A Message From Rev'd Ben
Annual reports tend to be all about numbers, metrics, and strategic visioning. These are good things. These are things which we will certainly dedicate most of this document to. These are areas where I am fully competent and comfortable. However, as I consider the work that I would like to report on today, I am, frankly, suddenly finding those numbers incredibly boring. Necessary and good! But not the entirety of the spirit of what the Church has been about in the past year. Not a summation of what my ministry amongst the saints at St. Andrew’s has been since I began in February of 2021.
About ten years ago, when I was first discerning a call towards pastoral ministry, I was given a copy of Eugene Peterson’s memoir, aptly titled, The Pastor. Throughout the past decade I’ve come back to this book, and more broadly, Petersons’s work, over and over again. In one of the first chapters of the book, Peterson reflects on the pastoral tradition and begins to outline his vision of the pastorate. He says this:
The pervasive element in our two-thousand-year pastoral tradition is not someone who “gets things done” but rather the person placed in the community to pay attention and call attention to “what is going on right now” between men and women, with one another and with God—this kingdom of God that is primarily local, relentlessly personal, and prayerful “without ceasing.” I want to give witness to this way of understanding pastor, a way that can’t be measured or counted, and often isn’t even noticed.
It has been my effort in the past year to, as Peterson prescribes, pay attention and to call attention. To listen, learn, observe and grow. To be a presence within our church community, relentlessly personal and prayerful without ceasing. And my reward for such a commitment has been immeasurable. I have learned so much from you all and been gifted with the opportunity to know you, your children, and the lives that many of you lead. I’ve sat at sporting events, shared meals, drank countless cups of coffee, peppered many of you with questions after services, and exchanged countless emails. Some of you have even graciously welcomed me into your homes. And in return, I’ve caught a vision of this beautiful community of Saint Andrew’s. A vision that is not about numbers or strategic plans, but is about a community that desires to love each other and to love our neighbors. I’ve learned about a community of children that are eager to be involved on Sundays and enthusiastically eat up Sunday School materials each week. I’ve seen congregants of all ages giving of their time and talents to offer guidance, rake leaves, cook chicken, and share their various gifts. I’ve borne witness to incredible acts of generosity, dedication, and hospitality - all inspired by the way of Jesus that we are following together.
In the past year, our community has come a long way - and yet there is still quite a journey ahead of us. We face complicated questions related to financial viability, the on-going Pandemic, our response to the changing world around us and our own need for worship and fellowship. As we continue on this life together, led by our savior Christ, it will continue to be my effort to pay attention and call attention. Drawing from the rich tradition of this Church and the even richer tradition of our faith, we will face these challenges together as a joyful community. I thank you all for giving me the gift of calling me your pastor and I look forward to our continued journey together.