Annual Report 2016

As we begin this new year together, I am so full of thankfulness for this church. I’ve been at St. Philip’s for five years now, which is pretty exciting for me, but if my math is correct, as a church we are entering our 143rd year as this special part of the Body of Christ, arranged by the will of God to be a manifestation of Jesus Christ here in this village of Norwood. (that means we ought to be doing some thinking about a giant 150th celebration at some point, too, but we’ll talk about that later.)

Every year in the life of a church brings some painful things. When I looked back on my Annual Report for last year, we were mourning the loss of Harriett Swan. This year we suffered the loss of two more of our longest and most faithful members, Ruth Blanchard and Joan Ladouceur, who passed away within just a few days of each other this fall. It was a real blessing to hear so many people comment on how much Ruth and Joan loved their church, and we were blessed by many gifts that were given in their memory, but they leave empty spaces in our hearts as well as our pews, and we will be feeling their loss for a long time yet.

But I can also see how the hopes and plans we were making last January have begun to bear fruit in this past year. One of our big goals for 2015 was to get more involved in outreach to our community, and I believe we have come a long way. Our Community Dinners are pretty well established now, and our Thrift Shop, Common Cents, has really taken off. This year we have also been much more closely connected with the other churches in the area to work together in ministering to the needs of our neighbors. We have contributed to local ministries like the food pantry, the Snack Pack program, the Holiday Fund, and to our local Head Start. And in turn, people from all over have been incredibly generous in bringing donations of clothing and housewares for our Thrift Shop, and people from our sister churches in Norwood have been a huge help in volunteering to work with us. I believe God is really blessing us all as we learn to work together to share the love of Christ with our community.

We all know that a church isn’t made of stones and mortar; the church is the people, you guys, not the building. But our building is still an important part of who we are and how we function, and the reality is that as long as we meet in a building we will always have some kind of disaster to deal with, and this year was no exception. Last year we had just survived the Great Flood and the long and expensive process of tearing out what was ruined and getting our new floor installed. This year seems to have been the year the devil got into the plumbing. Our warden, Charlie, can tell you how many times we “fixed” the pipes this year, only to have them break all over again. Many people have given of their time and energy and skill to keep things running over this past year. I can’t express how thankful I am to everyone who works so hard to keep our little church building clean and orderly and in repair.

But in all the changes that we can see over the course of this year, and in all our good works and in all the struggles we have been through, the thing that always remains constant is our life as a worshiping community. Year after year the people of St. Philip’s have come together on Sunday mornings to be fed by God’s Word and Sacrament, to offer up our thanks and sing our praises, and to encourage one another by the sharing of our common faith. We have gathered to pray for one another, and to study the Scriptures. Because no matter what we are doing, whether we are making six billion cabbage rolls or unclogging the plumbing or setting up the altar for the Eucharist, the thing that gives it all meaning is that Christ is at the center. He is our Head and our Heart. He is the reason for everything we do, and He is the source of all the strength and wisdom we have to do it with. He is the reason that there is still a St. Philip’s Church after 142 years. And so I give thanks today to our Lord Jesus, and also to each one of you, who are such faithful members of his Body and who make St. Philip’s the uniquely wonderful church it is today. God bless you all.

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