“State of the Church”

Here are my remarks from the congregational meeting January 31:

I would like to say a few things to summarize the annual reports, about the year past and the state of Presbyterian Church of the Master right now. I read the reports and am grateful to those who wrote them for their thoroughness and clarity; remember that if you have questions about any of them to please contact the writer. They all identify themselves, but you can always ask me or Andy Cook whom to contact.

You don’t need me to tell you that it’s been a challenging year. We needed to pivot quickly last March when the pandemic forced a sudden shut-down of nearly everything. Elders, deacons, committees, and staff all were forced to change the way we do nearly everything. One decision I made was to keep the office open, so that the people of the Church could still come to the building when they needed to. Whether anything else was able to function normally or not, your office volunteers and staff have continued to keep the office open.

I am grateful to and admire those who have found ways to continue to minister despite the pandemic. Here are a few highlights:
• The Mission Committee pivoted from doing as much hands-on to emphasizing financial support. Yet Manda McLaughlin has weekly posted the needs for Siena Francis House in our Facebook Family & Friends Group so we can continue to be a people that does mission.
• Sunday School and adult education moved to Zoom format
• Outreach gave tangible support to AA, health care workers, and a church family
• A new Benevolence Fund was created which has already provided support to our members
• The Deacons rebounded and changed the way they provide meals to Rainbow House and supported compassionate connections between members of the church
• The Building & Grounds Committee, with its Aesthetics Subcommittee, has continued to improve the appearance and functionality of the facility. When you return, you will see new furniture, bulletin boards, a beautiful stained glass window, and other improvements.
• Personnel Committee used online resources to meet, support our staff, and especially to hire Joey Ann Knoell as Children’s Music Director and Becky Widhalm as Church Administrator.

But I want to emphasize especially what Worship and Technology have done. When we were able, we held worship outdoors in the Courtyard. Since March we have webcast worship via YouTube and have built a following not only among our church members but from New York to Ohio and California. Because the Technology Committee installed webcasting equipment, we are doing evangelism that we had not imagined a year ago. They have not only installed it, but operate it weekly; without them I would be standing up front talking to an empty room and without your being able to participate at all. A conservative estimate is that we are now reaching at least half again, if not twice as many, people as we were when we were meeting in the sanctuary and doing nothing else. In addition, the Technology Committee has improved the WiFi throughout the building and has purchased and installed new monitors in the Sanctuary. I am eager for you to return and experience all this for yourselves.

I should also highlight for you that we have done well financially. Although we forecast a budget deficit, we actually ended the year with a surplus. That was partly due to reduced expenses during the year, but largely due to your continuing commitment to your church. In addition to strong regular contributions, not included in ordinary income are a grant from the State of Nebraska for healthy worshiping spaces and a Paycheck Protection Program loan which has been forgiven. These are listed as special grant receipts and have helped to maintain our program at the level it has been.

As far as we can tell, about 90 of you are participating in the Year of the Bible. That and increased frequency of the Lord’s Supper will help our spiritual life. When we are able to begin worshiping together in person, we will have stronger spiritual resources to bring.

When will that be? We do not know, of course. As the positivity rate in Douglas County continues to decrease, I foresee at least a partial reopening before too long. However, Dr. Krampe and I are making plans for a virtual Holy Week experience, in the possibility that we’ll still be apart at Easter. Dr. Fauci has predicted the likelihood of herd immunity in the United States by late summer or early fall. If we cannot be together in the Sanctuary soon, we will certainly resume outdoor services when the temperature gets up to sweater weather.

For now, thank you for attending today’s meeting; thank you for your commitment to Jesus Christ and His Church; and thank you for seeking Christ every day, everywhere, and in everyone.