(What follows is my letter to the American Church in London congregation, introducing our report for 2009.)
Dear ACL Family,
Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, the one who draws us together and gives us a sense of purpose and calling to serve as his people!
It has been an eventful year, filled with challenges and blessings and new opportunities for ministry. In this document [the annual report] you’ll read some reports from leaders within our church—men and women who have responded to God’s call in important ways as we continue to learn how to be a faithful church. As I have read through these myself I’m reminded of the litany shared in some churches:
God is good! God is good!
All the time! All the time!
We have certainly experienced God’s goodness in this church over the past year. Starting with the opening of our Cold Weather Shelter last January, we saw tremendous growth in our capacity to serve our community—to share God’s provision to us with others who were in need. What a great experience that was!
As we said goodbye to Kate Obermueller after two wonderful years here, we welcomed Stephanie Kremmel as Director of Student Ministries. Energized by a fantastic group of volunteer teachers and helpers, we’ve seen huge growth in children’s Sunday School and in our youth groups. Young people are being loved, having fun, and catching a glimpse of God’s amazing care for them, which is the point of student ministries. Our kids have led us in worship in the Junior and Youth choirs, under the direction of Joanna Davies, and in June we saw two of our young people preach the gospel on Youth Sunday.
The economic crisis was keenly felt by people within our congregation, and we lost a few recent arrivals who had to move back to the States unexpectedly. But in the midst of that, as you’ll see in the financial report, giving has remained faithful and solid throughout the year. It is this consistent partnership that has made the growth in ministry here possible. We’ve been able to make improvements to the church building, and more are on the way, and we’ve also made repairs and refurbishments to the manse that allow us to enjoy it as a gathering place. You will hear soon how we will finally upgrade the means of access to our church building so that all people can participate in the life of this community.
The Latchcourt room-hire business is an important piece of the overall picture of how ACL operates, and any celebration of the past year has to include thanks to Monty Strikes for his hard work. Latchcourt still provides about half of the church’s income, and helps us build relationships with the surrounding community. Thanks, Monty!
Behind the scenes there are some volunteers who help make this place go, but who won’t show up in any reports. Dick Biddick helps to assemble the bulletins and prepares the Sanctuary for worship each week. David Smith arrives early Sunday mornings to set up the Main Hall and help make the front of the church presentable, no matter what Saturday night’s revelers leave behind. It’s a hard job, but hopefully not a thankless one! Thanks to both of you for your faithful service.
Over this past year we were blessed to have Olivia O’Neill and MaryAnn Barlow take on part-time interim roles in the church office. This gave us time to think about what the church secretary position should look like as we move forward, and also allowed us to wait for the right person to become available. We welcomed Jhoana Serna in November, who now manages the office, creates our bulletins and other communications, and assists Monty in the management of Latchcourt.
This past autumn Stephanie and I attended a handful of new expatriate events, and met some great new people who have made ACL their church home. Our Thanksgiving potluck, organized by Julie D’Elia and Vicky Jones (again with the assistance of a great group of volunteers), was attended by more than 130 people. All season we’ve enjoyed a string of fantastic events which have drawn us together as a community: the Welcome Back Picnic, Stewardship Sunday, Thanksgiving Day at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Advent Action Day, and the Santa Party and Christmas Open House at the manse. More are on the way for the coming year.
As we look ahead there are some wonderful things in store for our church. The Children’s Sunday School is starting a new curriculum called “Camp Iwilligoway”, the Adult Bible Study will continue to wrestle with what the Bible teaches about faith, wealth and the good life. Our youth groups will continue to reach out to young people who are hungry for connection and spiritual growth. We’ll broaden our experience of worship as we learn more songs and experiment with different forms, old and new. The Cold Weather Shelter has started again, with new and returning volunteers making the most of their opportunity to serve. Your mission committee is making plans for us to reach out together in some exciting ways—stay tuned for details. See what I mean?
It’s great when a letter about the life of the church is abandoned, rather than finished. There is so much more I could say, but there simply isn’t room. Maybe the best way to end this is with the same reminder I shared in the beginning. As we reflect on how God has grown us and shaped us over this past year, and as we look ahead to where we’re going next, what I really want to say is this:
God is good! God is good!
All the time! All the time!
God bless you and keep you,