DH Update 6, 1st Week after Christmas, January 4, 2023
Wed. December 28, 2022
Wednesday Meditation (Isaiah 60:1)
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
Christians celebrate and give God thanks on January 6, marking Epiphany. Jesus was revealed to the world according to many Christians. This group of Christians celebrate the day of Jesus receiving the three wisemen or magi. Many other Christians, however, remember Jesus’ baptism. Through the baptism, Jesus was revealed as the Son of God. We tend to rejoice in Jesus' baptism more than the arrival of the magi.
In a way Jesus’ baptism begins his appearance to the world as God’s Son and we, the faithful, remember it as the beginning of his ministry. After the baptism, he went into the wilderness to be tested for forty days in order to prepare himself to preach the good news that God’s reign is at hand. In a way, the baptism signifies the beginning of God’s salvation in and through Jesus. Also baptism is something we have also participated in as we began our journeys in faith, following, serving and worshipping Christ.
It is fitting, then, we begin each new year, making a commitment to follow Christ anew and carry on his ministry in the world. As part of the body of Christ, we get to be more than witnesses to Jesus’ baptism. We are the very servants who confront the world with God’s love that brings true peace on earth to all humankind. This is the task that Christ began. This is the same task we carry on each day as we seek out those who are desperate, broken, sad and in despair.
Each new year begins with a new commitment to follow Christ as we remember the baptism of Jesus. This is not as easy as we think. Reaching out to the lost and the outcast are very time consuming, exhausting and frustrating because their ways are not our ways. They also have ways of upending everything we believe in and live for. They challenge our thinking, behaviours and beliefs. More than often they find ways to hurt themselves by hurting us.
Yet, in all the ways they disappoint us and make our heads turn away from them, we are reminded by Jesus’ ministry to love and care for them. In case we might have missed Jesus’ message, Paul came and told us about love being patient and kind…
This is one of many pictures of houses along Lake Erie shores. Arctic winds blew lake waters and froze up houses along the lakeshores. No one who bought these houses, I am sure, anticipated that they would end the year with their houses frozen up the way they did. The year 2022 brought many surprises we did not anticipate.
For our congregation, it felt like a year of little bit of everything. We gingerly moved out of COVID lockdowns, struggling to figure out what to do and what not to do. By the end of the year, there were lots of fears on what we could do to stay safe. It made us think carefully about our purpose as a church.
One thing is very clear. To witness the Gospel of Jesus Christ we need to make decisions. We have been thinking a lot in terms of how to continue as a church. It is time to make decisions and move forward. Our attendance has been decreasing steadily. Our members are less and less able to take full part in church activities. We are learning to listen to God together as we move forward. Important thing to know is that our time for decisions has come, if we are to continue our ministry here for a long time.
Ending 2022 with a lot of sharing love
How did we end this trouble-filled 2022? Each year, we put our efforts in mission programs. One area of our mission is to participate in Presbyterians Sharing to fund our national activities. Again with generous donations from you we can report to you that Betty-Ann was able to send $10,000 as we agreed to raise at last year’s annual meeting. This is an important part of sharing in the ministry of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.
Advent and Christmas Mission
For each Advent and Christmas season, we raise funds to help a mission project. It is an important way to celebrate Jesus’ coming. This December, on your behalf, Betty-Ann sent $1,275 for “Grow Children’s Ministries.” This project is for The PCC congregations to provide vacation bible schools, school supplies for secondary school students and support after-school programs and provide healthy snacks.
Next week, as we prepare for our annual meeting, we will report to you on “Love Your Church” and other fundraising endeavours.
The City of Niagara Falls has changed dramatically. It is no longer the same city in size, scope, activities and life where many people knew each other. Businesses, especially the Parks Commission, have adopted as much as they can. The picture shows how tourism changed from enjoying the natural wonders of the falls to finding ways to entertain ourselves.
Make-up of our neighbourhoods changed. Most of our neighbours are no longer the people we know. In some areas of the city, streets and people resemble a Toronto suburb. So we adapt. We adjust to this new reality by doing ministries that will build a community of people with faith, hope and love among strangers. It is not just to “survive” we are doing this. We are embarking on a totally different journey of being God’s faithful people, witnessing Christ in this very place our God called us to be.
What’s our plan for this new year?
We will be tackling three main issues. All these issues are tied to each other and are difficult to be separated from each other. For example, the decrease in attendance has led to decrease in ability to carry out ministries like reaching out to local people in need, maintaining our facilities adequately in order to share spaces with other community groups and do activities like worship to invite new neighbours.
People in Need
The session is continually working on the best way to address the need in our communities so that our neighbours can be loved and cared for. We have been praying and searching for the best way to be most effective within our limits. After the session meeting on Sunday, January 8, we will be able to share with you more information on what we are planning to do.
With declining financial resources and attendance numbers, we had to rethink ways to worship effectively within our means. Thankfully Mr. Cowan has been able to play for us once a month. Other Sundays we have been blessed with Catherine, John, Linda and Rebekah as they assisted us with their musical talents. Going forward, we will continue with this arrangement. We are financially not able at this time to have an organist as we used to every Sunday. We will also look forward to having more musicians helping us to do different kinds of worship.
A group consisting of John Boughner, Alison MacTavish, Chuck McCrea, and Rob Whitelock has been looking into various options regarding our facilities. They have been consulting with an architect and will be able to bring a preliminary report soon. We will update you soon.
As we prepare for our annual meeting, the session will be able to share with you 2023 plan as we move forward.