What can I say, 2015 was one of those crazy years that often seemed like a sprint that magically turned into a marathon! But it was a great year, and as we come to its end, we see that we are set and ready to go forward as a congregation celebrating our 125 years in San Jose and reestablishing our vital ministry for the next 125 years.
We knew as the year began that it was going to be packed as we were met the very first Sunday, January 4, 2015, by a very cold church; our heaters had gone out in two places in the church, the Sanctuary and Mission Hall! This could have been a bad omen for the year, and in the past some might have seen defeat before we even started, but that was not the case. Instead of defeat, it became a symbol that no matter what was thrown at us, God was going to provide and God did with a heating and air company that was available and would help us to fix our issues for an amount that pushed our resources to their edge but would not break us.
Grounding us in a theme of perseverance and moving forward rather than defeat, we found a new energy in the congregation. Welcoming new members and trying new fun activities. We really had some great successes over the past year. Our wine fundraiser was a great time, raising more money than needed to repair the organ. We had an Easter service that had larger numbers than in years, and we welcomed more new members this year than we have in the previous years. We saw the start of a new youth ministry and a growing Sunday School program. And, we launched our new Wednesday Revive service and have been able to keep a small but devoted group coming.
We also saw blessings in some of our difficult decisions. But this is what comes when your Session is really working to discern what God is calling us to do rather than secure what they want for themselves. This led to some really hard decisions about where we place our resources of time and talents. It meant that we had to say good bye to some programs that no longer met the vital needs of this community and begin to restructure our staff and resources. Yet for everything we have ended we have either started something new or been freed to put more energy into the new things we do!
This is going to continue into next year as our Session begins to really vision for the next 25 years using the book “A Field Guide for the Missional Congregation.” If you would like to read along, copies are available on Kindle via the Amazon site or from the office for $12.
This will also be our 125th year as a congregation, and that alone will bring with it much excitement. One group has been working for over a year already on a history, and others will be asked to help with celebrations throughout the year.
As we look to 2016, I am excited. Not only for the things we have begun and the history we will celebrate, but also, and maybe more importantly, all of the new challenges and opportunities God will place before us that we have not even thought of!!! I know that we will see more growth in our congregation and connect with the many blessings this place offers as we celebrate this community that is truly a gift from God.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen