“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Dear Central Church Family,
Blessed New Year Friends! I must say, the dawn of a new year feels good. Thanks to a nearly yearlong battle with our foe, the coronavirus, I’ve been anxious to put a wearisome 2020 behind me. Now granted, we’re not done with this nasty little bug just yet. But thanks to the tireless efforts of many on the frontlines, the promise of a now deployed vaccine, the continued love for one’s neighbor, and the grace of God in it all; we are closer each day to a healthier world.
There’s something special about marking endings and beginnings, especially when it’s done with hope. The above verse, from the Bible’s Book of Hebrews, tells us that when we trust God, we can move from the past with hope in the “unseen things” God has in mind for the world. This is a time to be hopeful for the good and the new that God will do!
Looking back is also a part of moving forward. In spite of tough year, goodness and grace abounded, giving us much to be grateful for. As you look back on 2020, where did you experience God’s “new thing” happening? Naming that enables us to move forward with hope that God’s faithfulness is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. We need to celebrate that!
2020 was a challenging year for Central Church. We weren’t able to get into our groove and build momentum. We lost much of what we do best: the face-to-face, in-person, interactions of daily ministry. But in spite of and even because of that, many new and amazing expressions of ministry rose up in our midst. Because of God’s faithfulness and your faithfulness in response, our mission thrived in new and innovative ways. Thank you for being the church, even when things didn’t feel quite the same.
Recently, I asked our staff and a few lay leaders, to name some examples of the difference-making ministry that happened in 2020, in spite of the challenges they faced. Here’s a sampling of what they said.
Community Outreach – Volunteers at church teamed up to offer meals to neighbors in creative ways. Volunteers at home supported the effort by baking goodies, praying, encouraging and donating. A socially distanced funeral was held on the bay for the child of one of our Outreach neighbors.
Serve Saturday – Holiday donations to local organizations amounted in: 500 lbs. of cat and dog food for the Cherryland Humane Society; more than 70 blankets for Father Fred Foundation; 100 lbs. of non-perishables to Goodwill Food Rescue; 50 coats, 25 pairs of winter boots, 28 pairs of thermal underwear and 75 pairs of socks, all to Jubilee house; 8 hand made quilts to the women’s residence of Addiction Treatment Services, and 3500 diapers along with quilts, blankets and clothing to the Traverse City Baby Pantry.
Finances – A consistent and generous outpouring of support funded ongoing and new expressions of ministry. This was one of the strongest years of giving on record. Letters along with contributions came from many members expressing gratitude for online services.
Worship – Leaders committed to weekly worship gatherings while keeping each other safe. Worship team members learned new skills for improved online services. New audio/video equipment was purchased, enabling improvements in the quality of services offered. Chancel Choir members navigated virtual rehearsals and anthem recordings. The Bell Choir split into two teams to play for services. Folks attended online worship from all over the country. The Communications Team worked overtime as we learned our new normal and produced quality worship services.
Missions – A virtual Mission Sunday worship service happened in June. $8000 was given to the fall mission offering and over $15,000 in congregational support came in for the Advent/Christmas offering. Over $40,000 was distributed to global, state and local mission projects.
Justice for our Neighbors – Ongoing virtual meetings with clients occurred to meet a variety of immigration legal needs. Generous support continued from the church and community.
Youth Ministry – High School and Middle School safe in-person and virtual zoom meetings happened throughout the year. There was lots of outdoor fun and gratitude for technology and texting to keep students in touch with each other and leaders. A virtual Confirmation Class met and an outdoor confirmation event took place at Sun Set park with several baptisms.
Children’s & Nursery Ministry – Virtual Vacation Bible School, Sunday School and mid-week programing happened for both familiar and new families. 40 activity/education gift bags were delivered; Advent Night bags and virtual Advent gatherings occurred for children and families. New virtual meeting technology used at Central was taught to other children’s ministry leaders in the Michigan Conference. Online story hour and Zoom meetings kept families in touch. Extra time allowed opportunities for continuing education.
Adult Education – A newly equipped Zoom Room for present and future virtual learning has been set up. Many volunteer leaders created community and lead spiritual formation groups. There was solid attendance at virtual group gatherings throughout the year.
Connections – Personal notes were sent to many members. Fall Porch Fairies delivered bags of encouragement to 34 families with young children. Advent “just checking in calls” were made to 125 members living alone or experiencing isolation.
Parish Nurse/Caring Team – Phone encouragement and follow-up calls; Parish Visitor check in calls; ongoing Stephen Minister connections; transportation assistance volunteers, and over 50 Christmas poinsettias delivered to home bound elders.
There is more that could be named, but each of these celebrations tells of how Central adapted to 2020’s “new normal” with creativity and commitment. In-spite of great loss, new and unexpected ministry emerged and the love of Jesus Christ was shared. Thanks be to God!
What are you hoping for this new year? Whatever it is, I pray you will leave room for God to work. Let’s move into 2021 with the conviction that God in Christ will do “things not yet seen” in and through us!
Waiting to be surprised with you,