Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, welcome to Annual Meeting Sunday.
2018 was a busy year full of blessings and opportunities. A funeral was held for Marion Elaine Wyatt; Benjamin Everett Hill was baptized; Matthew and Nicole Vaughn were confirmed at the Easter Vigil in Grand Rapids; I buried my father, Kenneth Mackenzie Sutherland in Ontario; two families were adopted at Christmas; Christmas baskets were delivered to our shut-ins; and five hospital visits, 22 home visits, 37 Home Communions and 50 pastoral visits were made in 2017. Home Communion is taken to five people on a regular basis.
Regular Sunday morning worship is provided with additional services available for Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Stations of the Cross, Holy Week, St. James’ Day, Backyard Communion, a Home Blessing, Blessing of the Animals and Veterans Sunday. We are active in community events with Shrove Tuesday, public readings of Matthew, our monthly community supper, purse bingo, salad luncheon, Episcopal Youth Camp, Christmas Bazaar and Cookie Walk, cheese balls, attendance at Diocesan Ordinations, Diocesan Convention, and participation in the Festival of the Forks and Albion Aglow Parades. Christian Formation was available for our children and our adults. The adults studied the Gospel of John in the spring, Moses in the fall and attended a worship service at Beth Temple Israel.
We continue to work with AIM, Albion Interfaith Ministries, providing food, hygiene and paper products, emergency financial assistance and the use of our Parish Hall. We worked with AIM, Albion College, St Paul’s Lutheran Church and St. John’s Catholic Church to provide Christmas boxes and gifts for 375 families in Albion. The Albion Lion’s Club and Weight Watchers also use our Parish Hall.
A highlight of the year was a visit from Bishop Whayne Hougland to bless the Albion Community Gardens and our new tractor. The 2017 growing season was very successful with many gardens planted, an orchard planted and storage units, fencing and mulch put in place. It was an opportunity to work with Vision of Life, to develop new friendships, to build community and to grow and share fresh vegetables with our neighbors. We are looking forward to even more families being involved in 2018. I hope that you will be able to plant a garden this summer.
The Albion Reading Camp successfully integrated with the Albion Recreation Departments Peapod program in 2017. We worked with the Albion Recreation Department, Albion Public Library, Marshall’s Franke Center for the Arts, Albion College, Bread of Life Ministries and the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan to provide a literacy program over eight weeks during the summer. Our plan is to coordinate a literacy program again for the 2018 summer. We would love for you to get involved.
Reaching significant milestones is cause for reflection on the past and discernment on what the future may hold. Celebrating my fifth anniversary with St. James’, my fifth anniversary as a priest and reaching my 60th birthday I have spent significant time over the past couple months discerning where God may be calling my ministry to and what this might mean for St. James’. We have gotten to know each, to trust each other and perhaps, may I dare say, love each other. We know what to expect on Sunday morning. We have a format agreed on for bulletin, hymns, and changing church seasons. The Acolytes, Denise, the Altar Guild, the musicians and the Wardens know what to expect and when I forget to review the dimming of the lights for Christmas Eve the Acolytes and Wardens know what needs to be done. I sure have missed Gard over the past few weeks as he cares for his mother.
As we plan for our Annual Meeting, make plans for Christian Formation and plan the 2018 Vestry Retreat what direction are we headed, where are we going? I have spent considerable time in prayerful conversation with this subject in my fall retreat, with my Spiritual Director Sister Nancy, my wardens Jocelyn and Dick and Bishop Whayne Hougland. This is an ongoing process, but I have come to the realization that I want and need to move from thinking to feeling, from my head to my heart and hope you will join me in this journey. I don’t know exactly what this will mean or what will change. There isn’t a documented roadmap for this process for me to follow. It will mean careful listening for God’s direction and some trial and error. The goal is Spiritual Growth, of moving from an intellectual, rational mode of operation to emotional, heart felt, spirit lead worship that impacts our lives every minute of the week. St. James’ is not to be a civic institution or a worship club, but a hospital for sin sick souls, a training ground for Spiritual Growth that we will carry us out into our homes, neighborhoods and schools and places of work.
I don’t really know what this means yet, but I am eager to find out. Bishop Whayne has challenged me to adopt as a Lenten discipline to operate from the perspective of how I feel rather than what I think. This will be a challenge for me. This is not the first time I have been asked to do this. I will need your help. Ask me how I feel about a subject rather than what I think. I hope you will join me in this challenge to work from our hearts rather than our heads. Intelligence is good. Rational thought is important, but so is our emotional intelligence. It is important to also be able to work from our hearts. Some of you may already be good at this, then I ask you to please help me. Remember I worked for over thirty years as a Mathematician, Programmer Analyst and an Information Services Project Manager. I am undoing years of training to be able to move from the rational to the emotional. I feel scared and challenged. I could not look the Bishop in the eye when he asked me how I was feeling, but I am also feeling excited and motivated to find out where this might take me. I invite you to join me in this journey to discover where God might lead us and what this may mean for me and for you in the future.
We are the Episcopal branch of the church in Albion alive in the worship of God through Jesus Christ and active in the community of Albion. May God bless Albion and St. James’ in 2018!
Mother Darlene Kuhn
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