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    Jan 28, 2018

    Address for Annual Meeting Given as Sermon at Services

    Preacher: The Rev. Joan Mason, Rector

    Series: Rector

    Category: Weekly Sermon


    This is the weekend of our Annual Meeting.  It is required by the Episcopal Church to hold this meeting once a year.   We use this time to look back at the year we’ve completed, and then set our sights on what is ahead.  I am using the sermon time in each service of the weekend to give you my Annual Meeting address. 

    As I begin my 16th year with you, I am thinking about what an honor it is to walk with you on this part of Christ Church’s history.  16 years is a short time in the life of this parish.  Christ Church began 153 years ago in 1865, when the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Red Bank, the Rev. William Dunnell, came by horseback to Toms River on a Friday in late November to lead the first service.  It was held on the 2nd floor of a bank building on the corner of Water Street and Main Street, next to the Toms River bridge (which then was a covered bridge).  Huddy Park was a swamp.  We have not discovered any documentation or statistics about those very early years.  The first annual report submitted to the diocese was a partial report for 1917.  Then 1918 is the first complete one.  Here are some statistics about our parish in 1918: 

    The entire budget was $2,200.  Our budget today is $601,000. 

    In 1917, membership was 110 members, compared to 800 today. 

    The 1917 average Sunday attendance was 35 people.  Last year, our attendance averaged 200.

    There was only one ministry listed in the 1919 report – the Women’s Guild.  Today we still have the Women of Christ Church, plus 105 other ministries, almost all led by lay people!

    There are 2 aspects of parish ministry.  One is focused inward - for ourselves – the members of the parish.  The other is focused outward; for those who are not members of our parish.

    The inward-focused ministry helps prepare us to be disciples of Christ.  This is through education of children and adults; by offering meaningful worship and the sacraments; and through pastoral care of those who are homebound, in the hospital, or rehab.  There is page after page in the Annual Meeting Report (which you will receive at the Meeting) that highlights these ministries.  For example, this past year we offered 376 worship services.  We have 14 trained Lay Eucharistic Visitors who take communion to our homebound or hospitalized, and they did that 151 times last year.  We also care for ourselves through prayer.  We have 7 different ministries that focus almost entirely on prayer.

    Another important aspect of the ministry we do here is our efforts to be a fully integrated parish functioning with two languages (English and Spanish).  We are becoming known across the Diocese, and well beyond, as the church that is figuring out how to be a parish that speaks two languages.  Other churches come to us asking for advice and guidance.  We even had a visit this past year from a team of people from London England, looking to learn how we are doing it.  It is not perfect and we have a long way to go, but we are working hard at being one in Christ across 2 languages.

    The second aspect of important ministry we do is caring for others who are not currently members of the parish. We have 14 different ministries that care for those beyond our own parish community, like Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN), Crop Walk, and many others.

    You only have to look at the number of Volunteers who participate in these many ministries.  Every Christ Church ministry functions with volunteers.  Whether it is all those who have a role in worship services (acolytes, altar guild, and many others).  Or the Café crew; or those who keep the garden growing and weeds pulled; or teaching our children; or organizing fellowship events, and so much more. 

    Just for fun, we calculated the number of volunteer hours for the ministry we do in this parish.  In 2017, it was 22,191 hours for the year.  More than 22K hours!  If you were to put that to minimum wage ($8.44/hr), that would be worth over $187,000 in donated time.  Amazing!  That’s all of you.  That’s what we do in this parish. 

    Your vestry, clergy and I believe our most important task at Christ Church is to equip parishioners to be disciples of Christ; to know Christ so they can be Christ to others, just like you’re doing.  We are beginning this new year of 2018 by checking out how we are doing on this; to see if we are truly meeting your spiritual needs.  We are asking each parishioner to help us discern this by taking a survey offered by Forward Movement (that’s the people who create “Forward Day by Day”).  It is called a Spiritual Life Inventory, and it will help us access where we are and where we need to go.  This Inventory is anonymous and confidential. We will never know anyone’s answers. Instead we will receive a report that is a compilation of all parishioners' answers.  It is important that everyone, age 18 or older, takes this Inventory.  You will hear more about this Spiritual Life Inventory at the Annual Meeting.

    2018 will be an exciting year.  We have some challenges before us.  We are approaching these challenges differently than we have ever done in the past.  You’ll hear more about that at the Annual Meeting.  Plus through our Town Hall meetings, and the Spiritual Life Inventory, and future gatherings, we are bringing parishioners into the decision-making process.  We know God is leading.

    I have declared 2018 as the “Year of Gratitude” at Christ Church – a year to focus on the multitude of blessings God bestows on us, trying to be thankful in all things as we seek joyful transformation in Christ.  This year is but a small segment of Christ Church’s 153-year history, but our presence here, your presence here, is making a difference.  It is astounding what you have accomplished –  over 22,000 volunteer hours in 106 ministries!  Christ Church is indeed preparing disciples, and is making a difference in the world; a difference that will be known for years to come.  We have so much for which to be grateful.