From The Pastors

Pastor’s Report – November 2022

From
October 29, 2022

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Introduction: We are coming up on the middle of our fiscal year, so it’s time for a report to let you all know what’s been going on at church. So here are some past highlights as well as some future plans I can share with you at this time, with a special emphasis on our worship program.

Worship Gatherings

On Sunday mornings, we started the fiscal year with a 4th of July Weekend sermon on freedom of thought, followed by a three-part series on prayer. Then we closed July out with a sermon on listening and bias from guest preacher, Richard Glenn. In August we had four stand-alone sermons on developing a thirst for the Lord’s Word, enlightenment from the Word, the Parable of the Talents, and four keys to a healthy spiritual community. In September, we started the new season with a holy supper service, followed by a sermon on the “unforgivable sin.” Then we began the seven-part series on satisfying people’s spiritual needs that we are just about to wrap up this coming Sunday (Oct. 30), as I write.

Going forward, the preaching plan in November calls for not one but two sermons from Brian Smith, as well as one from guest preacher Calvin Heinrichs. In between all that, I will be offering another holy supper service on November 20th and then the annual Thanksgiving festival service on the 24th. In December we will (of course) have Christmas themed services for the first two Sundays, followed by a Tableaux service on December 18th, and then finish the month with services both on Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning.

The new year will begin with a January 1st holy supper service followed by a topic still to be decided on the 8th. From there the plan is to offer another seven-part series, this time on the story of the prophet Elijah. March is still open (please send in suggestions and requests!) but might end up being focused on topics that lead up to Easter. Then Palm Sunday on April 2nd, Good Friday evening holy supper on the 7th, and Easter Sunday on the 9th.

After that, the preaching plan is, for now, undetermined until the end of May, at which point there will likely be a series on the distinctiveness of the New Church, culminating in our New Church Day festival service (and barbecue!) on June 18th. Also, somewhere in the first half of 2023 we will likely have guest preaching from our regional pastor, and also possibly from a visiting bishop.

Also, on the topic of our worship services, we put together a Music Team over the summer, that is working on ways of enriching our worship (and also possible some of our social gatherings) with various musical offerings. Already they have produced some beautiful short instrumental postludes, and along with a group of singers offered a wonderful arrangement of Psalm 23, as put to music by New Church artist Tony Rose. Stay tuned for more such offerings in the coming year, including some special Christmas music, as well as a possible appearance of the school choir on a Sunday or two.

And speaking of music, let me tell you about our congregational music program. Over the past year we have been regularly incorporating favorite worship songs submitted by you and your fellow society members, in our congregationally sung music for Sunday worship. At this point we have sung every such favorite at least once (and for the most part more than once) except for those favorites that are not actually in the latest edition of the General Church Liturgy (last revised in 2005). Going forward, we plan to start incorporating some of those favorites into our worship as well. Because they are not in the Liturgy, we will be adding them as inserts or separate handouts that go with the worship programs we already print and use as part of our standard order of service. As we do this, we might also try out some other songs that have been enjoyed at other New Church worship gatherings, that perhaps few here have heard so far.

Which brings up the question: how do we learn new music for worship? Well, to a certain extent, by diving in and trying it on Sunday mornings. But in addition to that, we are also doing things to help familiarize you with new music apart from inviting you to sing it yourself. For instance, new songs are sometimes also being played as instrumentals during our preludes, interludes, and postludes. Another way to learn new music is to show up for the song practices that Ariel ran over the summer and will hopefully be able to offer again next summer. Finally, you can get a jump start on learning new music by volunteering to join the music team for a particular song.

Oh, you didn’t know you could do that. Well, you can! The way our expanded music team works, anyone who would like to be a part of offering new music–as a singer or as an instrumentalist or even as both–for just one particular song, is welcome to do so. There is no requirement for any commitment longer than one song. Just let me know you are interested, and we can talk about what song or songs you want to be a part of, and when it comes time to rehearse that song, we’ll let you know!

Technology and Communications

Of course, with the addition of new music to our worship gatherings, there is also a technical component. We have been slowly upgrading our sound system, and as of this writing have just a couple more hurdles to leap before we are done. This upgrade includes replacing our mixing board, rerouting all of the signals and channels, setting up microphones for singers and mics and inputs for instruments, and even setting up monitors so musicians can hear themselves in a more balanced way when performing. These improvements are aimed at not only making live choral and instrumental music better in the sanctuary, but also at bringing them clearly to our online participants through our YouTube channel.

And speaking of our YouTube channel, we continue to make tweaks and improvements to our Sunday morning live stream. Full congregational worship is something we do together as a community, side by side. However, not everyone is able to join us that way. Some are only sometimes kept away, while others for various reasons are almost entirely limited to joining us only online. There are even some regulars who connect with our livestream from as far away as Texas!

Our YouTube channel views are down from where they were a year ago, but that is partly a reflection of the fact that a year ago many people were more hesitant about going to public gatherings than they have been over the past twelve months. On average over the past twelve months, we have tended to get ten to twelve regularly returning households watching our videos, along with between one and five new viewers who find our content, each weekend. Some of these, tune into the stream live, and more watch it later some time after it has been published.

In addition to our live streamed worship services, I will be resuming the series of made-for-YouTube videos on religious topics. To begin with, I will be editing and publishing the next sequence of “episodes” of the read through of the Gospel of Mark. We have also had other suggestions for online content that are under consideration, as well, so stay tuned!

Groups and Classes

In the small group department, we continue to meet online on alternating Mondays to discuss readings from a book of the Word. Currently, we are about two thirds of the way through Apocalypse Revealed. People are always welcome to join mid-book, but those who wish to wait until a new book is being started should know that as of this writing (Oct 26), there are about fourteen weeks left before that happens, not including any breaks around Christmas.

And speaking of that, we will once again be offering an online Christmas Readings group starting sometime in late November or Early December. Then, in the new year, there will also be an Easter Readings group in the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday.

Finally, we have just launched our new Married Couples group. Currently we are meeting in-person only, once a month, although both of those aspects are subject to change in the future.

Useful Community Service

Over the summer we worked with a non-profit organization that provides charitable services for refugees moving into our area. This activity provides our members and friends opportunities for community service. There was recently a change in staffing related to coordinating volunteers, and this has led to a slowdown in things for us, but that should only be temporary.

There is still room for other programs, whether ongoing or one-time opportunities, as interest and lay-leadership arise. If you have a service project you would like to help make happen, please contact me.

Community Recreations

Our community outdoor fireside gathering has continued strong every Wednesday night and has grown into a wonderful part of the social life of the church for many. We have also had good a community volleyball program going for some time now.

Going forward, I am looking for more ways to help and encourage you all to gather socially in various ways, including to celebrate Christmas, but also just to enjoy one another’s company. If you have an idea for a community social event that you think should happen, please talk to me and we’ll see what we can make happen.

The School

You have a separate report from our Assistant Pastor with more details on our school programs, and as usual, I will hold off from adding much to that. Once again, I will repeat the same message I offer every time I give a report: the future success of our school as a program of the church is critically dependent on our ability to recruit, hire, and retain more New Church educators in the coming five years. I see this as the top priority for our school going forward. With this as a focus, we have made some really great hires recently, but we will continue to need to focus on this in the next few years to come.

Conclusion

So that’s (mostly) it: all the things happening with your local church, the Washington New Church. I thank you all for continuing to make my job here a delightful and rewarding one. Keep being the church, to one another and to the world, and keep looking to the Lord for instruction and leadership. I can’t wait to discover what He has in store for us in the coming year.

Rev. Glenn “Mac” Frazier

Pastor, Washington New Church, 2022-10-26

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