Annual Report from Pastor Lee

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ!

The year 2010 reminded me of the opening line of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities which says: “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This year was the best of times for our church with respect to new initiatives, new members, and important ministry. Yet at the same time it was the worst of times when it came to the economy and the effect it had on our members. As a result, we had to make some difficult decisions on how to do ministry with less.

Let me highlight the “best of times” first. In 2010:

We received 19 new members - ten of which were youth being confirmed in the faith. Our youth ministries (Acts Alive and Young Disciples) continued to grow in participation and faith. The YD’s saw many new faces in 2010, and the highlight for Acts Alive was their work camp trip to Jacksonville. We are blessed with many wonderful leaders who give of themselves to help our youth know the love of God and learn to serve Christ with their whole hearts.

As a church we hosted a number of events for the larger church. In January, we were the site for the twice yearly presbytery wide Acts 16:5 equipping seminar. For two days, members of our presbytery learned the concepts of transformation from Stan Ott, director of the Vital Church Institute. In April, we hosted the Spring Gathering of Salem Presbytery’s Presbyterian Women.

Our church retreat this year encouraged participants to discover the gifts God has given them to glorify God and build up the church. Many left with a clearer understanding on how to serve others in the name of Jesus.

For men, we offered “Letters From Dad” which is a ministry that encourages men to write letters of blessing to their spouses and children. Those who participated learned the importance of sharing their faith through writing, and they were encouraged to leave a legacy of letters to their family.

We also began the year with the final 6 installments of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. Through FPU, participants learned how to get out of debt, save for the future, and achieve peace about handling finances.
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October saw the 5th Adult mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Seven of us traveled to Mission Emanuel and joined 40 others from all over the US as we worked with the people of Cielo and Nazaret. Many projects were completed, but the highlight had to be the 15 Anniversary celebration for Mission Emanuel with over 1000 people attending.

We began two important ministry initiatives in 2010. The first is Lay Pastoral Ministry which is a caring ministry by trained lay people. We have 5 Lay pastors and 1 Lay Ministry Coordinator who are providing regular and intentional care to shut-in, elderly, or grieving members of our congregation. If you have a caring heart and feel gifted in mercy ministries, please consider becoming trained as a Lay Pastor. You and our church will be blessed.

Our second new ministry initiative begun in 2010 is “The Gathering,” a time of fellowship and worship with “contemporary” worship music. “The Gathering” starts at 9:30 a.m. with music led by a group of talented musicians from within and outside of the church. Each week, a member of the church shares from the heart about where he or she sees God at work in his or her life. "The Gathering" provides an opportunity to reconnect with each other, build community, and worship the Lord.

This past year also had its challenges. Eight of our beloved members went home to heaven to be with the Lord. Their deaths have left an emptiness in the hearts of many, and they continue to be grieved for. As a way to help us grieve as a community, a new memorial garden was installed in memory of Bob Rankin and George Wetherill. Just a few minutes siting in the garden with the fountain running will draw your heart to God and ease the grief for a while.

2010 was a year of money worries. Many families were faced with job losses or financial challenges and were not able to give as much to the Lord as in years past. Also, income from the church investments dropped from previous years. As a result, we finished the year short of our anticipated income by $25,000. In order to “balance” the budget, there was a transfer from reserve funds, a transfer from the Hinkle bequest, and a reduction in our end of year benevolent expenditures. Even with falling so short, we were able to fund our benevolences at the 2007 budget level.

For 2011, reductions in many areas were made to create a more accurate budget reflecting the anticipation of reduced income. The staff will not receive cost of living increases for the second time in 3 years. Benevolences were set at the 2009 levels. The 2011 budget was approved before the end of 2010 numbers were in, so the Session will be reviewing the accuracy of the 2011 budget and further reductions may need to be made.

Even with the challenges of the economy, we are doing good and important ministry. Our church is prospering, people are growing in faith, and the name of Jesus Christ is being lifted up. I am looking forward to 2011 and all the things that God will be doing in us and through us. I know that if we seek first the kingdom of God, all these things will be added unto us. This is the promise of Jesus in scripture, and I believe it. I encourage you to pray for our church, our people, our staff, and the ministry God has called us to do.

May the Lord bless each of you.
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee