Most folks have heard by now that I am soon to leave Westminster to take a call at a new congregation in the SF Bay area. I am happy and sad at the same time. I have truly enjoyed the privilege of pastoring at Westminster and pray God's best for this part of the body of Christ as they move forward in God's plan for them.
For some reason it is the custom at WPC for annual reports to come at the end of the first quarter of the new calendar year - I have always found it hard to think back over the last year when we get so far into the new year - Anyway - I wrote an annual report a few weeks ago and I think it would be good to post it here as a way of thanking God for last year and moving forward with joy and thankfulness into a new year that is full of many unknowns for all of us...
Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and with singing unto Zion and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
2008 and into 2009 has been a rough time for many of us. Unrest over denominational issues, disappointment with the church, loved ones dying, lost jobs, friends moving away, savings and retirement funds lost, family troubles and illness are just a few of the hard things members of our church have faced this past year. We may have moved into a new calendar year, but for those who are still experiencing loss nothing is new. The dates on the calendar may have changed but for many the season remains the same.
The Scriptures take pain and loss very seriously, but the Scriptures also take joy very seriously. I remember starting a sermon series on joy at the start of 2008. I shared about joy being a gift from God and a spiritual discipline to be entered into and exercised. When I preached that series, I didn’t realize how much those words would be needed in the months to come.
Jesus teaches about the joy of the Lord that can be found and experienced even in the most painful times. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. C.S. Lewis wrote that joy is not so much the attainment of a hope or desire, but the anticipation of the fulfillment of that hope or desire. True joy can only be found when and if the object of hope is also true. Jesus is our true Joy. Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him. We can endure the hard parts of our lives for Jesus, the joy set before us. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, is key to finding joy in the midst of hardship. Joy is a gift to be received from God but also a way of life to be learned. In 2008, many of us learned Joy the hard way. Thanks be to God that though He seems at times to be far away, he is always closer than we could ever imagine.
There were also many bright spots in 2008 that we should not overlook. Our small group ministry had 7 study groups and 5 fellowship groups going in 2008. Thanks to Debbie Piper for leading a training workshop for small group leaders. Thanks to the Maxwell’s, many of us met in dinner groups to help build community. Thanks to the Jerosko’s for the painting of the sanctuary, the remolding of the bathrooms and painting the new meeting rooms in the Ed. Building. Thanks to Steve Ringer for all the progress on the playground. Thanks to Betty Slater for getting us involved in the community 4th of July parade where our VBS float took a prize. Thanks to Mary Fatula for keeping us actively supporting the food bank and thanks to Jim Rose for keeping us involved in the Crop Walk. The Rolston’s and Paul Dawdy have been very helpful connecting our youth group with the youth from Immanuel and Santa Clara Presbyterian Churches as we explore a shared youth ministry. Thanks to the Mission’s Committee for making my Africa trip to visit our missionaries possible. Thanks to Peter Barrett and Celeste Pellet for the Stations of the Cross art and dramas for Lent 2008. Thanks to everyone who did their part and pulled together to serve Jesus as a community of faith in 2008.
Looking in to the rest of 2009, I want to uplift the efforts of Steve Jenks, Joe Fatula and Rick Marovich. They have formed an outreach team and have planned a schedule of special events for 2009. The first three movie nights were very well done. Thanks to everyone who helped. The team plans the events, but it is up to the rest of us to get behind the team and encourage attendance and participation. I am looking forward to more creative community building activities from our outreach team in 2009.