Dear One Church Family,
As 2021 draws to a close, holidays begin, and we prepare room in our hearts to worship Jesus this Christmas, I wanted to send out a note to reflect on the year and give thanks to God for the way he has carried us through a very challenging but also fruitful time of ministry.
Firstly, I want to express my gratitude to all of you for the way you have so generously and openly welcomed my family and I to One. Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, friendship, and support as we’ve navigated the challenge of joining and leading a church in the midst of the pandemic.
Secondly, I want to take a moment to acknowledge and give thanks for some of the ministries that have served us so well, but have now drawn to a conclusion.
The Classic Service
Thank you again to Heather and Doug Mudie, and the many dedicated volunteers, for your faithful leadership of the Classic Service over many years at One. This church has been deeply blessed by your love and service, and we look forward to hearing how God will continue to work through each of you in the years to come.
Over the last two decades MOPS has had a significant impact on families in and around our church. Thanks to the dedication of many volunteers over that time, MOPS has provided a weekly space of support and care to mothers of pre-schoolers. However, in collaboration with the MOPS committee, we recently decided our MOPS season had come to an end. We are so grateful for all those who have poured themselves into our MOPS mums to help them through what is often a very challenging time of life. We pray that all those seeds of love, friendship and good news, will continue to grow and bear fruit in the future.
Although endings can be difficult, let’s remember that nothing is wasted in the Kingdom of God. In God’s economy, endings are so often a catalyst for something new that would not have otherwise emerged. This is a point I’ve reflected on with many folks this year, as they’ve grieved lost time or opportunities or plans that have been frustrated, only to discover that God has opened up new opportunities or helped them to see possibilities they were previously unaware of.
Thirdly, I want to give a huge thankyou to our incredibly dedicated leadership: our Staff, Elders, and our many ministry leaders, who have served God and this community so faithfully and lovingly, in one the most challenging seasons of ministry I’ve experienced in the twenty-odd years I’ve been in leadership.
Despite so many frustrated ministry plans, we have managed to finish the year in a significant position of strength. Some highlights for me have been (and this is definitely not an exhaustive list!): our excellent online services; running both The Marriage Course and Alpha online, with strong participation at both; the launch of One Care and the incredibly generous response to our One Care appeal (over $50k!); our growing financial partnership, which has enabled us to finish the year with an operating surplus, and allowed us to pay down a significant amount off our debt, an incredible result; our ongoing partnership with Blackburn PS, particularly via Kids Hope, which continues to have such a big impact on the lives of many vulnerable children (we have a long waitlist of children, so please consider becoming a mentor!); the many new people who have joined our church over the year, some who connected with us during the long lockdown via our online services; and last but not least, the strength of our children and youth ministries, despite not being able to meet with the kids and teens face to face for so long (thank you so much to our leaders for persisting with zoom for SO. MANY. WEEKS.) You have all been amazing!
We are looking forward to what God has ahead for us in 2022, and I am particularly excited about the new vision the Elders, Staff, and I have been developing, which we will hopefully be communicating to you all in early March of next year.
Finally, though Christmas is meant to be a time of great joy, for many people in our church (as around the nation) it will be a season of very mixed emotions, perhaps even a time of grief, sadness, frustration, or anger. Distance from loved ones, lost community, lost employment, lost opportunities, lost education, mental health challenges, the passing of family or friends without being able to properly say goodbye – it has been a brutal year. We should not expect ourselves to simply ‘bounce back to normal’, though we can and should give thanks for God’s many good gifts, despite everything.
Perhaps it is helpful to remember the first Christmas was a time of mixed emotions, too. From Mary’s wonder at how a virgin could conceive, Joseph contemplating divorce, Mary’s discomfort during a long journey while heavily pregnant, the joy of Christ’s birth despite horrible conditions among the animals, the unexpected visit and rich gifts of the Magi, the unimaginable pain Herod unleashed upon the families of Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph fleeing Israel into Egypt as refugees… it is a complicated season full of all human emotions.
This Christmas “let every heart prepare him room”, yes and amen, as we also remember that Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.” If in the room of your heart there is grief, or pain, or sorrow, or anger – you don’t need to hide those things to welcome Jesus. He knows the terrain of those things, he doesn’t judge you for feeling them, and he knows how to love you in and through them. As you celebrate Jesus this Christmas, it’s OK if there are some tears as well.
As we approach the conclusion of this year, it is my prayer for our church that – if this pandemic has taught us anything – it is that we have grown in our capacity to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and weep with those who are weeping. To hold onto one another and bear with one another in love.
We can do this because we know the great secret of the universe, the great mystery of God’s will now revealed to all who will listen: Christ is the Lord! O praise his name forever!
Amen and Merry Christmas,