pews for worship and we gave away close to 9,000 pounds of groceries and hams in 55 pound "Christmas meal "boxes.
As I wrap up this report, I am grateful to God for the privilege of serving alongside fellow disciples of Jesus. I am grateful that God is in the habit of turning the most unusual and crazy moments into wonderful and abundant blessings for the community of the beloved. And I can hardly wait for what God is going to do next!! May God bless and keep you all today and into all of this year.
Yours in Christ,