News By The Sea
2017 was a difficult year in many ways for our country and for the world. Angry voices signified the lack of unity in both. Not so at St. Matthews By-The-Sea. We have never demanded conformity from the members of our church family. We don’t insist that everyone look alike, sound alike, or believe alike. We are an orchestra, not a drum and bugle corp. And this year, more than ever, we have been keeping our eyes on the Conductor.
Worship at St. Matthews By-The-Sea continues to attract good crowds all year round, especially in the summer months. Worship has been enhanced this year by increased use of video and by the great strides made in our music program. The Chancel and Bell Choirs are growing in numbers and in proficiency. I continue to attempt to present challenging messages that are pertinent to the lives of our parishioners. In 2017 this included a sixteen week series that followed the Apostle Paul on his missionary journeys.
Opportunities for Christian education also continue to grow. Bonnie Miller and Dee Granger faithfully prepare children’s Sunday School lessons every week. Spearheaded by JoAnn Strawser, the Adult Sunday School Class has enrolled forty-two members and made its way into the latter chapters of the book of Psalms. A recently concluded study of the Gospel of Mark was well attended. Earlier this year, weekday studies of the Psalms and the Gospel of Matthew also attracted large and eager crowds. I offered Lenten and Advent Bible Studies drawn from Luke, the third gospel. A Thursday evening Bible Study led by a recent new member, Sandy Pierce, is scheduled to begin in January, 2018.
One of the most exciting aspects of life at St. Matthews By-The-Sea concerns our renewed emphasis on evangelism, i.e., reaching out to our communities in a more intentional fashion with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Gary and Janet Legates and those who are laboring with them deserve a lot of credit for these evangelistic activities. In the year to come, they plan to continue what worked well this year and add new projects to them.
The various organizations of St. Matthews By-The-Sea continue their work to the glory of God. Both the United Methodist Women and Men were very active in 2017. Neighbors Helping Neighbors continued to provide fuel assistance to those in our area who are going through difficult economic times. For the tenth year in a row, the Samaritan Thrift Shop sold quality used clothing to anyone who wanted it and will be able to donate a record amount of money from their profits to area food banks.
The Missions Committee continues to channel financial aid to Christian ministries locally, nationally, and internationally. Last spring they heard from a young woman who is involved in ending the scourge of human trafficking. The Checkerboard Ministry under the vigorous leadership of Vicki Daisey, keeps providing unique social opportunities for special needs citizens and their families. The Quilters and Prayer Shawl groups continue their tender ministries, and the Bereavement Committee assisted grieving families through a record number of receptions.
Which leads me to mention the sad fact that the church lost to the Church Triumphant some wonderful people in 2017. In addition, some of our members who left us a decade ago to form the core of our new church start, Bayside Chapel, requested officially that their full memberships be transferred to Bayside when it was chartered as a United Methodist congregation last June.
The good news is that new people are joining us including families with young children. In 2018, the church plans to send a group of teenagers to the January Youth Rally for the first time in a long time and I will be mentoring a small group of young men in a Confirmation Class. Of course we continue to sponsor the summer Children’s Beach Ministry. This year the number of children attending nearly doubled that of the previous three.
I continue to be blessed in the performance of my duties as pastor. Most of my time is either spent in sermon preparation or in visiting the sick in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and in nursing facilities. Wanda Bagarus became the coordinator of the Shepherd Ministry this year and her work with the homebound and that of her shepherds is an immense help to me. Likewise, the Trustees led by Charlie Zonko and the Finance Committee chaired by Pat Plocek make my task of overseeing the day to day operation of the church so much easier. Dee Granger, now into her second decade as Lay Leader, and Ron Nagers, new to the post of Administrative Council Chairperson, provide indispensable guidance.
Nor should I fail to give thanks for a dedicated church staff. Pamela Woodside, the Administrative Assistant, continues to perform with dedication and thoroughness. Debby Dudley and Cathy Morgan bring life to the Music Department. Janice Slaysman , recovered from serious illness, makes the Thrift Shop an enjoyable place to shop and work – and her volunteers are first class. Lastly, Mary Brennan has brought stability and clarity to the church’s finances in her role as Bookkeeper.
So things are going well at St. Matthews By-The-Sea so much that I have decided to delay my retirement for another year. I have asked Bishop Johnson to reappoint me to our church for the period July 1, 2018 until June 30, 2019 at which time I will have been your pastor for twenty years and plan to step down. I have complete confidence in both the grace of our Savior and the good people of this congregation that I will be leaving my successor a vibrant group of saints whose best years are still ahead.