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
Community in spades...
42 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, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2 42-47
What an amazing party we had last Wednesday! A pig and a goat. Ribs and corn. Hamburgers and cake. And of course, cornbread and greens! Food enough for an army and the mountain of volunteers who served it up.
And boy did we have an army! 500+ by anyone's reckoning. Neighbors from across the street and the blocks around our church. People whom we have gotten to know over the past few years.
Folks who were strangers but now have become our friends.
We shared everything with our neighbors, from the food to the company, the bouncy castle to the bags of produce. We broke bread together and ate together at the tables. We watched our children play basketball and smiled at how much they have grown this past year. Some of us even broke out our moves to some of the best blues and back-in-the-day music buffet!
I was struck by three things on this wonderful evening and gathering. The first was that folks who had been visiting neighbors at last year's block party had become volunteers and leaders at it this year. What a treat and a blessing to see so many new faces engaging our community from within, serving up food and smiles. It made perfect sense for these neighbors to connect in a natural way in service with the community that grounds and identifies us!
The second thing was to hear from our neighbors what a blessing the church had become for them. A spiritual home. A community of neighbors. A gathering of friends. A welcoming and safe space. An oasis of peace in the wasteland of violence in North Minneapolis this summer.
The third thing was a sense of awe. Awe at how amazing God is. Awe at how God grows community. Awe at how simple and natural connections between God's people produce leadership, vision and service. Awe at the amazing giftedness and assets of our growing family of neighbors. And awe at witnessing joy in the hearts of all who felt called to serve, lead and walk along side this outpouring of God's spirit and love.
Praise God for this community in spades!
"Tired Of Runnin’ ”
I'm sittin' on my porch watching the law
As they ride past in their patrol cars
So tell me why I feel like the enemy
They're supposed to be here protectin' me
I might have went too far
Helpin' the contribute to makin' their job hard
Servin' fiends like these people ain't no enemy
I can't believe I'm out here killin' my community
If you knew how far I came
From where I am and where I used to be
Don't want it
You can tell by the look of me
This gangsta life ain't no longer in me
As I write you today, violent crime is up over 4 percent citywide this year with the highest concentration of violent and property crimes in North Minneapolis. Aggravated assaults in our precinct are up over 13%. Shooting calls are up over 36% and officers have already seized 258 guns so far this year, up 35%.
Mere blocks from the church our neighbors are being shot and killed in senseless acts of violence. A bloody Fourth of July weekend saw two neighbors shot dead and three others wounded. Later the following week three women just down the street from us on 35th and Dupont were ambushed and shot multiple times.
People are picking fights on buses and settling them with guns. People are racing their cars through our streets shooting at each other through the windows. Our own church kids are now afraid to go to the park down the road because of the new police cameras being set up to monitor gun violence.
Our city council president and fourth precinct rep is tired of "our neighborhood being overrun by thugs with guns" and presses the courts to send these "thugs" to our overcrowded jails for a maximum sentence. Our Mayor is calling for an end to the city's spike in violence and presses the police for more officers and overtime though no one is quite sure how to pay for that. Our own police chief is walking the beat on our blocks herself but openly acknowledges that "we can't arrest our way out of this problem." We all agree that everyone has a right to feel safe in our neighborhood and in our homes and that we must do what we can to stop the violence. But then we fence in and pit bull our yards, slam our doors and shake our fists at our neighbors in a tired and impotent rage through our front porch windows......
Are we tired of the running? Tired of the shooting? Tired of being afraid of our own neighbors? Are we tired of feeling hopeless, embittered and disempowered? Excellent.....
It is time for a reality check. We create the community we wish to be. This is our neighborhood, these are our blocks. This is our church and we have been called to serve this neighborhood for more than 120 years. If we will not create the community we wish to see here, no amount of police officers, courts or politicians will.
More, we must own that we have created the community we have. We can blame economic realities, slum lords and Chicago gangland transplants for the urban blight we are suffering. We can hold our elected leaders feet to the fire and force them to exhaust our financial resources holding those whom we deem undesirable at bay. We can even form vigilante neighborhood groups to chase away the riffraff ourselves. But no amount of blame or accountability can hide the fact that being tired of the running is the biggest part of the problem in growing community. We have let our neighborhood deteriorate by our indifference, self-interest and self-imposed helplessness.
Even more, to create the community we wish to be, we must change our behaviors that are in conflict with that community. Anger and frustration can be destructive to building community when it becomes fuel to feed the sicknesses of dependency, helplessness and entitlement. But anger and frustration are wonderful tools for change as long these emotions push us in the direction of re-engagement, reconnection and relationship.
So eat a hot dog on Wednesday night at our neighborhood BBQ with 130 of our neighbors and get to know some of them. Come to our Awesome Summer Kids program during the week and teach one of the 30 neighborhood children about what is right and wrong. Better yet, go to the park with them so they are not afraid to play next to the cop cams. Show up on Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday and have a cup of joe with the 60+ families at or below poverty level that are coming to receive groceries. Talk to them about what they could do with the $400-$600 in real dollars they now don't have to spend to feed their families.
Even better, invite our community to sit and listen and learn from the greatest community activist of all. Because being a disciple of Jesus means being in community, building hope, serving in love and never, ever having to feel tired of the runnin....
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ greetings to this year’s Annual Meeting. We have
much to celebrate this year, from growth in membership to the development of stronger
kids programs. From a bigger food shelf that services more clientele to a neighborhood
ministry with the big block party and food distribution lines.
This year marked another year of relationship with Nu Way Missionary Baptist Church
under the leadership of the Rev. Willie MacAfee. We are doing more things together now
from sharing worship services to teaching Bible studies. Nu Way’s chicken distribution has
also done much to engender hope in our neighborhood well of feeding people.
This year also marks the time where we finished renovating the church sanctuary. We now
have a beautiful red oak floor, refurbished church pews, Power Point screen and the new
Baptismal Font and The Lord’s Supper table – just in time for our church anniversary. And
of course this year will be the one we remember as the year of the new church roof! Thank
you to all of the generous donors who gave much to tend to keep the elements out. Thank
you, as well, to the Rev. Willie McAfee for being the general contractor to get the roof done.
What a blessing it has been to attend to some of the deferred maintenance in our building!
2013 will also be the year that we remember how we expanded our food services to the
neighborhood. We now have breakfast served every Sunday plus a bag of groceries with it
twice a month. We now have community meals every Wednesday evening where people
can come with their families, eat a meal, go to a Bible study and leave with a bag of
food. The remarkable thing that is happening with these expanded services is that the
people who are coming to use them are sticking around. They are volunteering to help run
and support each of these programs; and they are joining our church! Praise God for the
way the Spirit moves through all of our lives.
As I look to 2014, I am mindful of how the Spirit will move through the life of our
congregation. The direction that I feel called to this year is to lead us is in Discipleship.
Using the metaphor of “feeding people”, how is it that we can ‘feed’ the people that God is
bringing to us? Beyond bread, milk, and eggs, how is it that we will feed those whom God
is bringing to us on the Word? Our strategy will be straight forward. Using Hospitality as our
working metaphor, we will continue to invite people to The Table, to small groups, to bible
studies, to fellowship, trusting that God will feed them through us, as much as, we will be
fed through those whom God is bringing. This will be an exciting year in God’s
On a final note, thanks to all those who serve in our congregation. From the circles to the
Bible studies to the church council, from the drivers to the food shelf volunteers to the
GLCW and of course the amazing paid staff at Gethsemane, it is a remarkable thing to see
how a small community continues to do so much for the sake of Jesus in our neighborhood.
May God continue to bless and keep us as we walk as His disciples.
Pr. Jeff Nehrbass
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. It is the nature of Salt and Light to be Transforming. “Salt speaks of inward character that influences a decaying world; light speaks of the outward testimony of good works that points to God.” Warren Wiersbe
40 transformational qualities of Salt
5. Melts Ice
6. Provides Traction
7. Works Quietly
9. Lingering Influence
10. Seasons in Many Ways
11. Creates Thirst
12. Provokes Interest
13. Distinguishes Identity
14. Adds Values
15. Holds Water
16. Irritates When Necessary
18. Covenant of Relationship (Numb 18:19)
21. Influences in many ways
22. Useful in numerous products
23. Inexpensive but valuable
24. Necessary for life
25. Synergistic with seasoning
26. Easily shows impurities
27. Use it or lose its effects
28. Available and Understandable
30. Easy to procure
31. Universally Available
33. Works in all temperatures
34. Shows no bias
35. Stimulates hunger
36. Basic identity of believers
37. Impact not always understood
38. Historically enriched
39. Created by God
40. Inherent and done without effort
40 transformational qualities of light
6. Defeats the darkness
7. Reflects and Brightens
8. Shines fully and Freely
9. Chases the Shadows and Gloom
10. Provides Pathways and Guides
11. Stimulates and Motivates
13. Provokes Action
14. Irritates Those in Darkness
15. Confirms Truth
16. Exposes Sin and Sickness
17. Warms and Assures of Safety
18. Displays truth and error
19. Warns of Danger
20. Provides Safety
21. Prevents Injury
22. Provides Vision
23. Gives Essential Vitamins
25. Adds Renown
26. Facilitates Progress
27. Gives Life As Photosynthesis
28. Cheers the Downtrodden
29. Prevents Catastrophe
32. Chases Away Evil
34. Advertises and Gives Visibility
35. Adds Credibility
39. Reflects What is Missing
40. Makes Things Knowable
41. Beams to the Most Remote Areas
Salt and Light Transforms All That They Touch. Salt changes a hunk of meat. Light alters the ambiance of a restaurant dining room. Salt makes water into a healing elixir and light makes a glass vase into a brilliant crystal. This is all accomplished by the nature of the salt. It is the way of light. The transformation is not so much a matter of what the salt or light does. Transformation of this kind happens because of the nature of salt and light. It is a matter of being – not doing....Let us be the transforming agent on our block and in this world for Jesus' sake.
It is with great joy that I sit to write my annual report. There have been so many positive changes and developments this year that it is hard to know where to begin.....
Perhaps the best place to begin is speak to the over 80 new members who have joined in the past two years. 41 this year alone! We baptize by assembly line these days, with anywhere between ten and twenty adult and child baptisms on a Sunday. When the council decided that we would commit ourselves to grow as a community, we set as a goal twenty new members! Let me be the first to congratulate the council on overachieving and more than quadrupling that goal...
And let me be one of the chorus of folks that says "welcome" to our newest members. We are so grateful that you have chosen to walk with us as a community, bringing your unique gifts and interests. We welcome you into the Lord's house as fellow stewards of the riches of God's love for this neighborhood. It has been so much fun to get to know you, work along side of you and share the ways God has blessed us here at Gethsemane with our neighbors on the blocks of God's parish. I pray that we will all spend the time committing to building new relationships with one another that will grow over time into deep and abiding friendships in the service of Jesus Christ.
This has been a remarkable year for our ministries in the twice-monthly food shelf and almost daily food lines. You will all remember that miraculous day a few years back when the post office mailed us 18,000 pounds of food to start our food shelf. Now, just two years later, I am stunned at the depth of God's benevolence yet again. 2012 is the year we will remember that God gave out almost 50,000 pounds of food to feed God's people. I have never been more mindful of how God multiplies gifts as I have this year. From "how can one little church feed so many hungry people" to "what are we going to do with all of this food?" in two years.
When Gethsemane decided to open its lunch bag and hand over the fish and bread to Jesus, Jesus fed the Camden community. And we still have
12 baskets of food leftover. . . . . . . . . . . . . . What will God do in 2013?
We have seen quite a number of changes in our sanctuary as of late.... The baptism font has moved to the center of the sanctuary and the communion rail and altar have been moved to the east wall. The carpet is gone and the glue sanded away. A number of the broken pews have been removed and the remaining ones re-installed in a new, semi circular pattern. The chancel now has a table on it. The organ console has moved up on to the chancel and the piano has moved down off of the chancel. There are more banners up on the walls and a power point screen built and installed.
In the past weeks we have all waited patiently, worshiping in the fellowship hall, stealing peeks at the construction and talking together about what all these new changes could mean. We have taken tours of the sanctuary, danced around in all the open space and marveled at the investment and love our long-since deceased congregants put into this house of worship.
And now we have had 4 Sundays in our re-purposed sanctuary. I say re-purposed because we have spent a lot of time looking at and wondering about what great new purpose God has had in store for all the gifts of love and service that have found their way into the sanctuary. We have scratched our heads together trying how to best re-purpose things that, though once given in great love and
devotion, had fallen into disuse because of deferred maintenance or access.
And what a re-purposing it has been! The communion rail has been reupholstered and its placement along the East wall has given members who missed taking communion at the rail an opportunity to do so once again. When we moved the altar to the East wall and removed all the
candles, flowers and altar clothes, we noticed more fully (and some for the very first time!) that the altar has an inscription "Watch and Pray." And now the altar has had a re-purposing, as congregants and visitors alike are coming regularly to the rail and altar during the service to ask for and receive prayers and special anointing for healing and wholeness.
And now, with the rearranging of the pews on a beautiful red oak floor around a central point in the middle of the congregation, has come another opportunity for our own generation to contribute to the legacy of loving devotion; the council commissioning of a new baptismal font and an altar table for the chancel! The details and the drawings of what these will look like will be shown to all of us the moment they become
available, but suffice it to say that the design of both will reflect a faithfulness to our past as well as our desire to be re-purposed by God in our neighborhood. Let me echo the sentiments of the council and our congregation when I thank Jeff and John Nelson for their work fashioning the fount and table in memory and love of their late father...
In some very important ways we have been re-purposing all along as a community of faith in North Minneapolis. As a mausoleum of our great past as a congregation, we were pretty to look at from a distance but falling apart as a congregation from diminishing use and lack of access. Like the floor, altar and rail, how do we serve God as a relic to a time that is no more? But once we decided to be re-purposed by God for our neighborhood in our time, we have discovered that there is vitality and growth and energy in being re-purposed. And beauty too.
We also have discovered that we did not have to throw out the old. Just like the fount and table, we can connect our own gifts with a taste and style that reflects who we have been as faithful disciples in the past 120 years at Gethsemane. And just like the rail
and altar, we can once again be used in the manner for which we have been designed, but now more accessible in this new time of our life as a congregation.
My prayer for our congregation as we walk together through these changes is that we resist the temptation to be overwhelmed by the flux. There is no doubt about it, change is hard, whether it is a new look for our sanctuary or a new look in our neighborhood.
Instead, let us be re-purposed as God's people in God's sanctuary in God's neighborhood.....and focus, like the Gethsemane of old, on the growth, vitality and energy that has come!
By Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
Where can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 61)
You can almost picture the doe, beginning to feel panicky to find water, any water. Her tongue is swollen and feels like dust. She pants for a brook, a creek, a pond. Somewhere to quench her thirst.
We Californians know what it's like to have years of drought. In the wooded countryside where I live, we hadn't seen deer for several years. But this year, after the rains, a young buck and a young doe are again grazing the trees and shrubs near our home. There's water again.
Have you ever felt like the thirsty doe? We can have a good job, strong family, and even a strong emotional support system, and still be thirsty in our souls. You can put all the food in the world in front of a deer, but unless it has water, the food is superfluous.
For we humans, that water is an ongoing friendship with Jesus. He satisfies us deep within, even when everything else is in turmoil.
"Where can I go and meet with God?" the Psalmist inquired. Though I've heard people say they worship God on the golf course, I wonder. They're getting physical and mental refreshment there, but worship?
A year or so ago, when I was deeply discouraged, I found myself asking God, "What am I doing here, anyway?" Pastors can get discouraged, too. The Lord spoke to me so clearly I'll remember it always: "I have called you to create an environment in which I can work." A church, a local congregation.
What an awesome calling!
That's what God wants the Church to be: an environment in which He can work in our lives. I can recall many occasions when I have sat in church or in a Christian conference I was attending, and as the meeting went on I found God speaking to me. Questions I had been wondering about, problems I had pondered suddenly began to resolve themselves. Often it had nothing at all to do with what the pastor or leader was saying.
It's humbling, but true. On many occasions someone will come up to me and say, "Pastor that was the most wonderful thing you said this morning." When I inquire what I said, I often don't recognize it. While the Spirit of God was helping me to bring a message to the people, the Spirit was bringing personalized messages all over the congregation. This was an environment in which God was working.
I long to see that atmosphere in which God can work become more and more powerful in our congregation, and in congregations all across our land. Because where God is at work, our thirst is quenched, our dry spells are alleviated, and our soul is refreshed.
Are you thirsty? Good. I know a place to find water. Try coming to meet Jesus this Sunday with your family.
Ask your average youngster what Easter is all about and he'll tell you about the Easter bunny, and finding Easter baskets filled with that annoying grass that seems to stick to household furnishings long after Easter is past. And those pastel foil-covered, football things that are a sorry excuse for real chocolate. And, of course, there are Easter eggs to dye and jelly beans -- you've got to have jelly beans. Black beans are best.
"And mommy, that's what Easter is."
"Oh, Jason, how cute."
How sad! Most children today don't know beans about what Easter really means.
Why don't you tell the story of Jesus to your children or grandchildren this Easter? Tell them about the man who is God's Son, who came to show people the love God has for them. Tell them how evil people murdered him by nailing him to a cross. Tell them how Jesus was buried in a rock-hewn tomb. Let them hear how the Roman soldiers were powerless the morning of that third day when the stone rolled away and Jesus walked forth alive.
Tell your children that because of Jesus, even though people may die, they will not stay dead. That they can live forever with Jesus, and even their bodies will be raised from the dead just like Jesus' body was.
Now I'm sure that Jesus loves bunnies -- he made them. And probably chocolate, too. But don't you think he gets a little impatient with parents and grandparents who exalt a rabbit over the Savior? And on his own special Day, too?
How about it? Will you tell them the real story this year? Maybe even take them to church where they'll hear the story told by experienced Sunday school teachers? Sure, buy some jelly beans and a wad of that clingy grass for their baskets. But don't suppress the real, fascinating truth of Jesus' triumph over death.
After all, those same children are trying day by day to make sense of the death and life they see around them. They have real hopes and real fears and a destiny unfolding. They deserve a real "Jesus Easter" this year.
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,