In case you missed the Annual Congregational Meeting, here is our Pastors’ Report for 2016:
“Deep calls to Deep”
Looking back at 2016, it has been another exciting, eventful, and fruitful year at St. Thomas. God is good! And we are richly blessed!
Highlights of the past year include:
- The purchase and installation of a new organ for our sanctuary that will help touch people’s hearts and lives for years to come,
- Receiving the donation of a new (to us!) church van to help with transportation and building community,
- Completion of the installation of our new church sign, increasing visibility and outreach for our community,
- “Birds of Prey” and “Blessing of the Animals” outdoor worship services, celebrating the beauty, wonder, and blessing of God’s good creation,
- Nine young people participating in Confirmation Class and joining the church on Pentecost Sunday,
- Another successful Mission Trip to Matthew 28 in Haiti and our continued support of the orphanage and new school there,
- Continued growth of Changing HerStory, providing loans to women in developing countries, and a donation of $5,000 from the Legacy Fund to The Alabaster Gift to help renovate a room for a new drop-in shelter for women caught in human trafficking,
- Continued small group Bible studies, this year studying Psalms and Revelation, and our Men’s and Women’s Groups (Women’s Circles, Bible and BREW, and Wine-Study, Bible Tasting) that provide opportunities for all to grow in faith and discipleship,
- And a special Organ Dedication Concert and Christmas Cantata, celebrating the birth of Christ.
This is just a partial list of the many ministries, activities, and programs offered by St. Thomas throughout the year— for a complete listing, please read the rest of this report to get a fuller understanding of how St. Thomas is impacting people’s lives for Christ in the world today! God continues to do amazing things in and through all of you, the friends and members of St. Thomas. We are blessed, indeed!
Care and Compassion
Beyond these activities and physical improvements to the church, we are also continually amazed at the care and compassion of all the members of St. Thomas. Whether it’s
sending a note or card, offering a prayer, sitting with someone whose loved one is having surgery, shoveling the walk or doing laundry for someone in need, visiting someone in the hospital, providing a meal, building a ramp, hosting a funeral luncheon, serving homebound communion, or a visit from a Stephen Minister, the care of the people of St. Thomas is truly inspiring! This congregation continues to show the love and compassion of Christ in so many ways! It is truly a wonderful gift and a blessing to be a part of this loving church family.
Serving our Community
Moreover, the doors of this church are open to serve this community almost every day of the week. Did you know? We host five different A.A. groups throughout the week; F.A.R. (Music and Art Therapy) for children with special needs uses the church four times per week; a creative lunch group for adults with special needs comes here once a week; and of course, our Senior Lunch Group, which meets the third Thursday each month, continues to grow in popularity, serving seniors in our community.
On top of all that, we continue to serve our local community through involvement in Samaritan House and Good Shepherd Coalition, opening our doors to individuals and families in need through MCREST, supporting Alabaster Gift, providing Christmas Shoeboxes to children around the world, and providing hundreds of gifts for Friends of Foster Families throughout Michigan. One of the hallmarks of St. Thomas has always been, and continues to be, a BIG HEART for mission and helping and serving those in need.
Looking ahead to 2017, Session has been working on a new strategy plan, asking “What new thing is God calling us to do?” and “How might we better serve our community and those around us?” Session has already identified one outcome: “Boundless Worship.” Session has said, “We want everyone to participate in worship, internalize and personalize it to their lives, and take it into the world so their daily actions are a reflection of God’s love…” To that end, the Worship Planning team is already talking about making some changes to our Contemporary Service at 11:15 and is considering a brand-new worship service to be launched in the fall. (Watch for further details as plans develop for this new service.)
Another ministry area that we are looking to bolster and further support is our Children’s Ministry. We have a special planning meeting scheduled for February 12 for parents and children (and any other persons willing to help with this vital ministry). We are “hoping to assess the need of children and parents within our church and community. Develop and implement a plan to provide increased support for children’s education, especially for children with special needs, so that we can: 1) teach our children God’s word, 2) increase membership of young families, and 3) grow a volunteer group to support children’s ministry.”
Finally, as we look ahead to 2017, we believe that we have unique opportunity to grow deeper in faith, in life, and in community. To be sure, 2016 was a difficult year for many in our society and world. The past presidential campaign and election revealed a growing polarization and deep division in our nation. Furthermore, racism and violence (both on our local streets and around the world) seem to be on the rise. There are still big questions regarding immigration and how to build bridges with people of other faiths and cultures.
These are big questions facing our church, our society, our world. The questions is: As a community of faith and followers of Jesus, what are we going to do about them? Will we ignore these problems and simply hope they go away, or will be willing to confront them, seeking a better way? Will be able to create a space where we can talk about our differences truly seeking understanding? And we will truly be able to hear God’s voice speaking today?
“Deep calls to deep,” the Psalmist says, and we believe that God continues to work in the challenging areas of our lives, our community, our society and the world. God longs for us to go deeper in relationship with both God and others, to wrestle with these challenging issues, to hear God’s voice speaking still, and for ourselves to speak out against injustice and to stand up for those who are hurting and who are on the margins of society today.
The year ahead provides many wonderful opportunities to grow in our love for God and to truly learn what it means to love one another. We are excited about this journey of faith and hope you are too as we seek to journey together as a community of faith. Together, with God’s help, we can do great things!
Pastors Jim and Jaime