2017 has passed. Now we must learn to write 2018 for all of our dates. Now we make resolutions and goals. Now we want to better ourselves during 2018.
But we take a moment and give thanks for all that was in 2017. I was called to pastor with you all in January 2017, beginning in February. We immediately jumped into an extraordinary Lenten season, following Barbara Brown Taylor's Learning to Walk in the Dark. It was meaningful and intentional. It was beautiful and sacred. We celebrated the resurrection on a chilly Sunday morning. It was a morning filled with family and friends, with flowers, with hope. The spring was full of logistics. We had holy conversations about where God was calling us to- motivating us to revise our covenant and values to better match who we are today. We revamped our committee structure, again to better match who we are today. We signed up for committees and got to work!
The summer was laid back and restful. We ordained one of our own, Shaunna, a Chaplain now serving in August, Georgia. We had cookouts and dreamed about what good Emmanuel can do. We also had my Installation service. We brought folks who knew me well, who nurtured me and encouraged me so that I may be confident in my call to Pastor.
We kicked off the fall with energy. We shared our own stories on Wednesday evenings. We had deep discussion in Sunday School about the Apocalypse (and read Scripture through an apocalyptic lens). We began the Narrative Lectionary, following the Old Testament story from Creation to the prophet Isaiah giving God's people hope about what was to come. We celebrated World Communion Sunday with breads from all over the world. We gave thanks for the Saints who have gone before us.
Advent was full of outreach and fellowship. We had our annual Christmas lunch and celebrated Christmas with Leaphart Place. We welcomed new members. We celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ.
We said goodbye to people who we have loved, and who have loved us. We said "welcome, beloved child of God" to the people who have walked into EBF. Many of our people have had a hard year. We've walked with them well, giving the needed space, or lending a shoulder for the tears.
This year, we've narrowed down our outreach efforts. We prayed about the organizations that we have a close bond with, celebrating our relationships and building on those foundations. We continued our strong connection with Leaphart Place, an organization that provides stability and assistance for those who have aged out of foster care. We celebrated Christmas with many of their residents. We also maintained our Little Free Library and Pantry at Victorian Lakes. We marched with pride at the Famously Hot Pride parade, celebrating the beloved-ness of all humanity.
I've learned a lot about this congregation this past year. We've built some mutual trust. And yet, there's still so much to figure out. I'm excited to learn more about the family systems at play. I'm excited to continue to build and gain trust with each of you. I'm excited for how God is calling us to be a "unique kind of Baptist", where God may call us and lead us. I give so much thanks for this call. I give so much thanks for what this past year provided. And I pray for this coming year. That we get our hands dirty, being the presence of Christ to those who are on the margins, for those who were made to feel unloved and unworthy. May we bold enough to claim our mission in this world.