As I look back on last year and reflect on seven years of vocational ministry with you, one of the things that strikes me most about Blythwood is how God is working in and through us to reach so many people. I’ve often said that Blythwood is much more than what happens on a Sunday morning. Perhaps this is reflective of a new way of thinking of church. Our “parish” encompasses those who come as guests and volunteers every Saturday night/Sunday morning from November to March. It encompasses young people from Horizons For Youth who are served by us on Saturday mornings, and who come to play volleyball and share a meal with us on Thursday evenings. It encompasses the children who attend summer camp for two weeks in Lawrence Heights (and last year at our church!) and who accept invitations to come to reunions and celebrations throughout the year like Christmas and Easter. Last year we saw how the effects of God’s work in and through us reach all the way to Bolivia.
On the other side of this is those who serve in these ministries. Again this number widens the concept of our parish and those who work within it. It has been wonderful to see the teams that have joined us to put on our summer camps and we look forward to welcoming our friends from New Brunswick this year. It has been wonderful to welcome seminarians to intern with us for the last two years and for Blythwood to be a place where young leaders are helped and mentored. It was wonderful last October to have an information night for Out of the Cold Volunteers, at which we heard from mental health professionals and law enforcement. This was also a chance to let a broader audience know why we feel that service to the “least of these” is our God-ordained and God-enabled duty.
As I often say, God is always where we must start. Anything we are called to be and do at Blythwood is based on who God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are and what they have done, are doing, and will do. We strive to keep this front and centre every Sunday morning. The word “Connectedness” is one that has been on my heart for the past several months. Our connection to God is vital if we are to be in any way successful in carrying out our mandate to “Continue Christ’s Work In the World.” This includes being reminded of and celebrating the good news of Christ together as we gather weekly. It includes gathering in small groups to sing together, to pray together, and to read God’s word together in order to delve more deeply into the truths being planted within us Sunday by Sunday. It also includes the ways in which we connect to God as individuals – being in God’s word every day, personal prayers, personal praise – all the ways in which we need to be in communion with the one we believe to be the source of life. The invitation is open from both Pastor Abby and myself to discuss how these things are going with you, and to talk about ways that we may become ever more rooted and grounded in Christ and his love.
The other half of connectedness is our connection with each other and our neighbours. What does it mean to share our burdens and in so doing to fulfill the law of Christ? What would such a community look like? We thank God for all the ways in which we see this happening at Blythwood and long for more of it. How do we encourage such connections and avail ourselves of the opportunities to deepen them?
I’m so very thankful that we see transformation happening at Blythwood. Every day I am blessed and encouraged to see God at work in and through us. I said in a sermon last year that we don’t invite people to church (or come to church ourselves) in order to hear good music, enjoy a warm welcome, hear thoughtful and engaging preaching, take in beautiful architecture and décor, or any one of a number of good things one may like about church. Don’t get me wrong, all those things are good and we pray that we have them! The reason we are part of the Blythwood family is to be caught up together in God’s saving/redeeming/delivering/reconciling work and in so doing, to be reconciled to God and remade in Christ’s image through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God that we see this happening!
Alongside me in facilitating this work is Pastor Abby, for whom I am thankful. Abby encourages and challenges me (in anything from life in ministry to theology to dancing) and is a reminder of God’s compassion and kindness. Her desire to be transformed into Christ’s image is an inspiration in our congregation. I want to thank Jennifer for making sure that things run smoothly and well. While she is often chagrined that I see her as the “mother” of the office, it is only because of the care that she has for others. I thank Dan for keeping things looking good and maintained, and engaging in conversations with me on anything from Kierkegaard and groundhogs to vintage clothing and grace. Thanks to Adolfo for putting so much thought into Sunday morning worship and for using his gifts to help us praise (including the ability to decipher my hand-scrawled chord charts and edits).
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my wife Nicole. Nicole is a true partner in ministry and works long hours behind the scenes to make sure that people have the opportunity to gather around a table together. I can only describe this as Christ-like. I could not do what I do without her.
Thank you all for choosing to throw your lot in with us in this disparate family of Christ followers of which we are a part here at Blythwood. You’re each a blessing to me and I pray that God makes me the same to you.