Church Wellbeing Address

Church Well-Being 2016

Jane Rantz & Bill Tenney

Address Delivered January 29, 2017

 

Let us pray together:

 

Deliver us, God, from the temptation of accepting the world that we see as the only world that is. For the world that we see is not the world for which you created us. Give strength to our pursuit of true knowledge, and to a life lived in your presence and in your mystery.

 

We give thanks and praise for the movement toward broad inclusiveness here in the diverse community of Maple Grove. We pray that even though at times we do not think alike, you will enable us, God, to love alike.

 

Open our hearts, our minds, and our doors. May we invite others to join us as we see Christ in every person we meet. We know we can experience a glimpse of heaven on earth when we make that spiritual connection with others.

 

Guide us in this New Year to be all that we can be for you! 

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we come to celebrate the end of a year dedicated to being one in Christ, and in the beginning of another year. The Book of Revelation promises a new heaven and a new earth, not an escape from earth. We seek to live on earth as Jesus did, making heaven and earth one.

 

How do we live this heaven on earth? By being willing to journey beyond our comfort zones to discover the world for which we have been created. We invite the Christ in us to live through us, loving our neighbors, our community, and our world. This is not a love that begins and ends just in warm feelings; it is a love that speaks in courage, in patience and kindness, and by being and by doing.

 

Bill and I want to share how Maple Grove has lived our mission statement of being an open community of Christians who love God and serve our neighbors.

 

Like Paul, we are called to foster a culture of invitation to Christian community. We have grown: We are committed to an ever-deepening relationship with God.

We have been transformed: We have formed life-changing relationships while serving others.

 

We are blessed by the leadership of Pastor Glenn, Cathy Davis, and Dawn Nauman. They help and encourage us to ponder their messages and be all that we can be as disciples of Christ. They love and support us through good times and bad. Thank you, Glenn, Cathy, and Dawn!

 

We’re thankful for the service of Eve Hathaway, who is the heart and soul of our church office. Thanks to Chip Austin and Terrell Brown, who take pride in the care and upkeep of our facility. Thanks to Sue Fletcher and Nancy Gay, whose ministries reach out to care for our absent and elderly members. We are grateful, too, for the loving care that Mandy Wray, our nursery coordinator, provides to the very youngest visitors to Maple Grove, and for the service of our additional nursery coordinator for 2017, Michelle Sekuskey.

 

We are blessed by the musical gifts of Len Bussard, Greg White, Rev. Michelle Baker, and our inspiring choirs. When the Chancel Choir sings, we hear scripture and messages of the love and peace of Christ woven into melody and harmony. When the bell choir rings, or New Song or our gifted soloists sing or play their instruments, they help put us in touch with God’s holiness and majesty. We deeply appreciate how much all of you do for us.

 

Thanks to the Maple Grove Players, who through drama, humor, and music deliver God’s message in our church and through their outreach programs to other groups in our community.

 

A few weeks ago we completed a successful capital campaign under the leadership of the Bennetts and Freers and their team members. Thanks to all of them and to those who have contributed to the campaign and committed to paying it forward to keep the physical facility of Maple Grove going for following generations. We have been the beneficiaries of those who came before us and with their faith and commitment laid the foundation and built upon the rock that became Maple Grove United Methodist Church at Henderson and High. Our pledged amount to the campaign to date is $875,000, and we have already received first fruits of $201,000. Projects to improve safety are beginning.

 

The capital campaign is a three-year effort, and if you haven’t already pledged, please consider doing so as you are able in the future.

 

Based on a successful stewardship campaign, our financial figures for 2016 are great! Total income was $571,649. Total expenses were $560,667 giving us a surplus of $10,982. This is the second year in a row we have finished with a surplus. Total church income was up, and expenses were held down. Our budget for 2017 is $572,434, which is a 0.72% decrease over last year’s budget. If you have not already made a commitment to the operating budget, please note that pledges are always gratefully accepted!

 

Last year we welcomed 33 new members to our Maple Grove family. Our total membership was 587. We had 117 first-time visitors.  

 

Maple Grovers love God and serve their neighbors in over 75 active ministry teams, thanks to the large number of ministry volunteers and team leaders. Among the mission and outreach ministries are groups that served here in Columbus at the NNEMAP Food Pantry and the New Life United Methodist Church Clothing Room. In partnership with the Clintonville Resources Center, we served dinner the first Thursday of each month and provided other food for the hungry: Sunday breakfasts, sack lunches, summer lunches for kids, and non-perishable food donations. We prepare and deliver sandwiches twice monthly to the Faith on 8th Men’s Shelter.

 

Our adult mission team traveled to Andrews, South Carolina, and completed repairs on mobile homes that had been damaged by storms. We hosted Feed the World, which provided food to people in need locally and around the world. (It was an amazing event, and if you missed out on participating last year, be aware that we plan to host it again this year in the month of August.)

 

Also in 2016, we completed our three-year 30-thousand-dollar pledge to Imagine No Malaria as our world outreach part of the Christmas in July campaign. Thanks to your support over the last three years, we helped save three thousand lives in Africa.

 

Maple Grove served 225 Thanksgiving meals in Fellowship Hall and delivered leftovers to local shelters. We provided 140 food boxes to Bethlehem on Broad Street. (There are only 153 days until our next Christmas in July!)

 

Maple Grove continues to add study groups for spiritual formation. Thirteen classes meet faithfully every Sunday morning. Seven other classes meet during the week. The following short-term study groups were offered in 2016: Disciples Path, We Make the Road, For the Love of God, Soul of a Pilgrim, Open the Door, Unusual Healings, and several Covenant study groups. Three Love Our Neighbor events were held during the summer. These included lunch and time to explore topics of Differences & Sameness, Conflict Resolution and Reconciling Ministries. Each event was attended by 60-70 people.

 

Four of our members are training as Stephen Ministers as we partner for training with Overbrook Presbyterian and North Broadway UMC. This will give us a total of 17 active Stephen Ministers. We also trained four more Hometown Service Volunteers through the HEROES program.

 

Twenty-seven women participated in a spiritual retreat at the Lial Renewal Center. Twenty-nine women attended an Advent Contemplative Gathering. There are two active United Methodist Women’s Circles.

 

The God-Centered Wellbeing Team put on an Emotional Resilience workshop, which drew 50-60 attendees. God-Centered Wellbeing also continued growing a variety of human connection groups in 2016.

 

The Teenage Youth group has 12 active participants. Our teens participated in the annual CROP Walk, sang carols to homebound folks, took Valentines to Wesley Glen, partnered with CRC to rake leaves for our senior neighbors, made sandwiches for Faith on 8th, led a Christmas Eve worship, and learned about mercy and justice.

 

Thirteen participants went on an unforgettable youth mission trip to Memphis, Tennessee. Their experiences on that trip included attending a service addressing racial violence, serving dinner at a homeless shelter, working at a Baptist boys’ ranch (where they heard heartbreaking stories of abuse, broken homes, abandonment and addiction, but also of gratitude for the ranch and for a God of love, forgiveness and second chances). Also in Tennessee, they volunteered at the Lisieux House for women in recovery from addiction and human trafficking, and heard more stories of second chances by the grace of God. They visited with residents of a rehabilitation facility, and they toured the National Civil Rights Museum, which includes the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

 

Ten seventh and eighth graders completed confirmation in May of 2016.

 

Dawn Nauman’s ministry to children continued with the process where all kids in the fourth through the sixth grades had the opportunity to study the same scripture and develop a presentation (In Project Sunday School on Sunday mornings and Tween Ministry Incorporated, or TMI, on Sunday afternoons). There were two Project Sunday School music and drama performances during worship in 2016. Both were based on New Testament scriptures—one on healing, and one on thankfulness. More than 25 kids participated in each of these events. At 8:30 services, TMI gave the message twice, on healing and on thankfulness.

 

Children and youth ministries continue to embrace our sanctuary’s audio-visual system, probably more than any other group, as they incorporate technology into their interpretations of the Bible.

 

Our Child and Family Support Group met twice last year to develop and support ministries for children and tweens at Maple Grove.

 

TMI kids in fourth through sixth grades continued to meet on alternating Sundays and for fun Friday evening activities. Attendance swelled to an average of 20 children (up from five in the first year and 18 in 2015). TMI continues to be an invitational ministry. Kids brought their friends to our Friday night activities and on Sunday evenings. They also took field trips for swimming at an indoor pool and for bowling. Members of TMI and their families prepared and served pancakes on Shrove Tuesday and assisted with the children’s Easter egg hunt.

 

We presented the Justin Roberts concert, which welcomed neighbors to our green space for a great family-oriented day.

 

Vacation Bible School was well attended, with more than 60 children and a strong group of leaders, including many teens and tweens from the church. We continue to use the small-group model, which allows leaders of all ages to develop strong relationships with children and work with peers within the church. During VBS, we raised money and awareness about type 1 diabetes, an illness that struck one of our Maple Grove families during the past year.

 

Advent and Christmas at Maple Grove was a great experience, with more than 35 children participating in the Christmas pageant. Church member Valerie Aveni provided music leadership, and the kids performed in a wonderful pageant that included both vocal music and bells. Kids also were invited to share their talents before the service. This year, many new families from the neighborhood or who have found our church by being invited to TMI events participated in the pageant.

 

In December, Maple Grove hosted a potluck for folks interested in building bridges between families in the Muslim, Methodist, and other communities in and around Columbus. More than 80 people gathered to get to know each other. This ministry of Muslims, Methodists, and More continues in 2017.

 

Late in 2015, a group of Maple Grove members joined together to promote our church’s openness to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, race, economic status, or a number of other descriptors that have been used in society to discriminate and divide God’s people.

 

This group grew in number as its work progressed. They crafted a statement of welcome, emphasizing the full inclusion of all of humanity, in all its diversity, in the life and ministries of Maple Grove. In the spring of 2016, the group presented this statement of welcome and inclusiveness to our church’s Administrative Council for approval. The council unanimously approved the statement, and it now appears on Maple Grove’s website. (We note that a church’s website is now, for many people, the primary means of finding out about a church before trying it out on Sunday.)

 

As a further public step in our movement toward broad inclusiveness, Maple Grove members were invited to vote at our November 2016 charge conference on whether to become a Reconciling Congregation, joining other area United Methodist churches in welcoming “people of all sexual orientations and gender identities into the full life of the church.” The reconciling designation allows people who are unfamiliar with Maple Grove, and perhaps are looking for a church home in Clintonville or nearby, to see that we are a church that welcomes one and all—something those of us who have already found our church home here know but that may not be readily apparent to folks who haven’t worshipped with us yet.

 

The proposal to become a Reconciling Congregation passed overwhelmingly, and we celebrate Maple Grove’s progress toward broad inclusion of all God’s people in the life and work of the church.

 

This is a day and a year of new beginnings. Let us draw near to God, praying for the willingness to deeply listen to each other without judgment, to be of comfort and compassion to one another even when we do not think alike, and to be united in our loving and living in a way that brings heaven to earth. Together, may we have the heart of Christ to take the next step, and the next, and all that follow!

 

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