Maybe it seems to you like I’m jumping the gun, but the church year does indeed begin with the First Sunday in Advent, which was November 27th this year. Advent, of course, is all about the Lord’s coming among us, first as a baby born in Bethlehem, now as our Savior in His Word and Supper, and in the future as our King triumphant over death and devil. It’s always struck me as supremely wise that we start out the church year with a season of simply watching and waiting, remembering how the Lord comes to us, rejoicing that He has taken the initiative to come into the flesh to save us, even while we were still in the darkness of our sins.
As we together rejoice in Christ and His gifts in anticipation of celebrating Christmas together, I think it also great that we review how God has blessed us this past year as a congregation and look forward to what may be in store for us in the coming year.
It has been a year of blessed new beginnings! In June, we moved Vicar Joseph Greenmyer, his wife Faith, and son Abraham into the old 13th Avenue parsonage and he was installed and began his service shortly thereafter. I know I speak for all of us when I say how tremendously proud I am of him and grateful for the opportunity Zion has to serve the broader church by helping to prepare another congregation’s future pastor. I am also thankful for Vicar Greenmyer’s faithful service to Zion and to each one of its members. While a vicar’s year of service is over too soon, we hope that God will provide us with another vicar this year to serve among us and provide us with the opportunity to serve Him as He prepares pastors for His church.
On the topic of parsonages, this year saw the purchase of a new, updated parsonage for the senior pastor. Thank to you the many individuals who came to help move us from one house to the other, for the trustees and all their work in preparing the new house for our arrival, and for the entire congregation in making this gift of love possible. Our family has been very comfortable there and I have no doubt it will be a wonderful home for Zion’s pastors for many years to come.
An opportunity to acquire additional property on our block presented itself this year, and the congregation decided to go for it. We look forward to closing on our purchase on East 4th Avenue in the coming months and deciding on how best to use the property for the continued mission of Zion. While some may wonder why we’re buying a house that we don’t currently “need,” the real value of the property is the land beneath the house that can be used by Zion in the future for a building, closer parking to the sanctuary, or any other needs that future generations may find necessary. Adjoining land gives the church more options when it comes to improving our facilities and accessibility for individuals to come hear the saving Gospel of God’s grace.
The building committee has also been hard at work after several years of frustration and difficulties due to changes in the building industry after the pandemic. The committee has done a lot of work to propose a new concept for a project that will meet our most important needs for accessible fellowship space and offices while remaining affordable. By the time you read this, a decision will already have been made by the voters on whether to pursue this project further, and if approved, more information will be coming soon.
The past year has not been without its setbacks too. We were informed this past summer that our elevator is no longer safe to operate and must be replaced. While proving a real challenge for us to provide accessibility for our older members to congregational Bible studies and fellowship activities, the loss of the elevator has also given a wonderful opportunity for members of the congregation to show love to one another and serve one another. Sunday Bible studies have been held in the sanctuary for the time being, which has been a worthwhile accommodation to make sure everyone can be included. For fellowship meals, loving members have been able to bring food up from the basement to the narthex for those who cannot manage the stairs. Of course, that’s not a long-term fix, and the voters are aware of the need to provide accessibility to a fellowship hall, either by replacing the elevator or by building a ground floor fellowship hall as soon as possible. In the meantime, let us continue to help those who are unable to access the fellowship hall so that they can participate fully in our congregation’s life together.
The most important work of God in our midst goes on despite our challenges. Here are some of the highlights this year:
9 children and 1 adult were joined to Jesus Christ in Holy Baptism.
3 adults and 10 children confessed the faith and were admitted to the Lord’s Supper.
5 adults transferred their membership to Zion and 4 were received by profession of faith.
2 saints of Zion entered their heavenly rest in Jesus.
2 couples were united by God in Holy Matrimony.
263 souls on average attend to hearing God’s saving Word on a given Sunday, 25 more than last year!
As we look forward to the coming year, I know God will continue to bless us despite the hostility of the world and the devil. Let us continue to grow in His Word together, to attend to preaching and study and the reception of the Sacraments, and to loving encouragement and serve of one another as the body of Christ.
There’s no better way for us to kick of the new church year than to watch and wait for the Lord together this Advent in joyful anticipation of His coming, and then celebrating the coming of our Savior Jesus together this Christmas. May the Lord bless us all abundantly as we await that celebration together!