Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Luke Anglican Church:
The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all—all of you who are physically here at the church today and all of you joining us virtually or just joining us in your prayers—you who are a poignant reminder of what has transpired during these last nine months and how different our lives are from what we used to call “normal” only a year ago.
Without dwelling long on the effects of COVID-19 that we have all experienced, I would like to remind everyone that last year, I began and concluded my address to you with hopeful words from St. Paul to the Philippians. I reassured us that God would remain faithful to our parish by supplying all our needs and making us abound in the spiritual gifts which we need to keep St. Luke successful. While we must admit that it was not always in the manner we expected nor under circumstances that anyone could have predicted, I believe that God has remained true to these promises and answered our prayers. Therefore, my encouragement to you as we look back on 2020 and ahead to 2021 are, on the one hand, realistic, but on the other hand, thankful (again, from Philippians):
“let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; and in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which to you is an evident token of salvation, and that of God.”
St. Paul wrote these words from prison; and, even though we may feel (some of us more than others) that we are imprisoned by our situation, it is my hope for all of us that, like St. Paul, whether we are present or are absent, our parish can still “stand fast” and continue in a unified fashion. Yes, we may need to be more creative in order to persevere and stay as one, but St. Luke can still realize our vision and mission, unafraid of our enemies, whether they be physical, spiritual, or viral. As your rector and pastor, I have faith that God will continue to strengthen us to fulfill our ministry and outreach, and to expand our membership. In His mercy and protection, God has been very kind to St. Luke, because I believe in the future He has prepared for this parish.
Why I am so optimistic about this? Because Our Lord has helped St. Luke to remain true to who we are as traditional Anglican parish: committed to beautiful orthodox worship, to providing opportunity for ministry and fellowship, to caring for one another as the Body of Christ, and to heralding the message and mission of the Gospel. During this past year, St. Luke never missed a Sunday liturgy, we welcomed new members both by sacrament and by reception, and thanks to new technology, our worship and catechesis reached more people than ever before.
It is a fact that, because of the virus, we have not been able to follow through with everything that we purposed last year. Studies, volunteer ministries, and some civic engagements had to be postponed. Some special events were cancelled or diminished. As of today, we still don’t know the future of some outreach efforts both the ongoing and the planned; or, most difficult of all, when we will all be able to safely gather together for worship and fellowship again. And, sadly of course, we had to bid farewell to several parishioners, especially to Naomi Williams back in April and to Sylvia Ramsey-Rezner in October—both will be missed very much.
However, I believe that the blessings and the progress that St. Luke has enjoyed this year outweigh our losses and will nurture our ongoing development. Hence, my optimism—which I would urge everyone to embrace. In addition to new members, St. Luke benefitted from another record year for contributions, including the donation of both sacred and practical implements. We have gained new vestments and paraments, new altar ware, a new ACC missal, and several new devices and utensils for use in the kitchen and the offices. Several of us donated and worked hard to create a beautiful new Lady Chapel space in the transept, and—outside—many of those same people (and others) have made the parish grounds look lovelier than ever.
Two improvements, I think, represent our most significant steps forward. Firstly, St. Luke has switched from our previous outdated and inadequate online presence to a new one which provides, not just a new website, but a completely integrated digital platform offering almost endless opportunities for streaming & broadcasting, educating, evangelizing and networking. To more effectively reach new generations and to better negotiate our environment, like so many churches these days, St. Luke’s most far-reaching witness will be online. And, secondly, I am especially thankful that God gave us the opportunity to welcome into our membership and to hire a new sacred music director whose experience, gifts and ability, and devotion has already and will continue to elevate the liturgy and outreach of our parish through beautiful singing, playing, and instruction. In addition to the musical improvements made at our liturgies, plans for a choir and new organ and sound system configurations await us in the new year.
My vision for the new year remains the same as last year. St. Luke must continue to become ever more perfectly and maturely, by God’s will and grace, a faithful and intentional Anglican Catholic parish characterized by authenticity, unity, and hospitality. Yes, changes have happened and will continue to happen. But that is because the Church is alive. We are a family to grow, not a chapel to maintain. To quote something I said last year: “We must remember that church is not a business, a club, or a pastime, but our communion in Jesus Christ for relationship, service, and spirituality. We are all but stewards, passing through this era of St. Luke’s history, and we must leave this parish better than how we found it for new generations.”
Again, I thank all of you for your support, for being here today, and for your faith in Christ and in our Anglican Church. I especially want to thank the vestry, specifically our wardens & officers, for all of their creativity and hard work. They, together with the St. Anne’s Guild and the Altar/Flower Guild, helped to make this year successful for St. Luke when it shouldn’t have been.
May God bless you all!
Fr. Daniel Trout