It’s August and we have about 5 weeks left until our fall programs start. Staff have been rotating in and out of vacations and down time. And it is obvious that many parishioners are away these days too. But there is a lot going on anyway. Here’s an update:
1. The evidence of lack of planning and leadership is all around us (in Churches, in government, in business) and provides a clarion call for us to do better when it comes to our stewardship of this Church. Our Strategic Planning Team has been meeting weekly and forming study groups to carry the project forward into the fall. As I’ve said before, we have no idea where God is leading us through this effort, but we do know that he is leading us to bigger challenges and greater efforts on behalf of his kingdom.
2. Our Nativity/Nigeria Team landed yesterday in Africa and made it safely to their destinations in Jos and Abuja. They will be undertaking some significant projects to assist those communities in the name of Christ. I am really proud of these teams and grateful to God that this effort is moving forward so dynamically. One of the most important parts of this year’s mission is planning and study to lay the groundwork for a parish wide program we have in mind for Advent, providing water to these communities. More on that in the months ahead, but it is going to be an amazing project for us.
3. Some small construction projects are underway that will make a difference in the weekend experience this fall. The old kitchen, which was underused and outdated, is currently becoming the new ALL STARS space. A new, more efficient kitchen-service area is being added to the Café along with some new service features. Our “backstage” area, where staff and weekend ministers enjoy fellowship, is being remodeled to accommodate more people more effectively. The new video venue, in the Pavilion, is up and running and you might notice some other enhancements around the campus come fall too.
4. In July we welcomed Lisa Scata to our full time staff as Director of Children’s Ministry. Previously, Lisa had been working part time for us in ALL STARS. Lisa will have responsibility for all our children’s programs, which we offer for kids 6 months to grade 4 (grade 5 and up is part of our youth ministry program). We are really excited about welcoming Lisa to our team. It is a powerful sign to us of God’s blessing that in a time when so many churches are downsizing, our staff is growing, and growing with incredibly gifted people.
5. Speaking of Youth Ministry, Chris Wesley, our Youth Pastor (as we affectionately call him sometimes), is busy this week with a service camp for middle school students, reaching out to assist people right here in Baltimore. We are committed to service nationally, internationally and locally and this summer we have shown that: in Nigeria, Mississippi and Baltimore. Good luck to Chris and our student ministers.
6. I am really excited about the new formats for messages we have tried this summer. In July we used a video format presenting fresh recordings of a message we have previously presented. Through the month of August Tom, Chris and I will be offering live presentations after Mass. These exercises give me (and others) a summer break, provide us with some extra time to plan for our fall and winter messages and give Tom and Chris some more opportunity for public speaking. At the same time they allow us to keep a consistent, church-wide and challenging message. We have offered our weekend messages after Mass so that there are no Liturgical issues, and to allow them to be more deliberately casual. I am really happy with the exercise so far and I’m really really proud of our congregation for going along with us for the ride.
7. I wish I could say we have completed all the work on our web site we have in mind for this summer, but we are not quite there yet. Two new “what to expect” videos are posted and I think they’re really good, thanks to Lucas. Check them out and invite friends (who don’t have a Church) to check us out by checking them out too. We are hoping to get an easy to use ministry and small group sign up on line in the next couple of weeks.
8. All of our staff is working hard throughout this summer on our messages and programs for the fall. You will see a difference. The weekend of September 12-13 we’re kicking off a new message series all about direction and vision in life. We are doing a series on money and stewardship leading into Thanksgiving and then, as mentioned, we have a project for Advent that will bring together our Advent giving program and our message with a unique, life changing project to bring water to a community in Africa.
And, of course, then there is Christmas at the Fairgrounds…it will be here before you know it.