In reflecting on the first year of our life together at Emmanuel, the words of the Psalmist come to mind (Please substitute the first-person singular pronouns like “me” and “I” for plural ones – “we”, “us”, and “our”):
6The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
I have a goodly heritage.
7I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8I keep the LORD always before me;
because the LORD is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
9Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
10For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.
11You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:6-11)
There have been many rich and pleasant times together – times when we’ve grown in our faith and in our commitment to the Lord. Our challenges have been, relatively speaking, few. Happiness and joy have been much more frequent visitors than grief or sorrow. Amazingly, we have only had one-member die…and she lived a full life of 95 years and was ready to move on! In the same year, we’ve celebrated three weddings and anticipate several new births (baptisms) very soon. We have also maintained a steady stream of fine people who come to gather in our building and have recently added a new faith community down in the Faith Café – La Shekinah de Jehova. Even the challenges that have appeared have been followed by blessings. For instance, we have grieved with Yvonne Strobel, our long-time, faithful musician, as her eyesight fails her. But, at the same time, Judy Hamilton has stepped up to the piano and freely offered her beautiful musical gifts. We’ve been so blessed by both of them! And that seems to be the preference of Almighty God. God chooses to heap upon the faithful “grace upon grace” in abundant layers (John 1:16). This is not to say that we are immune to the anxieties and concerns of the modern Church. We are not. We worry about our shrinking membership – having only received 2 new members this year – and our declining finances – consistently “down” about $3,000. We scratch our heads and wonder what to do to “grow” our church. We wish that people we love (and some we’ve never met) would come and join our worship. We want them to know the love of Jesus Christ also. Until the Holy Spirit chooses to inspire and direct us again, we will worship and pray and seek God’s will. Until Christ calls us to follow onto a different road, we will continue to nurture hearts and minds that are ready. We will strive to meet threats to our vitality with savvy practices and sure confidence in our Redeemer. We will “keep the LORD always before us.” That way, we will know “fullness of joy…and pleasures forevermore.” Thank you, Emmanuel Presbyterian, for a bountiful first year!