My dear family in Christ,
As I sit down to pen my first newsletter column of 2024, the blur of Advent-Christmas-New Year’s-Epiphany is already behind us. Just barely behind us, is how it feels to me, and yet we’re already on the threshold of our Annual Parish Meeting. The nature of our Church calendar is that by the time the dust starts to settle from all of the end-of-year liturgies and services and celebrations and gatherings … we’re already a pretty good ways into the new secular year, almost before we know what hit us!
We’ve got a lot going for us as a parish as we move into 2024. Thanks to the incredibly hard work of your outgoing Vestry and to the devotion and faithful discernment of all of you, we enter this new year with a much clearer understanding of who we are as a welcoming, inclusive, and affirming community of faithful, Episcopal (Anglican) Jesus-followers, as articulated in our formal Statement of Direction. As an organization, we adopted a set of parish By-Laws, for the first time in not-so-recent memory, to structure how we do what we do, in keeping with the canons of the diocese and the national Church. Thanks to your extremely generous support, we have managed, even in times of increasing austerity, to decrease the deficit in our operating budget, bringing us much closer than we’ve been previously to a truly balanced budget.
Through it all, we have continued to welcome new folks into our parish family. We have continued to celebrate the holy Sacraments that are the heart of our Christian faith tradition. We have continued to honor and worship our God and to seek and serve Christ in all persons, guided by the Holy Spirit.
All of that is true. It is also true, though, that we face a number of seemingly daunting challenges in 2024. It is a fact that we are a smaller parish after Covid than we were before the shutdowns necessitated by the pandemic. We have fewer people and tighter resources with which to be the Body of Christ in Appleton, Wisconsin. The work that we did last year to discern who we are as a community of Jesus-followers was monumental, but it was truly only the first step of the discernment work we yet must do. Now that we have a clear vision of who we are, we face questions of vocation—we must, in prayer and faith, both individually and in community, seek to understand the specific work God is calling us to do, in this place and at this time. We’ve confronted the question of who we are; the next questions are about our mission: what are we to do?
Some of these questions will be hard to ask, and even harder to answer. Such discernment will require us to face our own fears, hopes, and expectations—both conscious and subconscious—about our beloved All Saints Parish. As I alluded to in a recent sermon, our parish is not now what it has been in the past. Moreover, things cannot remain as they are at present. Together, however, with our shared faith, commitment, and love, I believe we can embrace the new life that is even now being stirred up among us by the Holy Spirit. It’s scary—I’m not going to lie about that. But so is every great, exciting, life-changing opportunity. I believe that God loves All Saints at least as much as we all do. And I am very much looking forward to finding out what our God has in store for us in 2024.
And I really, really want to hear from all of you as we begin this next leg of our spiritual journey together. Please “holler at me,” as we say down South, and let me know what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, what you’re excited about, what you’re afraid of, what you hope to see as this new year unfolds. Email me. Call me or text me on my Pastoral line--it’s NOT just for emergencies, y’all!--and let’s keep the conversations going, both before and after our Annual Meeting on the 28th.
I hope to hear from you all soon!
Peace and blessings, my dear friends,