Dear Creator Family,
Many thanks to all who attended the 2022 Annual Meeting this past Sunday. It seems strange to hold the “2022” Annual Meeting in 2023, but for all parishes, the annual congregational meeting is mostly reflective of the past year, with only two items that look forward to the new year: vestry election and budget presentation. Reports are intended as summaries and tallies, often with acknowledgment and gratitude woven in; for what is parish life, if not the people who act, tend, and steward our common life? That being said, our lives, and especially our faith, are present, momentary events. Present because all we really have is the present: Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself” (Mt 6:33-34a). And momentary events, because the moments of our lives are acted upon.
That which we held dear in 2022—our faith and our family—remain our greatest strengths, which carry us through each moment as time passes around us. Below is my report to the parish for 2022. God bless you all.
I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess. Martin Luther
2022 was a year of recovery, transition, uncertainty, and light.
We entered 2022 as the COVID crisis transitioned from acute to chronic. We had lived through a “never before” and were realizing a new normal that would change every aspect of our lives. With fears on the rise concerning economic recovery, international relations, internal political strife, and fractured familial relations (due to the distancing of COVID), it became apparent that many had “thrown out baby with the bathwater.” Popular media and polling services reported a drop in church attendance and an up-trend of individualized spirituality. To complicate matters for our Creator Family, we were also recovering from three major facilities breakdowns and growing concerns over our drop in attendance.
It has been difficult to embrace the “new normal” of the post-COVID experience. Try and try again, there are aspects of our cultural and societal life that are so foreign that phrases such as “I don’t understand” and “it's incredible” have partially lost their meaning. Interestingly, the process of transition has been itself a transition. Once transitioning was an active, even energetic process, but now it seems to progress more through attrition than dedication. Every day draws us closer to a passive acceptance of the “way it is now” and frees us from the angst and fear of personal failure.
The new normal of 2021 continued to prove itself as we optimistically entered 2022 with a broken water main and broken boiler. Logistical expenses continued to mount as we struggled with financial concerns and questioned our methods. Still, amidst the distress of the moments and the reality of the observable trends, we went on. Step after step, plowing through the new normal with time-fashioned resolve and optimistic intent. We repaired and talked and met and loved each other despite how tired we all felt. In a way, we were recovering from our COVID malaise and moving towards wholeness precisely because of the challenges we faced. In fact, in a recent conversation, one of our Creator Family said it should be called “new wholeness,” -wholeness encompassed by self-awareness in the light of Christ and faithful devotion to God. I like that.
I am sure this process is taking place everywhere, but here it’s not self-focused, it is Christ-centered. Here, we have not lost ourselves. The same two years that have diluted the faith of so many and led them to chronic spiritual navel-gazing have led us to a wide-eyed stare at the Cross. The light that blinds some illuminates others. Our devotion to Jesus and our Parish is not “blown about by the winds of doctrine” as St. Paul says; we did not “throw away our confidence” as the author of Hebrews says; we are not “abandoned of destroyed” as Moses proclaims; for God is our only Rock, and salvation, our fortress (Psalm 62:6); …our refuge and our strength, a pleasant help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1); our…refuge and our stronghold ( Psalm 9:9).
2023 meets us with many challenges ahead and we are ready to greet them! To be a Parish Family means to take care of all we have been entrusted with--together! It means to seek one another and hold up each other through whatever may come—and go, and to love with a great BIG love! We are here together because God has called us here together, and our witness of faith in God is illumined by the light of Christ who calls us to persevere and overcome--together.
Jesus said, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. John 17:6-10
We reply, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20
Fr. Wm. H. Burk+ OP
Father Bill Burk†