For starters, I will share with you the introduction to our church's annual report:
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ – Ezekiel 37: 1-3
Upon getting to the task of writing the annual report, I posed the question to some people and asked “Does anyone ever read these reports?” If you’re answering this in the affirmative, then I know that you are sitting down and reading this right now. If you don’t read these reports, well, then I’m writing to thin air and the persons for whom that applies have no idea I have posed the question.
Several of my friends responded and said that they read every word of their church’s annual report, and even go through the financial report line by line. One of my friends said they no longer do one at her church (idea!) and yet another suggested that I write it in the style of a Christmas letter. But the one response I got that caused me to pause was this one: “You are simply documenting the work of the Spirit for another year in another place!”
So instead of obsessing on the budget numbers, the new members received, pledging units increased, number of new programs or classes or concerts held, how would I document the work of the Holy Spirit in this place over the past year? Wow, that is a challenge. I’m not sure I can do it for the church, but I know when my own heart was moved and the times when I felt a quickening that could only be attributed to the Divine, the Holy or something other than myself….
....celebrating the 50th year of music with Dale Scovill and friends
….installing officers for the class of 2012
….seeing the sanctuary full of joyous concert goers
…..knowing that the Women’s Support group walked the labyrinth in December
….witnessing the steady, unwavering and skillful staff of this church
….hearing the joyous laughter and even a supportive tear of the quilters on Wednesday morning
….celebrating the life of Craig Lyon, Phyllis Oetting, Jim McCombs, Carol Oetting, Dick Day
….walking the hallowed grounds of hospital and nursing home
….struggling prayerfully with the tough questions around the table at a Session meeting
….hearing the boisterous, dancing worship of Casa de Gozo on a Sunday afternoon and evening
…learning and teaching and being blessed by the unique gifts of pastoral intern, Lindsey Reed
…children, I always find something redeeming and Spirit-filled in the children of the church and of the Children’s Center
…intellectually and theologically challenging conversations
There are so many more ways that I saw the Spirit alive and at work that even though I thought it might be a struggle to name more than two or three, I now realize I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. It is one of my jobs to notice the breath of the Spirit enlivening and quickening all around, and to name them for you. The other challenge is for you to do the same, give thanks for what you've noticed, name them for each other and share them with the community so that indeed, these bones shall live!