(revised Feb. 2, 2011)
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who has called us together and knit us together wondrously in Jesus His Son our Lord.
Of late I’ve been thinking about the ways in which our liturgy reflects a sense of joy, thanksgiving, and gratitude for the wonders that the Lord has done for us in a wide variety of ways:
- In the Sursum Corda, just before the prayer of consecration, we are called to lift up our hearts, and to lift them up unto the Lord because “it is meet and right so to do;”
- We are reminded in the Phos Hilaron that “You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, O Son of God, O giver of life, and to be glorified through all the worlds”;
- We are reminded in several of the Psalms, such as Psalms 96 and 98, for example, that we are to be singing to the Lord a new song;
- The Venite [Angl. pron. ven-EYE-tee], which most days is the familiar invitation to Morning Prayer, uses this invitation to worship: “Come, let us sing to the Lord, let us heartily rejoice in the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and show ourselves glad in Him with psalms.”
The voice of praise and joy stems, emanates, flows out from the heart of one who truly knows the Lord, whose consciousness is filled with a sense of the hope of the Kingdom, the joy of salvation. And, when we know the Lord in that fashion there is a way in which we have a sense of deep, personal renewal from the things that weigh us down, hold us back, tire us out. There is something renewing about coming to the fountain of living water and drinking from the source of that living water. For coming to that Living Water we are energized for mission and ministry in our Lord’s Name. And, during this year of grace 2010, as a parish, we’ve tried to be intentional about doing just that very thing.
This has shown up in a wide variety of ways, some of which may be readily evident, and some of which may not have become fully evident yet. We’ve incorporated having lectors read the prayers of the people—many of whom are youth of this parish. We managed to successfully overhaul our parish website. With the help of reorganized Worship, Outreach and Evangelism Committees we’ve had more impact in getting the word out to the broader world about the wonderful things that are a part of Saint Paul’s’ parish life. This year, we continued in many of the cherished annual events that we all enjoy (such as our annual Thrift Shop Fashion Show and Antique Show), and we’ve tackled some really big projects such as replacing the main boiler in the church and hosting and enjoying the Bishop’s Open (even if we had to relinquish the trophy to the team from Gettysburg). That any of these events took place is remarkable; that they all took place is a witness to the presence and the Grace of Almighty God among us, in this time and in this place.
We would do well as a parish to think more proactively about those things that we do that are signs of vitality and signs of God’s gracious presence among us. I know that such a thing is sometimes hard for us, particularly when we have a year in which we’ve had some losses which we all feel so very keenly, in which people have departed this life or moved away. And yet, God has blessed us with some members new to the parish, and He has blessed us with the continual invitation to count our blessings and to rely upon Him. So, 2010 was the year for us to be reminded how the source of all true thanksgiving stems from learning and continually remembering that our help is in the name of the Lord, who is our creator, our maker and our redeemer.
It is fashionable in churches these days to have mission trips to exotic, faraway places. But what really excites me is that our efforts at mission and ministry are typically closer to home: One of our current new ventures, about which Saint Paul’s is demonstrating leadership in our community, has been our effort to address the situation of those who are homeless in our community. The population varies, but has, at one recent count, included some ten people living in tents in our area during this present winter. With the encouragement of Lisa Dodge’s vision and the volunteer efforts of the people of Saint Paul’s, we have been planning to provide a hot meal at least one day during the week for the benefit of those who are in need, whether they be homeless, or just plain hungry. It may take awhile for this to catch on, but what’s important is that Saint Paul’s is stepping up to the plate in our Lord’s name.
But in a way, this should come as no surprise. A characteristic of our parish is that it steps up to the plate. We have done that in training and preparing two candidates for ordination: the late Reverend Leslie Doyle, and the Reverend Janis Yskamp. In the case of the latter, we stepped up to provide for Janis’ year of studies at seminary. And what a joy it was for us this past June to see Janis ordained to the order of the sacred priesthood, at our Diocesan Convention at Bucknell University.
With your help, Saint Paul’s has stepped up to the plate in a number of other ways as well:
- We’ve stepped up for a number of years to provide for Tioga County’s only homeless men’s shelter with gifts for Christmas;
- We continue to provide for the hungry through our generous support of the Wellsboro Area Food Pantry, both in donations of food and monetary resource;
- We also sent gifts to the Shippensburg Home;
- We are presently collecting for supplies to be sent to a family on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota;
- We step up in providing a place for girl scouts, our local TOPS group and Tana’s exercise classes to meet on a weekly basis.
- We step up in providing a place for other community events of importance.
- In hosting that Bishop’s Open this year, we raised around $1500 for the Bishop’s Discretionary Fund, raising the bar for those who might host this event in future years.
- Our parish ought to be well-known for our hospitality towards the community in which we live: we provide space for a variety of community groups and events throughout the year and it is an important part of our witness and an important part of our participation in the community to do so.
Some years ago I was taken to task by a person who wanted to know what Saint Paul’s did in terms of outreach. We have a way of forgetting all these things we do. In our forgetfulness, we have the tendency to sell ourselves short. So let’s be reminded of these other things in addition to those I’ve already mentioned:
- There is our ongoing support of the Wellsboro Area Food Pantry;
- There’s our support of the Seeds of Hope Program this past Christmas;
- There’s the way in which we provided substantially for those in need in our community by means of the Parish Discretionary Fund, our collection of baskets of food at Thanksgiving, and good deeds done in our Lord’s Name.
- Then there is also the work of outreach that is done by our Ladies’ Guild and ECW, our efforts to send the youth of our parish to sundry camps.
In short, we do a lot.
And we would do well to be more thankful that God has blessed us with the wisdom, resource and ability to engage in these ministries, and that He has given us a heart to do what we are able for those in need and in want.
We might celebrate our revitalization and participation in the Relay for Life this year. All of us are affected by cancer in one way or another. I remember how I was struck by the luminaria when I first participated in the Relay for Life; what strikes me, these years in reading the names, is that I know, met, and/or prayed for about every other person recollected there. So, after a hiatus of a year, we are participating in the Relay on July 8-9th this year. Saint Paul’s “Soulful Strutters” is the name of our team. Pat Dean and Bonnie Trambarger are heading the team. To help raise funds we are planning a dinner/dance on Sunday, February 13th during the afternoon. With a smile, I might note that one of the quirks of history that led to the rise of Oliver Cromwell in English history was the debate about the enjoyment of the Sabbath (as Sunday) by going to dances and plays after one had been to worship in the morning. So, you can stir up great controversy and help sell tickets by letting folk know that there will be the dinner/dance on Sunday, February 13th– and know, full well, that this is a part of our outreach also.
In an effort to keep in touch with those who are away for a part of the year, in addition to updating our website, the parish has a Facebook Page listed under ‘Snowbirds St. Paul’s” to help people who travel to remain connected to what is going on in their home parish.
Now, I know that life is not without its challenges. While we rejoice that we ended the year in the black for the year 2010, and even had some moderate cash carryover into 2011, the Vestry and I anticipate that we will have some financial challenges for the year 2011. Some of those have to do with our investment income for the coming year, 2011. Some of those have to do with our pledge income for the year as well. The Vestry and I anticipate that we’ll have to struggle with a deficit budget this year for the first time in many years. So I would like to call upon us all to do our part in:
- Pledging if we have not yet done so;
- Remaining faithful in keeping our pledge current;
- Trying to increase our giving if we are able to do so by moving to proportional giving if we are not presently doing so, and by trying to increase that proportion of our giving modestly as the Lord lays it upon our hearts and our souls to recognize the needs of Saint Paul’s and our thankfulness for what our parish means to us.
But above all I pray that we continue being mindful of the tremendous amount of good which we do through the witness of Saint Paul’s. When we are duly thankful for what God has given, we give with joyful hearts, and minds and souls. For it is here that we come to the fount– the spring– the source of living water; and here we drink deeply. Finding refreshment in Jesus, then we shall indeed find our hearts flowing with thanksgiving. We shall indeed find our attention focused on opportunities for service. We will come to count our blessings rather than focus on what is lacking. People don’t always see it clearly, but having thanksgiving in our hearts and our lips is a spiritual matter. When the spiritual matters are rightly tended, the other matters fall into place with the Lord’s Grace.
Celebrating our various ministries
As you well know, I like to take the time in this venue to offer my thanks and gratitude for the many people who so selflessly give to make Saint Paul’s what it is. From my point of view, ministry is not a function of what one person does in the midst of the congregation, it is the work that the congregation does together as we strive together to live in the love of God in Jesus Christ, our Lord. I am sure that it is repetitive year after year—after all, we have many dedicated people who have continued, and who will continue thanks be to God, in what they do year after year because they have discovered that what they do is a ministry that brings great joy and makes a significant difference in the life of our community.
My thanks to Jim Dunham who serves as our Choir Director and to Judy Coole, our organist; to our choir, and our Saturday Night musicians Ed Vetter, Susan Hinton, and James Nichols– all of whom help to make our worship what it is, and without whom our worship and community life would indeed be impoverished. And, my similar thanks to those who have taken upon themselves the important role of educating the children of our community: Sherry Bodine, John McNassor, Laura Kewitt, Jill McCarthy, and Brian Tevlin, for all that they do to assist in the formation of our children in the Christian Faith.
This past year, Richard Stoving discovered a new talent with which we have all been blessed. He’s composed A Joyful Mass, an original setting to the music of the Eucharist, and some additional pieces of music. Thank you Richard, for sharing your gifts and talents with us.
I especially appreciate the work that is done by all the members of our Vestry, with my thanksgiving to Mike Lundgren and Richard Stoving, our Wardens; and especially to those who are retiring in this class of 2010: Pat Dean, Don Johnson, Karen Morrow, and Renée Tevlin who have made real and significant contributions to our family life together. We all owe a great amount of gratitude to Larry Mitchell who serves as our Treasurer. Occasionally Larry reminds me that it was his original intention to serve temporarily as treasurer; but I am so very thankful for the longevity of his service and the hours that he so selflessly gives to the parish, volunteering his time and talent. Thanks, too, to Matt Lundgren who assists as our Pledge Secretary.
My appreciation to our Trustees: Bob Bower, Dr. Beller and Jim Dunham for the work that they do in overseeing our investments with the assistance of Citizens and Northern Bank. As we know, this past year was not the most illustrious for the market; however, you will note that the market has been improving; so our funds are beginning to come back after the low point early in 2009.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge and to thank Don Johnson who wears a number of hats in our parish community: we usually think of him as Property Chair/Columbarium Chair. This year, Don undertook a major project to help conserve our energy resources by conceiving and bringing to fruition the replacement of our 1970’s steam boiler that heated the main Church. The older boiler was about 70% efficient. The new one is about 92% efficient. The old boiler was a 999,999 BTU boiler; the new one, 299,000 BTUs, rendering it more cost-effective, more suitable to our needs, and less expensive to operate.
In keeping with the theme of the ways in which Saint Paul’s steps up to the plate, may I thank the men of the parish who helped when we needed it: Ed Gianndrea who made the woodwork planks upon which the radiators rest; the Junior and Senior Wardens, Lee Borts and others who scraped, painted, washed and prepared the radiators; and Larry Mitchell who drove far and wide to acquire salvage radiators and who taught us all a thing or two about moving something far too heavy for a sane person to move.
Just in case you were wondering about our need to do this project, I humbly point out a reality. For a number of years the only thing that has kept the radiator in front of the Chapel from falling through the rotted floor has been the way in which it had come to be wedged against the wall. Not only are we saving on heating costs, but– with the Hof God– we dodged a bullet. It is anticipated that the payback on energy savings on this project will be between 5-7 years, and our willingness to address this venture now will prove a gift for generations of worshippers here yet to come.
Don Johnson’s been infused with a passion of late for things pertaining to outreach, and as we’ve reorganized our Worship, Outreach and Evangelism Committee into three separate committees, Don is serving as the chair of the Outreach Committee. Richard continues to chair the Worship Committee and Lee Borts, Evangelism. I also want to thank Susan Hinton for her efforts in updating Saint Paul’s website this year.
I want to publically acknowledge Lisa Dodge’s service and dedication to the parish. I am extremely thankful for her help and assistance—as are we all—for without her help, there are many things that would go wanting in our parish life. Thanks Lisa!
I would be remiss were I not to mention my thanks and appreciation to the members of our Altar Guild and Miriam Dunham and Deb Kerr, directors. Their service is generally behind the scenes, but they are a hard-working group who graciously and lovingly serve in the preparation of the Altar. They are a huge part of making the celebration of our worship the wonderful and joyous experience that it is. My thanks.
Betty Campbell has done a lovely job as our Flower Chair for a number of years, but has decided that it is time to pass the torch. So while we welcome Darlene Borts to this position, we also thank Betty and acknowledge her service to our parish.
Other clergy think of Easter when they think of spring, but around here we also think of our Spring Fashion Show. Thanks to Pat Dean and others who coordinate the event; and for Pat’s efforts in coordinating the Thrift Shop, and for other works of outreach and mercy in our community.
My appreciation to our Antique Show Committee: Linda McNeill, Carla Tardieu, Judy Coole, Karen Morrow, Pat Dean, and Lisa Dodge for an extremely well-done Antique Show this year. I am grateful to be able to count on them for help and support in doing this show each year, and I’m looking forward to working with them all in 2011. Last year’s show netted $3,055.37; this year’s show netted $4000!
We also had a banner year with the Dickens’ Day events, netting around $950. Word has it that Saint Paul’s is a popular destination during Dickens—we are appreciated for the trains, the cookies, the warmth, our restroom hospitality, our Church Tours, and the reasonable rates for our lunch. In spite of our best preparations, we were sold out in record time this year. My gratitude to all who helped.
With all its challenges, we have many things to be thankful for during this past year. God has indeed blessed us. With His Grace (and our pledges and stewardship), I’ve already mentioned how we are blessed to be able to end the year 2010 in the black, which is a great accomplishment for any parish these days. We were able to contribute in meaningful ways to the mission of Jesus our Lord and His Church in our Diocese, our immediate neighborhood, and the world. We have provided an important witness—we have witnessed to the way in which God’s love in Jesus Christ is greater than this world, and the way in which His love transforms the world in which we live.
I always like to remember those who have gone before us in the life of faith, whose trials are over, whose perils are past, who now behold and dwell in the light of God shown in Jesus Christ our Lord. We remember with thanksgiving Louise Graham, Jean G. Davis, Donald W. Kerrick, Ruth Spencer Smith, Bruce D. Gleason, Julia Spencer, William Obourn, Graeme Ogier, Bill Davis, and Clancy Prevost, with the prayer that their souls and the + souls of the faithful departed may rest in peace. Amen.
Showing Our ThankfulnessProclaims God’s Hope in the World
My brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, I would remind you that when we learn to show our thankfulness to the world, we are bearing witness to the love of Jesus, and we are saying loudly and clearly to the world that there is a reason for hope. We live in a world that is tragically short of hope, and fairly much without joy, in these times in which we live. While it is an exhausting work to combat the widespread negativity that surrounds us, yet that is the work to which we are called as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we learn to invest ourselves in a vocabulary of gratitude, we are bearing witness that there is cause for hope– that there is actually such a thing as true joy. When we sink into the morass as does everybody else, we are only feeding the flames of despair and adding to the weight of profound emptiness which is the hallmark of life in the world. We are called to stand up– to step up– to be signs that there is a reason for living, that there is a reason for rejoicing.
I would share with you as a theme for this year the passage found in Ephesians 5:19:
Live like intelligent and not like senseless people. This may be a wicked age, but your lives should redeem it. Do not be thoughtless but recognize what is the will of the Lord. Be filled with the Spirit, sing the words and tunes of the psalms and hymns when you are together, and go on singing and chanting to the Lord in your hearts, so that always and everywhere you are giving thanks to God who is our Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And so, my brothers and sisters, may our hearts be filled with a song—a song of gratitude and thanksgiving to Jesus, a song of hope and joy.
(Print copies of the parish’s entire Annual Report are available via the parish office.)