The year is barely begun, but already new seasons lie before us. We haven’t even adopted this year’s budget yet, though we meet next Wednesday night to do so (7:30 p.m. in the Choir Room). That’s the date of our Charge Conference, the annual meeting of a congregation in the United Methodist Church. It is a time to review the year that we’ve just been through and look with hope to the time ahead.
2014 was a good year for our congregation in many ways. We moved forward with the renewal of our campus, creating a more open and welcoming “front door” to the church. You can actually see our facilities from Crenshaw now! And the added indoor space will be helpful to many. We saw changes in our staff, welcoming Doug Dickson as a leader in worship and with our youth. We saw each other through times of change as well, with the loss of dear friends and the discovery of new. God’s grace was with us in and through each of these. We have seen and felt it.
It was also a healthy year for us financially. For the first time since 2008 we finished the year solidly in the black. In recent years we have always been just a little ahead, or just a little behind, the budget we adopted. Though it was tough at times, we never panicked. We did not lay off, or even cut back, key staff positions. We believed that the mission of God was being served effectively. We kept moving forward, sharing generosity and hope. We continued support for partners in the South Bay who serve hungry and homeless families, giving away thousands of dollars to feeding programs at St. Paul’s UMC, Toberman Neighborhood Center, Circle of Life (families with HIV/AIDS), 1736 House, and the Senior Nutrition Program at the Torrance/South Bay YMCA. We also prepare meals in our own kitchen to serve our neighbors. The grace of God has been the source and the center of everything we have sought to accomplish.
This month we give thanks for God’s grace in the lives of couples in our congregation, and for their examples of loving faithfulness. We will celebrate with those who have been married for 50 years and more on Sunday, February 15 – the day after Valentine’s Day.
That same week we will enter another season of grace, with the beginning of Lent. Ash Wednesday comes a little early this year, on February 18. You may sign up for the prayer vigil which will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. that day, and look forward to the Ash Wednesday service that evening at 7:30. For those who’ve not been, the service includes readings, prayers, music, many candles, and the imposition of ashes for those who wish to come forward. It is an encouraging and hopeful way to begin the 40 days of Lent.
The seasons of grace in our lives are gifts of God. I am grateful to share them with you, to move through these coming days with a sense of anticipation, of wonder, of joy and hope. May God bless you, and bless others through you.
￼￼￼￼￼￼Grace and peace,